Christians Need a New Strategy to Battle Pornography Addiction

One of the areas that I’ve been starting to focus on with my porn addiction education is podcasts and radio shows that have a spiritual or religious audience. Most of them are Christian, which is perfect, because the statistics around Christians who use pornography far outpace that of the secular world.

I was a leery to enter this space for a long time. I was raised Catholic, but don’t really subscribe to a lot of the doctrine and dogma. Watching from the sidelines for a couple of years though, most of the religious people who write about porn addiction are still using shame and God’s judgment as motivation to quit. That just doesn’t work. You can pray away addiction as effectively as you pray away cancer.

The rates of use among Christians is fairly staggering. Here are a few numbers from the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes:

  • 68% of men who attend church on a regular basis and 50% of pastors report viewing pornography on a regular basis. Among the 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s 76%
  • 87% of Christian women said they have watched pornography at least once.
  • 70% of youth pastors say they have had a teen tell them that they have a pornography issue in the last month.
  • 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issues to their congregation, while only 7% say their church has a program to help people struggling with pornography.

These are numbers that reflect a population that needs help. Both the clergy and the followers have been raised in an institution that preaches sexual sin is among the worst. Despite various forms of repentance is different denominations, it’s human nature not to admit the problem in the first place for fear of the fallout, embarrassment and shame.

For the Christian people out there struggling with pornography, if your church is unwilling or unequipped to help you, seek assistance outside. Simply because somebody doesn’t worship the same way that you do, or doesn’t worship at all, does not mean that they can’t help you overcome your personal demons.

Porn addiction does not make you a bad person. It makes you an ill person who can take the proper steps to get better. Having a strong faith and belief system will only be a plus in the process, but you can’t let that belief system be a hurdle to getting healthy.

If there is anything I can do to help any Christian or clergy member out there, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Pornography Cannot Become Just Another Political Issue

When I’m up with the dogs at 5:30 a.m., letting my wife sleep an extra hour because she has to head for a job outside the house and I have a leeway in catching a nap if need-be, I’ll browse headlines in the Google News feed. I rarely ever read stories unless it’s good news, but an article on pornography was featured today and I’m not sure what to think.

I stopped reading halfway through to be honest because there wasn’t a ton of substance to it. Essentially it said that there are a small handful of Republican members of Congress who have been making waves about doing “something” about pornography. It talked about how this issue was more one of the radical liberals in the 1970s and 80s, but seems to have evolved as the other side’s cause in recent years.

Most of you know my stance on the pornography industry. You can’t fight it. Much like prohibition, it would be destined to fail. And unless it involves children or animals, porn may be immoral or unhealthy, but it’s not illegal. I don’t want the government defining what is or isn’t pornography. That’s not its role. Pornographic magazines are failing not because of any government interference. They’re dying because print media as a whole is collapsing. Let the market define its needs.

I would like to see an embrace of some kind of health curriculum in schools that makes basic pornography addiction education mandatory. A middle school teacher could literally spend only 30 minutes on it in one class per semester and I believe it could change a generation. If Congress is willing to pony up the money for that, I don’t care if it’s a Republican or Democrat; it’s a bill I can get behind.

As an ex-journalist, my former life before recovery was consumed with news and like almost everybody with access to social media, I didn’t mind sharing my opinions on whatever the topic of the day was. I think that was done far more to see myself pontificate and get like-minded people to tell me how right I was vs. truly changing anyone’s mind.

In recovery, I largely limit myself to headlines and stay off all social media except LinkedIn. I suppose I have my website to expound on issues, but it’s still 97% politics-free. I do this because despite my disconnect, which has moved me even further into the middle of the political spectrum, it has certainly not been lost on me that this country is divided more than anytime I can remember.

Now, it doesn’t worry me too much. As a student of history, this is a cyclical occurrence, not an anomaly. If you think politics seems bad now, go read the Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow upon which the musical was based. That was a disgusting, divided time that makes today seem much more civil. I guess it can and may get worse, but I don’t worry about it bouncing back eventually.

Unfortunately, the issues of pornography, pornography addiction and pornography addiction education are coming along during this time of people dividing into little tribes and circling the wagons. I’ve mentioned this before, and I think most people truly in the middle agree, but there’s very little difference between the two political parties except for the small details. Both sides act completely boorish, make unintelligible statements, pander to their base and are far more about power than figuring out solutions. You’ll know if you’re one of these people if you immediately thought, “That’s not me! That’s the other side!” Sorry, buddy, it’s also you.

