Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seven Steps out of Pornography Addiction

This morning an article appeared in the Deseret News, outlining one family's struggle with the husband's and father's addiction to pornography.  This topic is another example of once taboo subjects better left "under the carpet" rather than exposed.  However, like all sins, it loses its grip on those who are addicted when it is dragged out of the shadows into the sunlight.  In the sunlight of open confession, love and forgiveness it dies.  Its power on the individual is eradicated.

The wife and mother in the story says, "I was very nervous about what would happen if it ever leaked out, but privately, I had no clue what it even was. . .  It was something I'd never been exposed to, and I didn't know you could be addicted to it."

Their story can be replicated thousands upon thousands of times across America every day.  Pornography is the drug of this new millennium.  It is highly addictive, and its devastation of families is well-documented by now.  Church leaders have warned for decades of its influence.  The warnings for the most part have gone unheeded with tragic consequences.

For most men, it begins with curiosity.  Access to pornography is easier with the Internet age.  Telltale signs emerge in every case:  Isolation from the family, longer and longer hours away or at home with the computer, lie after lie to cover up what's really going on, denial that it's really a problem, mounting guilt, hopelessness when it becomes obvious it has become a problem much larger than imagined, then ultimately acting on the impulses triggered by the addiction. 

Pornography, many who defend it will argue, is "victimless."  "Nobody's going to be hurt by what I'm doing," they will tell themselves.

There is a long trail now of evidence to the contrary.  Men have lost jobs because its addictive nature leads them to download images at work on the office computers.  That activity can be easily tracked, and is, by most IT departments these days.  The bandwidth capacity of the Internet is routinely being utilized in mounting percentages by those who are accessing pornography.  The good uses to which the Internet can be deployed are squeezed down because pornography is muscling its way into homes and businesses.

Marriages are destroyed because of the betrayal it represents.  A wife and mother takes a second seat to air-brushed images in an unreal "perfect" world that does not exist except on a computer screen.

Children are estranged from fathers who are distracted by pornography and disinterested in what is going on right under their roofs in their childrens' lives.

Virtually every crime that is committed in Summit County, Utah, according to the county sheriff, has a pornography component.  Did you catch that?  Every crime.  Not just the ones related to sex.  The sheriff's assessment -- "If you can believe and tell the lies about pornography, you'll lie about everything, and every criminal we arrest is a liar."

"Victimless?"  Hardly.

Let me offer seven steps for your consideration if you know someone, or you are one, who is addicted to pornography.

1.  Find a friend.  If you don't have a friend who can accept you for what you are and with whom you can discuss this problem in your life, then find one quickly.  This may be a close friend who himself struggles with pornography addiction.  Strengthen each other, confide in each other, hold one another accountable for your actions in this area.  Be brutally honest with each other.  Remind each other that your wives and families deserve better than a patriarch who has succumbed to the tentacles of pornography.  Don't sugar coat it for each other -- this is your friend, and you are his friend.  Help each other before something tragic happens.

2.  Confess to your priesthood leaders, your bishop and your stake president, that this is a problem.  I can't tell you how many disciplinary councils of which I have been a part when I have heard those who have fallen tell us, "It all began with pornography, and I had no idea how powerful its hold on me had become."  When they have committed serious sins like fornication and adultery, invariably the gateway to those sins has been pornography.

3.  Tell your wife and children openly.  When you attend addiction recovery programs like AA, the first thing people say is, "Hi, I'm Henry, and I am an alcoholic."  When it's drugs, "Hi, I'm George, and I'm an addict."  When it's pornography, "Hi, I'm John, and I'm addicted to pornography."  When it's your wife and children, "I'm your husband and father, and I have a problem I need your help, faith and prayers to overcome."  Once it's up on the table, it loses all its power.  The only reason addiction perpetuates itself is that it is hidden from view.  Once exposed, it withers and dies.

4.  Ask Heavenly Father for His help.  I have always loved this scripture from Nephi, most often referred to as "Nephi's Lament."  The only reason we have this precious insight is that it was recorded on the small plates upon which Nephi wrote "the things of my soul."  If for no other reason, I am grateful the first 116 manuscript pages were lost so we could have these precious words:  "O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. . . My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.  He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.  He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.  Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.  And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me."  (2 Nephi 4:17; 20-24).

