Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Real Problem: A Guest Post About Pornography Addiction

"The most important thing to know about pornography addiction is that it's not about sex. It's not about pornography. That's just the symptom of it. This problem is really about pain management . . . People who have addictions are really just seeking God." --Geoff Steurer, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Lifestar Network

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The Real Problem
by Anonymous (male)

The real problem with pornography isn’t pornography. Not the salaciousness of it: the pictures, or videos, or the stories or the masturbation. It’s not the lost jobs or damaged relationships. Not the objectification of others, or the heartbreak from the betrayal of trust.

Those things –so deeply significant as they are—are only symptoms.

When pornography is used to numb pain and disconnect with the world--your wife, your friends, your children--and more and more of it is needed to do the job, then pornography becomes a problem. When you want to quit the behavior and can't, it's an addiction.

For the addict, the real damage stems from coming to believe --deeper than any other thought-- that you are broken. Damaged beyond hope of repair. Faulty. Unworthy, unclean, unloved.

Typical, self-centered addict-speak? Yes. Yes, but until the self-loathing stops, nothing improves; neither the addict, nor the hurt they’ve caused.

I’ve been an addict for 30+ years. My addiction (like so many, many others) became serious with the internet. I have tried a thousand times a thousand to be rid of it. I’ve spent years cursing, praying, fasting, pleading and weeping. If it didn’t sound so dramatic, I tell you I’ve thought seriously about suicide.

I have promised myself I would quit. I have promised friends, family, my wife…my unborn children… that I would quit. I’ve promised God that I would quit.

Picking a “worst part” is pointless, but breaking those promises has been unbearable. My determination, my confidence, my creativity, my self-respect…everything good about me feels muted or hidden, or destroyed. If I can’t keep a promise to myself, to my dear wife, my children…to God? What worth am I to anyone? To myself?

That’s the real problem with addiction . . . to anything. The deep, black pool of self hate. It quietly, relentlessly spreads until it taints everything. Thought, emotion, action. You want to quit what hurts you, but you can't.

Simple awareness of this fact begins the arduous path to healing.

Here are some things I wish I’d known 30 years ago.

-Addiction to internet pornography is real. Chemically, it happens in the same way that other addictions do. It changes your brain. It’s validating to know that the struggle is real and can be monumentally difficult. Saying my church is making me feel guilty cheapens my struggle. 90 minute brain addiction presentation Dr. Donald Hilton
-Neurologists refer to the brain as “plastic.” It can change. It can be trained to crave the dopamine rush associated with viewing pornography, and it can be healed of that craving. TED talk by Gary Wilson 16 minutes.
-Internet pornography is more addictive than that stash of Playboys your uncle had. The constant stream of novel experiences is (almost) infinitely more potent to the reward system in our brains. We actually do have it harder than our progenitors. (see above TED talk.)
- Everyone around you is an addict. Try thinking that way for a week. Husbands, fathers, sons, bosses, coworkers. Not empirically true, but it’s closer than you think.
-Not talking about it doesn’t help. Oppositely, it feeds the separation between the addict and real self-love and healing.
-Being addicted to pornography does not make you evil. And demonization feeds the cycle. There is no compassion (therefore no redemption) in words like pervert or deviant or creep…We don’t need help hating our addiction. Or ourselves.
-We’re not morally or spiritually broken. We may believe we are, but it’s just not true. I am (still…ever) a powerful, worthwhile soul, and I’m working on overcoming an addiction.
-Abstinence is not healing.
-Loving someone with the addiction ≠ excusing their actions. Without compassion, we will fail. It’s too much.
-Cliched, but deeply true: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” If you can despise the sin, yet enfold the sinner in compassion and love, you initiate healing. For the addict and yourself.
-If you are an addict, you need help. Stop trying to fix it yourself.

I’m slowly learning (with the support of my dear, undeserving wife, an amazing therapist, LDS 12-step and reading and studying and praying and fasting…) this; until I find myself and re-learn to love myself, I have no hope of overcoming my addiction and righting any of the other wrongs that come with it.

If pornography addiction is a new concept for you, please take time to watch this short Ted Talk by Gary Wilson about the reality of this compulsive behavior. It's not a religious matter, it's a reality: