Q&A Time: What’s The First Advice You Can Give an Addict or Partner?

Note: I answered this question on Reddit today and it seemed like the perfect thing for a short Q&A on this site. I also liked the way she referenced my book. Big news coming about it very soon!

QUESTION: Given your experience, what is the likelihood of someone kicking this habit and if I decide to stay, what advice might you have to follow initially? I will get your book if I do decide to stay for the full advice.

ANSWER: I’ve never seen any actual statistics about recovery, but I have seen many men (and several women) successfully kick this habit. They all had the following in common:

  1. Every addict admitted they had a problem, decided they wanted to fix it and committed themselves to it.

  2. Every addict had a supportive partner. I truly believe partners need to learn the ins and outs of addiction to understand what the disease is on a scientific level. Once you understand, it’s easier to accept the fact it really has nothing to do with you, never did and never will.

  3. Every addict sought professional help. Addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. With porn addiction, 90% to 94% of addicts have some kind of trauma in their background, wit 81% reporting sexual abuse as a child. Until the addict can figure out why they developed their addiction, it’s not deal with the root cause. That’s why I’m not a fan of the NoFap culture. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger wound.

  4. Every addict had some sort of fellowship. Be it a 12-step group (whether they followed diligently or not), group therapy, and online forum or another means, addicts need to talk to other addicts who are in recovery.

I hope this helps a little bit.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Meet A Porn Addict on the Verge of Getting Help

Note from Josh: I can’t pretend this isn’t long. It’s very long, but it’s very powerful. In the pornography addiction advising service I offer, I always ask for an introduction from the prospective client to give me a sense of where they are with things. This is one that came from a new client who allowed me to run a version of what he presented me. I think it is one of the best first-person profiles of somebody who recognizes they have a problem and has some inkling where it came from – and is finally ready to address it. This does get a little graphic in a few parts and this man’s thinking – like any pornography addict – is flawed in many places.

 

I was born in (the very early 1980s) in California to parents that had gotten married because my mother had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. They were Catholics. My father was a narcissist, as in NPD, and took actual pleasure in manipulating my mother. As part of this manipulation, he decided he needed to separate her from the support of her family, so he moved us to Idaho where he had purchased nine acres out in the mountains near absolutely nothing. He had made the purchase with his older brother who just wanted a place to camp and hunt, and we moved out there with the idea that they’d be able to set up a homestead with elbow grease and a few hundred dollars. They were stymied right up front when trying to drill a well with a rented hand operated drill, and we went from tents to looking for something else.

My parents found an abandoned house and “bought it” with a very small down payment and promise of monthly payments, it was owner financed. There was no heat, the pipes had all burst, and the roof leaked, but it was a start. My dad found that there were no jobs available, so he was unable to repair the house in preparation for winter, and we found out first-hand how brutal the winters in Idaho can be. He got a job bucking hay, it paid him $1,800 the first few years, which didn’t really buy much food, even when all you’re buying is bulk beans, rice, and flour.

After that first winter, my dad took a construction job in California and we returned long enough for him to build a few houses. In that time, I befriended my great grandfather and then watched as caught pneumonia and died. I was later told that the family was relieved he had died because he had attempted to grope us children, though I don’t remember this. I had a sister already, I was three at this point and she was two.

We moved back to Idaho with enough money for my father to patch the roof, replace the crumbling plaster and pipes, and cut and split an awful lot of wood from the state forests just outside of town. We proceeded to go through another winter, where things spiraled downward for my parents. I even got to witness my mother shrieking at my father while throwing firewood at him and I had no idea why, or what this meant, except that things were very cold and not safe. And pea soup was terrible.

We continued to live in that house for most of my childhood. All of our belongings came from the dump and my mother recycled or made our clothes. I ended up going to public school for the first three grades, where I was mostly an outcast because I wore trash, but it wasn’t all bad. I made friends with the second-grade teacher and she got me books.

There were now more of us, two younger brothers were added to the brood. I got along with them fine, but they hated each other and were miserable because my father didn’t show them any real attention. In third grade, my father decided to take me out of school and start homeschooling, my mother was the teacher, all grades, all subjects. There was no longer any friends or activities outside the house.

My dad seemed averse to getting any house with heat and paint on the walls, even when he started to make money (which he did). There’s a lot of details in here that aren’t relevant. Life was OK for me during the rental house years, though I started into puberty without any guidance from either of my parents, which was very rough. I had pretty much decided I had cancer of the pee-pee and was going to die and go to hell, because I couldn’t stop thinking about touching girls, and bad thoughts are sins just as real as taking action on those thoughts. But still, there were no friends allowed, so we just kept to ourselves and studied inside.

Then my dad bought 76 acres in northern Idaho, literally 20 minutes from a gas station and nearly an hour from town. We got two old trailers that had been abandoned and hauled them out there. The boys got put in the smaller trailer (there were 9 children now). The heater was an old fuel-oil unit that had a tank inside the trailer. At first, I kept this filled and we had some meager heat, but the firebox in the oil burner from the 1950s had rusted through, and was smoking into the trailer, which didn’t poison us because it was missing windows and the steel doors were warped and didn’t shut. So, that was the end of the heat for the boys.

My father installed a fireplace in the other trailer. Us boys walked down to the back half of the property and started thinning the trees, cutting out the dead ones, and hauling the wood back up to the trailer on our backs to keep our parents (and little sisters) warm. My mother was pregnant at this point and just wanted a house with water and a sewer.

A co-worker of my father’s bought a truck load of plywood and 2x4s and lied about it, said it was being thrown away by the building supply store, otherwise my father wouldn’t have accepted it. I dug an enormous hole and we build an outhouse over it with the materials, so at least we didn’t have to do our business in the elements.

We did have a well drilled at this point and installed a hand pump. It was an eighth mile away from the trailers down a very steep hill in a deep ravine, and as I used to joke, we only had running water if I had the energy to run. I pumped water into five-gallon jugs, two at a time, and carried them back to the trailers, one on each shoulder. I did this a few times every day. Bathing involved a sponge and warming this water on the fireplace.

Making at least a show of getting basic necessities, my dad had me dig a pit for a 2,000-gallon cistern, another one for a 500-gallon septic tank, and then a few thousand feet of leach field. I got up early, finished my homeschool before noon and did this until night fall, every day. My father actually hired a bulldozer to come out and cut a quarter mile long driveway from the county road, after we had gotten the 4×4 Suburban stuck in the muck one too many times. He wasn’t willing to pay for gravel, however, and made some kind of a trade for six or seven loads of pit rock to be delivered. The trucks did a passable job of spreading this and all I had to do was finish spreading it and breaking the pit rock up (head size rocks) with a 16-pound sledge. So, yeah, I kinda felt like I lived on a chain gang.

My mother was miserable during this time, she was pregnant and it wasn’t going well. I was too miserable to really notice, I was digging the trenches through this snow to get the septic tank connected to the bigger trailer so my parents and the girls would have a functioning toilet. I was standing in two feet of water, covered with ice, and ended up getting severe frost bite. I was afraid to tell my parents, so I hid it from everyone. I watched as most of the flesh blackened and peeled away in chunks. My feet did heal, but were agonizing in hot or cold water for the next decade or so.

At this point, I was told that the baby wasn’t going to make it. My dad didn’t want to pay for a funeral, so the two of us made a coffin from fiber reinforce concrete, and as the hard winter transitioned to a flood spring, I began to dig a grave in preparation for the body of my baby brother. I only got to see him for a moment, the back half of his skull was missing, and he died immediately after birth, there was nothing that could be done to save him. My mother was devastated, and I struggled with burying him. At the makeshift funeral, I broke down sobbing too hard to finish, and my grandfather had to step-in to finish shoveling the dirt back into the hole.

My father had effectively nothing to do with the bury, and my mother was too stricken with grief to even notice what burying my baby brother was doing to me. I built a little fence around the sight and planted some flowers.

This coincided with me finding the internet at the place I was going to get help with my math course work. I found the internet, and the same day found porn. It was actually the first time I had seen a female unclothed, and the porn I ran into wasn’t exactly the classiest. I came away from the experience disturbed and sickened, it made me feel like women were incredibly unattractive, a feeling that stuck with me for the next two years of so.

I took the GED to graduate from high-school, home-school style, this was very near my 16th  birthday. On that birthday, I got my first job and shortly thereafter my first car. I spent the next year basically living in my car and working. I saved up a little money and got my first rental, a trailer, to be sure, but a trailer just off the nearby downtown of Paulson…a trailer in human habitable condition, with a heat, and AC and a roof that didn’t leak AND plumbing.

