How does one know if he (or she, and yes – there are female addicts) has a problem? Well, lets start with a very good definition from Sexaholic’s Anonymous, which happens to be the 12-Step program I am achieving sobriety in.

“We can only speak for ourselves. The specialized nature of Sexaholics Anonymous can best be understood in terms of what we call the sexaholic. The sexaholic has taken himself or herself out of the whole context of what is right or wrong. He or she has lost control, no longer has the power of choice, and is not free to stop. Lust has become an addiction. Our situation is like that of the alcoholic who can no longer tolerate alcohol and must stop drinking altogether but is hooked and cannot stop. So it is with the sexaholic, or sex drunk, who can no longer tolerate lust but cannot stop.

Thus, for the sexaholic, any form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse is progressively addictive and destructive. We also see that lust is the driving force behind our sexual acting out, and true sobriety includes progressive victory over lust. These conclusions were forced upon us in the crucible of our experiences and recovery; we have no other options.”

Here is the catch, family members, friends, and spouses can see these characteristics (bold) in a addict way before the addict can. The addict, for the most part, can not. The key phrases bolded above our beyond what the porn addict can see while in the throws of the addiction. What makes an addict move forward, of his own accord, is usually exhaustion and pain. If he is deep in his or her addiction, and is lucky, he may start to see he has lost control, no longer has the power of choice, and is not free to stop.

The problem is not the desire to stop. Addicts have stopped many times before (ad nauseam),  it’s the ability to stay stopped. You might as well tell an addict that breathing is bad for him, so go ahead and hold your breath. Sounds good on paper, but even with the best intentions he eventually has to breathe. That is how engrained the addiction has become.

This constant effort to stop the addiction is exhausting. Or if the porn addict has given up fighting and has resigned to the addiction, keeping up the addiction is exhausting. The addiction, in this case lust, wants more and more. It requires more effort to achieve the high, more effort to hide it from friends and family, and more effort to come up with the time and resources to achieve it.

So what are some of the behaviors of a pornography or sex addict? Well, here are some common questions pulled from a few different resources such as Sexaholics Anonymous, expert and author Patrick Carnes, or behaviors I look for when working with a new person to the program:

  • Have you ever tried to stop or limit doing what you felt was wrong in your sexual behavior?
  • That you’d be better off if you didn’t keep “giving in” (to looking at porn one more time, checking out the attractive girl at work, to calling a phone sex line, or soliciting a prostitute)?
  • Does internet sex interfere with certain aspects of your life?
  • Do you often stay online late (Midnight, 1:00am, etc) looking for pornography online knowing you have to get up for work at 6:00 am?
  • Do you feel the “right relationship” would help you stop lusting, masturbating, or being so promiscuous?
  • Do you turn to a lower environment when pursuing sex?
  • Has your spouse announced the end of your marriage because of her latest discovery?
  • Did your husband discover e-mails to your lovers who were his best friends and golfing companions?
  • Is money for necessities getting more difficult, or debt increasing, because of your spending on pornography, prostitutes, strip clubs, or affairs?

If you spooked yourself by reading those questions, the scarier piece is looking at what is required for recovery. That is why an addict usually has to hit a bottom, because he often has to go outside himself to get better. Pride must be put aside, a white flag must be raised, and control of his own recovery must be released to another (counselor) or program.  This is terrifying aspect for an addict. By the time he is seeking help, the addiction has driven him inward and away from others. He or she may also believe that he can be the only one to “take care of himself”, he must handle this on his own as he see’s fit. Going to another for help, well to an addict, its un-natural and dangerous.

I think it was put best when I listened to a senior member of my program say the following to a newcomer.

“Lust is on the other side of that closed door doing push ups. He is just hoping you open that door and do the same thing you always do to try and beat him. This way he can smile, firmly punch you in the face, and knock you to the floor again. So, it’s your choice – you can do it the way you have always tried to get better, white-knuckling to the best of your ability, or try something different.

And trust me, if it doesn’t work – we will refund back all your misery and pain.”

The key to recovery is to do what does not come natural. It’s surrendering, not fighting. It’s turning to God instead of fighting him. It’s bringing your past, your defects, and your sickness into the light and allowing God to repair it for you.

Recovery from pornography addiction is learning how not to fight with sheer force of will. However this doesn’t mean we just wait for God to take the thorn from our side, because in most cases he won’t. Paul petitioned God to remove the thorn from his side, but God responded – “My grace is sufficient”.

In other words, dependence on God is enough. In my case, dependence meant taking action and leaning on God to show me the way to repair this disease and manage it. The pull may always be there, but I don’t have to obey it.

In other words, I learned a very important lesson – “Without God, I can’t; Without me, God won’t”.

I had to take responsibility to get better, just as every addict learns. If you are lucky, you learn sooner than later that your path in recovery lies within God’s hands. You work for it, he will help you. Of course this involves the Sacrament of Confession, time in Eucharistic Adoration, the Rosary (which is a strong armor), and Prayer but this is only a small part of a larger process. Most of which involve you going outside yourself for help and trusting in another.

There are many more resources for the addict than he may expect. I will list quite a few here and can shed some light on a few in private conversation (via e-mail) if you wish. However, I do strongly recommend a 12-Step program.

The reason I recommend a 12-Step program is because Pornography and Sex Addiction is only a symptom (nothing more) of a much larger problem. A 12-Step program modeled off AA is a spiritual walk (and more Catholic than you think) that teaches you how to face your past, identify defects, turn them over to God, and also puts a plan in place to handle everyday life. It is an approach, with God’s help, to live free.

The program I recommend is Sexaholics Anonymous (www.sa.org) which has a defined level of sobriety and a great support system. If you look at others and would like me to compare and contrast them, please e-mail me privately.

However, let me provide some concrete resources for the addict or family member looking for a next step.

Groups, 12-Step and Otherwise:

Books:

  • “In the Shadows” by Patrick Carnes
  • “In the Shadows of the Net” by Patrick Carnes
  • “Faithful and True Workbook” by Mark Lasser

* * *

In the previous Blog we discussed what Porn Addiction is at a high level and the stigma behind it. In this blog we discussed how to identify if you have a problem with porn addiction and where to go for help.

I was contemplating two more blogs in this series – a more in depth look at a 12-Step program and how it works, as well as a blog directed to a spouse or family being affected by an addict.

However, I have gotten great feedback in my initial comments. As always, feel free to discuss the article within the comments section. However if you would like to see anything specific covered that you have not seen me discuss. Please make note in your comments, it may spawn a different direction as I write.

As always, keep me and all the other addicts suffering in your prayers.

Sincerely,
Sawyer

(http://sawyerswalk.livejournal.com/)

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18 Responses to Porn Addiction – Identification and Help.

  1. Dave says:

    Sawyer, Thank you for this heartfelt article. Here is a link to a summary of studies on pornography. It is not in itself a self help discourse but puts the issue in perspective. God bless all, I am praying.
    http://www.newoxfordreview.org/note.jsp?did=0110-

  2. SpartacusXL says:

    Sawyer- you are, of course, dead on in your observation that sex addiction is a symptom of a deeper issue. For me, I'm pretty sure it's lack of self-esteem and insecurity. I have wanted to feel potent and formidable, irresistible to women, when my sense of self-worth has taken a hit, whatever it may be. Example- I have seen others advance in their careers at a job where I have been several years, while I have stayed in one place. I have had to take on part-time work to stay out of bankruptcy court, with family medical/therapist expenses piling up.

    It's one thing to try to accept that in the abstract as taking up the Cross with Our Lord, another thing entirely to accept it as anything less than personal failure. I have ended up looking for an escape, something to blunt the sting. Abstaining from an escape hatch is nothing easy, and the only real benefits I can readily see are in the long-term status of the soul.

    For me, I can see great benefit to the aspect of group we experience here, given its relative anonymity and the familiarity with the therapeutic approach that guys like me (and you) can walk in with.

    OTOH, I don't see a lot of value to 'admonishments from the mountain' unless it's Our Lord himself. As I said in the other thread… different men, different struggles.

  3. anonymous says:

    I'm not sure if you can help me, but I feel that my husband is on the road to porn addiction. I found out last year that he had started an on-line relationship with a woman that he met on one of those fantasy sites. I actually "caught him in the act" of having sex with this person. I gave him the ultimatum, at that very moment he had to delete that site, which he did. He tried to make excuses, and of course, blamed me for his wanting other women. I told him that could be remedied with a divorce, because as far as I was concerned he committed adultery.

    He lied and told me that it was the first time he ever did that and then I did some digging and found that he had "cyber love poems" in his bookmarks, which proved to me that he was sending her this stuff before his so-called "first time" having "cyber-sex".

    I don't think he has stopped this relationship, he's just better at hiding it. He's also, now, playing on-line poker until all hours of the night. He refuses to go to marriage counseling and to make it worse, he has not only fallen away from the Catholic religion, but has just told me that he is a full-fledged atheist. So, trying to direct him toward your 12 step program won't work because he thinks that God is nothing but a fairy tale.

    I'm at a loss. I don't want to end my marriage of 37 years, but I can't live like this either. I made a vow, "in sickness and in health", and I do believe that porn is a sickness. Do you have any suggestions as to where I can go with this?

    I'm sorry for the long comment, and I'm sorry for signing in as anonymous. I have a blog and don't want my identity revealed. Thank you, and God Bless you for your work.

