All posts by Truman Proctor

Recovery is Possible: My Journey Back from Addiction

Recovery is Possible: My Journey Back from Addiction

The following is written by the husband of the author of ‘Why I Happily Agreed to Marry an Addict.’ It details part of the process of his recovery as well as how his dating relationship affected/was affected by that process.

This is the eighth in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to [email protected]. To see the previous post in the series, click here.

Like most addicts I first encountered pornography in my early teens.  I was picking up garbage on Earth Day  and among the weeds I found a pornographic magazine. I knew it was wrong to look, but with curiosity, I chose to look, and then look again. I hid it in my pocket, careful that my parents didn’t see it, brought it home, hid it in my room and when I was alone, looked again. It was not long before my guilt got the better of me. One day I took the magazine from its hiding spot, concealed it under my shirt, and fled to a place near my house where I would not be seen. When I was sure I was alone, I pulled out a lighter.

As I pulled the magazine out from under my shirt, I closed my eyes. I was now disgusted by what I had in my hand and didn’t want to see it ever again.  It was a struggle to light the thing on fire with my eyes closed, and I had to peak just a little to get it lit, and then again a few more times to make sure it burned completely.  Each time I peaked I snapped my eyes shut as soon as I could and tried to erase the images that had snuck in from the exposed and flaming pages.  When it was done I buried the ashes vowing that I would never look at anything so evil again.  But I did. I had been hooked by that one piece of garbage I found by accident.

I used porn only occasionally through my teens, but it was in my early 20s that the addiction really set in.  It affected all aspects of my life.  I had a hard time studying for school, not only because porn addiction fogs your mind, but also because the prime environment for study—a quiet environment in which you are unlikely to be disturbed and have access to the internet—is also the prime environment for looking at porn.  I avoided relationships because I didn’t want to be the cause of pain for another person.  I struggled with financial discipline, sometimes incurring huge data charges on my phone.  I was in deep trouble; I knew it, and it scared me.

Over the years I sought help from many different sources. I consulted a few different ecclesiastical leaders, and though they were encouraging and kind, most of them had little to no understanding of addiction or how to truly help someone struggling with porn.  I wanted desperately to be rid of this problem, and so I gathered resources wherever I could.  I came across many tools; some helped a lot, some didn’t help at all.  I never did find a simple solution, though many things suggested they would be such, but I did find incremental success as I progressed in my understanding and developed more and more tools I could use.  In the paragraphs below I share some of the things that helped me the most.

I tried attending a 12-step program where most of the attendants were struggling with porn. I listened and I shared when I thought it could be productive, but I felt little to no attachment to the people around me, and was often terrified that my story might turn into their story.  Most of them were deeper in their addictions than I was.  Many of them were married men who were there because their marriage was in danger as a direct result of their porn use.  Sometimes I left there more stressed about my situation than when I had gone in, but some of the tools they used and shared were helpful to me.

Keep a Recovery Journal

I appreciated the counsel they gave on journaling regularly, particularly expressing gratitude for the good things in life.  It can be easy to get caught in a trap of focusing only on what you need to change: the addiction. Focusing on only that becomes depressing. Writing in your recovery journal daily, particularly about things you are grateful for, can help with that. Otherwise, this journal can be used to keep track of dates and progress and record private thoughts about your recovery.

Trigger Analysis

Another tool they mentioned was trigger analysis.  This is a common tool in addiction recovery, and can be very helpful in preventing further problems.  On a basic level it is a post mortem after a relapse event.  It consists of thinking back and examining the situation you were in just before your relapse.  You ask things like: What was my emotional state? Was I bored? Stressed? Frustrated? Lonely? What was it that triggered me? Did I walk past the magazine section of the store and see something? Something that came up on my Facebook news feed? Did I drive by an adult establishment of some kind? Was it the way someone was dressed? Was it a thought that I had?”

You then follow up with the question: How can I change my behavior so that I will not be triggered by that again? Do I need to: Never walk through the magazine section again?  Unfollow that friend that posts questionable things? Change the route I drive to or from work?  When I interact with a woman, make sure I look at ONLY her eyes?  Never have any thoughts again?

As you can see from the last bit, the usefulness of this tool is limited, but it is a worthwhile exercise, particularly when you keep a record in your recovery journal so you can keep track of what triggers you most often and learn to avoid it.

I eventually felt that I had gotten all I could from the 12-step meetings and when school and work schedules interfered with my attendance I stopped going.  I later learned about other critical components of addiction recovery that I was not getting from 12-step meetings.

Professional Counseling/Coaching

I tried professional counseling as well. I ended up seeing three different counselors, two of whom specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy. They were each helpful in their own way, and each approached the issue differently. I think that hiring a recovery coach or professional counselor can be a great step for those that are serious about their recovery.

Try a few different counselors and find one you like.  Doing so will require a high level of self-awareness.  A good coach or counselor  may be hard on you and push you to accomplish your goals or complete assignments such as meditation or deep and focused trigger analysis.  It can be tempting to stay with a coach that takes it easy on you.  Make sure that you stick with someone who addresses your specific needs, not someone who is simply easy to talk to.

Other Useful Resources

Some of the most useful knowledge I came across can be found at the website “Feed the Right Wolf.”  On the homepage, there is a free recovery course that goes over some basics and details a process called ERP which stands for Exposure Response Prevention. I found it to be a very powerful tool when used consistently. It became a practice I still use sometimes today when I get triggered by an occasional passing billboard.  A full explanation is well beyond the scope of this article, but I will say that it is a tool to help you maintain self-control at the critical moment of decision after you’ve been triggered.

When a porn addict is triggered there is a very, very strong physiological response: hormones are released, respiration increases, blood pressure rises—the brain becomes focused on one thing. ERP can be an effective means of reversing these effects, restoring calm to the body so you can make a wise choice based on your values and what makes sense, rather than an impulsive and stupid choice based on the incredible force of what your body is telling you to do.

A tool I found to be indispensable in my recovery is a phone app called Brainbuddy.  It is designed to be a daily tool that helps you track your progress, gives you daily motivation and encouragement, increases your understanding of porn addiction and the recovery process, and generally helps you keep on top of things.

My Addiction and My Relationship

I was searching for anything I could that would help me break free from my addiction, but was still struggling pretty badly when I met the girl I would later marry.  We met while I was on vacation, exchanged phone numbers, and stayed in touch over the next few months.  We became good friends quickly and soon she mentioned she would like to fly out to visit me.  I was both happy and heartsick at this offer.  I wanted to see her, but was unwilling to have her make that kind of investment without a complete understanding of what she was getting into.  After a brief deliberation, a few deep breaths to steady my nerves, and a moment to gather my thoughts, I began:  “I would love for you to come visit, but there is something you need to know . . . ”

I did not give the messy details, but made it clear that I was dealing with porn addiction, that it was very difficult for me, that it had been difficult for a long time, and that I did not know how long it would take me to recover.  I was very honest; I did not sugar coat anything.  It was terribly hard for me. I had to first be honest with myself, not overly optimistic like I sometimes tried to be, but real, and truthful about the situation.

I wanted to make sure she clearly understood what she would be signing up for if she did indeed decide to invest in a relationship with me.  It was important to me that she know from the beginning and make the decision for herself, rather than be blindsided by my addiction later on.  She took some time to consider the situation prayerfully.  Eventually, she decided she was willing to come for a visit, in spite of my addiction, and see what would come of it.  That decision has blessed my life immensely.

When she came, we quickly decided we would be dating.  I was apprehensive remembering the men from my 12-step class, but she knew about what I was struggling with, and we were dating, not getting married.  Also, she was a lot of fun.  It was a joy to be around her.  We enjoyed getting to know each other, flirting, finding out more and more about each other. The more I learned, the more I liked her.

At first we didn’t talk at all about my addiction.  I continued to struggle in private, sometimes doing well, and sometimes not doing well.  When I was with her there was so much light and happiness in my life that there was no room for addiction.  I virtually never thought about my addiction and was never tempted to do things that would trigger me.

When we were not together, though, it was another matter.  Due to our long distance relationship we could not be together as often as we would’ve liked, but would keep in touch by phone.  Every time I had a relapse, it was difficult.  I wanted to wait for a good time to talk about it, but there is never a good time to talk about an addiction relapse.  She wanted to know how I was doing, but it is terribly awkward to ask.  We found a solution that proved invaluable to us.  Each week I would send her a screenshot of my recovery progress from the tracking screen of my Brainbuddy app.  It worked well for us because she didn’t have to wonder, and I didn’t have to find a good time to talk about it. We had a built in system.

After we had dated for a while, we started to get more serious about our relationship.  I decided that I should be honest about everything I had been through, so that there would be no possibility that she could be surprised by anything down the road.  It was a very difficult conversation.  I told her my past misdeeds in the most matter of fact way possible, trying not to let emotions come to the surface.  When I finished she said she needed to process this for a while, and walked away.  She cried in her room for some time  before we talked again.  During this time I felt like I could not breathe.  I sat outside wishing I had never developed a problem with pornography.  I prayed that she would be ok and that I would be able to get rid of this problem in my life so that it would never cause her heartache again.  It was a pretty depressing time for me, but by the next morning we were talking again, and soon we emotionally recovered and were able to go back to dating as we had been.

Having her trust me was a huge blessing to me.  It helped me recover because of the deep emotional connection we developed as a result of the mutual trust of sharing and caring.   This trust was strengthened by the constant and consistent commitment we had to open and honest communication.  Every time she got a screenshot from me, even if it was bad news, it strengthened her trust in me and that in turn strengthened my resolve to be trustworthy, not just in my communication, but in my avoidance of pornography as well.

