Dealing with Pornography Addiction

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By Dr. Thomas B. Holman and Abby Viveiros

Helpful Information: Pornography is any type of material that is sexually explicit and intended for the purpose of sexual arousal. In simple terms, you know it when you see it or read it. What’s wrong with pornography? Everything. Its entire purpose is to satisfy lust – also known as the deadliest of the seven sins – which mocks the divinity of procreation and is powerful enough to create an instant addiction in some people. Religious leaders have nothing kind to say about this addiction. Gordon B. Hinckley counseled in 1997:

“Pornography is poison. Do not watch it or read it. It will destroy you if you do. It will take from you your self-respect. It will rob you of a sense of the beauties of life. It will tear you down and pull you into a slew of evil thoughts and possibly evil actions. Stay away from it. Shun it as you would a foul disease, for it is just as deadly”.

If that wasn’t straightforward enough, Richard G. Scott described pornography as, “one of the most damning influences on earth”.

If you have been or are currently addicted to pornography, you may be wondering how that will impact your marital prospects. The answer depends on what your status is today. Are you working towards recovery? The great news is that recovery is possible through applying the Atonement.

It comes as a surprise to many people – especially those addicted to porn and their loved ones – that there is more to the addiction than just looking at porn. Most people who are addicted to pornography are extremely lonely, sad, depressed, ashamed, hurt, and afraid inside and they use porn to escape those feelings because they don’t know what else to do with these feelings. While this does not excuse the behavior, it helps shed some light on the issue for some compassion and greater understanding of the addiction cycle.
Q1: How do I know if I’m addicted to pornography?

A1: Being exposed to pornography is different than being addicted to it. Each of us will at some point be exposed to it, but how we choose to respond to the exposure will determine if we end up having a deeper problem with it. Addiction to pornography means you cannot stop viewing it on your own. Once you’re at that point, it requires the Lord’s help even more so. If you’re not sure if you have an addiction problem, ask yourself, “How many times have I tried to stop viewing porn?” If you have a difficult time stopping yourself from viewing pornography, you likely have an addiction or are heading toward it.

Keep in mind that being a casual viewer of pornography could be just a step away from having an addiction. Remember the story of frogs placed in a bucket of cold water that is eventually heated to boiling? The frogs don’t try to escape because they think they’re safe in their increasingly hot climate. We know their sad fate—they become someone’s frog legs dinner! Likewise, you may think that no harm is being done when you casually view pornography, until one day you find that you’re trapped in this powerful addiction.
Q2: Why is viewing pornography bad for couple relationships?
A2: Pornography destroys relationships. It causes distorted thoughts about sexuality and negatively changes the way you view people. Instead of seeing the divine nature of each person, pornography alters your thinking to objectify a person as a source of sexual pleasure. It comes as no surprise that it decreases the ability to have healthy sexual relationships. Because pornography thrives on secrecy, lust, and instant gratification, it leads to satisfying selfish needs rather than satisfying the needs of the relationship and the partner.
Q3: Will my porn addiction go away once I get married?

A3: No, your porn addiction is not cured by your marital status. If you have a porn addiction while single it is likely you will continue to have it when married if you don’t take the proper steps and precautions to both understand and stop it. Often addicts are able to break away from their addiction briefly, but chances are high that they’ll return to it again unless they do something more than just “try to stop.” Remember that you’re dealing with an addiction. And like many addictions, if you continue with your pornography habits, your body will actually build a tolerance to it, leading to an escalation of the addiction. If you think it will simply go away on its own, you are mistaken.  The power and magnitude of a pornography addiction is vast and strong and requires divine help and repentance to break the chains of bondage from it. Additional help might include your ecclesiastical leader, support of family members, 12-step groups, professional therapists, close friends and books written by experts.

Q4: Should I tell my partner I had/have a porn addiction?
A4: Yes. Because pornography addiction thrives on secrecy, the first step to recovery is disclosing your problem to a loved one. This step will require a great deal of courage, but it is an essential step. If need be, seek Heavenly Father’s guidance on how to do this and ask Him for the strength to do it.

Q5: Do females ever have pornography addictions?

A5: Yes. This is not just a male problem.  A couple leading a 12-Step Program for pornography addiction told Tom that over a several-year period they went from having no females in the pornography addiction group to having 30% females in the group.

Q6: How are people dealing with pornography addiction?

A6: Below are two stories of how religious young adults are dealing with the effects of pornography addiction in their lives. First, Natalie shares her poignant story of how someone else’s pornography addiction impacted her life and how she dealt with it. Second Tom tells the story of a young man’s fight with pornography addiction and how through the power of faith, determination not to give up, and prayer he moved past addiction into recovery and healing.

Natalie

During my youth and early college years I knew little about pornography except that it was bad, awkward to talk about and only affected men—or so I believed at the time.  Then one day, my life changed dramatically after a traumatic experience involving a person who was addicted to pornography. It was devastating, so I made it my mission to learn all that I could about pornography in order to prevent it and save others from the awful pain I had experienced. I spent countless hours researching pornography and joining groups. I thought my efforts were a sign I was healing and moving forward, but I was actually acting out of anger and fear. I didn’t fully realize this until I was sitting in a research team meeting with Tom. The topic of pornography came up and I quickly got on my soapbox. We discussed the issue for a moment when Tom very thoughtfully said, “We have to remember that there is something more powerful than pornography and that is the atonement.” Tom’s words sank deep into my heart that day. I felt calm. I didn’t need to fight a battle the Savior had already won. My perspective shifted significantly that day; I finally took off my armor and let the atonement work in my life. I suddenly didn’t view males as a population largely addicted to pornography. Rather, I was awakened to the powerful healing taking place in many of their lives too. I met several men who told me of their recovery stories and they were powerful! I am convinced some of the strongest and most valiant men are those who have risen above an addiction through the power of Christ’s atonement. With this realization, the dating world seemed less scary. I was less concerned over dating a guy who had never viewed pornography and more concerned over dating someone who was seeking to earnestly follow Christ daily, no matter their past circumstances. I have a testimony that Christ’s hand is outreached to all of us and there isn’t any pain or sorrow on the earth that the atonement cannot heal.

