Do people who look at pornography, even if it’s from time to time, really have a problem or even “a sexual addiction?”
Is “lust addiction” a terrible, shaming label or is it something that needs to be talked about openly and honestly?
What are your thoughts on these questions?
Do you feel there’s a fear in our society to call sexual addiction what it really is?
What’s the truth about sexual addiction?
In the new manual, “Understanding Pornography Addiction & Betrayal Trauma,” Dr. Donald Hilton answers these questions pretty directly:
“We should call it what it is. Curiously, because we don’t like to ‘label’ people, we tend to downgrade what is actually an addiction into something we think less offensive – particularly with youth – as if a label can alter their status. We don’t mince ‘labels’ with a 16-year-old heroin addict, and we do so with a 16-year-old pornography addict at their peril. When we sidestep addressing it for what it is, the effort and resources may never be mobilized for recovery, ‘for if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?’ (1 Corinthians 14:8). In such a case, the young man or young woman will likely continue to use it into young adulthood, and can’t help but bring it into their marriage. Sadly, such may be the case in the majority of newer marriages today.” (p. 8, bold added)
He goes on to say:
“We do no favor by avoiding using the term addiction when behaviors show otherwise. Well meaning efforts to be gentle or diminish shame and embarrassment, or thinking such a term ‘overstates the problem’ underestimate the destructive power of this disease and enable those who suffer. Without properly identifying the problem, the ‘problem’ of sexual addiction cannot be properly treated.” (p. 4, bold added)
Why is it hard, then, to talk about the subject of sexual addiction with those we are closest to?
Why do some even go as far to “label” this problem as a “bad habit” or a little moral dilemma that we just need to “overcome” or “move on” from?
Is pornography use just a pastime many youth and adults have gotten into in order to deal with life, or is it a more serious problem?
Can Sexual Addicts Follow the Training of Search and Rescue Professionals?
Have you ever been lost in the wilderness or even in a shopping center?
How did you feel?
What were you tempted to do?
When I was recently married, my brother-in-law and I were discussing adamantly (arguing) about college football, particularly the Big 10 vs. BYU football. This argument was happening while in the process of parking my car at long-term parking at the airport prior to flying home for Christmas break. (At the time, BYU must have been doing well in football, because I would have no legs to stand on today in this type of argument unfortunately.)
Because we were in such a heated debate, I paid no attention to where we were parked and really thought nothing of it.
We were gone for two weeks and when we got back, the airport had been hit hard with snow. It was at this point my brother-in-law and I realized that we had NO IDEA where the car was. We walked all around, took the bus to different spots, and NOTHING.
Had someone stolen our car?
Finally, after about an hour and a half of looking on our own, we asked the airport parking employees if they could help.
Sad to say, we still couldn’t find the car and had to take a taxi home that night.
The next morning, we came back and found the car within 10 minutes.
Learning from Search & Rescue
“…search and rescue training teaches that one of the most important things a person can do when he finds himself lost in the wilderness is to stop and say out loud, ‘I am lost.’ This verbal acknowledgement shifts his panicked mind into a state where wiser choices can be made; he won’t hide form search parties – he wants to be found. Likewise, those who honestly desire to experience a future state of being in recovery must first be willing to acknowledge that they are dealing with a real addiction and to frankly identify themselves as such: ‘I have an addiction.’ Ironically, once this acceptance occurs, rather than increasing feelings of shame and hopelessness, one actually becomes empowered through this budding commitment to honesty and willingness to do whatever it takes to be in recovery and experience the positive growth that comes from working recovery.” (Understanding Pornography Addiction & Betrayal Trauma, p. 3)
What if we would have done the same thing when we realized our car was lost?
Maybe it wouldn’t have taken us so long to realize that looking for our car at 1:00 a.m. in a snow-covered parking lot was a waste of time…
Maybe we would have had better luck finding the car that night if we had asked for help early on…
Ultimately, just admitting I’d lost the car would have been the empowering action I could have taken – taking accountability for my part and recognizing that it was no-one’s fault but my own.
What’s the Real Problem with Sexual Addiction?
Step 2 in Step Into Action seems to address the read problem straight on:
“…my Higher Power was whatever I knelt down in front of. I had knelt down in front of my brain because that was what I believed had worked for such a long time. It had allowed me to look successful; it had gotten me out of scrapes; it had allowed me to manipulate any situation so that I could live with myself. I could think my way out of my emotions by telling myself that was not how I was supposed to feel or that was not what I was supposed to think. I could rationalize a situation so that I could cope. How do I know that this is what I believed in? Because this is what I went to when I had problems. I went to my house of worship – me. I was addicted to me.” (Step Into Action, p. 30)
Does this sound familiar at all?
For me, this story sounds WAY too familiar. Here are the problems in this story that I’m familiar with:
- Kneeling down in front of my brain
- Believing that that was working
- The perception of success, righteousness, having it all together
- Work myself out of scrapes
- Manipulation of any situation in order to live with myself
- Think myself out of emotions by telling myself I wasn’t to feel or think a certain way
- Rationalization of any situation in order to cope
Referring back to the story of losing my car, I thought I could fix the problem with my own brain – I didn’t need anyone’s help.
I perceived I was close to finding the car over and over and over again. I felt that going back to the same places I’d already covered would make the car magically show up, that I had this problem figured out.
I blamed my brother-in-law and others for what was happening. I even thought someone may have stolen the car, all to help me live with myself and my bad judgment.
Rationalization after rationalization until ultimately I had to admit defeat and get a taxi to take us home.
This was me living in my addiction, even if I wasn’t acting out in that moment.
Once I’ve recognized that there is a problem, that “addiction” may very well be an issue, then what?
Questions I Can Ask My Sexually Addicted Self?
Sometimes, asking myself hard questions helps me get out of myself and my own head.
Here are a few questions to consider.
Who have I been kneeling down in front of?
Has it been me?
Step 2 states that I “came to believe that a Power greater than [myself] could restore [me] to sanity.]”
How can I apply this to my life today?
Why sanity? What does that mean?
Sanity is “the ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner; sound mental health. Reasonable and rational behavior.” (source)
Am I in a sane or an insane state?
What does sanity have to do with emotional health and addiction?
What’s the opposite of sanity, then?
Insanity – “the state of being seriously mentally ill; madness. Extreme foolishness or irrationality.”
“As we reviewed our [Step One] inventory, we asked ourselves: ‘What sane person would repeat these actions that produced such pain, misery, shame, and loss?’ In SA, we were told that repeating the same behaviors and expecting different results was in itself a definition of insanity…Being restored to sanity meant giving up our rationalizations that our lies and sexual acting out hurt no one.” (Step Into Action, p. 29)
Step One helped us SEE the truths about ourselves.
Step Two helped us RECOGNIZE our need for help from insanity.
What’s the answer?
What are the steps I can take to be freed from the insanity of my life?
Sexual Addiction is real and it’s a problem.
It’s manifesting itself on every news site.
“Richard Branson says he does not remember alleged sexual assault”
“Sex offender handed heavy sentence on new conviction”
“Actress sues Weinstein, accusing him of sex trafficking”
Many professional & collegiate athletes are caught in its trap.
“Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor to plead guilty to sexual assault, faces at least 25 years in prison”
“Michigan State players charged with sexual assault”
And the world doesn’t even seem to notice what’s happening. (I was going to put links to specific articles about the evidence of sexual addiction in day to day life, but, thanks to feedback from a friend in recovery, I realized that may not be a good idea…)
“Oh, that man cheated on his wife…I wonder what happened to the love they once had?”
“We just ‘fell out of love’…”
“I don’t want to be married anymore…”
“He was just a ladies man…”
I’ve heard and read these exact statements recently.
Unfortunately, they are rationalizations and justifications for a core issue – SEX & LUST ADDICTION!
Why are we afraid to call this problem what it really is?
Why can’t we practice what search and rescue suggests, to admit that we are lost and need help dealing with sexual addiction?