I fell back into porn, not having any girls to even think about, and not being sure how one approached a female, or where. To view porn helped, but it took getting past my aversion to the sight of naked women, which took a bit and kept me firmly on the track of the classiest softcore porn for the next few years. I’d look at it in the evenings and dream about the day when I would meet one of those women.

I had no expectation of ever meeting a girl anywhere near my age. I probably could have, and maybe fared better, but my father was very clear that college was for faggots and I would be a disappointment if I wasted my money on a piece of paper instead of succeeding with my wits. I got into classic car restoration and this more or less replaced my porn and video games almost entirely.

By the time I was 19-20, I had moved back in with my parents, who had finally bought their first normal human dwelling on the outskirts of Paulson. They set about trying to get me back into church by setting me up with a single woman who was 10-15 years or so older than myself. She was the youth counselor and my parents tried to convince me that if I could just get back in church and make it at least look like I believed, I stood a real chance of getting a piece of that, because, they told me, she was a spinster, lonely, willing, and still attractive. She wasn’t attractive to me, honestly, but I was on fire from the waist down, so I spent a couple of months going back to church. I finally decided that the pursuit was completely dishonest and gave up. I wanted sex, but it didn’t really find this woman attractive, and even if I had managed to woo her enough to look past the fact that I was the age of her students, I would have done so based entirely on a lie.

Somewhere around this time, my father decided to burn his bridges at work, sell the house, and move over to the coast of Washington to try to live semi-retired. I made the mistake of moving with them. What I found was an area with incredibly high drug use, nearly everyone I met was an alcoholic, and there was almost no one near my age, male or female. I got a rough job as a mechanic in a bad part of Rayburn, where I was frequently hounded and cat-called by the old gay guys in town. I took to drink and was quickly going through a few fifths a week, along with my normal beer consumption. I had lost all hope and started looking at porn a couple of drunken hours a day.

I finally managed to get a job at the shipyard as a finish carpenter. At first, it felt like a huge step up in the world, but I quickly realized it wasn’t. My drinking did slow a bit, but the porn got heavier. The only women at the shipyard were nearly the only women that I knew, and every guy there was gunning for them no matter age or looks, like these women were meat and they were starving dogs. One of my younger brothers also got a job at the shipyard, he met a meth addict, got her pregnant, got married, and got divorced, all in the course of a year. Now he had child support payments, and she was off working the next opportunity. He fell pretty hard into the bottle and has only recently come back out.

After about a year and a half of this, I was just done. I didn’t care if I lived or not anymore and decided that if I didn’t there was no reason to continue the grind. So, putting all my belongings in the back of a U-Haul, I set out for Texas. I got a job at AT&T and found that there were women, actual female creatures, in my age range. It was amazing.

The job was awful, at least for me, but the fact was that I was no longer in Washington and my drinking fell of very sharply, as did my porn use. I dated a few women, felt like it was at least possible, now, and did eventually meet my wife Carrie.

My parents started their long and incredibly dirty divorce at this time, culminating in a completely fractured family that hasn’t recovered since.

Carrie and I dated for almost exactly one year, and it was without a doubt the happiest year of my life. I had found a woman that I adored, who I thought was incredibly attractive, and was finally getting that thing I never really thought I’d experience: sex. We were codependent in the most literal sense of the word. We did everything together, at the near complete expense of friends and family, isolating us, just the two of us as a unit. It was probably, in retrospect, not the healthiest thing to do, but we were very happy with each other.

Shortly after we met, I lost my job and was on unemployment, which made it difficult to plan our future. We ended up getting married anyhow, after one year of dating very intensely. We had no money to speak of, so we got married by a guy nicknamed “Choppy” with no fanfare and no reception.

Shortly after that, I got a job offer for real money at a time when the recession was at its worst, so we decided to move out to California. We almost immediately ran into problems. My wife was unemployed and felt like she couldn’t get a job due to weed use, legal there, but almost every place still piss-tested. She became unhappy, and I became busy with 12-hour days at work, 6 days a week.

At first, she still dressed up in sexy outfits for me, and we went out to eat when we could, but the bills were crushing, the hours long, and my wife was home alone and bored out of her mind all day. This cocktail of bad things left us drifting apart. She tried to engage me in video games, but I was busy and turned her down, and so we ended up sitting on opposite sides of the same couch. We stopped having sex, which made me bitter.

