Take the Quiz
What do you want?
What are the Stages of Pornography Addiction?
Wisdom from the Sexaholics Anonymous White Book
What does “sobriety” mean?
Recovery is a Spiritual Experience
Being “Healed of This Addiction”
In looking back, many of us see that regardless of how, why, or when it began, there came a time when we were not only aware of the power this thing held over us, but that we were acting against our will. Only when we tried stopping did we see that we were captive to a force stronger than we, at the mercy of a power greater than ourselves. (White Book, Sexaholics Anonymous)
Most everyone who is troubled by their pornography use asks the question, “Am I addicted?” A man attending a 12-step recovery group for sexual addiction stated, “I finally figured out that the reason I needed to quit was because I couldn’t. I hated what it was doing to me, but every time I quit I ended up going back.”
- Have you ever promised yourself you would never view pornography again?
- Do you decide that you’re going to quit looking at pornography, or cut down, and change your mind?
- Do you plan your day so that you can make sure that is an opportunity to view pornography?
- Do you resort to viewing pornography to escape, relieve anxiety, or avoid other issues?
- Do you feel guilt, remorse, low self-esteem, regret or depression after viewing pornography?
- Do you feel like your sexual thoughts and/or behaviors are causing problems in your life?
- Do you feel the “right relationship” would help you stop? In other words, is this a problem that you feel others can fix, but you are not controlling on your own?
- Is the amount of time you spend viewing pornography increasing or taking the place of things you should be doing?
- Are you less connected with important aspects of your life, such as friends, work, school and family responsibilities, because of the role pornography plays?
- Does viewing pornography ever take priority over things which you’re expected to do or need to get done?
- Is the material viewed becoming more graphic or your behavior becoming more involved?
- Do you ever avoid questions or lie to hide your pornography behavior? Are you leading a double life?
Simply put, you have a problem if pornography is negatively impacting your life and you are not stopping. Many people viewing pornography, like drug users, tell themselves they can stop and their behavior is not causing problems. However, if you tell yourself that you are not going to look at pornography anymore and then you find yourself doing it anyway, you probably need help. Pornography addicts return to thinking about, planning for and participating in secret behaviors that take priority over other healthy relationships and important activities. If you think you may have a problem, you likely do.
What do you want? Ask yourself – do I want to be struggling with this problem in ten years, or do I want to look back on this as a painful learning experience which I haven’t visited for ten years? After you have decided that recovery is for you, that you truly want to break the chains, the time has come for the next questions which are closely related to the first: What am I willing to do? How far (am I) willing to go? In answering these questions we come to the fundamental question at hand: How does one change from being “deeply soiled in sin” to a person firm in recovery with years of sobriety who has become spiritually pure? (He Restoreth My Soul Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD)
Pornography addiction is progressive. This means that in order to get the same pleasure or rush, pornography use has to escalate. Below is the common pattern of escalation
- Early exposure. Initial exposure to pictures or provocative material. The exposure is frequently accidental or may result from general curiosity. The problem begins when the person deliberately begins viewing pornography.
- Addiction. The person keeps returning to pornography. They recognize their activity as inappropriate, but regardless of what they resolve to do, it becomes a regular part of their life. The user begins to depend on pornography as their main source of ‘feeling good.’ The time spent viewing material continues to increase despite the consequences. Periods of abstinence may be followed by periods of binging.
- Escalation. The person starts to look for more graphic material. The images they now view might have disgusted them initially. They spend even more time looking at pornography and thinking about it becomes consuming. They may want their spouse to “act out” things that they have seen in pornography in their sexual relationship
- Desensitization. Eventually, the person becomes numbed to the effects of the pornography. They are in denial about their addiction and begin to see pornography and the sexual acts depicted as “normal” and acceptable. Even the most graphic, degrading pornography doesn’t excite them anymore. They become desperate to feel the same thrill again but can’t find it.
- Acting out. At this point, addicts make a dangerous jump and start acting out sexually with other people. Rather than limiting their exposure to images and experiences on the internet, they begin to act out the sexual fantasies they have seen. Their acting out may take the form of exhibitionism, voyeurism, promiscuity, strip clubs, sex with minors, soliciting prostitutes, or rape.
