LinkedIn vs. WordPress, a Tale of Two Mental Health Communities

I spend a fair amount of time on LinkedIn these days, both to try and get my book into the hands of mental health/addiction professionals and to make connections with those professionals as I still figure out how my pornography addiction education mission can best move forward. It’s a very different world than WordPress.

Before I get into it, I have to say the No. 1 strangest thing that I’ve witnessed among mental health professionals on LinkedIn is just how many of them like to create memes where they quote themselves. It’s seriously fucking weird! I don’t know if it’s a marketing thing where they hope others will share it or if it’s just a narcissistic side of them that sometimes comes with people who are smart and have the capability to heal, but I’m never going to get comfortable with it. You let other people quote you. You don’t quote yourself.

meme

Anyway, for me, the biggest difference is that the community I’ve cultivated on WordPress are either struggling addicts, former addicts, people with mental health issues, or empaths. Demographically, it’s all over the spectrum from teenagers to people in their 70s, male, female, located all over the world in various socioeconomic conditions, but there is also a comfortable sameness with just about every person, including me. It’s a firm understanding that we don’t have all the answers. That kind of self-awareness and humility is quite often not seen among the ranks on LinkedIn.

I remember being introduced to the street smarts vs. book smarts theory when I was probably 12 or 13 years old. There were those kids, like I was expected to be, who excelled in their studies and would go on to do smart things in smart careers and then go home to their smart wives and smart children at the end of the day. Then there were the other kids, they were the ones who would fill the labor and service jobs, but they’d have a real-life worldliness that I couldn’t understand because things came almost too easy to me. While I could do the taxes of the other group, I’d be dependent upon them to protect me in a fight.

As I’ve learned, that concept is moronic. Facebook proved that some of the kids who should have died by accidentally electrocuting themselves because they were so stupid go onto great things and some of the kids with the most potential flame-out the hardest.

The one place I do see this idea somewhat played out, though, is in the world of addiction. When I got into my first rehab, I met people who I thought I’d have nothing in common with. Many became good friends. A guy who got kicked out of the Hells Angels for being too violent and getting in too much trouble with the law was probably my best friend in my first rehab. What did we have in common? We knew addiction and it was enough to bond us. I learned this lesson again at the second rehab, and at the limited 12-step meetings and group therapy sessions I attended. Addiction made us street smart whether we were an 18-year-old meth addict or a 68-year-old sex addict.

But, if there is street smart in that equation, there has to be book smart, and I’ve finally met this side of the coin on LinkedIn. I like LinkedIn because it is kept professional, relatively politics-free, yet there is still a lot of inspiration and videos of dogs doing cute things.

There are a lot of people in mental health/addiction who have dealt with an issue, but on LinkedIn, not every one of those people are quick to share. Part of my recovery is being as honest as I possibly can as often as I possibly can, so I don’t go to any length to hide my history with pornography or alcohol.

The book smart are the mental health professionals who have never had a major issue with addiction or their own mental health. They’ve witnessed health conditions that they are very qualified to diagnose and treat, yet they don’t know what it’s like to have been there. It’s like someone who is an expert in ancient Egyptian history. I still think a goat herder who actually lived in Egypt during the building of the Pyramids could probably beat them in a game show, even if they were only a peasant. There is just something to be said for experience vs. theoretically knowledge.

In dealing with the LinkedIn community, I’ve gotten a vibe again and again that I’m dealing with people who think they have answers to our world’s growing pornography addiction problem, even if they haven’t dealt with a lot of clients who have it yet. They have the answers because, on an academic level, they’ve always had the answers.

Depending on who the person is and their exact background, the answer may be 101 different things, but they are relatively sure they have the answer, even when the answer is that porn addiction isn’t a real thing. Whether it’s sweat lodge workshops, filters galore on your computer, or the same tired arguments against porn that have been around for 50 years and never worked, they have THE answer.

Now, I don’t want to slam all of them. I’ve made some great friends and important contacts. They know who they are and I’m grateful to have you in my life. But, I’ve also met people who wouldn’t give me the time of day because I’m just a former addict with no letters after his name. It feels like those who even bother to acknowledge that I’m trying to actually bring resources to the table for addicts with my books, presentations and website mostly just pat me on the head and tell me to run along while the grown-ups figure out the answers to the world’s problems.

On WordPress, there’s sometimes a victim mentality of people who just can’t get out of their own way, and I think on some levels don’t want to, in order to get better or improve their situation. WordPress has a lot of wallowers, and they frustrate me to no end. On LinkedIn, that frustration comes from a superiority mentality of people who have plenty of knowledge, but very little experience. I think the real money will be in creating the social media app that exists somewhere in the middle.

What’s most ironic is that I spent no time on LinkedIn before my newest book came out, yet it basically is a street smart/book smart take on porn addictions for partners of addicts. If you want to support a street-smart troll, click HERE to learn more about the book.

And of course, all of this said, if you want to join me on LinkedIn, feel free.

 

 

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: 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

Do You Know How to Properly Say Sorry?

My daughter was in a pretty nasty car accident this morning. Thankfully, she’s fine. She was returning to our home on the Maine Turnpike when a tractor trailer truck likely didn’t realize she was trying to pass it (it’s a two-lane road) and nudged her to the left. She probably would have recovered had the weather not been freezing rain, coating the untreated road with a thin layer of ice.

Instead, she spun around and smacked into the center guardrail quite hard. My wife and I got the call about 5:20 a.m. and what would usually take 25 minutes to reach her took almost 90 because of other accidents diverting traffic on and off the turnpike. It was not a morning to be driving.

The Maine State Police officer who stayed with her that entire time was wonderful. Despite the fact they were the agency that arrested me back in early 2014, I have no ill will against any law enforcement personnel. We can certainly poke holes in the system, but the foot soldiers didn’t create it. Adapting another old saying is true: It’s better to have a cop and not need him than need a cop and not have him.

On the ride home, she was still slightly in shock and the adrenaline was still coursing through her veins. As she started to come down, she started apologizing. We tried to assure her that we knew it wasn’t her fault, we have insurance and we were just grateful that she wasn’t injured.

It got me thinking about apologies. She was apologizing for creating a difficult situation. Yes, it will be a pain in the ass dealing with adjusters, making decisions based on amount of damage and having to split two cars among three people. But, it wasn’t her fault. She was merely at the center of a storm she could not control. I think her reaction to apologize is a knee-jerk one that many of us have, even in situations that we were simply victims.

One of the things that was actually difficult to learn when I entered recovery was how to give a proper apology. I was taught the skills at one rehab, but don’t think it clicked until a year later when I was part of a monthly support group.

Most people confuse real apologies with an opportunity to explain how they are only “mostly” at fault, or how extenuating circumstances dictated their behavior:

“I hadn’t eaten in two days and I knew the sandwich in the fridge was yours, but I was starving.”

“I know most people call into work when they are sick, but I was sicker than I’ve ever been.”

“I was late picking you up because I got in a conversation with Tina, and you know how she can talk.”

These are three very minor examples because I just don’t want to get too heavy with this and lose the meaning. The reality is, most apologies are just excuses tinged with a tiny bit of responsibility attached. That’s not what apologies are supposed to be.

Here are a few things to think about when you’re ready to make a proper apology:

  • When you’re giving an apology, you are not to expect to be let off the hook for your behavior. In fact, you shouldn’t expect any reaction. They don’t owe you an “I forgive you” or “That’s OK.”
  • Apologies are not about making you feel better or releasing the guilt or shame you may have. Get this…they’re not about you at all other than admitting wrongdoing.
  • Ask yourself why you are apologizing. If the reason is anything other than to acknowledge that you recognize you did something to hurt the other person, you’re overdoing it.
  • A simple statement of regret is not inappropriate, but that should be the most you interject your thoughts into the situation. How you feel is not important, and frankly, it’s not what the other person is looking for or needs.
  • An apology should never make a request, especially to accept the apology. It also shouldn’t ask things like: “But you have to see my side of things…” or “I hope you can understand…” This is you trying exonerate yourself of 100% culpability.
  • Do not accompany the apology with a gift or something cutesy, like a card with a teddy bear holding a balloon. If you want to make reparations, do it at some point after the apology is given. Saying sorry and making things even are two different things for two different moments.
  • Consider writing your apology before giving it. If you have patterns of giving incorrect apologies, you may find it best to be able to review what you’re going to say. It may even make sense to send it to them in writing so you don’t go off script.