At some point, actually, the day of my grandmother’s funeral, I complained about being treated like a friend. From that point on, my wife said she had sex out of fear, and felt like the next four years or so was me using her as a fleshlight. This feels very unfair to me, since we were both involved and I no longer wanted to have sex with her, because she clearly didn’t enjoy it, but when I opted out, she cried and said I didn’t find her attractive anymore.

We both filled this roll of unwilling partners, having sex once or twice a month for most of the next few years. I, as you can imagine, fell back into porn in earnest. The more I fell into porn, the less I felt the need to spend time with my wife, and our relationship became increasingly strained. We ended up nearly at divorce and moved back to Texas, where we hoped to put our lives back together, but that hasn’t happened. We have a nice house, I have a job that allows me to work at home, and we still can’t seem to sort out our differences.

I don’t really know what to try next, but I know that my kinks and interests in sex have morphed in the last five years into something that my wife is no longer able to meet me halfway on. Our struggle is that sex is just a way to relieve sexual tension, instead of a real gratification.

As time went on, I got into male-male-female threesome and wife sharing/cuckoldry fantasies and pornography, which meant I was moving further from anywhere my wife was willing to meet me.

Recently, I really stupidly asked her if she was fantasizing about a girl she had just met, while in the middle of us having sex, and the sex stopped immediately and she has been furious with me ever since. Part of the problem we are having with getting past this is that I can’t tell her why I asked her such a thing, and at such a time, because I don’t know why.

She thinks it’s because porn has brainwashed me, and maybe she’s right. I don’t always know why I do the things that I do, and that one I really don’t understand. To make it even more bizarre that I did it, I never gave a fig about lesbian porn, I found it boring. My normal fantasy, which would have upset my wife too, was that I was watching another man have his way with her. I am told that having fantasies like this is due to porn, but I had these kinds of fantasies before I had even seen porn the first time, so I don’t know. I do know that at the height of my porn addiction, it was actually impacting my work to a very unhealthy degree, so it is a valid concern, I can’t deny that.

 

 

Guest Post: Concerns About Pornography as We Move Forward

Note from Josh: This week, I welcome my fellow Maine resident, Jane Ives to the site to share some wonderful pieces she’s written. This is her final piece this week and I just want to take the opportunity to thank Jane for allowing me to reprint some of her terrific articles and sharing her perspective and research.

New research about the impact of pornography challenges churches and other community institutions to provide more up-to-date information about its potential harm.

“Pornography is a social toxin that destroys relationships, steals innocence, erodes compassion, breeds violence, and kills love. The issue of pornography is ground zero for all those concerned for the sexual health and wellbeing of our loved ones, communities, and society as a whole.” So begins the Pornography & Public Health Research Summary published by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation on August 17, 2017.1 At the same time, other research indicates increased public acceptance of pornography, especially among younger generations. For example, a 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 45 percent of Millennials, the first generation to grow up with unlimited exposure to pornography through the internet, said viewing pornography is “morally acceptable,” compared to 9 percent of Americans ages 68 and older.2

Pornography “poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony,” according to Drs. John and Julie Gottman. “Pornography can lead to a decrease in relationship trust and a higher likelihood of affairs,” they wrote on their website, noting that porn sites often subtly or directly encourage sexual activity outside of marriage.3 Pornography use has been closely linked with infidelity, which is one of the most common reasons given for divorce. Another study concludes that persons exposed to large amounts of pornography are likely to feel less satisfied with their real-life partners, feel less committed to existing relationships, and increasingly accept promiscuity as natural and marriage less desirable.4

Pornography is highly addictive, literally hijacking the pleasure centers of the brain, especially when viewed by the young, and is easily accessible on the internet and in magazines. Brain scans of addicted users show alarming changes. Many popular publications, such as Cosmopolitan, Penthouse, and Playboy magazines, provide content that can readily be classified as “soft porn,” presenting sexual activity as casual dating behavior quite divorced from love and commitment.