    • Sawyer says:

      I respectfully diasagree with Rob on this one about not treating it as a disease. However we have talked off line about this and respectfully disagree on some of the nuances.

      I say this, and I have to tread carefully here, because based off the information you gave me (as an addict, NOT a counselor/psycologist) this *could be* the more advance stages of addiction. I see many people come into our program after being busted by thier wives speaking a lot of the details you just described. However, this also could very well just a case of adultry too – and addiction has no role in it. But some of the other information you gave me leads me more to the conclusion that he has a problem.

      Regardless, let me make something perfectly clear — this DOES NOT give him the right to do this. It is sinful, and he is severely damaging the covenant he made before you and God. Period, end of story.

      My first suggestion, and this may not make sense, is to find one on one counseling for yourself, by yourself (not with your husband), without his knowledge (for now). This is the first step.

      I say this, because some healthy lines need to be drawn and you need a 3rd party who is trained to help you see what is truly going on and help you navigate the rough waters. Because it will probably mean confrontation in some manner and you need to be armed with the tools that give you and your marriage the best chance to survive.

      One of the biggest mistakes a spouse makes is they make HIS recovery HER responsibility. A spouse needs to seek help herself, get tools to pull from, draw healthy bouncries, stick with them, and give thier spouse alternatives to get help. But short of giving the spouse alternatives to getting help and holding those boundries – it is the addict's responsibility to get better.

      Sometimes that means hitting a bottom, which can mean the threat of seperation, loss of kids and wife, or even divorce. However, a counselor can help you figure out the best way to proceed and to give your marriage a chance.

      I reccomend calling your health insurance to arrange counseling – it usually involves 5 free sessions and then 20 or so at a co-pay. If you don't have insurance or wish to speak to a Catholic counselor specifically, I would contact the Archdioces who also have links to counseling.

      I *DO* reccomend asking either the health insurance company or Archdiocies about getting someone who has a specialty in Sex Addiction or Addiction in general. I was able to find a Christian (not specifically) Catholic counselor who did specialize in it.

      I know this is not what you want to hear, but remember this is only Step One – the professional will help you in navigating the next steps.

      Concentrate on YOU, not HIM for now – get your ducks in a row, and then engage him. That will give you both the best chance.

      As always, feel free to write me directly – sawyerswalk @ gmail . com

  4. Rob Kaiser says:

    Anonymous, I don't know how to help, but wish I could. I believe your husband is committing adultery. I understand that some treat this like a sickness – while that may be helpful for some, it is unfortunate in that it provides an easy out for some folks. We all have free will. We can all seek help. We can all come to Christ with our burdens.

    Pornography is evil and those who indulge make themselves slaves to it. The Internet has enabled porn and causal infidelity.

    For you, remember what Theresa of Avila said: "He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices." Should all the world fall away from you and you stand alone, as long as you cling to God, you will be in safe hands. I offer my prayers for you and that your husband will see the light, return to God and to you in his heart. I pray that the suffering you are going through because of this brings you closer to our Lord.

  5. Dave says:

    Here's a link to an important study:
    http://www.thecatholicthing.org/content/view/3049

    God bless all, Dave

  6. You seem to be well informed in your niche.I must say you have a cool site you have here. Keep up the good work!!!

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  11. Tim says:

    Diminished attraction levels towards a spouse can encourage a
    man to seek fulfillment from porn. Its sad to say, but a spouses
    weight can be a factor. This is a health solution.

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  13. anonymous says:

    I try to stop my porn addiction but keep failing I have gone to a strip club and physically lusted with other women, I almost had realtions with one, I am married and I'm very desperate I don't want to lose God or my family I love my wife and Im sinking with regret I feel no way out of this I am afriaid of confession and I no longer want another woman, I have just wanted lust on the net, but I no longer want it but my mind keeps playing tricks on me I know this is cheating and it kills me that i am no good to my wife and kids

  14. anonymous says:

    what do i do

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  17. Joe says:

    I take a lot of the recommendations seriously and see the merit but there are many roads to recovery. I have looked at many of the books recommended and seen where the counselor and books point the wife/husb.
    i think some of the directions are negative for our marriage and not building up. Many counselors try to group people into one big category and panic wives into drastic action. Despite what some counselors preach about wives learning not to be codependent on the spouse – we are all codependent. If a spouse has a bad attitude towards sex and let's herself/himself go (obese, dope, etc.) this will affect the other spouse. And yes, this can facilitate actions by the other spouse that are sinful (i.e. porn, drinking, affairs, etc.). Doesn't make it right but it can happen. Do counselors make money from clients? Are there people that really have the best interest of others at stake without profit? Well, I'll keep in a program, praying and living life. Still, all in all, SA, 12 step, some of the therapy does have merit.