Brian Armstrong is a clinical social worker at LDS Family Services in charge of the counseling and addiction recovery programs. As we continue our discussion on various types of addictions this month, highlighted in our new Mormon Channel video series, 12 Steps to Change, Brian shares his insights with us on how you can best overcome a pornography addiction.
What works when it comes to treating pornography addiction? You may have asked this question for yourself or for a loved one. Here are some of my observations as a mental health professional.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity of co-facilitating a pornography treatment group. The participants were all college-age men, some single, some married, and all struggling with pornography. They were asked to make a list of all the things they had tried in order to overcome this issue. Someone wrote the answers on a board, and by the end of the exercise the entire board was filled. Responses included using filters on computers, using accountability software, staying busy, changing your thoughts, exercising, hanging out with friends, praying, fasting, reading your patriarchal blessing, receiving priesthood blessings, meeting with the bishop, working with a counselor, attending 12-step support meetings, and on and on. When asked if any of these things worked, most of the participants said, “Yes, but I still struggle.”
When we’re struggling with anything, it’s important to realize that we are complicated people. We need to employ many solutions to solve a difficulty that affects multiple parts of who we are. Many people who are trying to stop looking at pornography focus on treating the symptoms rather than getting to the root of the problem.
Your body knows exactly what it needs, and it gives you a feeling of satisfaction when its needs are met. We experience this with food, water, and sleep. When we have hunger pangs, we eat and the pain goes away. When we’re sleepy and get a good night’s sleep, we’re rested and alert. But pornography is a counterfeit; looking at pornography is often an attempt to fill a need in a way it wasn’t intended to be met. For example, you might think, “I’m bored. Maybe I should look at porn” or “I’m feeling lonely. That doesn’t feel very good. I’ll think this lustful thought instead.” But one of the big problems is that pornography never satisfies. The reason, of course, is because looking at pornography doesn’t meet the inner need that led you to the behavior in the first place. So what is the inner need? What are people really looking for in pornography? In my experience counseling with men and women who struggle with pornography, most of the time they’re looking for a feeling of connectedness.
We all have a need to feel connected to others. So if you or someone you know is trying to stop viewing pornography, reaching out to others for help is something small that can make a big difference. Let someone know what’s happening in your life, and take an interest in theirs. Most of us who have had the experience of feeling genuinely cared for know the power that can come from feeling loved. Connection heals and fills us to the very center, decreasing the desire to look at pornography. Addiction recovery meetings are a great place to connect with others who are also working toward being free from pornography.
If you’re seeking connection but don’t have anyone immediately available, the good news is that you can always reach out by praying to God. He is the best connection you can have, and He gave His Son so the Savior’s grace can sustain you when you struggle and need help. What a blessing it is to feel the sweet satisfaction of wholeness and connection. This is something that pornography will never be able to provide.
The next time you have a lustful heart or are tempted to look at pornography, start by reaching out to others. You may find it helps more than you realize.
To learn more about how you can find help, hope, and healing in dealing with pornography use, visit OvercomingPornography.org and watch the new Mormon Channel series 12 Steps to Change.