If we want a society in which marriages and families thrive, we need to do more teaching about commitment, self-discipline, and effective relationship skills, while talking openly about the damaging effects of pornography on relationships. Resources for teaching about the dangers of pornography and for working to limit access to it can be found in the following articles on the UM Discipleship Ministries website:

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/facing-up-to-pornography-and-sexual-addictions

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/protecting-our-children

 

References:
1file:///Users/janeives/Documents/1%20Current%20Projects/Pornography/NCOSE_PornographyPublicHealth_ResearchSummary_8-2_17_FINAL-with-logo.pdf
2 https://www.bgsu.edu/ncfmr/resources/data/family-profiles/hemez-attitudes-marital-infidelity-fp-16-12.html
3 https://www.gottman.com/blog/an-open-letter-on-porn/
4 Kyler Rasmussen, “A Historical and Empirical Review of Pornography and Romantic Relationships: Implications for Family Researchers,” Journal of Family Theory and Review, Volume 8, Issue 2, p. 173-191

 

Jane P. Ives, Marriage and Family Ministries Consultant (8/30/15) 10 Quaker Lane, Portland, ME 04103, 207-210-7876, Janepives@gmail.com Copyright United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, http://www.umcdiscipleship.org -Used by Permission

For more articles like this, please visit www.marriagelovepower.net

 

 

Guest Post: When a Spouse Has Suffered from Childhood Sexual Abuse

Note from Josh: This week, I welcome my fellow Maine resident, Jane Ives to the site to share some wonderful pieces she’s written. I think that regardless of where you are in your addiction, or if you’re not addicted and just starting to learn, Jane provides some incredibly valuable information and resources here.

 

In response to a call from a distraught husband whose wife had just begun therapy for childhood sexual abuse, I asked a member of the sexual abuse prevention organization Darkness to Light (www.D2L.org) to recommend some resources. I received a detailed description of the recovery process, book recommendations for the husband, and websites where he could find an appropriate therapist. Mindful of my ignorance about this issue, I read the books and visited the websites to learn how to offer him understanding, encouragement, and hope.

I learned the importance of listening compassionately when someone begins to talk about traumatic childhood experiences. Although we might react initially with shock and horror, survivors need to know that someone believes them, and they need assurance that whatever happened was not their fault. Many are already deeply wounded by the disbelief and denial of those who should have protected them, and we do not want to add to that damage just because we have heard stories of false accusations and distorted memories.

I also learned that it is urgent to help persons impacted by child sexual abuse find qualified therapists. A survivor needs to work with an effective therapist who understands the impact of child sexual abuse, preferably a certified sex therapist also certified in EMDR (www.emdr.com), a highly effective tool for gentle emotional memory processing. The spouse of the survivor will need a therapist experienced in dealing with these issues too, and the couple will also need to work together with a trained couples therapists experienced in dealing with child sexual abuse issues and with whom they both feel comfortable.

Wikipedia defines Child Sexual Abuse as any attempt by an adult or adolescent to use a child for sexual stimulation, perhaps by indecent exposure, display of pornography, sexual talk, sexual contact, or production of pornographic materials involving the child. The Darkness to Light website indicates that one out of every four women and one out of every six men will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Many survivors of child sexual abuse repress memories of such experiences until triggered by some life event, such as the birth of a child or the death of the perpetrator, or by their own readiness to face the truth. Survivors and their families are usually traumatized when they realize and begin to recall what actually happened.

Laura Davis and Ellen Bass, in The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, note that the healing process often does not begin until after the age of 30. The surfacing of repressed memories can cause acute emotional upheaval and acting-out behaviors. Survivors must work actively for healing, participating in therapy for sorting out whatever details and feelings they can recall. They need to release their sense of shame by talking about happened, especially if they were accused of lying or were threatened to keep the abuse secret. They need to understand that they were in no way at fault, that the abuser is entirely to blame, and that they can trust their own perceptions, feelings, and intuitions. Confronting the abuser and those who failed to protect them, if possible, can provide a dramatic breakthrough, but most of all survivors need to forgive themselves for the mistaken belief that they “let” the abuse happen. Some find release in forgiving the abuser, but this is not always possible.

In the meanwhile, however, the spouses or partners of survivors go through their own trauma, wondering if their relationships will ever be the same. They may experience distancing by the survivor and will usually need to allow space for the healing to take place. They will need support to remain strong, patient, and hopeful when pushed away by their loved one and treated as the enemy. Most will have their own issues to deal with, for which a trained therapist is essential, but good friends and support groups can listen when they need to vent and offer empathy without encouraging destructive behavior.

Given the statistics, many congregations are likely to have members who have experienced Child Sexual Abuse. Spirituality can play an important role in healing, but those who would facilitate healing need to understand the impact on persons of the betrayal of their childhood innocence and trust. Pastors and other church leaders will find the following resources helpful for locating appropriate therapists and for offering survivors and their families understanding and support.

 

Resources

Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child, by Laura Davis (NY: HarperCollins Publisher, 1991). The author, a nationally recognized workshop leader and expert in healing from child sexual abuse, provides partners of survivors with clear insight into the challenging dynamics of their relationships. She notes that while healing is possible, it is not easy or quick, and she offers sound practical advice for both self-care and relationship healing.

Ghosts in the Bedroom: A Guide for Partners of Incest Survivors, by Ken Graber, (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1991). The author describes his wife’s growing realization that she was an incest survivor and his realization, when she sought out a therapist to help her heal, that he had issues he needed to work on as well. He describes clearly the thoughts and feelings he experienced during this process, which were confirmed by other participants in support groups for Partners of Sexual Abuse Survivors, and he offers sound advice for coping with and growing through such an experience.

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, by Ellen Bass and Laura Bass. The authors intersperse descriptions of the dynamics and impact of child sexual abuse with explicit and dramatic stories of some of the many survivors with whom they have worked. They discuss how children cope with these experiences, how memories surface, and the different stages of recovery, as well as what they need in order to heal: assurance that the abuse was not their fault, that someone believes them, that healing is possible, that their feelings of grief and anger are accepted. The authors also address the concerns of partners, family members, and counselors and provide an extensive list of healing resources, including books, organizations, support groups, and counseling.

The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship: How to Support Your Partner and Keep Your Relationship Healthy, by Diane England, Ph.D. (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2009). The author explains how a traumatic event can overwhelm a person’s ability to cope and cause ongoing fight-or-flight symptoms and other acting out, even when danger no longer exists. Whether someone’s distress results from war, natural disasters, or physical or sexual abuse, trauma deeply affects his or her partner and other members of the family. The author describes therapeutic options and provides practical helps.

Victims No Longer: The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse, by Mike Lew (New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2004) Written by a psychotherapist/sexual abuse counselor, this book speaks to the needs of male survivors of incest and sexual abuse.

http://www.siawso.org (Survivors of Incest Anonymous)

http://www.supportforpartners.org (Support for Partners of Child Sexual Abuse Survivors)

 

Jane P. Ives, Marriage and Family Ministries Consultant (8/30/15) 10 Quaker Lane, Portland, ME 04103, 207-210-7876, Janepives@gmail.com Copyright United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, http://www.umcdiscipleship.org -Used by Permission

For more articles like this, please visit www.marriagelovepower.net

 

Guest Post: Facing Up to Pornography and Sexual Addictions

Note from Josh: This week, I welcome my fellow Maine resident, Jane Ives to the site to share some wonderful pieces she’s written. I think that regardless of where you are in your addiction, or if you’re not addicted and just starting to learn, Jane provides some incredibly valuable information and resources here.

“How could this have happened?” agonized a retired pastor and his wife, devastated by their adult son’s confession that he had become addicted to pornography. Growing up in a Christian home does not guarantee immunity to the sexual poison permeating our society. Pornography generates billions of dollars worldwide in revenues from magazines, videos, strip clubs, escort services, telephone sex, pay-per-view cable channels, and websites.1 Pornography accounts for 12% of websites, 25% of search engine requests, and 72 million visitors a month worldwide. Some of these visitors, quickly bored or repulsed by what they see, move on. At least 5% of these visitors, however, are already addicted, and another 10% will likely become addicted to the instant and anonymous gratification of online chatrooms and videos.2 These facts challenge us to address a problem that undoubtedly affects persons in our churches and in our communities. First, however, we need to understand how pornography can ensnare and corrupt.