Let’s take that first example I gave above of an incorrect apology:

“I hadn’t eaten in two days and I knew the sandwich in the fridge was yours, but I was starving.”

There are three justifications for the wrong choice here. If you ever feel like you’re explaining your actions, you’re giving an improper apology.

Here are more wrong examples:

“Sorry. Despite being very hungry and knowing I shouldn’t, I took the food that was yours.”

Your hunger situation has nothing to do with a proper apology.

“Sorry. My mind was just thinking food and I was going to ask but I didn’t see you anywhere and thought I could make up for it later.”

Rationalizing a solution to make your behavior OK is not an apology, whether you bought a new sandwich or not.

“Sorry. The next time I have anything in the fridge, you can eat it. You don’t even have to ask.”

Encouraging the same behavior toward yourself does not cancel out your poor choice.

 

Here’s are a few examples of a proper apology:

“I took your sandwich without asking which is stealing. I’m sorry.”

“You were probably hungry because I stole your sandwich. I’m sorry.”

“I apologize for stealing your sandwich. It was the wrong thing to do.”

Usually, the proper apology is the shortest one. It doesn’t preface with situational exceptions nor ask if everything is OK at the conclusion. It is an act of contrition, an admittance of guilt and understanding of wrongdoing. And that’s all it should be.

It Was Harder Growing Up With Religion Than Recovering Without It

When a new book comes out, I generally get a lot of messages and while it’s happening again, I’ve had several this week that had deeply religious connotations and I don’t know if they don’t read the site or I haven’t explained it well in a long time, but I figure since it’s Sunday, it would be a great day to get into the whole spirituality/religion thing with you.

I apologize up front as I know this is going to be all over the place, long and I’m sure unintentionally offensive to some.

I was raised by a devout Catholic father and a hugely, hugely devout Catholic mother. They were raised by largely absentee, alcoholic parents. Their faith was something they pursued as they both went to parochial school. They didn’t meet until college, but I think the fact their religious upbringing was so similar helped things.

As I told someone the other day, words like “God,” “sin,” “Bible” etc. are a little bit triggering for me and I think I know why. I have started to draw a lot of parallels to my need for control that was borne out of the environment where my abuse took case. Let me stress I was not abused in the church, but being in a place where I felt completely helpless and lost was not good for my mental health.

I was the inquisitive little kid who had questions at Sunday School or for my mother. The answer was usually the same, “Don’t ask questions” or “It’s God’s Law.” That’s not an environment for somebody like me, who already had power and control issues, was going to thrive.

The rare answers I got didn’t make any sense and attending church was a miserable experience, only second to Sunday school. I would say that other kids around me were having a better time, but based on the exodus from the Catholic Church in America, they just weren’t marketing it to kids in the ’80s very well. They did not communicate what God was supposed to be in a way that we understood. Like chemistry or physics in high school, eventually one gives up trying to understand.

Back then, you went through Confirmation at 15 or 16 and I made a deal with my parents that I’d agree to be confirmed, but at that point, I was going to stop going to Church. They did their job getting me that far, but I was done. I think they recognized I wasn’t joking. I didn’t hate their faith, but I didn’t have it.

My Higher Power, The Afterlife and Mom Gets Mad

Keep in mind that while I attempt to be respectful of people’s religious beliefs, I think the biggest thing missing from the religious (not necessarily spiritual) is the ability to put themselves in the shoes of someone who doesn’t subscribe to the exact same doctrine that they do. I mean, you only have to look at history’s great wars; almost all have a religious angle to them. One of the reasons that 12 Step Groups were not my ultimate answer was (aside from the fact that they don’t really mean “higher power of your choosing” because they end every meeting with a Christian prayer) there is no room to talk about what not having a higher power means.

I have never felt powerless over alcohol or porn because despite my lowest points, I was the only who actually had the power. I just chose not to use it. Today, I have a concept of a higher power that I simply call “the universe” and it doesn’t really have a set of rules, dogma or doctrine you have to follow. It doesn’t care if you get a midnight abortion or if gay people marry. It isn’t about raising a dime, nor about any particular book. I don’t pray to it, nor does it threaten to smite me when I don’t. My concept of it is vague, but I don’t need to have all the details. It’s a balancing energy in the universe and that’s all I really need to know. I have a Higher Power and that’s that. It just doesn’t have a name tag or handbook.

