When people think about overcoming addiction, most associate the process with substance abuse and trying to overcome drug or alcohol addiction. While these can be serious issues, they are certainly not the only addiction that might require professional help. Millions of people every year succumb to the clutches of pornography and find themselves unable to stop viewing and consuming it, resulting in an addiction that can destroy families and ruin marriages. If you are having trouble overcoming the damaging impacts of pornography, there is help available.
The Signs of Addiction
Perhaps the hardest part of overcoming a pornography addiction is simply being able to admit that there is a problem and seeking help. Pornography distributors design their product to be addictive—something that seems to provide pleasure and that you don’t want to stop viewing. Here are some of the signs that you might have an addiction:
- Early or frequent exposure, either starting at a young age and/or becoming part of your everyday life
- An “escalation” phase where your current viewing habits aren’t enough to satisfy your addiction so you begin seeking out more graphic or extreme pornography
- Desensitization to the frequency or graphic nature of the porn that you are viewing, to the point that most porn doesn’t satisfy you anymore
- Making the leap from the virtual to the real world, where you start trying to act out sexual fantasies you used to simply view
When you can’t put pornography down, you keep going back for more, and your desire to watch it overcomes your desire to spend time with a spouse or significant other, or gets in the way of a healthy sexual relationship, it’s time to seek help.
Getting Help for Porn Addiction
Effective treatment for pornography addiction is similar to effective treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, which may include some or all of the following:
- Individual therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- 12-step or other similar programs
- Support groups
When you enter a program, you must agree to cease all porn viewing, as even minimal exposure could lead you down the same destructive path and impede your progress in overcoming addiction. Your therapist may also require that you abstain from other potentially damaging sexual behaviors, which means you will have to be honest with him or her about these behaviors and habits.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy will also seek to break the addict from harmful denials that can get in the way of true progress, identifying rationalizations that the addict uses to justify viewing pornography. This type of treatment also seeks to find the triggers that might lead to a relapse and try to provide you with alternatives to overcome temptation.
Surrounding Yourself With Support
Just like any addiction, one of the best ways to succeed in removing it from your life is to be around others who are working through their own healing process or who have been through it in the past. That’s where support groups, group therapy, and 12-step programs come in. Participating in these activities can help a person realize they are not alone and find strategies to overcome the shame and guilt that often come with addiction.
While we have discussed some of the similarities between porn addiction and alcohol or drug addiction, it is important to note that an addiction to pornography does come with some unique challenges. That’s why you should seek out a treatment program with certified counselors and therapists with experience to help you overcome.
Recognizing Porn’s Threat to Your Intimate Relationships
Even the healthiest marriage can face some very difficult obstacles. Often, it is the private struggles of one spouse or the other that can take the biggest toll. After all, keeping secrets from someone so close to you is not easy and eventually wears away at your stamina, focus, and willpower. The effort required to keep living a lie can eventually destroy everything that you care about. The care team at Renaissance Ranch wants you to know that recovery from pornography addiction is possible – but first you have to recognize the threats that it poses to you, your spouse, and your relationship.
Secrecy Is Not Privacy
Your hobbies, interests, and projects are all healthy parts of a private life. Secrets should not be part of your private life. Addictive pornography consumption is a secret that can destroy your marriage. Acknowledge the intrusion that addiction causes. Your private life should enrich your interpersonal, married life not detract from it.
Know the Signs of Addiction
There are several signs that can indicate an unhealthy fascination with pornography. These include:
- Breaking social engagements to be alone
- Keeping credit card bills secret to prevent your spouse from seeing pornography-related charges
- Struggling to pay bills associated with pornography use
- Being tempted by pornography at work
- Viewing pornography at work
- Neglecting responsibilities and obligations to view pornography
In short, if you are not able to enjoy life to the fullest because of pornography’s hold on your attention you need to seek help for your addiction.
Emotional Neglect Can Damage Your Marriage
If thoughts about pornography use and a desire to view pornographic material are intruding on your normal life, then you are not giving your full attention to your marriage and family life. This can lead to emotional distance and coldness, alienating the people closest to you.
Pornography & Elizabeth Smart’s Living Hell
In a world exclusive interview with Fight the New Drug, Elizabeth Smart shares for the first time the role that pornography played in her hellish abuse.
Is Internet Porn Just a Harmless Pastime?
The Internet porn producers, and many who indulge in their creations, would have us believe that porn is a harmless pastime; the “prudes” and “religious wackos” are blowing the issue all out of proportion. They make statements like:
- “Porn is a harmless outlet, an amusement, a way to let off the steam of natural impulses.”
- “What people view in the privacy of their own homes or offices doesn’t hurt anyone and is no one’s business.”
