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

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

If You’ve Ever Wanted to Help My Cause, This is It

The last six years or so have been a ride. I thought alcohol rehab in 2014 would be the end of it. I thought the same for sex/porn addiction rehab in 2015 or jail in 2016. Then there was my first book and launching this website. Initially designed as just a promotional tool, I had no idea the outpouring of not only support, but inquiries looking for help I’d receive through the site. Most surprisingly, half of them came from the partners of pornography addicts who were lost and looking for any life raft in their sea of doubt, sadness and betrayal.

I realized that my mission could not end. Much like the disappointment I felt when I couldn’t find any relatable, non-highly academic books on pornography addiction at the start of my journey, I felt the strong calling to create something for these partners. It’s hard to describe this calling other than to say I feel like it’s what I’ve been put here for.

I came up with a concept for a new book and thought of only one person to co-author the book with me. I met Tony Overbay, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist on his popular The Virtual Couch podcast and we instantly clicked. Thankfully, he liked the idea for the project, and we spent the next 18 months working together on it.

The result is He’s a Porn Addict…What Now? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions. 

Online Flyer for BookWhy two authors? I explained it to someone the other day using an analogy to tattoos. Let’s say there’s an artist who apprenticed under the best in the industry, inked tattoos on thousands of people and regularly won awards for it. But, he or she doesn’t have a single tattoo on their body.

Then let’s say there’s another person, who is heavily tattooed and has probably spent more than 200 hours under the gun. They’ve experienced the pain, the thrill and the stigma that comes with having so many tattoos.

So, which one of them is the tattoo expert? My belief is that they both are, coming at it from different angles and together giving a better overall picture than either could individually. This book has a licensed therapist and a recovering addict. This has never been done for a book in this genre before. I think it gives a more complete picture to an addict’s partner than anything that has been produced in the past.

*********************************

Today is Black Friday and it will be Cyber Monday in a couple of days. Sandwiched between the two is Book Launch Sunday, when He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? will be officially released and begin shipping.

I’m not pretending it’s a good Christmas present. It could certainly create a lot of awkward laughs, but releasing it now is just the ways things unfolded. I’m not sure if the timing is bad or doesn’t make any difference. I just can’t think it’s good.

I’m also not going to pretend I understand all of the ins and outs of how Amazon ranks books or promotes them. I know it’s important to come out of the gate strong and to receive decent reviews. My greatest fear right now is that the book gets lost in everything else people have on their minds this time of year. The reality of the world right now is 64% of books are sold on Amazon while only 7% are sold in stores. This book is so important to me and important to my future and I fear being a victim of circumstance and bad timing.

I want the partners of pornography addicts to easily be able to find this book on Amazon in the next few months. I want therapists and doctors to learn about it, sample it and decide if it could be a valuable resource for many of their clients. I believe clergy members could learn a lot that would come in helpful in counseling their parishes. I even think addicts themselves could glean quite a bit from it. But they all have to be able to find it before it disappears.

I may passively push my book moving forward, and plan to basically link people back to this post over the weekend with my entries, but this will be the only time I straight-up ask you to purchase it. Please buy my book TODAY. Even if you’re not somebody who can utilize the book, I’m sure you know at least one person who can. If not, donate it to your library, church or local women’s charity. Give it to your therapist for one of their patients. Somebody you know can use this book. If you can’t afford a book, you could share this article with others on your blog with those who may be able to afford it, or need it. Come Monday, this book must be decently ranked on Amazon if it’s going to have a chance to maintain relevancy.

I would be deeply in your debt if you’d consider it and I would be happy to let you cash in a favor on me anytime. This isn’t about the 98 cents I get on each copy sold. I’m at a crossroads the next couple of days and need your help.

I’m so proud of the work Tony and I did on this book. Positive reviews from heavy-hitters like Dr. Doug Weiss and Dr. Mark Goulston have only bolstered my enthusiasm, but it’s now zero-hour.

If you’d like to read their reviews, learn more about the book, or purchase a copy, please use this direct link to head on over to Amazon.com (or whichever version you use in your country). Thank you.

 

 

The One Thought That Won’t Leave You Today

Ok I warned you, it’s not just a clickbait headline.