5.  Start telling the truth.  Addicts become liars.  Most become very skilled liars.  They first lie to themselves about their addiction, then they begin lying about everything else to everyone around them.  Stop the lies.  Practice telling the truth in little things like where you're going, with whom you will be, how long you'll be gone, what you're doing, etc.  Unlock your doors, put your computer out in the open for everyone in your household to see and use.  Hide nothing.  Be open.  Be accessible.  Re-engage.  Ask those whom you love the most to hold you accountable.  If you don't have the strength to tell the truth at first, then ask them to coach you, prod you, challenge you, and it will become easier with practice.

6.  Hold your head up.  Get out of the "victim" mindset quickly.  You were addicted.  You will probably always be an addict, even in recovery.  So what?  Remind yourself you are a son of God, endowed with His power from on high.  You have value and worth as His creation.  He loves you.  He will sustain you.  Go to Church.  Sit in the meetings.  Participate.  Be productive.  Be positive.  Be hopeful.  Be smart.  Be a role model for someone else.  Get yourself back in the game.  Don't be a "six-dipper."  Dip a full seven times as the prophet directs, and you will be cleansed.  (See 2 Kings 5:10).  Be confident you are overcoming.  Remember you are not isolated, alone or living on an island of misery of your own making.  You are part of a community of fallen sinners in the Church and in your own family.  Membership in the Church is more like being a patient in a hospital for sinners than it is membership in Club Perfection.  We are all fallen, we all struggle, and we all have problems.  We can help and build one another.  Be part of it.  Partake of the sacrament worthily, not because you are perfect and you have fully overcome your addiction and the accompanying temptations, but because you are a true disciple of Christ, you have turned over your sins to Him, and you are truly one who is trying diligently to partake of the power of the atonement in your life.

7.  Change old patterns.  As editor of the record, Moroni reminds us:  "Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; And if men will come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness [meaning, our mortal flesh] that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."  (Ether 12:26-27).  I had an uncle who once told me the hardest addiction he ever had to overcome was smoking cigarettes.  Everywhere he would be during the day, his office, his car, his study at home, had a supply of cigarettes at the ready.  He had to take them all away from himself.  His patterns were so deeply ingrained in found himself reaching in all the old familiar places for cigarettes long after he had quit.  But he changed his patterns.  With pornography it is no different -- find a replacement.  The scriptures are a wonderful substitute.  Redirect temptations into a more productive channel.

This is not the perfect roadmap out of pornography addiction, but I can tell you if followed it will work.  Above all, be patient with yourself.  You will not become "cured" overnight.  However, you will become less and less inclined to reach for it if you have replaced it with something else.

The article cited above reports:  "Because sexuality is part of the sacredness of marriage for most Christians, when the truth came out Christina felt 'it was the same as (him) having an affair. If you're going to look at it on the screen, you've already done it in your mind.' When she discovered the images that shattered his secret on the home computer, 'it took me years to get them out of my head, and it took me four days to get up the courage to confront him.'"

A recent Republican primary election victor in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell, is running for the vacated seat of Vice-President Joe Biden.  She was openly guffawed in the press for a statement of her belief that masturbation was synonymous with adultery.  She took the same position as the woman in today's story cited above.  If O'Donnell triumphs in the general election in November against what pundits are calling 10-1 odds against, the lame duck session before the new Congress is seated will be blocked from its filibuster-proof majority, because she would be seated immediately after the election.  Whatever further damage the lame duck session might dream up would effectively be negated.  It's no wonder the media want to paint her as a buffoon.  And why is she a target?  Because she speaks the truth and dares to expose the sophistry.

In today's sophisticated world of anything goes, what else would we expect?  The root word of "sophisticated" is. . . sophistry.  The word means "plausible but fallacious argumentation."

You can try to persuade me, yourself and others that pornography is a harmless, victimless and insignificant indulgence in your spare time, but you are merely indulging in sophistry.

When a senatorial candidate dares to speak the truth about it, the world tries to kill the messenger with sophistry, but it doesn't alter truth one iota.

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