When one is personally affected by someone else’s pornography addiction, it is very normal to feel angry, hurt, confused, and more. And so this post is not meant to minimize the painful impact of addiction on a loved one.
But it’s also important as one works through one’s own healing to try to come to understand more about the nature of addiction, and how shaming an addict or trying to just tell him to stop really won’t help. This is something he needs help overcoming, and having compassion from people around him can help him feel the hope that he can find healing himself.
Dr. John Mark Chaney said the following, which applies equally to teens as well as to adults who struggle with addiction:
Professionals sometimes fail to understand the power of the compulsion youth are facing, and it is not uncommon for school, religious, or private-sector professionals to advocate a simple treatment plan that is based upon willpower or moral character. Since pornography can be an addiction, these “just say no” types of approaches are likely to only create more frustration and self-defeating ideation . . . the intervention and treatment modality must recognize the problem as a full addiction, and treat it with the same consideration given to alcohol or chemical substances.
What can apply for professionals and others can also apply for loved ones. When you realize that this really is its own type of addiction, you can understand that “their behavior is less about what they are doing to [you] and more about the bondage that has entrapped them.” Recognizing that “addiction surrenders…freedom to choose” might help you realize that they aren’t trying to hurt you. They just likely don’t know how to stop.
As you work through your own healing, pray that you can come to a point where you can have compassion for your loved one’s situation. That doesn’t mean enabling or facilitating wrong behavior. But a little understanding can go a long way.
Jeffrey R. Holland (when president of Brigham Young University) said:
“When a battered, weary swimmer tries valiantly to get back to shore, after having fought strong winds and rough waves which he should never have challenged in the first place, those of us who might have had better judgment, or perhaps just better luck, ought not to row out to his side, beat him with our oars, and shove his head back underwater.”
But don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t there yet. Your healing will take time, too as you learn to “let go and let God” and work to step out of your survival behaviors can be their own form of ensnarement. Know that there are many who understand and are walking this path. Reach out to someone who understands (such as on our forum, or in a 12-step support group), and work your own recovery. The compassion can gently find a way into your heart as you do. For now, if you can’t yet feel it, just try to leave a space for it.
(Some of the references listed above were found in this article.)