I’m concerned that if conservatives take up this cause right now, liberals will fight it simply because they feel they’re supposed to fight whatever conservatives want. Similarly, if the liberals were to take up porn, whatever position they took would be opposed by the conservatives not because of facts, but because that’s just the way things are done today.

I know I have people from both sides of the aisle who read my articles, and plenty of folks in the middle, too. I urge you, do not make whatever fight against pornography that may be on the horizon a political one. I know that’s easier said than done, but there are some issues that should bridge the political gap.

Do not let your party affiliation dictate your stance on pornography and if you’re active in your political community (boy, I don’t miss those days) be a voice of reason. If your side is for it, reach out to the other side. They’re probably not against it – just against the idea of agreeing with you. If your side is against it, explain to your brethren why this may be an issue that needs partisan walls to come down. And let’s be honest, you don’t want to be on the side that is trying to frame the argument pornography is not a problem. There’s far too much data against that position…although facts and data just don’t mean what they once did.

This cannot turn into just another political issue. It’s too important.

 

Is It Ethical to Attempt to Make Money Off Of My Porn Addiction Educating?

One of the nicer things about this past weekend when I met with a half-dozen people individually to discuss porn addiction at a Massachusetts library was the feedback that my time educating people and being a source of support is not being wasted. I need to hear that now and then, but I need to begin to figure out the next step.

On an average day, I probably devote 2-3 hours to my blog: writing, editing (though some days you’d never know it) posting, responding to comments and that doesn’t include the time I look at other people’s blogs and comment on their entries.

I’m at a place in advance of the new book coming out soon where I’m devoting 2-3 hours per week on a bunch of the last-minute edits and other things that need to be done before its printed. I’m also doing 2-4 podcasts/interviews per week that usually take 3-5 hours total.

Adding that all up, on a slow week I’m devoting a minimum of 20 hours and on a busy week it’s closer to 30. That’s a busy part-time job. Throw in something like Saturday when I was gone from the house for 13 hours and spent around $75 and it’s a full-time job where I lose money.

I still feel a mighty pull to educate and help wherever I can. It feels like one of the most natural things I’ve ever done. I have felt like I’m supposed to be a writer. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a traveler. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a father and I’ve felt like I’m supposed to educate and help others about porn addiction. That’s really it…four things.

Last year, I tried to monetize this a little bit by starting pornaddictcounseling.org. I’ve helped several people through that site and made a few dollars doing it, but not enough to really make a difference in the bottom line of my life. I’ll admit I didn’t promote or push it, but I don’t know if that would have made a difference. I’ve been debating shutting it down before another year of charges is applied to the site.

I’m not going to make a lot of money on the next book unless something very unexpected happens. I have to split royalties with my co-author and don’t think I’ll actually see a dime of them until early 2021 if I read my contract correctly.

I know that I need to spend more time looking for ghostwriting and freelance writing work to get a bit more income through the door, but that’s on me, and isn’t really the point here.

One part of me sees this really going to the next level. Writing more books that make some money. Getting guest speaking gigs where I’m actually paid to appear and a bump in visibility that gets me on higher-profile podcasts and radio shows, in turn leading to more money-making opportunities. If I can pull back on the freelance writing time because I’m making money with this, I can do even more with the education and speaking, but I need money to replace that money I don’t make writing. Isn’t making a living and helping people the best of both worlds? Hell, doctors do it every day.

The other side of me says that if I start doing any more than covering expenses, I’m going to enter a world of exploiting the situation. Why are you reading this right now? Because I did a horrible thing. Why did I get to participate at the library this past weekend? Because there’s a girl who (at the time) was underage and I encouraged her to show me her body. Why do I have a second book coming out? Because my story is unique and special for all the wrong reasons. Isn’t there an argument to be made I’m exploiting myself, the girl, the crime, the whole situation by trying to make anything resembling a profit? Isn’t there an argument that any money I make is almost dirty? These are arguments that plague me.

Porn addiction is starting to gain some traction in the mainstream. People are just starting to talk about it. With two books behind me, my personal experience with addiction and the wealth of knowledge I have about the subject puts me in a position where I may be able to capitalize on opportunities in the near future as this becomes even more mainstream. But should I be talking about this is terms of entrepreneurialism?

I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer. I’m going to keep doing what I do as long as I can afford it. Maybe the rest will work itself out.

Human Library Participation Really Put the Emphasis on ‘Human’ For Me

I drove nearly 9,000 miles on my vacation last summer through places like Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Indianapolis and more, yet I will testify in any court of law that Boston has the worst traffic in the United States. It took me nearly an hour to drive four miles on a Saturday afternoon, without construction! So much for the Big Dig.