One of the vicious cycles of addiction is that of loneliness and isolation.  When a person feels alone and sad it can set them up for a relapse.  When they relapse they feel like what just happened is something terrible that they can’t share with anyone, causing further isolation and more intense feelings of loneliness.  This perpetual cycle is one aspect of addiction that can be short-circuited by having an honest friend, or in my case girlfriend, to share with and to trust and be trusted by.

We continued our relationship, falling more deeply in love as time went on.  We shared devotionals daily with each other to keep in touch and develop the spiritual side of our relationship.  I continued to practice the tools I had learned to use and I found that the time between relapses grew longer and longer.  I paid particular attention to my thoughts and the beliefs that surrounded them.  For example, when I was triggered and all my hormones were raging, I found that I was believing things that weren’t true.

I would think: “I want to relapse because otherwise I will never get any sexual fulfillment out of life!” This is not true, and I knew it, but it felt true, because sex had always seemed impossibly out of reach. Through ERP, I would calmly tell myself that this was false; I would someday have a fulfilling sex life if only I would do it the right way, and that right way involved not relapsing so that I could get my temple recommend and get married.  I would think of how much I enjoyed my physical relationship with my girlfriend to bring support to the belief that there was sexual fulfillment to be had in the future in ways other than through porn.

This was part of a focused effort to retrain my brain.  There is a difference between understanding something intellectually and believing it thoroughly.  The purpose was to change the fundamental belief both emotionally, and physiologically in my brain, that sexual fulfillment comes from a real-life woman, not from porn relapse.

Eventually, I got my temple recommend.  This was a huge milestone for me, It had been more than five  years since I was last worthy to attend the temple.  It was also a big deal because I had made a commitment to myself, long ago, that I would not ask a girl to marry me unless or until I was worthy to attend the temple.  We both knew we wanted to be married at this point. We had been waiting on me to get my recommend so we could set a date and become officially engaged.

From there the story is that of a happy ending, and at the same time, a happy beginning.   It was the end of my true struggling with porn.  I still had thoughts from time to time, and I still practice ERP from time to time if something triggers me, but the reflexes that led to my recovery were deeply ingrained and well practiced.  I knew what to do, I knew where to focus my thoughts and how, and best of all, I had a wonderful wife and a life with her to think about and occupy myself with. There was no room for pornography any longer. It was the beginning of my life as a porn-free person, and the beginning of our life as a newly married couple.

We continue to be honest with each other, and though I am no longer providing weekly check ins, we still speak regularly about how I am doing, why I am doing well, and how grateful we are for the Atonement.  I am so thankful that my wife had the faith and discernment to know that I was someone who could be counted on.  I am so grateful that she trusted the Spirit when she was prompted to not give up on me.

I want to close by sharing two pieces of advice to anyone who is thinking about a relationship with someone who has an issue with pornography.  Two of the most important things for you to pay attention to are: first, his level of honesty and willingness to communicate with you, and second, his commitment to recovery.  If your significant other will not be honest with you about progress, or more importantly, lack of progress, on at least a weekly basis, then I think you need to ask some serious questions.

Being honest with my partner was imperative to my recovery.  Honesty with someone, whether it be with a recovery coach, a counselor, an ecclesiastical leader, or a 12 step group –  honesty with someone is a critical component of every successful addiction recovery story that I am aware of.  True recovery and healing does not happen in isolation.

An ongoing commitment to recovery is the key to beating porn addiction. I found a lot of things that didn’t work. If I had given up after the first 100 times I failed, then I would be alone and miserable at this moment instead of being happily married to an amazing partner. There is no silver bullet to defeat porn addiction.  If someone says there is, what they have to say is likely a useful weapon, but will probably be only one in a wide arsenal you will need to win the war against porn.  Keep going. Keep searching. Glean all the usefulness you can from one source then move on to the next.  Don’t despair if you fall out of practice with your recovery journal. If you no longer need it to fight off depression, celebrate that you won that battle and move on to the next victory.  Don’t forget about it and its usefulness, but be ready to pull it out again if needed.  Once you master one aspect of the process, move on to the next.

There are those that might disagree with me on this by saying that if something works, you must keep doing it forever. For them, they might be right. The bottom line is to do what works for you.  If you need to keep a recovery journal forever, then do.  I still use ERP when needed and study the scriptures daily.  I am still careful and mindful about what I think about and how I cope with stress.  These are habits I expect I will have with me the rest of my life, but there are also tools that have done their job and I no longer use. Do what works for you, be persistent, and never lose hope that a future free of porn will be totally worth it.  I can attest that it truly is.

To read an account of recovery from the perspective of the author’s wife, click here

Other posts in the series:

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn

Fourth Post: What We Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts

Fifth Post: What We Wish We had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Those In Recovery From Pornography Addiction

Sixth Post: Five Myths about Pornography Addiction

Seventh Post: Why I Happily Agreed to Marry an Addict

Why I Happily Agreed to Marry an Addict

Why I Happily Agreed to Marry an Addict

This is the seventh in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to [email protected] To see the previous post in the series, click here.

To see the original post on the Hope and Healing Forum, click here

Editor’s Note: Click here to read a companion piece from the author’s husband. 

The man who is now my husband told me he struggled with a pornography addiction even before we started dating. It was a gut-punch to hear him say it, but that commitment to transparency and openness from the beginning was what I kept coming back to when I was terrified it had all been a big mistake.

We’d been getting to know each other from two different parts of the country and I was really starting to like him. It was the suggestion of my flying out for a visit that brought on the phone call that broke my heart. He said that he understood if that meant I didn’t want to come and I didn’t know how to reply. Everything I knew about him until 30 seconds ago was so attractive to me. He was smart and thoughtful and interesting and handsome and good. I believe in the power of the Atonement and I didn’t want him to think that this particular struggle made him automatically unworthy of my time and attention. It would have been hypocritical for me, but it also sounded like an idiot move to know that about a person and still fly thousands of miles to see him.

I hung up the phone saying that I’d let him know.

I didn’t sleep all that night and for days after, I had no idea what I should do. It wasn’t until the following Sunday, at stake conference that things became clearer. We’d had a series of great speakers, but none of them seemed to have messages that were relevant to me. Then, as the second to last speaker was concluding, out of the blue she mentioned the topic of pornography. It was only a sentence or two, but she said she believed it could be overcome. Then the last speaker got up. He said he had prepared an entirely different address, but instead wanted to continue with this topic of pornography and how through the Atonement, this painful part of so many people’s present could be truly left in the past. The Spirit was so strong and I knew that it would be ok for me to get on a plane and visit my friend.

He became more than my friend not long after my arrival. We connected so incredibly well and I felt so comfortable and secure with him. We could talk about anything, and everything about him impressed me. He was constantly being of service to his family members and every friend in his life that I met would pull me aside and say how much he had inspired them or helped at a critical time or always been there when they needed him. My mind couldn’t even contain the reality that this wonderful person and this terrible chronic behavior could exist in the same being.

You know that phenomenon where you hear a word you’ve never heard of before and then suddenly you see it three different places within a week? The same thing happens when you start dating an addict. I was so happy with him and yet in the months that followed, it seemed like every story I heard was of how so-and-so was getting a divorce because of addiction or how after eight years, this or that person had totally betrayed their partner. I especially remember overhearing a lady at a party saying, “If my daughter was dating someone who had a porn addiction, I don’t care how nice he is, I would tell her to run.”

Meanwhile, I was falling so deeply in love with this man in a way that was so much different than infatuation. It just seemed so obvious that we should be together and everything about it felt so right. He watched out for me and supported me in everything I was pursuing. We would send spiritual thoughts to each other every day even though we were so far apart and I couldn’t help but believe in him. But then there was that anonymous woman’s voice in my head saying how none of that mattered and I should just run. 

That voice was still in my head when our relationship began to get a little more serious in terms of planning an ongoing life together. He said he felt it was really important that he tell me absolutely everything so that we could have complete openness between one another and a little part of me thought, “Maybe I don’t want to know.” But he insisted and when he told me the full extent of his past transgressions, I was even more devastated than I’d already been. I excused myself from the conversation and went to my room and just wailed. I’ve never cried like that in all my life. I was praying aloud and so totally confused and feeling sick inside but when I began to calm down I found that strangely, I still believed in him. I didn’t understand why, but I had such a strong spiritual impression that all of the good things I knew about him were still genuine and true.

The next morning, I couldn’t sleep so I went outside to watch the sunrise and try to consider what I should do. This new information was worse than I had imagined and I felt like marrying him now would just mean it served me right if one day he cheated on me or something. Like any coming calamity in our marriage, knowing what I knew now, would be inevitable and I would be the idiot that should’ve seen it coming.

I pulled up a random general conference talk looking for guidance and in a passing sentence, it said explicitly not to discount someone just because of a past sin and in particular pornography. Of all the talks I could’ve chosen, that one came up. To that point, I felt like I could hear a chorus of voices telling me not to proceed and they all strangely sounded like that woman who said I should run, but then the thought struck me: If I took out what anyone else would say in this situation, ignored the advice of random people and it was only between me and the Lord, what would I conclude?

“I believe in him and I believe the Lord can continue to help him recover from this.”

When it came down to just me and the Lord, I knew that it was all going to be ok and the Spirit had guided me along in too many ways to this point for me to doubt that he would continue to do so. By the time this man that I loved woke up and came and found me, I was ok. I was on the road to completely forgiving his past and still hopeful about a future for us.

