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 hopeandhealinglds(at)gmail(dot)com.
Keep following our series at hopeandhealinglds.com #HopeLDS or ldsmag.com, as we may address your questions in future posts.
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 only 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.
–The Hope and Healing Alliance
Other posts in the series:
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)