I shared a photo yesterday from the Osterville Village Library in Barnstable, Mass., where I took part in my second Human Library. The Human Library sprang out of Europe and is an event where people (dubbed “books”) who have a unique personal story to share gather at a traditional library and patrons take turns “checking out” these books, which really just means they spend 30 minutes in conversation with the person.

My book is unironically called “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” and either goes in the direction of my personal story or how I believe porn addiction will be a national healthcare crisis by 2050 unless we take certain steps; I let the patron decide where to take the conversation. Other books included an African-American police officer, a rabbi in the U.S. military, an atheist, a person recovering from drug addiction, somebody who has been through the U.S. Immigration process, etc. It’s stated purpose is a chance for people to understand someone else who is nothing like them.

img_2619This event was far more successful than the first one I participated in at a New Hampshire library last year. I was only booked for two of the six sessions then as attendance was sparse. This time around, I was booked for five of the six and spent the spare session doing a long interview with a local radio station.

I felt prepared, bringing a handful of copies of my first book and a sheet of statistics regarding pornography addiction. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional outpouring from the other chair.

The first gentleman who came in around 1 p.m. was probably in his late 50s or early 60s. I shared my personal story, largely uninterrupted for about 15 minutes. When finished, he called me brave and thanked me for being willing to talk openly about porn.

“After listening to you,” he said softly with a stutter, “I’m now left to wonder if I’m a pornography addict, although I guess if I’m asking myself that question I know the answer.”

I told him he was brave to admit that and started defining addiction, including some of the specifics of porn addiction. I could see tears well up in his eyes.

As our time reached an end, I told him that only he can determine if he’s an addict and if he should seek help, but I urged him to sit down with an addictions counselor at least once and get a baseline for where he is. I only know his side of the story, but if addiction is there, I think it’s more to the mild side of things, thankfully.

I didn’t expect such an emotional first session and it reminded me not to pre-judge anybody. I can’t tell people not to stereotype who is or isn’t a porn addict and then do it myself.

The second woman worked in health care and simply wanted to learn more about the addiction in general. She had fantastic questions, and frankly, getting a bit of an emotional break was nice.

My third session was the radio interview. The interviewer wasn’t intimidated by the subject, but you could tell she feared offending me with personal questions. I assured her that I’ve been asked everything, so she couldn’t offend me. I get this same reaction with some of the podcasts I appear on. People are more scared to ask questions than I am to answer them. I’d never really recognized this before until someone was sitting across from me.

The fourth session was another gut-churning one. The woman, who said she’d been married for 45 years, mentioned up front her husband has a great tolerance for things, specifically mentioning he needs to drink 10 beers to feel anything where the average person only needs two or three. She called it a “high tolerance for pain.”

I got through my story and she asked a few benign questions about how my wife handled the situation both before and after I entered recovery. In sharing the premise of my soon-to-be-released book geared toward the partners of porn addicts, she asked what advice is given when the man doesn’t want to attend therapy.

I told her that it’s best to not pretend the partner doesn’t have an addiction. I said that the partner needs to suggest couple’s counseling, but even if the addict doesn’t want to go, they should still find a counselor on their own, and to never forget that self-care is the most important thing, because you can never make an addict do something they don’t want to do. I finished by saying ultimately the non-addict has to decide what they can live with and if they need to create boundaries or ultimatums. I told her that the key is to enforce those boundaries and ultimatums or they mean nothing.

She began crying and said while she and her husband didn’t have this problem with pornography addiction, they were going through it with something else and she was doing everything I suggested. I didn’t know if it was alcoholism as she didn’t say and I didn’t pry. I just assured her that she had to do the right thing for her, not her husband or adult kids or anybody else. As our time came to an end she tried to dry her tears and thanked me for being a shoulder to cry on.

The next woman came in and after listening to my little introductory speech told me that she has a problem with chat rooms that tend to lean toward the kinky side of things. In her situation, her husband wasn’t against it as he had fetishes and she believed a touch of sex addiction. She, too, began crying and telling me that she just wanted a normal life and not one where she found herself with strange people in basement sex clubs in Boston at 3 a.m. on a Saturday. I urged her to see a therapist, but told her that she can’t look at it as an on/off switch, whether it’s recovery or transitioning to a new life, it happens slowly, with clear, deliberate steps.

It was a bit of a relief that the last woman to stop by was just looking for information. She said she had an extended family member dealing with this and she wanted to learn more about it. I shared my details, which would have been hard two years ago, but was easy, especially since she wasn’t crying.

After wrapping up and talking with the head librarian and volunteer who coordinated the event, letting them know I thought it went well based on comparing it to my first experience, I got in the car and made the trek north to Maine and through the heart of Boston.

At least the traffic gave me time to reflect on the emotional outpouring I received from many of the people who sat with me. Even those who didn’t have an issue were gracious and I could tell appreciated what I was doing. It’s good for me to see that face-to-face because despite the comments section in these blogs and the fact I know people listen to the podcasts I appear on, getting that one-on-one interaction reminds me what I’m doing is not just a selfish activity to keep my own recovery on track.

I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. last night and didn’t get up until 11:30 this morning. Clearly this took a lot more out of me than I realized, but in a good way. Actually, a great way.

If there’s a Human Library event taking place near you (this Facebook page for the organization is constantly updated), I urge you to go check it out and learn the stories of people who are not like you, or maybe even more importantly, those who are exactly like you.

Therapy and Fellowship, not Online Forums, are the Key to Pornography Addiction Recovery

I know anything is possible and there are people who have done it different ways, but I firmly believe that if you are seeking to permanently eliminate your pornography addiction, you can only do it with professional help, often bolstered by the (real-life) interaction with other addicts. Anything short of this and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

You know when you do something that irritates you, but you can’t help it, like letting the dishes pile up in the sink or watching mindless reality TV? I do this with online forums where guys talk to each other about their pornography and masturbation problems.

I find it frustrating because it feels like 95% of these men will never understand that they are statistically unlikely to beat their addiction on their own. Many include “counters” in their signature that show how many days they’ve been without porn or masturbation. It’s rare that they ever get above 20 days. They relapse and relapse and relapse again.

Their solutions?

“I need to try harder. I need to put filters on my computer. I need to try yoga. I need to distract myself when I feel the urge. I need to get out and meet people. I need to turn off my phone. I need to meditate. I need a girlfriend.”

Usually less than a week later, they’re singing the same song. It’s clear that they feel guilt and shame about their addiction, but there are other men like me on the site who have years of recovery who talk about how we got to this point, but almost all of it falls on deaf ears. I sometimes wonder if they want to do something about their addiction, or they want to do just enough to convince themselves they are trying, but somehow they are the special snowflake who is just never going to be able to get into recovery.

There are others who remind me of people who consider themselves political, but really just regurgitate the talking points they hear on TV. These are the ones who try to tell you that they can “re-wire” their brains, but when you ask them about the science behind what they’re doing, they mumble-write something about dopamine and usually admit to not knowing everything, but knowing it’s true, much like climate change deniers.

I can give you a dissertation in how brain chemistry works with addiction, but I’ll save it. Bottom line is you’re never going to rewire yourself out of that childhood trauma causing the addiction.

The lazy, ignorant and stubborn don’t recover. That’s just a fact.

If it’s not one of those things, I think it boils down to fear. Sitting across from a real person, face-to-face, and having a conversation is much different than typing essays on a computer and waiting hours to read equally one-side responses. It’s scary to be that vulnerable and ultimately, intimate, with another person if you’re not used to it.

The main excuse I hear when it comes to avoiding therapy is that somebody doesn’t have the money or the time. First, the time excuse is BS. Send me a copy of your schedule and I’ll find plenty of time for you to get help. You just make it a priority. As for money, there are plenty of mental health treatment programs funded by local, state and national sources that will pay for, or at least help you out, with the cost. In my part of Maine, there’s an agency that covers three counties and offers steep discounts depending on your income. And if you don’t qualify for an income break, your lack of funds is just another excuse. Put your mental health in front of the big movie package on your cable system.

The only other way I’ve seen people recover – and many of these people don’t have loads of pre-existing trauma – is through a form of group therapy. It can be a 12-step group like Sex Addicts Anonymous, a spiritual approach like Recovery Today or a secular approach like SMART. I’ve been to all three and while none were the ultimate answer for me, it’s clear based on the people who are deep into recovery in all three groups that communal fellowship plays a big role in recovery.

I’d still urge people who go this route to get some professional help just to make sure they’re not missing anything, but I am confident that this is a way for some to achieve successful recovery.

This does not mean that blogs like this, online forums and bulletin boards are a communal fellowship approach. They’re not. They exist on a screen, not in real life. I believe that they can be secondary or tertiary levels of support, much like researching in books or watching YouTube videos, but the amount of people failing again and again seems proof enough that anything you find on a computer or telephone screen cannot be the sole solution.

I’ve said this plenty of times: Any route to recovery is the right route to recovery. The key word in that sentence is “recovery” not “any.”

If you’re reading this and you’ve failed again and again and again, it’s time to stop doing what isn’t working and try something new, or step-up and own it: you don’t really want recovery bad enough.