- ”Boys will be boys.”
- ”Pornography is a choice. If you don’t like it, then don’t look at it.”
Such attitudes couldn’t be farther from the truth. Pornography claims its victims without regard to age, gender, race or religion. No one is immune; all are at risk. In its insidious wake lie the innocent and the eager participant alike, side by side. With the unlimited distribution potential and capability of the Internet, pornography’s casualty list grows longer with each passing day.
After reading the forgoing dialogue and watching the Elizabeth Smart video, some may think, “Aren’t you overreacting just a bit? Most porn viewers don’t kidnap and rape little girls.”
In addition to the direct and well-documented links between porn use and rape, incest, molestation and pedophilia, like a thief in the night Internet porn is also subtly, quietly, almost unnoticeably robbing individuals, couples and families of the things they hold most precious: time, energy, creativity, healthy marriage relationships, family love, respect, morality, decency, integrity, patience, harmony, success, happiness, fulfillment, spirituality—and the list goes on.
To Escape Porn, You Must Stop The Avoidance Cycle
For most struggling individuals, it’s probably an Avoidance Cycle that makes overcoming pornography and other unwanted sexual behaviors so difficult. The advice to “just quit thinking about it,” “avoid it,” or “get it out of your mind” actually deepens the addiction! This is the worst advice there is! Understanding your intrusive thoughts, obsessions, compulsions and the Avoidance Cycle is a critical key to overcoming pornography/sexual addiction.
The Avoidance Cycle
Typically, people have normal sexual curiosity and a healthy sexual drive. This is God-given. But, sometimes a person may believe these thoughts are “bad,” “unhealthy,” “immoral” or “forbidden.” The individual tries to avoid sexual thoughts. If sexual thoughts enter his mind, or he happens to see something he interprets as sexual, he immediately goes to war and tries to force them out of his mind. These thoughts become obsessive and eventually wear the individual down. He discovers that “giving in” to masturbation, pornography, or some other sexual behavior gives him temporary relief from the terrible battle. This “acting out” for temporary relief becomes a compulsion.
For example, a young man has constantly fought the urge to look at pornography and masturbate for three days. But because sexual thoughts and urges relentlessly bombard his mind, he eventually becomes exhausted, gives in, and looks at pornography and masturbates. He experiences a powerful “neuro-chemical rush” that floods his brain and body, giving him immediate, temporary relief from the harassing and relentless thoughts. The young man then feels guilty and out of control, returns to fighting the thoughts and urges, and the process starts all over again. He is trapped in the “Avoidance Cycle.”
Through the Renaissance recovery program, you will learn how to break out of your Avoidance Cycle. Rather than fearing and fighting sexual thoughts, and giving in to sexual addiction behaviors, you will learn the tools and skills to manage your sexual thoughts and urges and direct them for good. You will learn that you can live in a “sexualized world” without being trapped in pornography and sexual addiction. You can develop a “healthy sexuality” mindset and enjoy greater peace of mind and meaningful relationships than you every thought possible.
What Got You Into Your Porn Addiction Can Get You Out
Consider that there was a way to re-create the simple process that developed your addiction, and then direct the same process to break free and move on to achieve your highest goals and aspirations? There is a way and it’s simpler than you might think.
Whenever we do anything for the first time, the brain puts in place the basic foundation of a habit. Why? Because the brain assumes that we might repeat the action in the future and it wants to make the next time easier, and the next easier still. Each time we repeat a behavior, the brain circuitry for that behavior grows larger and deeper until finally it becomes automatic—a habit. Taken to the extreme, a habit can become an addiction.
However, as one acts out a behavior less often, the brain circuitry for that behavior begins to shrink—just like a muscle, it begins to atrophy. One of the laws of brain development is “use-it-or-lose-it.” As you begin consistently applying the Renaissance principles and tools in your daily life, your “healthy sexuality brain circuitry” will increase in size and depth, while your porn addiction circuitry will shrink. You will literally “rewire” your brain circuitry, so that you no longer seek pornography and other sexual addiction behaviors as your “drug of choice.”
One of the world’s leading neuro-psychologists, Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, describes your ability to change your brain this way:
“It is the brain’s astonishing power to learn and unlearn, to adapt and change, to carry with it the inscriptions of our experiences. The life we lead, in other words, leaves a mark in the form of enduring changes in the complex circuitry of the brain—footprints of the experiences we have had, the actions we have taken. The adult brain can change. It can grow new cells. It can change the function of old ones. It can rezone an area that originally executed one function and assign it another. The exertion of willful effort generates a physical force that has the power to change how the brain works and even its physical structure.”