The United Methodist Book of Resolutions, 2004, defines pornography as “sexually explicit material that portrays violence, abuse, coercion, domination, humiliation, or degradation for the purpose of arousal” and also labels as pornographic any sexually explicit material depicting children.3 Unlike art that elicits awe and respect by celebrating the beauty of human bodies and erotic love, pornography portrays men and women as sex objects, titillates, creates unrealistic expectations, deadens the ability to experience real intimacy, and may encourage potentially dangerous attitudes and behaviors.4

Research shows that viewing pornography can cause physiological changes in the brain that may influence behavior and relationships. Pornography, especially when viewed in a high state of arousal, creates an imprint of the experience that impels the viewer to come back for more of the stimulant effect. Over time, persons viewing pornography may become desensitized, requiring more explicit and more deviant materials to get the same effect. Research documents a high correlation between frequent use of pornography and sexual abuse and violence. Children and youth have confessed to acting out what they have seen, and sexual offenders often report a history of viewing pornography5. In Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, Patrick Carnes notes that persons who become addicted to pornography may easily escalate to voyeurism, self-exposure, adultery, prostitution, sexual harassment, and assault.6 Carnes describes an “Addiction Cycle” that begins with obsessive thinking about sex, followed by unique rituals or routines leading up to and enhancing the excitement of compulsive sexual activity. Once in this cycle, addicts cannot control or stop themselves; afterward they may seek release from their shame and guilt by obsessive sexual thinking, starting the cycle all over again.7

Addicts may rationalize that their compulsions have no adverse effect on their marriages, families, or work. Their secret lives, however, often cause them to withdraw, neglecting their families, work, and other responsibilities. Feeling unworthy of genuine love, they may turn to illicit sex more frequently to ease their increasing isolation. Once addicts realize that their lives are out of control, skilled therapists and caring communities – Twelve Steps programs in particular – can help them examine their behavior, break out of their isolation, and reclaim a sense of personal worth. Because secrecy deepens the bond of any addiction, talking about it with trusted advisors is often the first step toward healing.8

What can the church do?

  • Affirm sexuality as a God-given gift that can enrich our lives and relationships.
  • Teach reverence for the human body and respect for the feelings and needs of others.
  • Make clear that anyone may be vulnerable to pornography’s addictive lure.
  • Note that Jesus’ warning about committing adultery in our hearts (Matthew 5:28) addresses the deliberate choice to welcome and entertain tempting thoughts and fantasies, which may occasionally present themselves to anyone.
  • Equip parents and teachers to help children process their likely exposure to pornography, whether accidental or deliberate.
  • Provide information through teaching, programs, and print material to help people understand and face up to this problem.
  • Research locally available trained counselors and groups for referral of addicts and families seeking assistance.
  • Speak out against public displays of pornography and against media that qualifies as “soft porn” and glorifies risky behavior.
  • Express concern for the actors and models exploited in pornographic videos and materials, recognizing that some of them may be victims of sexual trafficking.
  • Encourage parents to monitor their children’s internet and cell phone use, noting the dangers of visiting chatrooms, sexting, responding to strangers on line, and posting personal information.
  • Counsel parents and other adults to view media programming with children and youth, calmly discussing the underlying messages to which they are exposed by asking reflective questions. (“What would you do in that situation?” “What might happen next?”)
  • Welcome and include recovering addicts, holding them accountable to their healing programs and establishing behavioral covenants to protect others, especially children and youth.

We cannot afford to ignore the devastating consequences of pornography and sexual addictions, nor can we safely assume that members of our congregations or of our families are not – or will not – be affected. Sound education, prevention, and recovery support ministries can help keep individuals, families, and communities healthy and safe.

Sources:
1 William M. Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2009), p. 20
2 Michael Castleman, “6 Ways Porn Can Hurt Your Sex Life,” www.aarp.org
3 The United Methodist Book of Resolutions, “Pornography and Sexual Violence,” p. 166
4 Rev. Cynthia Abrams, “Sex and the Church: Pornography and Sexual Addiction,” www.gbcs.org
5 GCSRW, “Prevention of the Use of Pornography in the Church,” www.gcsrw.org
6 Patrick Carnes, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2001), p. 37-38
7 Ibid., p. 19-23
8 Ibid., p. 4-7

 

Resources for Facing Up to Pornography and Sexual Addictions

Reading List

Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession?, by Jennifer Schneider, M.D., Ph.D. and Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT (Hazelden Information Education, 2001). The authors explore pornography use and other sexual behaviors on the internet, using case studies to illustrate how such practices may become addictive and how to seek healing from sexual compulsions.

Every Heart Restored: A Wife’s Guide to Healing in the Wake of a Husband’s Sexual Sin, by Fred and Brenda Stoeker, with Mike Yorkey (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2010). This book offers guidance for wives whose husbands are addicted to pornography and sex and who are struggling for sexual purity.

Lonely All the Time: Recognizing, Understanding and Overcoming Sex Addiction, for Addicts and Codependents, by Ralph Earle, Ph.D., Gregory Crow, and Kevin Osborn (NY, NY; Pocket Books, 1998). This easy-to-read book explores sex addiction and co-addiction in family systems, describing causes, symptoms, and a comprehensive approach to recovery.

Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the Twelve Steps, by Charlotte Davis Kasl, Ph.D.(Harper Perennial, 1992). The author explores the wisdom inherent in Twelve Step and other models of recovery, suggesting ways to adapt them to a variety of experiences and beliefs. She also explores societal roots of addiction and dependency and ways to address them.

Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2001). The author describes sexual addiction as a “pathological relationship” that becomes more important than anything else. As tolerance increases, sex addicts, like alcoholics, need the “mood-altering experience” just to feel normal; then they may quickly escalate from pornography addiction to more dangerous behaviors, often with devastating consequences. Dr. Carnes offers hope and advice for recovery, recommending Twelve Step groups and similar strategies in particular.

Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery, by Kevin B. Skinner, Ph.D. (Provo, Utah: Growthclimate Inc., 2005). The author explains how pornography affects the mind of the user and becomes addictive. He outlines steps for rewiring the mind and breaking free.

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, by William M. Struthers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. The author, a Christian neuroscientist and researcher, explores various aspects of pornography’s effects on sexual behavior and intimacy. He describes the healing process as sanctification, making daily decisions to see the image of God in each person, appreciate women without “consuming” them, and move “beyond objectification to real relationship, presence and intimacy” (p. 189). He lists helpful books and websites at the back of the book.

Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power, by Charlotte Davis Kasl, Ph.D. (NY, NY: Ticknor & Fields, 1989). The author explores the cultural conditioning that tells us “sex is love, sex is power, and sex makes us important” (p. 10) and its impact on women in particular. She discusses the link between spirituality and sexuality, providing guidance for healing from addictions to sex and romance, as well as sexual codependency.

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal, by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means (Far Hills, NJ: New Horizon Press, 2009). The authors share research, personal experiences, and case studies that portray partners of sex addicts as post-traumatic stress victims, rather than co-dependents. This book offers practical wisdom for such partners and for those who want to help them heal.

Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age, by Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT (NY, NY: Alyson Publications, 2006). The authors discuss how to identify and address pornography addiction. They also offer helpful suggestions to parents concerned about their children’s exposure to pornography and sexual content on the internet.

Organizations and Websites

Cornerstone Intimacy and Healthy Sexuality: Creating Hope and Healing for Families Dealing with Sexual Integrity Issues (Atlanta, GA), http://www.cornerstoneprofessional.net. Visit this website to learn about therapy (intensives and ongoing support), training, and conferences; sign up for an e-newsletter; and read reviews of recommended books. For more information, call 770-457- 3028.

Internet Behavior Consulting Company (IBC), http://www.internetbehavior.com. Visit this website for research reports, training events, an e-newsletter, and an Internet Sex Screening Test.

Parents Television Council, 707 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 2075, Los Angeles, CA, 90017, http://www.parentstv.org. This nonprofit research and education organization lobbies for enforcement of broadcast decency standards and publishes a newsletter to inform parents of negative and harmful media messages, as well as family-friendly programming.

Porn Harms, a project of Morality in Media, 1100 G Street NW #1030, Washington, DC 20005, 202-393-7245, http://www.pornharms.com. The website offers expert commentary on the negative effects of pornography, including a blog, webinars, and a Facebook link.

Setting Captives Free, http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com, offers an online free, anonymous 60- day Bible-based program titled “Way of Purity,” as well as resources for recovery from other addictions.

Sexaholics Anonymous, http://www.sa.org describes its Thirteen Step program and White Book, provides links for locating meetings and therapists throughout the nation and the world, announces upcoming events, and offers brochures for download and purchase.

Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), http://www.sash.net. This website provides a Sexual Addiction Screening Test, an e-newsletter, conference announcements, and other resources.

 

Jane P. Ives, Marriage and Family Ministries Consultant (8/30/15) 10 Quaker Lane, Portland, ME 04103, 207-210-7876, Janepives@gmail.com Copyright United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, http://www.umcdiscipleship.org -Used by Permission

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