Set a 10-minute timer on your phone, then come back to this…

In the time you were away, there’s a 12-year-old kid with internet access somewhere who has just seen more hardcore sex acts than his ancestors did in their entire lifetime.

Have a good day.

Guest Post: 4 Things to Determine If You Can Trust Your Sex-Addicted Spouse

For this guest post, I welcome Eddie Capparucci. He’s an LPC, CSAS, CPCS, a licensed professional counselor, certified in sexual and pornography addiction. He is the author of the soon-to-be-released book “Going Deeper: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction.”
Pre-orders are now available at  https://www.blackrosewriting.com/nonfiction/goingdeeper  Use the promo code PREORDER2019 to save 15%. He can be reached at edcappa@gmail.com.

By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS, CPCS

It is one of the most common questions a spouse will ask during a couples’ first counseling session when a sex addiction has been discovered. “How will I know when I will be able to trust him again”?

It’s a great question because at the core of the couples’ issues is the broke bond of trust. Sex-addicted partners:

  • Violate their commitment, to be honest, and faithful.
  • Drive a wedge in the relationship that feels like the size of the Grand Canyon.
  • Create a sense of hopelessness that leaves the other feeling numbed and confused.

Ask any partner who has been betrayed sexually and they will tell you, while the infidelity is like a punch in the gut, the worst part is the dishonesty and lying. While they hate being cheated upon they detest the lack of integrity their partner displays in their attempts to cover their tracks. That is why at some point, the focus on re-building trust is as critical as helping the sex-addicted partner manage the addiction itself.

So how can a betrayed partner start to become comfortable and regain a sense of confidence that their sex-addicted spouse is safe? Let’s examine four key factors to look for to determine if your spouse is becoming trustworthy.

  1. He is committed to his recovery

Of course, this is the one number key to not only learning to manage a sexual addiction but to begin the process of rebuilding a tattered relationship. A sex addict must demonstrate dedication to the game plan that has been created to assist them in breaking the bondage of secrecy and betrayal. I have seen partners who dive in and go beyond what is asked of them in recovery. I also have witnessed spouses who barely scratch the surface in doing the work that is required of them. When this happens, it is incredibly disheartening to the wounded spouse.

If your spouse is following a treatment regimen and sharing with you his progress, then have hope better days await both of you.

  1. He doesn’t shut you down when you vent

One of the first things I will tell a husband who has abused sex is that his wife has a barrel of rocks and she will be throwing them your way for the next 12-24 months. The ability for a woman to properly grieve the betrayal of the relationship is critical in order for there to be a chance for the relationship to move ahead.

But some men struggle when their grieving wives are throwing rocks. They become defensive and attempt to shut down the conversation. However, this is a grave mistake. When a woman is not given an opportunity to grieve she will continue to sit on those emotions and learn how to express them in other ways including perhaps being passive aggressive. As I tell men, when she grieves, she is healing. Let her grieve.

You can start to sense your spouse is getting better when they can sit with you in your pain. This demonstrates they understand the extent of your anguish and are committed to helping you get to a better emotional place.

  1. He starts to develop and engage in healthy communities

Clinical studies have demonstrated a critical key to recovering from sex addiction is participating in a healthy community. Yet, it’s the most significant pushback we receive from our sex addiction clients. In their intense shame and embarrassment, it would be easier to get them to agree to walk a tightrope across two New York City skyscrapers than attend a recovery group meeting. Men who refuse to participate in a support group are playing Russian roulette with their recovery. The lone wolf fails.

As the wounded spouse, if you see your husband is attending a support group; working with a sponsor and engaging in a men’s group, you should feel comfortable that he is learning how to step outside of his negative comfort zone. Establishing authentic relationships with others will help him maintain accountability, which for you and your relationship is a significant win.

  1. He demonstrates the ability to attach with you emotionally

A man struggling with sexual addiction is confused about intimacy. Somewhere along the line, they confused physical intimacy for emotional intimacy. They have an easier time connecting physical, and therefore their emphasis is on sexual relations.