People get awkward fast when I tell them that I don’t really care if there’s an afterlife. I don’t think there is, there has never been a single piece of proof there is, and while it’s a pleasant story, I believe that you get your years on Earth and then you’re done. And I’m far more OK with that than the people who hear me say it, because they can’t believe I’d have such a view. It’s fine because it doesn’t have to be your belief, and vice versa.

This is clearly turning into a ramble, but here’s a quick story for you. As I mentioned, I was raised Catholic by two very devout, wonderful people. I was baptized, did the first communion and confirmation all in the same church. Saw many of my relatives married and memorialized there as well, and midnight mass on Christmas was a regular stop for me even long after I left my parents’ home. There was a purge here of Catholic churches in Maine about 10-12 years ago. The numbers of parishoners had dropped so dramatically, the diocese said they couldn’t afford to keep the churches open. My family’s church ended up on this list of closures, like 5 of the 7 churches in our town. With our particular church, the reason given was that it was too expensive to heat the church between September and May. It’s a valid argument. The place was huge and old members were dying off like 8-to-1 against bringing in new members and tithing just wasn’t what it used to be.

My mom asked me to come on that last day and being a sometimes sentimental, nostalgic person, I said OK. I didn’t enjoy the thousands of hours I spent there, but knowing it would be my last hour was a little sad. When the service was over – ironically to a packed house like they hadn’t seen in years – there was an organization in the back that was collecting money to try and overturn one of Maine’s gay rights laws. It didn’t bother me because it’s an issue that’s been decided and the right side won. When we got to the car, my mother let loose on the Church, I think for the first time in her life and I wouldn’t have believed it unless I was there. I’ll spare the long diatribe, but she thankfully saw the complete hypocrisy and overall wrongness of a Church that couldn’t stay open because of lack of funds collecting funds for a group that wants to discriminate. I pointed out how well the UU church was doing in town in terms of both attendance and funding. They, of course, were gay-friendly. Since that day, my mother still goes to church elsewhere, but it’s with far, far less devotion than she did in the past. She’ll even skip Sundays if the mood strikes her. She’s finally come around to what I recognized a long time ago – you need neither a book, nor a building to have a relationship with a Higher Power.

In losing a giant chunk of my mom, the church lost one of its staunchest advocates.

Religion is Not The Only Road to Recovery

I promise I’m about to wrap this up.

I think that there are really three main branches to pornography recovery. Maybe it’s true of all addiction, but since I’m immersed in this culture, it’s what I see. Those three branches are religion, will-power, and science. People can absolutely dabble in more than one, but I find a lot of people who are into things like NoFap (will-power) refuse to see a real therapist and many religious people think you can pray away a medical condition. Obviously, I’m a big believer in the science side of things because that is my experience and it was successful.

Nonetheless, if you go to the WordPress reader and type in “Pornography Addiction” or “Pornography Recovery” you’re going to probably find 75% of the entries have some reference to The Bible. Beyond the whole shaming thing that religious people are so good at doing to others which is an entirely other issue, the overall theme of these entries is that one must follow a religious path to addiction recovery, just like you have to follow their religious path to the afterlife.

It’s just not true. I mean, I can point to plenty of people it worked for, but I can point to plenty of people, myself included, who are happy and healthy without a word of Scripture read in recovery.

I’m OK if you want to use God as a tool for pushing recovery as long as you’re not shaming the addict, but it can’t be the only tool used and it can’t be preached that without God, recovery is impossible. That’s plainly wrong and frankly, a dangerous thing to say for two reasons: a) You wouldn’t encourage a person with cancer or severe hemorrhaging to only pray…you’d get them real medical treatment; b) Somebody believing your attitude may be stopped from recovery if the religious route doesn’t work for them. Is it better they go your way and fail or go their own way and succeed?

I’m sure many of those who actually got this far were offended along the way, and I apologize if my words were ever poorly chosen. There were a few places I debated writing certain things, but went for it anyway. I know that my personal issues with the church and religion are just that – my personal issues – and I know they carry over into my writing, but in a space where I try to be honest to a fault, even when it rankles some feathers, I thought it was time to explain myself.

I don’t know if there was any theme here but I guess sometimes these blogs are just for ranting and working things out.