For starters, I frequent an “LDS” forum where I posted about Bill Reel’s interview of me and asking for other thoughts about it. Thus far, it’s been very positive. But I had one poster give a heartfelt response that I had to respond to. Here it is:
I had recently discovered your blog a few weeks ago while searching for hope that my husband will be able to overcome his lust and porn addiction. Coincidentally, I saw this thread and noticed that you were the guy from the blog I have been reading. I have to admit, that was the first podcast I have ever listened too.
Please forgive me if I sound unsympathetic or judgmental. I respect your tenacity and commitment to straighten out your life. It was a great interview and you have worked very hard to make yourself worthy to be re baptized.
My husband’s actions of being involved with lust/pornography have left me pretty beat up emotionally. He kept it a secret from me for almost 13 years until he exposed himself last year (we are approaching our 14 year anniversary). My 18 year old step-son who lives with us is also addicted to lust/porn and has been since he was really young. It’s heartbreaking.
My goal that I wanted to achieve from listening to your interview was, to have a better understanding from the addicts view so I can stop being so hurt by my husband and be more understanding.
As I was listening, I felt bad for the little boy that was innocently exposed to pornography. I was upset that your childhood was robbed because of an inappropriate image and felt sorry that had happened to you. As the story progresses my feelings of sadness went to frustration as to why you weren’t getting help and stopping this behavior. You knew that it was wrong and yet you still continued to hide it. (sorry) I think it was great that you were able to serve a worthy mission! …and then your back at it. I hate the sin but not the sinner. You sounded so sincere when you were speaking of your ex-wife. I thought that was really neat. I guess, I expected you to be resentful that she didn’t stick by your side and help you through this mess that you had gotten yourself into. I appreciate your comments about how your stake president was a great help to your wife and that often times we focus on the sinner and forget about the ones affected.
I go to the church 12-step program with my husband but haven’t found much help. I feel that there should be a different manual written for the people that have been affected by the addict. I wish my Bishop would call me in and check on me. I haven’t told anyone of my husbands or sons problem and I feel alone in trying to deal with this.
Back to you… Every time you mentioned that you would slip up, I wanted to shake you (sorry). Why does it have to take so long to overcome? Was your fight not strong enough or is it that hard to overcome? I think your journey back to the church is very respectable. Despite your life being a complete mess you still found hope and faith that through the Atonement, you could be healed. Awesome, I admire your faith and trust (can I borrow some). Then, overtime you get a stake calling. Wow, he must be a pretty amazing guy that you were entrusted with this calling and over technology of all things. When you said it was a calling over technology my first reaction was, are they crazy? Keep him away from technology. Obviously, those men were inspired to call you and you have done a great job. I might not sure if I should have laughed but I did when you were being speaking about being re baptized and you had a slip up. That the stake president wanted to be done with you and preform a baptism for the dead for you.
After much hard work on your part, you made it. You were found worthy to be re baptized. Thank you for your testimony, it really touched me that we can all be healed. Congratulations!! So, it is possible. Do I have a better understanding? NO, but maybe I never will and just need to accept what has happened. I wish I could ask some personal questions about how you feel about lust and porn today but I don’t want to be disrespectful (I’m sure you are thinking that I have already been, sorry) I am grateful that I can across your story and that you have been willing to share it. Thank you and great job!!
Disclaimer: Sorry for any typos, I don’t have time to proofread before I post this
This poster really speaks for the experience the spouses and parents go through when they have to see and deal with a loved one who has turned to pornography. Because I really appreciated and respected this poster for telling us this, I wanted to give a thoughtful response. Thus, it took a while to really think about how I would reply and this is what I posted in responce:
…, sorry I’ve taken so long to respond to your post but I wanted to really think about my response to it. So hang on, this is going to be a long answer:
There was no disrespect in your post at all. It’s how you feel and there’s no judgment on my part, especially being the one who is the victim. Two things before I answer your post:
1) The church’s Addiction Recovery Program is coming out with a manual like Addiction Recovery Program: A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing manual for the support group. It’s been in the works for a while now and the last update we got from the person in charge is that the previous manual was checked over by a General Authority and it was found lacking. So they’re going through it and re-working it. Stay tuned, it will be out. In the mean time, check out the church’s ARP website.
2) If you want a good understanding about this addiction, I suggest you purchase He Restoreth my Soul by Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD. It’s the best book that explains pornography and sex addiction with an eye on the gospel (yes, the author is LDS).
That being said…
The interview only showed a glimmer of what my life had been like and all the reasons why I have a sexual addiction. But you, in a way, ask a very simple question with a very complex answer; “You knew it was wrong, why didn’t you just stop?” In the interview, I gave the answer that I didn’t have anything else to substitute for it. I didn’t have the skills to deal with life and I didn’t have the necessary boundaries appropriately set. So when the stress of life, work, church, etc hit me, the only way I knew how to relax was to turn to sex and porn. I was trying to control my out-of-control mind. To further expand on that, I’ll add that It wasn’t until I learned three things that I was able to begin to set appropriate boundaries and find other ways to control my inner turmoil. These were:
1) Sex is optional. It’s counter-intuitive for an addict, it’s the same as telling a person to stop breathing. Believe it or not, it was a shock to learn that one.
2) Sex is only for two things 1- Procreation, 2- the bonding of a man and woman within the bound of marriage. Nothing else. This concept is what helped me reset my boundaries with pornography and how I viewed other women around me. No longer were they objects to be used but daughters of God that I had no right-at-all to abuse mentally. They were now out-of-bounds.
