He’s addicted: And it’s your problem too

I struggled starting this blog post.

I struggled because it’s been a personal battle within my mind from previous experiences and pains and heartache. But I couldn’t not write it..

It’s the topic of actively helping those who are addicted to pornography.

The topic is hot on the press right now, especially after President Kim B. Clark of Brigham Young University-Idaho (the school I attended) caused a stir among bloggers and social media after a talk he gave called “Wounded on the battlefield”. After that talk a video was released.

Watch it here: Wounded on the Battlefield

I’m not going to go into the depths of why people find this bizarre or why bloggers are pounding out long posts about how we shouldn’t live to be tattle-tales and that watching a few inappropriate things are in no way comparable to a bleeding soldier in need of care. I’ve already wasted enough energy thumbing through comments and forums where almost every single person defends pornography and sneers at the fact that it’s an addiction–or an addiction that needs outside intervention.

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Today I’m here to only write about why this message from President Clark is true.

And I only know this because for so long I didn’t think it was my problem. I knew pornography was a problem–I felt it in my gut when someone I love so much became addicted. His eyes were different. He became withdrawn. It became such an addiction that he took less precautions to do it secretly–and people found out. But even realizing his family was hurt–or that I was hurt–he kept going. It wasn’t because he didn’t love people. It was because he needed it now. Much like a drug or a drink of alcohol or a blade cutting the skin–it was a feeling that needed to be satisfied in order to function.

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But I didn’t see it that way. I saw something that was disgusting and vile and suddenly labeled HIM as disgusting and vile. I became self-conscious when he looked at me, almost afraid to make eye contact. I didn’t want to be around him often and I even stopped praying for him. I was hurt that he didn’t seem to care. I was hurt that women had to be horrifyingly vulnerable victims in a man’s lustful world. I started to have a hard time with dating–were all men like that? I turned away from a bleeding comrade and essentially left him to die.

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But why would I do that? Over the years I’ve come to realize I wouldn’t turn my back on him if I knew he snorted crack every night. For Heaven’s sake, no. I wouldn’t dance around the topic with him if I saw ugly scars from razor blades all across his arm or if his eyes were sunken and his rib cage transparent from anorexia. So why would I turn away from this?

Pornography is an addiction.

I’ve interviewed doctors, medical professionals, and therapists in the past while doing news stories who all claim pornography is physically damaging to the brain– much like heroin even. It can diminish relationships, cause women to become objectified, and lead to thoughts *or actions* of rape, sexual abuse, or violence.

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It’s a tragedy when it introduces itself like a venomous snake across a computer screen or in the folds of a magazine. It’s a tragedy that our sons and brothers have to pass by a gigantic wall of a woman’s chest outside Victoria’s Secret every time they walk through the mall. It’s a tragedy when the heroes in the movies are the ones who have an armful of women that they can use without any recourse.

But the bigger tragedy is when we refuse to see it as what it is and we turn our backs on those who need us most.

I know how easy it is, especially as women, to say “Well, it’s not my problem. It’s his.” Sometimes turning away may include divorce, unfriending, or just sitting in shameful silence when he’s behind a closed door. I’m not saying that there may not be a point when divorce or walking away is an option–sometimes for personal safety that’s what some women have to do. I respect that decision and won’t speak against it.

But for the most part, in most circumstances, I’ve also learned over time that it was my problem all along simply because I loved him. It’s my responsibility to speak up–to point to the snake with its fangs in his throat–to stand up and initiate help. The Savior bears every single burden–every single sin–every single shadow that wrestles for our heart. What need have we to do the same for those we love?

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(Oil painting by Greg Olsen)

Galatians 6:2 simply states: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Since the Lord has counseled me about this struggle I have–this struggle of hating the sin on that computer SO much that I immediately despise the hand on the mouse–I’ve had plenty of opportunities since to right the wrong. I’ve had a close friend come to me and tell me he has the same addiction. I’ve had people in my life who I’d die for tell me it was an addiction at one point in their past. And more and more, as I work on it, I’m better able to kneel down to that fallen comrade and press my hands against the open wound while yelling out for help. More and more, I’m aiming to remember that the problem of a brother or sister in Christ is mine too.