When you find your spouse being able to identify and express emotions, or showing signs of being open and vulnerable, you know he is on the right track of recovery. Sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder, and the course of treatment is designed to broaden the addict’s view of healthy intimacy to include an emotional connection.

An addict who is committed to recovery; supports his wife’s grieving; engages in a healthy community and begins to identify and express deeper emotions is an individual who is on the right path for recovery.

Five Things for a Sex or Porn Addict’s Partner to Realize Upon Discovery

Despite the fact that I’ve got a book coming out about the subject the first week of December and I spend a lot of time talking about it on the radio show and podcast appearances I do, I really don’t write enough about the women who are left to deal with their partner’s pornography or sex addiction on this site.

I include sex addiction, or intercourse addiction, as I like to call it because it seems women who are faced with finding their partner is either type of addict have a similar reaction and it’s a reaction unlike any other addiction’s reaction. When you find out your gambling addicted partner lost your child’s college fund at the casino, you don’t question if you were the problem. When your partner turns to heroin, you don’t wonder if you weren’t enough in the bedroom. When your partner develops a video game addiction, there isn’t the sense of intimate betrayal.

I’m not suggesting being the partner of any addict is easy, it certainly is not. But when it comes to the core of sex and porn addiction, which is unhealthy sexuality, it leaves the person who you are supposed to be the only one to intimately share that sexuality with crushed in most cases.

I think loving, intimate relations between partners is a sacred thing. It’s almost as if it is a secret kept between people who have a bond that goes beyond being best friends. When the partner is discovered to have a sex or porn addiction, the sacred becomes soiled, the secret becomes a lie and the bond is severed.

* * *

Once discovery happens, the story can go one of a million different ways, and the female partner is left with a lot of questions, which the new book examines. I do, however want to drive five points home:

  • What you’re feeling is called betrayal trauma and it is absolutely appropriate. You have been dealt a giant emotional and mental blow that is difficult to process. Have your reaction. Do not repress it as that will only make things worse. This may last months or years. I wish there was a quick fix to get through it, but in my personal experience and learning the stories of dozens of women, it lingers for a long time.
  • His addiction is not your fault. If he is the kind of man who is denying an addiction or telling you that you have in some way contributed to his illness, you have not. I was addicted more than 10 years before I met my wife and she didn’t learn of the addiction until we’d been married another 10. It had nothing to do with her and it has nothing to do with you.
  • It’s up to him if he wants to get help, either individual or couple’s counseling. You can create boundaries that encourage him to seek help or face consequences, but ultimately, it’s on him to get better. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t seek therapy. You 100% absolutely should. Talking with somebody and finding other women who have been through what you have (and are further along in the journey) will help you immensely.
  • You’re not a weak person if you decide to stay. You loved him and admitting you still do is not failure as a wife, girlfriend or woman. It doesn’t give him all the power and is not you admitting defeat. My wife, thankfully, recognized amid her trauma that I was a sick person. Yes, I did the hard work of recovery, but her support was my foundation and I couldn’t have done it without her. I don’t see her as weak for staying. I see her as strong for getting through this shitstorm that was not her doing.
  • You’re not a bad person if you decide to leave. While most experts will urge you not to act quickly and take some time assessing the situation, if you find that you simply cannot move forward with the addict as your partner, that’s your right and you should not feel guilty about exercising that right. Your mental health is most important and if it’s going to get wrecked staying, you should go. If my wife had left, I would have been said, but appreciated the need to take care of herself apart from me.

* * *

Gee, I hope I didn’t give away the book there. You should still buy copies for all your friends. They’ll make great Christmas gifts if you want the party to get really awkward in a hurry. Seriously though, if you’re a woman (or even a man) and find that your partner has this other part of themselves that you never knew about, a strong reaction and even stronger lingering feelings are normal.

Sadly, it may get worse before it gets better. But it can get better and that was one of the big reasons I participated in the the book. I think not being with a woman physically helped my relationship’s healing a lot, but almost six years later, we still sometimes have conversations that are uncomfortable. I know they may happen forever, but that’s OK. I’m just thankful we’ve reached this point.

When my book is available in early December (or if you are reading this long after) the homepage of RecoveringPornAddict.com will have links to purchase.