3) The Serenity Prayer: I only have control over two things 1 – how proactive I am, 2 – how reactive I am. Proactive which prayer and meditating, reading scriptures and good books, listening to good music, education and giving service. Reactive which is when I do get an urge to act out, where am I going to direct my energy? These led me to be able to let things go. It takes a whole lot more to offend me now than it did before because I now know that what other people do is beyond my control. Only how I react to it.
I also believe you need to understand that the issues of pornography abuse by your husband and son (depending on his age) are not your issues; it is theirs and theirs alone. You cannot get lost in trying to fix them. For my former wife, she had to learn to stop mothering me. It was a difficult lesson, especially when I would come whining for help but she needed to set the boundary where my behavior did not affect her. And with that, I had to learn to take care of the consequences of my behavior on my own. She was, and is still there to lend a shoulder to cry on and vent to. But she gives no advice and no council unless I specifically ask what her opinion is and letting her know that I’m not asking for her to fix it, I just need another mind to help me think through it. These days, she’s ok with giving me advice because I have learned to not lay any blame at her feet if it goes wrong. My choice, my consequences. My ex-wife and I are still good friends and talk all the time.
I should also clarify that she did stick by me. She stayed with me through some very dark times. If it wasn’t for her, I would be dead. But she also had to take care of the children and protect them. Thus, the divorce. But it was as amicable as it could get. We even filled out the paperwork together. No attorneys, no court dates, no fights. It was over and I knew it so I accepted it and it turned out that my lack of fighting for our relationship has, in a way, saved our relationship and my children’s.
Along with my sex and porn addiction, I also am an alcoholic (8-years dry). I learned that to avoid the triggers I need to stay away from it. So I don’t go to bars, I don’t walk down the liquor isles in the market and if I go to company parties, I let others know that I am an alcoholic and how long I’ve been sober so they know not to offer it to me and I have no way of sneaking in a drink. So far, I’ve been very successful because the temptation to drink, while it is still there, is not overwhelming. It’s a fleeting thought.
It’s the same with pornography but the difference is that I can’t avoid it. Just searching for a nice cover to use for my Facebook page turned up some topless women (and that’s with safe search selected). And no, computer filters don’t work because I know how to defeat them. Just as it took decades to discipline myself to not drink, I had to discipline myself to not turn to pornography. The only way I can really describe it is like taking a heavy pain killer; the pain is still there but whoa, it doesn’t register! It’s the same with porn. I’ll have a pornographic image or thought come into my mind and as easy as it slid in, it slides out because I learned to not pay attention to it. It will never go away just as my want for alcohol won’t go away. But I can not pay attention to it when the urge strikes. Its part of the Serenity Prayer; I accept that that part of me will not change but I had to get the courage to change what I could change which is how I reacted to the urges. I learned to react by accepting it’s there and not paying any attention to it. So I don’t stress over it and I let it go away.
But all these are skills that I never had and had to learn. So this is why it took so long and this is why I couldn’t just stop the bad behavior. I was rebellious to begin with so it wasn’t until I got some humility that real changes began to happen.
All this being said, as I mentioned in my interview, there is no way that I, as a mere mortal, could enact these changes on my own. I first had to accept defeat and then I had to accept the help of others and, more importantly, God’s help. This is why when asked what my testimony is, I have to answer that I am a witness to the goodness and grace of God to change people. He changed me and I have witnessed Him change others. I have witnessed Him change addicts and I have witnessed Him change the victims. I have seen with my own eyes and heart the glorious effect of when not only myself, but when others embrace the Grace of God for themselves. It may be simplistic, but that’s the way God has made it for us. It’s simple because we have such a complex task navigating our way through this mortal existence with all the weaknesses we have as humans.
I also had many, many people come into my life who have affected it for good and bad; both teaching me valuable lessons. There are a few who have become the best of friends and have taught and guided me on how to change my thinking, the way I spoke and the way I interact with other people. One person who is my mentor really showed me where the path of goodness is and how to stay on it. I didn’t know where it was or how to find it. He helped me get there and to me, he is the angel God sent to me to get my head screwed on straight. It is not trite of me to say that I would have never made it to rebaptism without him. There were many other new friends and church leaders who really make a big difference. It still boggles my mind how God had placed people in my path to help me, a lowly alcoholic, porn and sex addict. But he deals with me as he deals with all His other children; as an individual.
The Nephites, with all their sins and transgressions, still survived the cataclysm that hit them before the coming of Christ to the new world. And what did Christ ask them (I think He begged them)? “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted that I may heal you?” After all the mess these people made of their lives, Christ still is there, waiting to heal them. It’s the same for us and this is what I am really a witness to: I created a huge earthquake in my life. But I decided to try God out and he healed me and I’ve seen him heal many others.
But for all this to happen, I had to point my nose in God’s direction. I had to get on the path of humility and change. I believe because I wanted this change that He never let me go, even when I started to kick and scream. In my heart, I wanted to change but in my mind, it was too difficult and was many times resistant to His help. But God looks at the heart and he looked at mine.
So now I have a new mantra that I try to live by: “Be still and know that I am God.” Thus far, it’s been difficult to live by those words but I’m getting better at it.
If I were to add one other thought is that I felt that pornography gave me permission to do what I did. But I’ll post on that at a later date. For now, I thought I’d share this with you. Let me know what you think.