Tom

I received this letter from Jason (name has been changed), a student in one of my classes: “In class recently, we talked about the harm that a pornography addiction can give to you. Over the years, I have heard a lot of lectures and talks about pornography and its effects, but [in that class] was the first time that I didn’t feel discouraged or guilty. I had struggled with a pornography addiction for years until a couple of years ago. [Earlier], I would look at pornography here and there but just with my friends or something.  [But then] it became a big problem. This really discouraged me because I really tried the best I could to keep God’s commandments and when this problem was sprung on me, I didn’t understand why. It was the hardest thing that I have ever gone through. To me, it was even harder than my parent’s divorce and my mother’s death. Well, as time went by, I continued to try but failed. I saw my church leader, read my scriptures every day, and prayed fervently every day. I had been doing these things years before and after I started my addiction. I still felt I wasn’t getting anywhere. I went to see a counselor, and attended the twelve steps program, but this was only of minimal help. Then a few years ago, my mother passed away while I was trying to do all these things. I was single at the time, so I felt really lonely. It was the lowest point of my life. I felt that I had no one. One day, I prayed and asked the Lord to please help me overcome this addiction before I met my wife so that she wouldn’t have to go through these things with me. I then continued to pray and fast after that asking him for a detailed description of exactly what I needed to do to overcome this problem. After a lot of praying, I felt prompted to read certain scriptures.  After reading this, I knew I had received the detailed description I was asking for….

When I received this revelation, I was so relieved and excited at the same time. I was grateful to get an answer from the Lord, knowing that he cared for and loved me and wanted me to succeed. I went to work! I did everything I was told to in this chapter of scripture. I learned things about me that I never realized. I learned the reasons why I was put through this test. I learned that I used pornography as an escape from my personal stress and problems in life. I put an end to this addiction about six months before I met my wife. I realize now that I am not free from it entirely. I still have to put up my fortifications and be quick to observe. However, I am very grateful for the Lord answering my prayers and giving me strength to overcome this. I know that he will continue to help me if I do all I can and believe that I have a choice. I have a choice to be something more than I am. I have a choice to be good!

We encourage you to read the scriptures and see what patterns you may be inspired to follow. Ask for God’s help that you might apply scriptures to your situation. Heavenly Father knows each of us deeply. Better than we know ourselves. He also knows the scriptures better than we do. He knows exactly what scriptures we need to read to provide us with the revelation we need to heal and recover. Learning to rely on Heavenly Father and Christ is the best thing you can do. Family, friends, 12 step group members, and therapists can be instruments in the Lord’s hands to help you. But the key is Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, they know better than anyone how to overcome this damning influence.

Did you notice how Jason tried a lot of different things including scripture reading and prayer, and felt like they didn’t help? What was the difference in Jason’s life that helped him change?

To be clear, we’re not saying talking to your church leader, seeing a therapist, or attending a 12 step program won’t help. They will; but Jason wasn’t “ready” to let them help at that point in his life. The Lord has many arrows in His quiver; if one thing doesn’t work because we choose not to accept the help, He never gives up on us. He turns to something else and keeps directing us, giving us every chance to turn to Him and be changed.  What we believe the difference was for Jason was that he finally had a desire to change beyond what he felt before. He really, really, wanted Heavenly Father to help him learn how to get rid of this addiction, and so the Lord’s Spirit directed him to the scriptures he read.

Recovery is Real

On the days when your suffering is extra difficult to bear, draw especially close to your Heavenly Father. He loves you and is aware of you even if it is hard to believe sometimes. Be ever grateful that you have this knowledge. Far too many people suffer without the knowledge of who they are, where they come from, or where they will go after mortality. You have the knowledge of the Gospel! What an assurance this understanding can bring, even if it’s only felt through a tiny glimmer of hope.

It will also be helpful to remember that we live under the Lord’s timetable. Sometimes we want our trials and pain to be removed quickly and the waiting period can test our faith. During these long days, nurture patience. In April 2010 Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught us the role of patience in our lives:

Without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace…patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

It is our sincere desire that this chapter has brought hope for recovery to those of you who are struggling with any of the issues we have discussed—hope for recovery, hope for healing, hope for peace. For those of you whose partner suffers, we hope this chapter has brought understanding and a deep desire to love and help with patience and long-suffering.

There is something so uplifting and so glorious with the hope of Christ! Indeed, we ask you not only to hope but to rejoice! A beautiful scripture says, “Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together (italics ours). We hope that you will rejoice in the truths modern science and therapy have brought us and that you will rejoice even more in the glorious doctrines and powers that have come to us by the through Jesus Christ. In this spirit of hope, understanding, and rejoicing move forward, submit humbly, and be fully obedient to the will and the commandments of God, then peace will come.

This article is one of a series.  For others in the series, see:

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