I had some fundamental misunderstandings about pornography addiction. We had set up a system of accountability where we had a weekly check-in. He would send me a screenshot from a tracking app he was using and I would make sure to tell me him I was proud of his progress, because I was. But every time he had a relapse and the count was back to zero, I felt deeply betrayed. Here’s where my misunderstanding comes in. I thought that pornography addiction was all about sex and intimacy, so how could he turn from me to this horrible thing when we had such a good connection even if so much of our relationship was happening from a distance? I thought that continually coming back to porn was some deep perversion and even though I understood addiction involves being out of control of oneself, I thought if he just loved me more than he wouldn’t need to go back to that.

Then one night about two or three in the morning, I snapped awake, filled with fear. I was suddenly aware that this man of mine was deeply in danger. I didn’t know where this feeling was coming from, but it was so real. It was like I could hear his voice calling out to me from inside a burning building. I thought maybe he’d been in a car accident, that he was trapped in a tangle of wreckage on the side of the road somewhere. I was panicking. I was going to try calling him or maybe I should call his parents? I didn’t know what to do, but eventually I began to be calm and the thought that I’d probably sound insane calling in the middle of the night if everything was fine, overwhelmed that initial sense of emergency that I’d felt.

The next morning I called him and asked what had happened the night before. He said quietly that he had relapsed. We figured out that it had happened at exactly the time that I’d been shocked awake by the Spirit, thousands of miles away. Suddenly his helpless voice calling out to me in the dark made sense. For the first time I realized fully that his addiction was a prison, it was literally a burning building that he had no desire to be in but from which he was struggling to escape. It had nothing to do with me.

I learned that porn addiction has much more to do with chemicals and coping than it has to do with sex. He’d set a pattern in his brain as a very young teen that the rush (chemical release) of good feelings that these images brought, would help to relieve not just unmet sexual desire, but feelings of loneliness, boredom, stress and inadequacy; things that we all feel and struggle to soothe away. It grew into a coping mechanism for just about anything and then the need grew habitual. Add the shame, continual failure to fully leave it behind, and the constant voice of Satan whispering that he’d never succeed and before long he was waist high in quicksand with no way out.

Only there was and is a way out. The other important thing I learned from my dating relationship with this wonderful person was that I had been limiting the power of the Atonement in my own mind. I believed that the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us was infinite and in the same breath, often thought, “Yeah, but this is just too much” or “Is addiction recovery a process that ever actually succeeds?”

So many times, I wished that this had just never been a part of his life. He was so perfect for me, if only this other stuff had just never happened.

Then one day as I checked in for a flight somewhere, the lady at the desk said, “You really should’ve printed your boarding pass at home.”  I said, “Sorry, I don’t have a printer” and she shot back, “Still, you’re really supposed to print your own.” I continued to apologize that I didn’t, but no matter what I said she just kept saying, “Yeah, but you should’ve!” “But I didn’t.” “But you SHOULD’VE.” I felt helpless to please her and in that moment I realized that absolutely nothing productive comes from wishing something had happened differently than it did. No matter how much I wished things in this man’s past (when I wasn’t even in the picture) had happened differently, they didn’t. The past is the past, all you can do is move forward from where you are now and continue to do better and to call upon the grace of Jesus Christ every day.

I became his other partner in the recovery process and eventually the “days since last incident” number began to grow and grow. He got his temple recommend back and we were able to marry for time and all eternity in a house of the Lord.

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Life with him is happier than I could’ve ever imagined.

But here are three key reasons our story continues to be a happy one. These are important for anyone dating/considering a partner with this problem to understand:

  • My partner decided from the beginning that he would always be totally honest with me. He never tried to justify or downplay his actions, he told the truth, fully. He still does. Often the betrayal that the partner of an addict feels is not from a return to the behavior at all, it’s from the lies involved in covering it up. Lying will keep the addiction thriving, but bringing things out in the open and keeping them there cuts the legs off the monster. Many men (and women) keep their struggle a secret because they believe they can get over it on their own without others ever knowing it was a problem. This is a myth and a damaging one. Tell the truth. Always tell the truth.
  • We set up a system of accountability. Porn addiction is a really challenging subject to just bring up in casual conversation. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, and often it’s hard for an addict to find the right way to report a relapse or for a partner to find the right way to ask if everything is still ok. To have a reporting system of some kind already in place makes that so much easier. As I mentioned, while we were dating we just picked a day of the week that he would text me his app update and that was my opportunity to talk about anything that I needed to. I didn’t have to sit around wondering, he didn’t have to worry about when was a good time to say something and we could both feel at ease about it the rest of the time. Having a system of accountability keeps the conversation open.
  • My partner used all available resources to help in his recovery. As I said, the Atonement is real—I know that now more than ever—but addiction is something that generally cannot just be overcome by continually praying about it. Faith is a principle of action and though involving the Lord and a priesthood leader are essential, that is only a first step. My husband did not find the Church’s 12-step program particularly helpful to him personally, but rather than giving up, he sought other types of help. He worked with a coach and studied the science of addiction in great depth to help to overcome it. Understanding the chemical processes in the brain involved in this addiction, as well as learning the methods by which you can form new neural pathways in your brain and literally leave old habits behind, was essential for him. Mostly what I’m saying is he was determined to recover and did everything in his power to work toward that goal. The Atonement is real, but it can’t help someone who is unwilling to access it.

I’m so glad that I didn’t just dismiss this man because of this problem. His honesty, accountability and determination set him apart as someone who could and would recover even from something as severe and menacing as this. In President Packer’s last conference messagebefore he passed, he talked at length of sexual transgression and the seriousness thereof. Ultimately though, his closing message on this earth was this:

“The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, He has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity.”

I am already enjoying the beauty and love that all that heartache has become. Some of the greatest missionaries and prophets in the scriptures started out as the vilest of sinners. This gospel is a gospel of transformation and going through the recovery process with the love of my life, transformed me too. He’s now coaching others through their recovery and is continuing to make his life more whole, productive and healthy than it’s ever been before.

Pornography is becoming an epidemic in this generation, but all that means is that we have the opportunity to make this a generation of men and women who understand and trust the reality of the Atonement more than anyone before ever has. If you’re dating someone who struggles with pornography addiction, it’s possible that you shouldn’t just run. Pray. Trust the Lord, and only the Lord, to tell you what to do next.

~Christine

Click here for the companion piece written by the author’s husband about his recovery process.

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn

Fourth Post: What We Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts

Fifth Post: What We Wish We had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Those In Recovery From Pornography Addiction

Sixth Post: Five Myths about Pornography Addiction

Seventh Post: Why I Happily Agreed to Marry an Addict

Five Myths about Pornography Addiction

Five Myths about Pornography Addiction

This is the sixth in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to [email protected] To see the previous post in the series, click here.

To see the original post on the Hope and Healing Forum, click here

I don’t like myths. They mess with my brain. They’re easy to believe because, well, they are just that: easy to believe. No effort needed. No education required. Myths are often “common knowledge” and so many already believe they’re true as well. Of all the myths I have believed, the ones surrounding pornography have been the most damaging.  They have damaged my spirit, my mental health, and even my physical health. Here are five that need to be kicked to the curb, once and for all.

Myth #1 You are not pretty enough, skinny enough, whatever enough. A recurring theme I see amongst my friends whose husbands* look at pornography is this: they are often blamed by their husbands and others for his bad behavior. One woman noted, “My husband told me more than once that he looked at pornography because I had gained weight and didn’t physically look like he wanted.” A woman told these lies by her husband needs to look him directly in the eyes, and with strength and conviction reply: “I am enough! You look at pornography because you believe you are not enough!”  All addictions have their roots in insecurity, loneliness, and low self-worth. It is easy to blame the spouse because the opposite of blaming would be to take personal responsibility. Looking inward is painful, so they look outward with a pointed finger.

If he looked at pornography because you are not pretty enough, then why do so many men return to looking at porn within months of getting married? Why is he suddenly disappointed in her looks following their marriage ceremony? What about the wife who, sadly, does believe the myth that she isn’t enough and exercises obsessively, wears her hair and clothes the way he would like her to, gets painful surgery to please him, and still he doesn’t stop looking at pornography? What then?

The answer is this–he looks at pornography because lust has an insatiable appetite. It can never be satisfied. No amount of makeup, clothes, plastic surgery or weight loss will change his behavior. Repeat after me: He looks at pornography because he believes he is not enough. This made sense to my brain long before it made sense to my heart. His choices have nothing to do with you and your looks. I am not saying it shouldn’t hurt. It will hurt, but it hurts because his choices are painful, not because it is true.

Myth #2 You can change him. Most women are nurturers. We are caretakers. We support and we encourage. We pray and we fast. And because we are so good at nurturing we sometimes believe we actually can change others by nurturing. But we can’t change anyone. I couldn’t make my toddler eat her peas, I can’t make my son get good grades, and I definitely can’t make my husband choose a life of honesty and decency.

One woman noted: “I really thought that I could change my husband with all my prayers, fasting, clean home and amazing meals, homemade bread, lingerie, always saying yes to sex, and trying to make him happy. It didn’t work. I didn’t figure this out until years later when I was emotionally, spiritually and physically broken. All I could do was turn my husband over to God and start finding myself again and learning what made me happy. I set strongboundaries. When I gave up trying to change my husband, he finally began to change.”

Myth #3 You should have sex more.

I believe marriage made my husband’s addiction worse than when he was a single adult because now he had an actual woman with whom to act out his addiction. Once married, sexual experiences were no longer prohibited so he found himself obsessing more and more. He soon found out that being married and sexually active couldn’t “fill” his lust bucket for long, so he returned to his addiction just months after our marriage. Only now his behavior had to escalate to get the same “high”.

I have seen the ignorant comments on social media regarding this myth. It astounds me that so many still ignore the evidence of sexual addiction and choose to blame the spouse for being “prudish”. It would seem almost logical that if a person has a pornography/sex addiction that the answer is more sex to satisfy their cravings. So if you give him more he will stop going outside his marriage for more, right? If you have sex with him before a business trip he will be an upstanding guy while he is away, right? Sadly, many well-meaning, but unknowing Bishops have even counseled wives to make themselves more available or have counseled young men that getting married will stop his desire to look at pornography. The myth is this: You should be able to fill up his lust bucket to the point where he won’t need to act out with sexually compulsive behaviors. But lust can never be satisfied.  It comes with an insatiable appetite. More sex is not the answer.

Myth #4 You should keep his secret. It is so utterly embarrassing and mortifying–not to mention heartbreaking–when we catch our husbands looking at porn that our first instinct is to tell no one. I never told a soul the first, second, or third time I caught him. I really thought that if I told anyone they would hate my husband, think he was a pervert, and think I was a doormat for staying with him. I cried alone a lot, wrote in my journal which I later burned for fear someone would find it, and went about life feeling alone, taking care of my babies, and putting on a plastic smile. I pushed away my good friends for a time. It hurt them and it hurt me. I was suffering from betrayal trauma but thought being a good wife meant protecting his flawless reputation. Dr. Adam Moore, an expert who specializes in sexual addiction, tells spouses who have been asked by their partner to keep their porn use a secret to answer, “I am not responsible for maintaining your facade.” My life is my story too. I have a right to get help and support from others.

Years later when my husband’s double life resurfaced yet again, I reached out and told my dearest friends. I told my parents too. And suddenly I felt validated and felt like I could begin the healing process. The mask came off and I could be me again around those closest to me. Whether my husband got better or not, I could get better! I started attending group therapy, went to the LDS support group for wives of addicts, and talked and talked about my broken heart with those closest to me.

Addiction thrives in secrecy so it is imperative that he end his silence as well. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “Thank heaven there are an increasing number of clinics, support groups and recovery programs for both the viewer and their innocent family members.” Satan works in secrecy. As soon as we cast light on evil it begins to lose its hold.

Myth #5 Only perverts and child molesters look at porn.

One of the main fears in telling our stories to others is a fear of judgment. One woman said, “As I have told people my story, I have feared they will see my husband as a sicko who shouldn’t be trusted around children and they will wonder how I can be married to such a dirty man. I fear that they will see him as a pedophile or abuser or worse.”

The truth is that most LDS men and women who view pornography love their families, serve in church callings, and hold full-time jobs outside or inside their homes. They hate themselves for what they do but feel trapped. They want to be loyal to their spouse but their brain is broken. I envy individuals at church who can openly tell their stories of how they overcame an alcohol or drug addiction. We finally seem to understand those addictions. Maybe someday, hopefully soon, the LDS population will have enough knowledge about sexual addictions that I, too, can speak openly about my experience being married to an addict without fear of judgment and painful gossip. Myths are indeed harmful. They trap us in false beliefs. That is why I write these words and why so many of my sisters are writing their stories as well.

–Lorena

*Sadly, pornography is becoming a growing problem with women as well, but this story is a personal experience written by the wife of an addict.

Other posts in the series:

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn

Fourth Post: What We Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts

Fifth Post: What We Wish We had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Those In Recovery From Pornography Addiction

Seventh Post: Why I Happily Agreed to Marry an Addict

What We Wish We Had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Recovering Addicts

What We Wish We Had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Recovering Addicts

This is the fifth in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to [email protected] To see the previous post in the series, click here.

To see the original post on the Hope and Healing Forum, click here

Our post this week goes hand in hand with last week’s installment.  Last week we posted “What We Wish We Had Known When We Were Dating” from spouses of those with sexual addiction.  This week, we feature the same “What We Wish We Had Known,” but from the perspective of those who have struggled with, and are working to overcome, pornography use.  (The following are statements from men in recovery, but we acknowledge that many women also struggle with pornography and sexual addiction, and these statements can apply to and help anyone).

I wish I would have accepted sooner the fact that, despite all of my mistakes, I was still worth saving.  Christ’s Atonement was still available to me even in the awful state that I was in.  It is not only for those who look righteous.

I wish I would have known that you can’t recover by yourself, and that there is nothing to fear by asking for help and turning your life over to God.

I wish I would have known that for me, a simple and natural curiosity about girls and sex at a young age would become an addiction after exposure to pornography.

I wish I would have known that shame and guilt are not synonymous.  Guilt caused me to admit to my mom that I had been making calls to 1-900 numbers.  Shame kept me from ever admitting any other bad behavior to anyone–including admitting to myself that I had a problem or that I needed help.

I wish I would have known that I was wrong to believe that thinking about girls and sex was just “normal guy” behavior.  If you are only interested in their physical attributes you are lusting and that is an addictive behavior.

I wish I would have known that pornography use would require secrecy and isolation, which makes it almost impossible to break away from.  This is especially true for addicts who use pornography as a way to deal with loneliness and rejection.

I wish I would have known that sex is a byproduct of a healthy emotional bond between two committed individuals expressed physically rather than the only way to express “love.”

I wish I would have known that pornography doesn’t solve any problems.  Life is not fair, easy, or fun all the time and that is what makes it so fun, challenging, interesting, and hard.  Using pornography may take you away from reality, but life is always there when you finally turn it off. 

I wish I would have known that my addiction is a symptom of underlying problems–emotional mismanagement and inability to cope with pain in a healthy way.

I wish I would have known that I could not flirt with R or even many PG-13 rated movies, any degree of impure thoughts, spending large amounts of time on my computer or phone, or any other common and accepted but borderline activity or material, and NOT be desensitized.  Once some desensitization begins, the many forms of pornography look more enticing and acceptable. A high level of daily spirituality must be practiced to rise totally above the world’s smut.

I wish I would have known that it is fool-hardy to believe you can participate in any level of pornography as a teen and/or young adult and not detrimentally impact your future marriage and family. There are painful impacts in ways you might never have imagined. The female soul is tender and hopeful. Hopes are dashed and hearts are broken when there is any level of infidelity, and only the Savior, through painful struggling and endurance, can mend their hearts and restore their hope.

I wish I would have known that getting married would not solve this problem or take away my addiction.  I wish I would have known the damage that this would cause to my spouse–that it has shaken her to her very core.  This is not “just a little problem” that will “be okay” somehow in the future.  I wish I would have chosen not to believe Satan’s lie that my wife wasn’t strong enough to hear the truth, or that I would hurt her too much if I told her.  It turns out the Christ’s Atonement is strong enough to save and heal both of us.

I wish I would have known that having an addiction or any degree of involvement with pornography does NOT make you or your friends evil. Rally around one another, invite those who struggle into your circles, put your arms around them, and look for the very best in yourself and each other. This kind of support removes the stigma and makes it 100 times easier to change. Addiction feeds on isolation and shame. Remove those and you’re on your way to a complete and healthy life.   

I wish I had known that there was hope–but that praying and reading my scriptures more was not, and is not enough to overcome this problem.  I wish I had known that I needed a therapist, a 12 step program, and a sponsor.  I wish I had known that when doing what my bishops said (pray, read scriptures, attend the temple, fast) never resulted in lasting sobriety, that it was ok for me to look for things outside of their advice in order to find recovery.

I wish I would have known that there is a TREMENDOUS amount of hope for anyone struggling with any form of sexual sin. Christ tells us that He will take our old heart, as we willingly and submissively offer it to Him, and give us a new heart. That is a prerequisite for anyone desiring eternal life. Turning FULLY to the Savior brings progress. Lay down any and all forms of pride and come brokenhearted.  From the moment you do so, Christ will begin to change your heart, at first, in almost imperceptible ways, then more and more evidently until, with time, your mind and heart are new and refreshed.  It is an enduring process with series of emotional peaks and valleys, but it is very literal….you will lose any desire for that which is impure. Take the Savior at His word.

I wish I would have known that my life in recovery is so much better than my life was when I was looking at pornography and masturbating.

Other posts in the series:

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know (see also the Meridian Magazine article; also featured on LDS Living)

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son (see also the Meridian Magazine article)

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn(see also the Meridian Magazine article, the Mormon Buzz article, the article on LDSLiving)

Fourth Post: What We Wish Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts (see also the Meridian Magazine article)

What We Wish We’d Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Addicts

What We Wish We’d Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Addicts

This is the fourth in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to [email protected] To see the previous post in the series, click here

We watched with interest the latest Face2Face event for YSA in the church.  Questions surrounding dating and pornography appeared to be common.  As LDS women who are married to LDS men who identify as having a sexual addiction to pornography and masturbation, we desired to share something that would be helpful to those who are still in dating relationships.  The following are some of our top answers to the question, “What do you wish you would have known when you were dating?”

Because we wished we had known then, these are things that we want YOU to know NOW.  We hope you will take them into consideration when you find yourself in a serious dating relationship, and address these things before engagement and marriage.  We would also caution that young men, especially those who do not intentionally view pornography, would be wise to take these same points into consideration in their dating relationships, as the rate of sexual addiction among women is growing exponentially.

When I was dating, I wish I knew how important it was to be self-confident and to have courage to say what was in my heart even if it disappointed someone. I wish that I knew that it was more important to be true to myself then to sacrifice my morals to try to make someone else happy. It is always important to remember to not be afraid to offend Satan with truth-talk and fact-finding. I would have been braver to ask more questions about porn use: “When was the last time you saw pornography?”, “What do you think about pornography?”, “May I take a look at your phone?”, “What time did you go to bed last night?”