I realize this is an unpopular belief. It’s not exactly comfortable to talk about and for some young men or even young women, it’s a topic that makes them defensive. Because the hardest part in any addiction is admitting that it’s an addiction. It’s also a topic that can be embarrassing for both sides. I remember not wanting anyone to know that someone I care about is dealing with it. I was a master of disguising shame.

But light is a better friend, I’ve learned. Light heals. Light exposes. Light changes.

Be that light. And “don’t be silent”.

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20 thoughts on “He’s addicted: And it’s your problem too

  1. Thank you for this. More and more I am learning that the addiction is less about the pleasure and more about the safety from being hurt and rejected. Those images to him are safe and cannot reject him. And yes, the dopamine rush creates a strong addiction.
    Bless you in your walk around this issue.

  2. It is a hard and tender issue for those who might be fighting that very real war, but like ever battle, with the Saviors help the fight can de won.

  3. Our family has been battling this addiction for a long time. Here is an experience that I had just today. Hope it helps one of your readers. This was posted in an email Google Groups “Mothers of the Sons of Helaman”.

    It’s been a while since I posted anything and since I can’t share to get support on Facebook, I thought I’d share an experience with you all that happened this morning.

    We access the internet through a USB antennae, and usually keep it locked up in a lock box, which broke last night; the box would no longer lock. My 12 year old was using it last night, and left the USB on the computer desk. Normal operation is that he locks it up and brings the key to my husband or I at the end of the evening. Last night, he had gone into my room, and I assumed that he had given the USB to my husband who was already in bed. After I had been in bed for a while I wondered if this was true, but the husband was asleep and I was too tired to get up and check that it was locked up.

    This morning I remembered about it, and went downstairs and found the USB on the computer desk. I went into my 18 year old’s room and asked him if he had found it. Of course the answer was yes. I left the room quickly before I could say anything wrong and went back to my bedroom and in frustration and tears said I was so tired of this addiction and just felt like I wanted to give up. (I’ve been through a husband and two other sons with this addiction, all of whom are doing fairly well, but it’s been at least 25 years of battle).

    While reading my scriptures I read Moroni 9:5 & 6:

    5 ………and they athirst after blood and revenge continually. (insert porn and lust)

    I thought that yes, that aptly describes the situation with my son. And then I read:

    6 And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.

    It felt like a direct answer to my cry, heaven let me know immediately that I couldn’t be done, that I must be diligent and never cease to labor to conquer the enemy of all righteousness.

    My work is not done with this son or any of my loved ones. My greatest joy is to “hear that my children walk in truth”, the enemy knows this, and will do anything he can to get them to stumble and fall. My job is to help pick them up, time after time, and continue to love them and help them to be the sons and daughters of God that He knows they can be.

  4. Thanks for posting this, you hit it spot on. I used to volunteer with and help facilitate a multi-issue twelve-step group for a number of years, and pornography is a *very* real issue there, with men who have indeed lost their marriages, and some who have been able to reclaim them and their lives. It’s a battle, but it doesn’t have to be a lost one. Thank you for bringing attention to the war.

  5. Kayla. who would ever know your trials with this with someone you loved could be a tool for others?? I adore you and your willingness to reach out to others:) love you sweetheart!

  6. Thank you very much for your post. I am one who struggles with this addiction and am so very grateful for the love my family has had for me in spite of my serious addiction. I also want to thank you for standing by those you love and helping them through. I am also a combat medic in the army who has been to Afghanistan and can appreciate the metaphor.
    With all my heart, I thank you wonderful women who choose to still stand by your loves ones in spite of pain and heartache we often cause you through our decisions.

