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.
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.
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.
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