I wish I had known that even great, spiritual, temple-attending young men (and women) might have a “porn problem”…. that I should never just assume that I didn’t have to ask.

I wish I had known what questions I should have been asking, some more than once, in order to try to have an open, honest discourse about this topic.

I wish I had known that it is okay to ask questions about past mistakes….EVEN IF THEY HAVE BEEN REPENTED OF. I wish that I had been more upfront about my past struggles in my teen years. If I had been COURAGEOUS enough to bring up those things, I wonder what might have changed. Maybe my husband would have confessed, maybe not. But at least I would have done my part in being transparent, brutally honest, and vulnerable. Deep down, even though I had really changed, I thought that my future husband wouldn’t love me as much if I confessed those things to him. I rationalized that I had repented, was a “new creature” and so the old me was a different person…I didn’t have to bring it up. I’m sure those were some of the things my husband told himself, even though he hadn’t fully repented. I think that if a couple is seriously considering engagement, these types of things must be discussed (not even just sexual things, there are a lot of areas this could apply to).
My stake president was recently telling me about a book he had read where they suggested that if you could be blackmailed or would want to cover something up if it was going to be revealed, that means you need to disclose it. Perhaps that is a good rule to follow? I think full disclosure is so important for marriage.

I wish I had known that most LDS people who view porn will likely lie TO SOME DEGREE about it when asked. It is common for a first disclosure to not be a full disclosure.  So, don’t take anything for face value and don’t be embarrassed to ask probing questions.

Because of the shame around this addiction, I would not trust my ears but rather I would use my sixth sense and feel for what the Spirit has to say.  This is the invisible addiction but there are clues.  The addict may tell little lies in other areas of their lives, they may get angry when you talk about this subject, they don’t share their feelings easily, and they may not like anyone to touch their phone…

If the person you are dating is open to talking about the subject of pornography and brings it up on their own, then this is a good sign and if they have a problem with viewing pornography, they are still worthy of kindness and love.  However, getting married to someone with sexual addiction is not a decision to take lightly.  There is no quick fix to this problem and there are no words to describe how hard it can be to be married to someone with a sexual addiction.  You would have to know for sure from God that he or she was the right one for you. 

I wish I had known what addiction is–that it really has little to do with frequency of viewing; rather, addiction is best described by the idea that a person wishes to stop a certain maladaptive behavior, tells themselves they will stop, then finds themselves indulging in the behavior again.  This process repeated over and over is addiction.  I wish I had known how rampant this problem is, even among LDS men and women—that odds are, most of the men I dated, likely the majority, were struggling with this problem. 

I wish I had known that sobriety is not recovery.

I wish I had known where to go for reliable information on lust addiction (a.k.a. sex addiction/pornography/masturbation addiction) and betrayal trauma.  I wish I had known that while parents and ecclesiastical leaders such as bishops may be important support people in a recovery journey, they may not have adequate experience with this topic to give me and my loved one the information we need for true recovery.  We will probably have to do some work on our own and not be afraid to seek out resources ourselves (including qualified sexual addiction therapists and non-Church sponsored 12 step groups). 

I wish I had known that when I married someone with a lust addiction, we both were signing up for a lifetime of hard recovery work.  Even if he were to get into a place of long term sobriety and recovery, there is always the possibility that he could relapse, and in order to prevent that he will have to employ his recovery tools and do the necessary work day in and day out, week in and week out.  In order to get to a place of healing I will have to do the same.  Although this work is the most rewarding work I have ever done in my life and I am infinitely grateful to God for this learning opportunity, it has been very painful, and is not for the faint of heart.  It takes daily efforts, above and beyond prayer, scripture study, church and temple attendance.

I wish I had known that I deserve to be married to a man in recovery.  I wish I had known that marriage doesn’t fix this, it makes it harder.  If a man or woman is dragging their feet to repent and recover while dating–when the desire to impress is the greatest—it is very possible that things are only going to be worse after marriage.  I wish I had known that if I felt that I should end a relationship because of pornography use, that is a valid choice and completely okay.

Interested in reading further?  Check out the resources below:

For info on what questions to ask and how to discuss pornography in dating relationships, see Love, Trust, and Truth: Talking about Pornography When You’re Dating by Vauna Davis with SA LifelineBefore you Marry My Good-Hearted Son by the Hope and Healing Alliance #hopelds, and pages 28, 63-65, and 125 of Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction by SA Lifeline.

What is lust/sexual/pornography/masturbation addiction and how do I know if I or my loved one is addicted? See pages 39-42 of Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction by SA Lifeline, and these three posts at Rowboat and MarblesThe ABCs of Porn Addiction: An LDS ViewLDS View: Am I Addicted to Pornography?, andThe Mormon Working Man’s Definition of Porn Addiction.

How common is this problem? See page 37 of Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction by SA Lifeline, the results of Proven Men Ministries’ survey of Christian men regarding pornography use, and The Silent Seventy Percent of Men with a “Little Porn Problem” at Rowboat and Marbles.

If my children are currently dating or engaged, how can I discuss this topic with their future spouse?  SeeDiscussing Pornography With Your Future Son-in-law by Geoff Steurer, LMFT and Director of LifeStar St. George (we believe this discussion should also be had with future daughters-in-law)

Read Scab’s blog post on how to ask questions and listen when talking about sensitive topics, when the other person may be tempted to lie (points #4 and #5 are especially relevant to dating discussions)

What does “sobriety is not recovery” mean?  Being “Sober” Versus Being in “Recovery” by Sarah A. Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC discusses alcoholism, but like many addiction recovery concepts, it applies to sexual addiction as well.

Where can I go for reliable information on pornography addiction and betrayal trauma?

He Restoreth My Soul, by Dr. Donald Hilton (book)

http://www.salifeline.org/

http://www.hopeandhealinglds.com/

http://www.rowboatandmarbles.org/

https://overcomingpornography.org/?lang=eng

http://fightthenewdrug.org/

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know (see also the Meridian Magazine article; also featured on LDS Living)

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son (see also the Meridian Magazine article)

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn(see also the Meridian Magazine article, the Mormon Buzz article, the article on LDSLiving)

Fifth Post: What We Wish We had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Those In Recovery From Pornography Addiction

What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn

What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn

This is the third in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to [email protected] To see the previous post in the series, click here

“My spiritual armor was never complete until knowledge about fighting addiction became a part of my life.”

When I was a 24-year-old new mom I caught my husband looking at pornography on our computer for the very first time. I didn’t know anything about pornography addiction. The Internet was brand new.  Who knew this smut even existed on this thing called the World Wide Web? I naively believed him when he told me it was a two-month problem.  It never even crossed my mind that he could be an addict. I had absolutely no idea what follow-up questions to even ask him.

I needed an education on addiction, but that education would sadly have to wait another 16 years, until I caught him yet again. The evidence, coupled with all the talk I heard about addiction from my friends and on those 5th-Sunday lessons at church, finally opened my eyes. My husband was an addict.

How I wish I could go back in time, take my young, tender-hearted self out for ice cream, and say, “Oh Sweetie, sweetie, here’s what you need to understand. At least learn these three things. There is more to learn, but for now these three could change your life.”  

The first thing I needed to understand when I was 24 was this: Pornography is a branch on the addiction tree; it is not the addiction. The real addiction is lust.  Addicts feed their lust addiction with pornography. But an addict also feeds his (or her) lust addiction with other sexual habits: sexually explicit books, chat rooms, fantasies about women (or men), masturbation, sexually suggestive TV shows and movies. I thought I stopped my husband’s “little problem” after the first time I caught him because I controlled the password to our dinosaur-dial-up Internet service. Presto! No more pornography problem! What I didn’t realize was that all I did was cut off one of the branches. There were other branches he continued using to feed his lust addiction. Oh, and the pornography branch eventually grew back as well. The branches always grow back. You gotta chop down the lust tree, and then kill the roots of fear, shame, low self worth, and isolation.

The second thing my younger self needed to understand was: What exactly is an addiction? When does viewing pornography go from “just a little problem” to an addiction? Well, I don’t want to get bogged down in the clinical details of when bad behavior turns compulsive, someone else can do that, but here’s one very simple definition that cleared it all up for me: If he wants to stop, but always returns, a day later or a year later, it’s an addiction. Call it an addiction, a problem, or a bad habit. The remedy is the same. All bad habits or addictions require time and effort to solve. That’s what my 24-year self didn’t understand. I simply told my husband, “Just stop!”

“Just stop!” requires no effort on his part.

“Just stop!” doesn’t require him to end his isolation and seek out help.

“Just stop!” does not require a lifestyle change.

“Just stop!”’ doesn’t teach him why he does something he knows is wrong.

Saying, “Just stop!” was like wishing on a falling star. No matter how heartfelt my wish, the star kept falling and eventually crashed into something. It crashed into my heart the year I turned 40, shattering my world, shattering my marriage, shattering all trust I had in my husband. This “little problem” I thought was in the past turned out to be a decades-long  addiction.

The third thing I wish I understood is that most often pornography addictions start during adolescence. Yes, grown-mature-LDS men and women can start to view porn in adulthood, but it most often doesn’t work that way. Had I known this, I would have heard an alarm going off in my head when he said it was a two-month problem. Once caught, he tried to minimize the damage by getting me to believe this was a recent problem. I eventually learned my husband was just eleven years old when he was first exposed through a friend in his neighborhood. What does an eleven-year old boy know about what will ruin his life? His future marriage? Nothing. His brain was still developing. And so at the tender age of eleven, my husband found something to help him feel good, to comfort him, to help him cope with low self-esteem.

It would have been important for me to know that a young man’s emotional growth is stunted at the age he begins viewing pornography. My husband rarely shared his heartfelt thoughts with me. He was a great listener, but a lousy sharer. He was not able to be “emotionally intimate” with me because in reality he was still that eleven-year old boy. I was starving for emotional intimacy but I thought he was just a “typical guy.” And guys don’t usually share their feelings. Mine never did.

Over the years of our marriage, I very often did feel like I was starving for “emotional intimacy” but chose instead to focus on all the good he did–reading to the children, rubbing my feet, shoveling snow from the walkways at the widow’s house next door, being a good provider, serving faithfully in callings. Now, my 40-something self knows it is ok to expect my husband to open up his heart to me. That really isn’t asking too much. That’s a normal part of all healthy marriages.

Thankfully, it is never too late to change. I didn’t know any of these things in my twenties, but it’s never too late to learn. And thankfully it hasn’t been too late for my husband to learn. To grow a new heart. To change his brain. With specialized therapy, the LDS 12-Step program, strong boundaries and rules he set for himself, and accountability to others, he’s experienced nothing short of a complete lifestyle change. All these things have been crucial to becoming a new man. The man God always meant for him to be. There’s a spiritual war going on, not unlike the physical wars in The Book of Mormon. My spiritual armor was never complete until knowledge about fighting addiction became a part of my life. Don’t be afraid to learn more. Knowledge is empowering. Truth gave me hope. It gave us a second chance.

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know (see also the Meridian Magazine article; also featured on LDS Living)

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son

Fourth Post: What We Wish Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts (see also the Meridian Magazine article)

Fifth Post: What We Wish We had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Those In Recovery From Pornography Addiction

Before You Marry My Good-Hearted Son

Before You Marry My Good-Hearted Son

Image via HopeandHealingLDS.com.

This is the second in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to [email protected] To see the previous post in the series, click here

Sister Carol Stephens, in a recent Face to Face discussion, advised young women to consider whether or not their prospective spouse has a “good heart.” My son has a good heart. He loves to serve others. He earned his Eagle Scout award and served on the leadership council in high school. He served a successful full-time mission. He continues to serve in his student wards [congregations] and Young Single Adult (YSA) church programs. When he is not in school, he is diligently employed to fund his college education. He has a temple recommend and attends the temple regularly. My son is known and loved by many people, inside and outside of the church. He’s just a good guy. He has a good heart.

But . . .

My son struggles with viewing pornography.

You wouldn’t know about my son’s struggles unless you asked him. My son represents many other young men and women who wish to have a healthy eternal marriage, but know his or her past behaviors could jeopardize their most righteous desires.

There is always hope through Christ; recovery from this sexual sin is possible. Significant research shows that 12-step programs can assist individuals in learning how to reach out and use the power of Christ’s atonement in the process of recovery and repentance from habitual or compulsive behaviors.  Those who recognize and continually utilize the powerful love of Christ in their lives will have a Christ-like love in their own hearts. They will have good hearts.

In order to know the heart of my son, I hope his future mate will ask questions and engage in honest and open discussions about sensitive topics. I hope his future mate will not only listen to the content of his answers, but will also watch how he answers. She should note if he is defensive, tries to evade answering the questions, or becomes angry. Such responses are often associated with attempts to hide the truth. There is so much shame associated with pornography that even “good-hearted” individuals may find it difficult to be totally open about their behaviors.

I hope my son’s future companion will be understanding and approach these discussions with prayer and listen to her own good heart so that my son will feel safe to share confidential and very personal information with her.

I hope any future spouse, male or female, will approach their loved one with these types of questions:

When did you last view pornography? This should be a discussion starter and not simply answered with a calendar date. Avoid details about what was viewed, but the time, place, circumstances, and feelings about the incident(s) are important to know.  Follow-up questions could include: When you saw the pornography, what did you do? How often do you view pornography?

This discussion could help discern whether the viewing of pornography is intensive, compulsive, or occasional (read“Recovering from the Trap of Pornography” by Elder Oaks for more information). With few exceptions, men masturbate while viewing pornography, so questions about masturbation or self-arousal might be asked. The partner’s willingness to share personal information and become clean in every way of all sexual sin is important.

What are you currently doing to recover from the trap of pornography? If it is apparent that pornography is an issue, there should be a plan in place to combat the problem. Scripture study, prayer, and meeting with Priesthood leaders are starting points. Depending on the level of involvement, participation in 12-step programs through the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program or other organizations should be a serious consideration as well as professional therapy from a qualified therapist with expert knowledge on this matter.

Do you know the difference between lust and love? Most young people will struggle to explain this.  With the prevalence of sexual seduction in social media and other sources, couples need to have mutually clear expectations and understandings on this topic. Here is some helpful information from the August 2006 New Era:

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered this description of love: “True love elevates, protects, respects, and enriches another. It motivates you to make sacrifices for the [person] you love” (“Making the Right Choices,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 38).

Lust, on the other hand, is pretty much the exact opposite. Instead of elevating, it lowers. Instead of protecting, it endangers. Instead of enriching, it impoverishes. When you are feeling lust, you are thinking about the other person mainly as a means to satisfy your own physical desires. As Elder Scott taught: “Satan would promote counterfeit love, which is really lust. That is driven by hunger to satisfy personal appetite” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 38).

What other pre-marital sexual activities have you been involved with? Individuals deeply immersed in the world of pornography sometimes engage in pre-marital sex and other serious sexual behaviors such as voyeurism, reading arousing literature, or obsessive sexual fantasies. This is an opportunity for both parties to be honest about their pasts and begin a relationship based on transparent and open communication.

I pray that any young woman who considers marrying my son will trust her heart and listen to the Spirit. She needs to know that the struggle with pornography is real and marriage does not make it go away. Sister Stephens gave very wise counsel:

“Do you know how the Spirit speaks to you? Because you’re going to need to know. You’re going to have to have the Spirit really close to you, to be able to work together on that, and to be able to discern whether this is going to work or not” (Face to Face for YSA).

There is always hope through Christ and He can be there to help couples work together as they battle the plague of pornography and sexual sin. Before marrying my son, I hope a righteous young woman will have the courage to ask hard questions, listen with understanding, and then follow the Spirit to know the next step to take in the relationship. That is my hope for all young couples.

~Avalon Vic

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn

Fourth Post: What We Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts

Fifth Post: What We Wish We had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Those In Recovery From Pornography Addiction

What Wives of Sex Addicts Want You to Know

What Wives of Sex Addicts Want You to Know

“If we find out that someone we are dating or someone we are serious about has an issue with pornography, should we continue to date them or should we run? What should we do?’”

In the recent Face to Face meeting held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, for young single adults (YSAs) with Elder Holland, Elder Hallstrom, and Sister Stephens, there were, not surprisingly, a lot of questions from YSAs about marriage and dating. It’s clear that the faithful young adults of the Church care about marriage because they know this doctrine matters in the plan of salvation. I think it’s safe to say that, aside from the Atonement of Jesus Christ, there is nothing that is more central to Mormon doctrine than the doctrine of the family.

It’s clear from the questions asked that young adults are also nervous about marriage. They see marriages failing around them and they want to avoid that heartbreak if at all possible. They realize that pornography is one of the things contributing to failing marriages.

Sister Stephens was the one who answered the question of what to do about dating someone who has an issue with pornography. The question: “Should we continue to date them or should we run?” She did a lot of pondering and scripture reading prior to the meeting as she considered what to say on this topic.

Interestingly, in 2011, Sister Julie B. Beck counseled a young woman to end a relationship if she had any hint that pornography might be a problem. However, where statistics now tell us that essentially 100% of young people will see pornography in some form by age 18, running at any mention of pornography in a dating relationship could be a hasty, if not potentially problematic decision.

In addition, young people who aren’t talking about pornography (who are just looking for hints, just trying to guess or surmise or hope against hope) may be more at risk than those who are willing to be honest in a serious relationship — addiction thrives in secrecy and silence, and sometimes lives under a layer of denial. (“Oh, that is all in my past now. Don’t worry about it.”)

Besides, we all need to learn how to talk about pornography — not just in dating, but as married couples, as parents, as grandparents, as friends and sisters and brothers in the gospel.

Thus, I think Sister Stephens brings some important counsel to the conversation. The problem isn’t necessarily exposure to porn (even repeated exposure, although that should give one pause); time and experience have taught us collectively that the issue is what a person chooses to do about a pornography problem.

This is what I think Sister Stephens was trying to address. She posed an important question back to the audience in response to the question above, after talking about Alma and his son, Corianton.

“Would you give up on a Corianton? But let me clarify that by saying this: What’s in the heart? Are you dating someone who has a good heart, who is honest about it, who’s willing to work with you, who’s willing to go to…12 steps…and to really study the scriptures? …Can you work through this together? What’s the condition of his [her] heart? I think that’s where a lot of this decision will come.”

She continues to talk about Corianton. “I think Corianton got it,” she says, because it says in Alma 48:17 that “Alma and his sons were all men of God” That verse also talks about how such power can shake the power of the devil and hell.

The perspective that Sister Stephens presents is an important one because, as was already stated, the Atonement is central to Mormon doctrine. We are all works in progress, and we all need the Savior, and a young man or woman who is desiring to follow God and is truly willing to do what it takes to overcome a pornography problem is one who should not be overlooked quickly. Repentance is real, and the Atonement is real.

Sister Stephens also reminds young adults that personal revelation is critical:

“I would also ask you…. Do you know how the Spirit speaks to you? Because you are going to need to know. You’re going to have to have the Spirit really close to you to be able to work together on that, and to be able to discern whether this is going to work or not.”

Still, what is a young adult to do? Pornography is serious, and it can and does ruin relationships. Anyone who minimizes that reality is someone who might not be a good marriage partner.

Besides, what does it take to overcome a pornography problem?

Sadly, statistics as reported in Don Hilton’s book, He Restoreth My Soul show that more than 90% of returned missionaries who had a problem before their missions will return to pornography — not because their hearts aren’t good, but because they never really learned how not to start using pornography and masturbation as a way to cope when life gets hard. People sometimes think pornography use is about sex. Repeated use of pornography is typically about numbing stress, fear, boredom, etc. Learning not to start the behavior again means learning healthier ways to face the normal stresses of life — something we all need to learn along the way.

So what should a young adult (or adult) know in order to make a wise and informed decision about dating someone who has had issues with pornography?

The women at the Hope and Healing Forum — women who themselves have lived as wives of those with pornography problems — are preparing a series of posts to offer some of their experience and perspective to this conversation. They hope this might be helpful for young adults in the dating and courting stage of life.

Not everyone who is exposed to pornography will have an addiction, but here at Hope and Healing, we submit that everyone should be educated about sexual addiction. Whether or not you marry (or have married) someone who has had a pornography problem, getting educated about addiction will help you as you raise your children in our sex-saturated world, and might help you minister to others in need. There is a lot of silent suffering happening around us, in part because there is a lot of ignorance about sexual addiction.

For example, can you answer the following questions?

  • When do the seeds of compulsive pornography use usually form? (Hint: it’s not in adulthood)
  • What does lust addiction look like? (Hint: it’s not just identified by pornography use (although porn is a good indicator) and can sometimes exist without pornography use.)
  • How do compulsive/addictive behaviors impact the brain?
  • How does compulsive or addictive behavior impact marriage and family relationships and dynamics?
  • What can someone who can’t stop starting unwanted sexual behaviors or thoughts do to find recovery? (Hint: prayer and scriptures and bishop visits alone are rarely sufficient to produce lasting recovery)
  • What is the difference between sobriety and recovery? What does white-knuckling mean? What does it look like? What does lasting recovery look like?
  • What resources are available for loved ones of those with addiction? Why do they need resources at all if they aren’t the ones with the addiction?
  • What does healing for a loved one look like?

I am excited for the series of posts that the women from the forum are preparing to share. They hope that others will be able to “be more wise than [they] have been,” engaging the dating process with more knowledge and understanding than they had. The experience these women have can also shed light on the hope and healing available to those already in relationships where repeated pornography use and masturbation (or other lust-as-drug behaviors) have taken their toll.

Our prophets extend a continuous clarion call to stand for marriage and family. I am involved in this work because I believe that being armed with knowledge about sexual compulsion and addiction is one of the ways I can answer that call. Being informed about sexual addiction has made me a much more deliberate mother, and I hope a better friend, sister in the gospel, and woman of virtue.

Sister Beck once said that “Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially.” She also talked about women being lionesses at the gate of their homes. The women who have walked in and are walking in the trenches with the effects of pornography in their marriages and homes are, to me, pioneers who can help other women in their relationships and homes, and help turn the tide of this plague.

I hope you will be able to benefit as I have from hearing the stories of these women, and learning from them what sometimes only experience can teach.

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son (see also the Meridian Magazine article)

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn(see also the Meridian Magazine article, the Mormon Buzz article, the article on LDSLiving)

Fourth Post: What We Wish Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts (see also the Meridian Magazine article)

One Day at a Time

When I came to my very first 12-step meeting the person conducting introduced himself, told us about his length of sobriety (five years) and then proceeded to tell us how he was struggling with some of his weaknesses. I was a little baffled by the fact that he was still struggling after five years of sobriety. After five years? I couldn’t manage a week without major willpower and resolution. How was I going to get five years, or a month? How would I change my life forever? How could I repent of this and tell my wife with all my heart that I would never do this again? How could I promise “never again”? I had said it so many times and failed that I knew what I was facing was far greater than what I thought was possible. In reality it was impossible. Yes, I had come to the realization that this was impossible, I had failed too many times. What could I do?

The answer came to me slowly, it began with a small seed of faith that I would find the answer. Among my failures, my reality- the answer, finally became clear.

“This is impossible for you, it is not impossible for Me.”

The Savior had healed the sick, and restored sight to the blind. He had raised the dead. He had quieted the sea and had conquered death.

So the question for me was, would he heal me? I had done so much wrong, was he even aware of me, would he care?

It is hard for me to convey the answer in words, but it is definitely, Yes! He loves us in a way we cannot even begin to understand, because he bled for you and for me. He knows us intimately and this whole earth and our lives were created for one purpose and one purpose only, because He loves us. Wematter to him in ways we cannot imagine. My journey and yours is to feel His love and care for us. He will guide you through this process and you will see and then know that His grace is the bridge between the possible and the impossible.

I always believed that my addiction, this weakness, was a curse to me. That was until I beheld the miracle that slowly took place in my life and the lives of others. I don’t know if I would have had this experience without first going through the darkness of my addiction.

The promise that he “will make weak things become strong unto them” does not mean that I will not have this problem anymore, as I once thought. It means that my experience makes me humble enough to rely upon his power, of his love for me, his awareness that I matter to him and then “together” we are strong. When I face other insurmountable problems, he is still there and aware of me.

But how do I face the reality that tomorrow is another day and that I will have the worldly challenges that make my addiction so appealing? How do I never do this again? The answer for me was that I don’t. I don’t face this with the attitude that I will never act out again. I cannot say that to myself, because I don’t know what tomorrow brings. All I can do is work the best I can today. If I fail tomorrow, I will work on it tomorrow. Today is really the most important day of my life, because it was given to me to do my part. I have to break down my task into twenty-four hour periods, and sometimes even smaller increments.

For me the past is gone. I cannot change it. The future is only a dream, all I have is today. Can I stay sober just today? It may seem impossible, as some have said, “it seems I will die if I don’t act out.”

Understanding and internalizing the concept that this is a one day at a time program will change your life. Not understanding this concept will impede your progress. I remember hearing this concept and wondering what the big deal was with the one day a time theme until it finally became clear as I heard Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve relate the following in a conference talk:

Recently, I read about Erik Weihenmayer, a 33-year-old man who dreamed of climbing Mount Everest, a feat that defies many of the world’s most expert climbers. In fact, nearly 90 percent of those who attempt the climb never reach the summit. Temperatures sink lower than 30 degrees below zero. Besides extreme cold, 100-mile-per-hour winds, deadly crevasses, and avalanches, the climber must overcome the challenges of high altitude, lack of oxygen, and perhaps unsanitary food and water. Since 1953, at least 165 climbers have died in the attempt to scale the 29,000-foot-high summit.

In spite of the risks, hundreds line up each year to make the ascent, Erik among them. But there is an important difference between Erik and every other climber who had attempted to ascend before: Erik is totally blind.

When Erik was 13 years of age, he lost his sight as a result of a hereditary disease of the retina. Although he could no longer do many of the things he wanted to, he was determined not to waste his life feeling depressed and useless. He then began to stretch his limits.

At age 16 he discovered rock climbing. By feeling the face of the rock he found handholds and footholds that allowed him to climb. Sixteen years later he began his ascent up Mount Everest. The story of his climb, as you might imagine, was filled with many harrowing and life-threatening challenges. But Erik eventually scaled the south summit and took his place with those who had gone before him, one of the few to stand on top of the highest mountain on the face of the earth.

When asked how he did it, Erik said, “I just kept thinking … keep your mind focused. Don’t let all that doubt and fear and frustration sort of get in the way.” Then, most importantly, he said, “Just take each day step by step.”

Yes, Erik conquered Everest by simply putting one foot in front of the other. And he continued to do this until he reached the top.

Like Erik, we may have obstacles that would hold us back. We may even make excuses why we can’t do what we want to do. Perhaps when we are tempted to justify our own lack of achievement, we can remember Erik, who, in spite of having lost his sight, accomplished what many thought was impossible simply by continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

An old proverb states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Sometimes we make the process more complicated than we need to. We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be. We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.

The same principle applies to how you and I can climb to higher heights spiritually.

Our Heavenly Father knows that we must begin our climb from where we are. “When you climb up a ladder,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them.”

Our Heavenly Father loves each one of us and understands that this process of climbing higher takes preparation, time, and commitment. He understands that we will make mistakes at times, that we will stumble, that we will become discouraged and perhaps even wish to give up and say to ourselves it is not worth the struggle.

We know it is worth the effort, for the prize, which is eternal life, is “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” And to qualify, we must take one step after another and keep going to gain the spiritual heights we aspire to reach.

An eternal principle is revealed in holy writ: “It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize.”

We don’t have to be fast; we simply have to be steady and move in the right direction. We have to do the best we can, one step after another.

I realized that my journey seemed as impossible as climbing Mount Everest. That I could not promise that I would not do this again but I could promise that I would not act out today. I could do that. I am very grateful that my wife was able to live with that promise even though I know she would have preferred the words, “never again,” rather than, “I will not do it today”.

With that thought in mind, I started my impossible journey and soon reached eight months of sobriety. A strong sobriety, much better than the white knuckle one-year sobriety I had in the past. But after eight months I acted out again, however this time I was not discouraged. It was not the same as in the past.

I had heard others say, “now I have to start all over again,” really? Is it all over again? Or had I learned some new things, had I not seen His hand, His grace in my life? I had 243 good days and 1 bad day. Is it really “all over again”? Or is that the voice of the diabolical peanut gallery, the dark spirit that I had heeded to often.

I did not give heed to my discouraging thoughts and realized that I could do this one day at the time and that one day was soon 4,745 days or 13 years. Some days that twenty-four hour period seemed so difficult, but after a while most days were uneventful.

I soon realized I wasn’t just fighting my addiction but was in reality facing other character defects. I would work on my life and my challenges the same way I worked on my lust. One day at a time, big problems or little problems. I worried less about the future, accepting His will for me this day. I sought to develop a “new heart” and new character:

“We use the word Character to name a person’s constancy over time in doing what honestly seems to be right. We can grow in constancy, and it is our choice alone to decide whether or not we will. And we do so by quietly accepting and doing the right thing in the present moment— and then in the next moment, and after that in the next,and so on without end.”
– Bonds pg. 233

Quoting from the AA book, page 85:

“We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities. “How can I best serve Thee – Thy will (not mine) be done.” These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.

One moment at a time, one day at a time. Agency is as constant in our lives as breathing, every moment we can chose to do what leads us to a better life or to misery. What can you do in the next moment that will bring you closer to Him?

Surrender

My life before recovery looked something like this: Every time the craving for my addiction hit me I felt I had two options: act on it and feel miserable afterwards or use all the willpower I could and not act on it (until the next time). This brought me to the realization that no matter how many times I would be able to resist in the moment, I knew that right around the corner I would have to man up again with the great possibility that this time I would act out. That would bring feelings of discouragement and then my will power would weaken and like a self-fulfilling prophecy I would act out more easily the next time. This created a vicious circle with which we are all too familiar.

I thought I only had two options, do it or not do it. I didn’t know that there was a third option, what we call “surrender.”

When we attend 12 steps groups we hear others with lengthy sobriety talk a lot about surrender, “surrender my right to lust in this situation….” or “I surrendered to God that look.” What? What does surrender mean?

I’ll explain this concept, which took me a while to understand, but like so many concepts in our healing process, you will gain through the help of the Spirit your own understanding of surrendering as you move towards a change of heart.

When we talk about surrendering we are not talking about stopping the addiction but how to not start again. Again, surrendering is more about how to find ways to stop the addiction from starting again. It takes very little to stop a train from rolling but once it gets moving it’s over.

We practice surrender when we give up the right to have a computer without filters, using a computer when alone or having a phone with access to the internet. We practice surrender when instead of giving in and turning our head to look at someone, we talk to the Lord in silent prayer. We surrender when instead of indulging in pornography we call someone in the group and get out of that thought.

From the White Book:

“Most of us had tried stopping countless times. The problem is we couldn’t stay stopped; we had never surrendered. So, the first time the craving hits again, when we get the urge for a fix, we give it up, even though it feels like we will die without it. And at times, in our frame of mind, the craving may seem stronger than ever. But we don’t fight it like we used to; that was always a losing battle, giving it more strength to fight back. Neither do we feed or give in to it. We surrender. We win by giving up. Each time.”

At this time we simply acknowledge our powerlessness. We pick up the phone, we ask for help, we go to a meeting. We talk to God. We even admit we may not fully want victory over lust; most of us don’t (always) have pure motives in wanting to stay sober.

There is power in the humility of admitting that we cannot do it in our own. There is power in acknowledging to God and to another human being that we are powerless over our weakness by admitting this to God and to another human being.

Some of us have become more comfortable talking to God about our addiction than to another person in the group, but if you really want recovery it is essential that in the crucial moment of domination by lust, we pick up the phone and talk to another human being and surrender our obsession at that moment. What a power this brings!

Again from the White Book:

“The first time we walk through the stress of withdrawal without resorting to the drug, we discover that we don’t die without that fix. Instead, we feel better, stronger, that maybe there’s hope. We talk about the temptation in a phone call or/and at the next meeting and tell all. Total honesty. Telling the deep truth in an attitude of surrender helps break the power the memory of the incident holds over us. And if we are hit with lust again, we keep coming back and talking it out regardless of how shameful and defeated we feel. We’ve all been there; we know how it feels. We also know the release and joy that surrender brings as we come back into the light.”

There is power in humility.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness, I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me…”

The first time that I practiced this principal of surrender and didn’t die (sometimes I thought I would die unless I acted out), was the first time that I felt grace in my life. I felt a new power was working on me, allowing me to let that craving pass like a ship in a storm and feel the sunlight return. I wanted that again. But I was the one who had to take that first step of surrendering in humility to another human being and to God.

Because we live with “the god of this world” one of the thoughts that often comes to my mind is the fact that Satan is saying, “that was great today, your surrender was a good thing but, you know, I’ll be back. How many times do you think you can stop the storm?”

Later on we will talk about the importance of taking our lives one day at the time. To break down our journey into a 24 hour period and only worrying about the surrender process for today and not focusing on “I will never do this again”. As the Savior said, “take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient the day is the evil thereof”

When we first start in the program of recovery we usually think it is all about a sexual addiction. As we gain more understanding we realize that it is more about lust. Some in the group will say I’m not a sexaholic as much as I am a lustaholic. Lust is the power behind the addiction. But as we gain more understanding we also realize that lust is propelled by what I call negative emotions: resentment, fear, jealousy, rejection, self-pity and other weaknesses we will discuss later. Sometimes, while not necessarily looking for anything sexual, we get hit by one of these negative emotions, we may feel rejected or hurt in some way and of course we know how to make ourselves feel better, and quickly. We may feel even deserving of our fix.

Let’s go back to the White Book:

“Sooner or later the urge strikes again, sometimes out of nowhere, like a tidal wave crashing over us.

Often it begins in the privacy of our innermost thoughts, when we are alone, when we’re living inside our head and the emotions we could never face overwhelm us. So what do we do? Naturally, we want to reach for the drug again; that’s what we programmed ourselves to do. Instead, we surrender. Again. Just like the first time. And the cry for help goes up again: “I’m powerless, please help me.”

And we take the action of getting out of ourselves and making contact with another member. As soon as possible. The closer to the heat of the action the better. We use the phone. We make the call. Not because we want to, because we don’t want to. We call because we know we have to. Our survival instinct comes to life. And we go to a meeting as soon as possible.”

At times we may think this is too drastic saying, “this time I can take care of things myself,” or “if I call this late I will be bothering him,” or “I don’t need to talk to anybody this time, it’s not that big of a deal.”

No matter how long my sobriety is and how I may think sometimes that I got this, I came to realize that this program is all about humility and that no, I don’t “got this.” I need to surrender. Humility is at the root of the issue and waiting until I need to call a lumberjack is not a good option.

Again the White Books quotes:

“When the craving hits again, we repeat this surrender at the very point of our terror, in the pit of our hell. For that is where the admission of powerlessness really works, when we are in the raw heat of temptation and craving. Again, it’s the change of attitude and perspective that brings relief. Instead of, “I have to have it or I’ll die,” our attitude becomes, “I give up, I’m willing NOT to have it, even if I do die.”

And we don’t die! We get a reprieve. Again. For seconds, minutes, hours perhaps even days and weeks. The tidal wave is spent. The craving passes. And we are okay. We are learning the program maxim “One day at a Time”.”

The realization slowly dawns on us that we may always be subject to temptation and powerlessness over lust. We come to see that it is all right to be tempted and feel absolutely powerless over it as long as we can obtain the power to overcome through surrender, “by His grace.” The fear of our vulnerability gradually diminishes as we stay sober and work the Steps. We can look forward to the time when the obsession-not the temptations-will be gone. We will have a choice.

We begin to see that there is no power over the craving in advance; we have to work this as it happens each time. One day at a time. Therefore, each temptation, every time we want to give in to lust or any other negative emotion, is a GIFT toward recovery, healing and finding union with God.

Think about it. How can something that was so bad now be so good? Each temptation gives us the opportunity, one day at the time, one temptation at the time, to connect with our Father in Heaven, to feel His grace.

I remember years ago a situation that created a great temptation for me, I did call my sponsor but I also found myself connecting through prayer over 27 times in one day in order to not dwell on this particular thought. That day was difficult yet it provided me an experience, that even these many years later, I remember with sweet memory. It did pass and I didn’t act on it.

Surrender is a constant thing, practice, day by day, hour by hour. When put into practice often, it becomes habitual. That is how we receive an attitude change, the different perspective that lets the grace of God enter our hearts to expel the obsession. And isn’t this true for our other character defects or negative emotions? Can you imagine surrendering to God in prayer every time you feel resentful against someone that has hurt you? Or admit powerlessness to your wife for your temper? How would our lives change if we recognized our negative emotions and brought them to God in prayer 24/7.

Sometimes we cannot imagine what our lives would be without our negative emotions, but you don’t have to for now, we move into this program progressively, one day at time.

I knew that the 12 Steps, when applied, would truly help me change. Though I hated my life in addiction I just didn’t know what it would be like without it. We prefer the devil we know than the devil (or the Savior) we don’t know, right? But that is where faith comes in, that is where we are tested in the basic, simple, first principal of the gospel, “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are asked to give up our little “blankie” while asking, “What lack I yet?” and we come to know. And this in not just about lust, it is about the little (and not really so little) weaknesses in our lives.

From the White Book:

“Surrender is giving up of something specific. Of course, we all had to give up the right to think and practice our habits. What we didn’t realize was that we come to this crossroads burdened with a load of other negative attitudes. We found that if we tried surrendering our lust while holding on to our resentment, anger, pride, or dependency, for example, it didn’t work.”

Surrender is not only the key to the Twelve Step program and sexual sobriety, but to a joyous and purposeful life with others.