  7. Thank you for your wonderful words. I just wrote a research paper on this very topic and used only scholarly journals from the perspective of therapists. This is not merely a Mormon worry, not a religious considered problem, this really is a battle faced by those throughout the world. I too have had to stand by and support a loved one who struggles with this addition. And after watching loved ones go through rehab and therapy for drug and alcohol additions I can attest that pornography addition is real, not merely a made up condition of societies naive. I am grateful for your post to be a breath of fresh air and understanding the real message in President Clark’s talk. Those who do not yet “get” what he was trying to say just haven’t learned the lesson of mourning with those that mourn, comforting those that stand in need of comfort. One day they will, we all do.

  8. Contrary to popular belief, divorce is NOT an easy choice. And I resent the sweeping statement that it is. I found myself reading your article, nodding, wanting to share it, and then suddenly yelling at the screen “NO DIVORCE IS NOT AN EASY CHOICE.”
    I absolutely love your posts and look forward to reading them. And I will continue to do so .
    But please think again before making a blanket statement about divorce. It is a plague in this country, yes; however, generalizing those who choose divorce is the same as generalizing about anyone else. There are those of us for whom making the choice was agonizing but literally life-saving for our children as well as ourselves.

    • I don’t think it is that divorce is an easy choice, but that it is easier than working on the problems that caused the problems. There are legitimate reasons to end a marriage, but divorce rates for lds are approaching the rates for normal population, which shows that those who could work on it are taking the easier way out. If you had no other choice, then you have nothing to be defensive about. General authorities have been deriding our worsening divorce rates for years.

  9. I agree that pornography is destructive to intimate relationships, harmful to spiritual well-being, and habit forming, but think that calling it an addiction is pathologizing it. Just because something fits those criteria doesn’t mean it is an addiction. When most people think of addiction, the only qualifications they think about are that you can’t control it and it hurts you. There is a reason there isn’t a pornography addiction in the DSM5. It doesn’t act like the plethora of other addictive substances that are recognized as addictions. It isn’t a drug that changes the body’s or brain’s chemistry, creating a chemical dependency. You can’t “detox” from pornography or masturbation, because they don’t give you the shakes that accompany the reaction to an unfulfilled chemical dependency. Most non LDS counselors would just normalize pornography and especially masturbation anyways. Even from the LDS perspective, we know that masturbation is more common than anyone wants to admit, and along with porn, they play on our God-given urge to procreate. They start with wholesome and natural processes in our biology that are twisted after the way that Satan always does.

    And before anyone out there brings up the chemical responses that accompany the viewing of pornography, those same or similar chemical responses attend any pleasureable activity, such as kissing, laughing, hugging, adrenaline producing activities, or even eating food in some cases. That isn’t the same as introducing a new chemical into the body and creating a dependency on it. Just because you really like something like chocolate, doesn’t mean it is really addictive.

    Pornography better fits as a compulsion, and if diagnosed by a professional either fits under dissociative impulse control other specified, or as a religious/spiritual specified disruption. I would compare it to an obsessive compulsive feature, like the person who gets relief after the 15th time washing their hands or shutting the door for the 12th time. Both actions can produce the same anxiety relieving response and even brain chemistry changes that porn is labeled with. Habit forming doesn’t mean addiction.

    Does that dispute the majority of your reasoning? No. Sexual sin is a dirty, stigmatized sin. It ostracizes the sinner with a special kind of guilty/shame. It is a very secretive sin that often vicimizes vulnerable women that are kept in the trade. It is easy to judge, and remembering that we are all beggars before the Lord, will hopefully keep us humble enough to follow your advice to love the sinner despite the ugly nature of the sin. It is good advice to be supportive of anyone caught up in sin, especially if you are in the position as a person of influence to the individual.

  10. For those struggling with addiction/compulsion the LDS Addiction Recovery Program works! It is an incremental way to use the atonement to heal from the inside out. It is a program that helps the sufferer and those who are affected by his/her choices.

  11. Just a little reminder that it’s not just men who may become addicted. I had a dear friend who was totally addicted as well for many years. One of the hardest parts for her to reach out for help was in the fact that she was doubly embarrassed about it because she was a girl and “only men have this problem”. Since her recovery, she’s learned that actually a lot of other women struggle with it, too.

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