“There is an attractive healing atmosphere in confidential, anonymous 12-step meetings when someone is transparent and self-revealing at depth. Vulnerable and like a child, we take the supreme risk of exposing the truth about ourselves, dark as it may be. We speak of our weakness because that’s where we’re hurting, and THIS becomes the point of our identification with each other, the point of true union. Once this single ray of truth and light shines in a meeting, it finds ready reception and response in the others present. Honesty is catching; we’re learning to walk in the light.” White Book, Sexaholics Anonymous
Our problem is physical, emotional and spiritual. Healing must come about in all three areas. The crucial change in attitude began when we admitted that our habit had us whipped. We came to 12-step meetings and we discovered we could stop, that not feeding the hunger didn’t kill us, that sex was indeed optional. There was hope for freedom, and we began to feel alive.
Encouraged to continue, we turned more and more away from our isolating obsession with sex and self and turned to God and others. All this was scary. We found that others had traveled this path before. Learning a new way to surrender to God’s power, we found this surrender was killing the obsession! We had stepped into the light, into a whole new way of life. The safety of fellowship with others in recovery gave us monitoring and support to keep us from being overwhelmed. Instead of covering for feelings with compulsive sex, we began exposing the roots of our spiritual emptiness and hunger. And the healing began.
Facing our character defects we became willing to change. As defects were surrendered we began to be more comfortable with ourselves and others for the first time without our “drug”. We tried to right our wrongs and at each amends the dreadful load of guilt dropped from our shoulders until we could lift our heads, look the world the eye and stand free. We were learning how to give; and the measure we gave was the measure we got back. We were finding what none of the substitutes had ever supplied. We were making the real Connection. We were home. Adapted from the SA White Book
The White Book: Part 1, section 3: The spiritual basis of addiction
- I became aware of the power this thing had over me and that I was actually acting against my will
- The addictive process involves the most fundamental aspect of our being, our spirit which is the combination of all our attitudes, choices, thoughts and behavior
- Under the surface we are seething with resentment, hostility, anger, envy, rebellion and rage. We use these feelings to create a change of heart which allows our addictive behavior
- As we make the conscious choices setting into motion the addictive process, we become increasingly selfish and self-centered. We become increasingly closed off and defensive, unteachable and willful
- Even though part of us knew the habit controlled us, it was often the one thing in our lives we thought we were controlling.
For those attending meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous, sobriety is defined as “having no form of sex with self or with persons other than the spouse.” (White Book, pg 191-192.) In addition, true sexual sobriety “includes progressive victory over lust[,]…the driving force behind … sexual acting out.” (White Book, pg 191-192.) Physical sobriety is not an end in itself but a means towards an end–victory over the obsession and progress in recovery….In practical terms, we stop entertaining lustful fantasy. We stop using the internet to look for pornography images….We choose a different route to avoid places where lust triggered us or we acted out…..If we are going to a business or event where we know there will be lust or sexual triggers (such as a supermarket, mall, or an airport), we call someone….If we are uncomfortable in any given situation, we simply leave…..Our sobriety becomes the most important thing each day in every circumstance.
Recovery is a Spiritual Experience – “We use the words spiritual in referring to that aspect of ourselves underlying and determining all our attitudes, choices, thoughts, and behavior-the very core of personality, the very heart of the person. If we can see how the addictive process involves this most fundamental aspect of our being, we will be able to understand why recovery-whatever else we make it-must be a spiritual process.” White Book Sexaholics Anonymous
Being “Healed of This Addiction” Many times, I (and others I have listened to) say that they want to be “healed of this addiction.” Many times, what they mean by that is that they want to never be tempted again. In my experience, that’s not how this works. I was not “healed” from ever being tempted by these addictions again. The healing I have seen in myself happens at a much deeper level than the addiction, and so the need for the addiction as a painkiller becomes diminished. At the same time, my faith in Christ increases so that I end up wanting Him and His peace more than I want the false relief of the addiction. Before, I couldn’t choose to resort to my addiction or not. Now I can choose to resort to my addiction or not. I can choose!
I don’t want my agency to be “healed” or taken away from me, I want my defects to be healed and faith to be increased so that I can finally choose to walk away from these addictions in peace. This has happened to me, and it is a wonderful place to be. Of course, since I still have agency, I must maintain the humility and faith necessary to remain free by choosing to walk away from addiction and sin. (From Appendix A, He Restoreth My Soul Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD)