Relationship Connection: I’m losing the fight against pornography

Question

For 20 years now I have been addicted to pornography in one form or another. I will spare you the details of how it all started and to what levels this addiction has gone and get to get straight to the point: I want out. I have had varied success in combating the addiction over the years with help from faith leaders, counseling and even a 12-step program. Nothing has ever seemed to stick for long though, and these days the addition has taken on the life of a mundane habit – a fact I despise and yet keep making a conscious decision to indulge in regardless.

What really worries me is that I obviously know better, yet I make the same choices over and over and I hate myself for it. I know the effects this addiction can have and have seen how far it has gone for others. And yet I allow the cycle to continue. What the H…? The march of technology certainly hasn’t helped things either, and the smart phone has also become one of my greatest enemies.

Answer

You’re doing the right thing by trying to overcome this addiction one more time. As long as you’re willing to reach out and get help, you can overcome this addiction. This doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

Maybe you’re having difficulty because you are attempting course correction by exerting willpower and treating the symptom – viewing pornography – without having done the work to get to the underbelly?  When did it start and what drives you to find relief this way. Often times, it starts in adolescence, we were introduced to it by someone we respected, someone who made it seem natural.

But pornography addiction is one that is housed in isolation, and thrives in secrecy. I encourage you to explore what and who it is you are isolating yourself from, what are the stressors that trigger your turning to it? Until you find healthy ways to respond to those triggers, you may continue to struggle in the battle.

You cannot  just problem-solve this on your own. It is critical that you become connected to others and reach out, best in both one-on-one therapy with a qualified counselor and a support group of others with whom you can learn to be transparent, accountable and even “intimate” in a connectedness way. Often times what will surprise you the most is to discover that you are not alone and far more people struggle with this addiction than you might expect. When you can honestly realize that you are not strange in your propensity, that others experience it too, you can begin to freely and unashamedly work with others towards recovery.

It sounds like you feel you take two steps forward one step back. Don’t let that discourage you. It’s common for people who struggle with pornography addiction to get started with an approach, relapse, try a different approach, relapse, try yet another approach, relapse, and then eventually give up and assume nothing works. If you give in to the lie that nothing will work despair sets in deeper and the reluctance to even try anymore grows stronger.

These dramatic swings are often based on sincere longing that the new approach will be the solution; or, the belief that there is no way this can be overcome. While these intense emotions, both positive and negative, are genuine reactions to this maddening problem, at the same time, they’re completely unhelpful in setting yourself up for long-term recovery.

Instead, try visualizing this process in the same way you make small course corrections when driving down the Interstate. If you notice your car drifting the wrong direction, all it usually takes is a small movement to put the car back on course. If you panic and overreact because your car is headed in the wrong direction, it will usually lead to a serious overcorrection resulting in an accident.

I encourage you to start again by finding a counselor who specializes in working with pornography addiction. Begin attending 12-step meetings again. Pick up another book on pornography addiction recovery. And, if you have another relapse, slow down, open up to your support system about it, look to see if you can make a small course correction, continue forward implementing the new feedback, and continue on.

If you relapse, don’t give up. While we certainly don’t encourage people to purposefully go out and make more mistakes, we do encourage people to use their mistakes as opportunities for learning lessons they didn’t understand.

Your despair is real and you are tired. That’s normal. Start again, make the adjustments you need to, but make sure they’re small adjustments. If you need to choose a different 12-step meeting, try different ones. Interview several counselors. Try out different books, but give each one a fair chance and see if you can make the adjustments as you go along instead of giving up on everything in hopelessness and despair.

Stay connected!

Resources

LifeSTAR program in St. George

S.A. Lifeline Foundation, providing resources for recovery from sex addiction and pornography

Reading: “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity,” by Geoff Steurer

Listening: Marriage recovery CD set by Geoff Steurer – www.marriage-recovery.com

LifeSTAR suggested reading list:  http://lifestarstgeorge.com/resources.php

 

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Juliette July 9, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Jesus can help conquer the addictions. By the power of the Holy Spirit all addictions can be overcome. God sent his Son Jesus to save us from our sins and give us victory over them.

  • My Evil Twin July 9, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I really do not understand how anybody could be addicted to porn. I do understand addiction, being a life long tobacco user, but I just don’t see the hook there with porn.

    • Mama First July 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      The addiction isn’t so much to the porn or the acting out as it is to the dopamine that is produced and stimulates the brain DURING the pornography viewing and acting out. It is an addictive drug that the brain craves. Just like any other drug, as the brain gets used to the dopamine, the addict seeks stronger porn to be able produce the same sensation as before, just like a drug addict often turns to harder drugs.

      • Murat July 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        Ultimately, porn addiction can lead to … cancer, and even death.

        Ed. ellipsis

  • The Truth July 9, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Utah leads the nation in internet porn use. In fact, the states leading the nation in internet porn are those states where people claim to be conservative and religious. Hmmmm. Go figure that! Aside from being the leaders in porn, those same states have high statistics for violent crimes against women, high drug use, etc. Are these characteristic of those claiming to be religious and conservative? Before you answer, think of the pedophiles in religious ministries.

  • real facts July 9, 2013 at 10:28 am

    “The truth” let’s see the facts. What you say might sound great but it is far from the truth. I’m not saying there isn’t problems here but let’s not be silly. If anything there are more people seeking to overcome pornography but in most places porn is a household commodity and people see no reason to overcome it.

      • Bretticus July 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm

        Well, if anyone ever took time to read the study, Edelman (the publisher) states…

        “Who buys online adult entertainment? From a top-10 seller of adult entertain-
        ment, I obtained a list of the zip codes associated with all credit card subscriptions
        for approximately two years, 2006–2008. While it is difficult to confirm rigorously
        that this seller is representative, the seller runs literally hundreds of sites offering a
        broad range of adult entertainment.”

        READ THAT AGAIN…, “…While it is difficult to confirm rigorously
        that this seller is representative…”

        More lies. This came right after prop 8. Just another excuse for bigots to bash “Utah.”

        • The Truth July 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm

          That is an interesting correlation you make between Porno addicts and highest rate of Proposition 8 supporters, again, Utah #1 in both. That is an interesting observation.

      • Sweet Jude July 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm

        We think we are wise when really, we know nothing. One of the most common fallacies people fall for is the formula that states that because A and B are contributors to C and D, they are the root cause. Not even close. Better yet, some of us get the formula backwards and say that although A and B are at fault, C and D are really responsible. However you blame circumstances, there are too many ways to fall short in the blame game. Think of it. If all bosses in the world didn’t find so much fault with their workers, would there be anyone in the world that could lose their job? Oops, there I go with my common error…again.

  • Craig July 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Oh boo frickin’ hoo…get off line…stop buying porn mags…and get your head out of your …

    Ed. ellipsis

  • AFELLOWADDICT July 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    If I can put down the bottle, he can put down his … Ya just have to want it bad enough. Get some white knuckles!! Good luck.

    Ed. ellipsis

  • Amanda Ballif July 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    When a group of people (conservatives, Mormons, liberals, haters, whoevers) realize they are doing something that doesn’t play well with their soul, they are going to do something to combat it or cure it. Porn addicts who acknowledge the fact they are hooked on porn and it’s effects are much closer to clearing themselves of the behavior than those who are in complete denial that porn can even be addictive. Perhaps areas with lower numbers of conservatives (as the truth above suggests) are just so far into their denial that they don’t even report the problem, thus skewing the statistics. Porn is as powerful an addiction as drugs. As soon as we see that as a nation, we will be on our way to healing.

  • Lina July 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Will you die without your smart phone? What about the internet? SHUT IT OFF!!! If you want to stop, you will! Im sick of people complaining about something only they can change. Try having a disease you didnt give yourself!

    • My Evil Twin July 10, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Lina, that would require that a person actually take responsibility for their own actions. Something that most folks are totally unwilling to do. They would rather call themselves “victims” and try to get other people to sympathize with them.
      Just like the life long smoker that sues the tobacco company when he finds he has lung cancer. Or the person who blames everyone but themselves when they are clearly at fault in a car wreck.

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