Thursday, February 1, 2018
As often happens in the community of recovering addicts, rumors, stories and gossip filters down to our ears. We, meaning recovering addicts and their wives, are especially sensitive, when we see the signs and symptoms of a man, woman, or couple who are trapped in addiction. It is obvious to us that have struggled, or have been in the throws of battling to save ourselves and our marriages, when we see others going through the same. Because of our experience, we have come to recognize the red flags of an addiction.
Why then do so many feel like they were blindsided with the discovery of a spouse in this addiction, when to us the signs are right in front of them. I assume it is because 1, They want to trust their spouse and assume the best and 2, They have never had to look for the signs and therefore they don't know what to look for.
Whether its pornography, impure thoughts, or a full blown affair, shouldn't there be a list of tell tell signs that one can look at as a warning?
With that in mind, as a recovering pornography and sex addict, I thought I would pen a list of what I think are the signs, symptoms, and red flags of an addiction to lustful behaviors. I intend to do this over several posts as I am sure I have more than enough to say on each subject.
Of course, I was deep in my addiction and displaying many of these behaviors, but my wife did not know what to look for or that she even needed to. Even when her suspicions were on high alert, and she saw the red flags, she personally chose to ignore them because accepting them would be too painful to admit. Sometimes we just know … and still choose to ignore. I pray that as you read through this blog, you will consider these points a guide, not definitive by any means, to understanding your behaviors, or the behaviors of those you love.
Also, I want to be clear. I am not trying to write a fearful blog that puts every wife on alert. There is a chance that some of the things I write about here are just personality traits in a person. These are my thoughts based on my personal experience and do not reflect every situation. Ok Disclaimer done.. Let's get to it.
(Yep all capitals…Bold, and underlined…. kinda scary in your face like that isnt it? Good. It Should be, because this is a major flag!)
I heard a rumor drift through my small community of recovering families about another family that we all know (I know... Gossip.) Here is the rumor.
3 sisters were walking together, one attends our group the other 2 do not. The one who attends the support group for wives, is very vocal about her family’s trial. She is bold and inviting and willing to help others when she sees the signs. During their walk it was revealed that the 2nd woman had moved out because her husband had been caught in an affair. The first woman, boldly asked her, “Have there ever been signs of pornography use?” The 2nd woman answered, “Well early in the marriage there was, but I haven't seen it since.” The first woman asks, “What about masturbation?” (I know bold right?) The 2nd woman answered “Well yeah he does masturbate all the time. He has done that our whole marriage. Isn't that normal?” The first woman told her that, “No, it is not normal in a healthy sexual relationship built on the foundation of the gospel, for the husband to sneak away and masturbate. It could be a sign of other lustful habits like pornography addiction.” The 3rd woman walking with them then said “Wait, masturbation is a sign of a possible pornography problem? My husband masturbates all the time. I wonder if he struggles with Pornography?”
This is all coming to me through heavy lines of hearsay and gossip so I am not going to put 100% faith in the accuracy of the story. However, After hearing this rumor…. I thought… ‘Why don't we, as members of the church, recognise that masturbation is a red flag?’
I am not going to get too deep into a husband and wife's personal intimate encounters. When you are together and experiencing intimate acts one on one, I imagine that pleasuring each other in a masturbatory way may be part if your routine. That is personal, together time. You are experiencing it TOGETHER. Far be it from me to dictate or instruct how you enjoy each other intimately. What I do want to talk about is ALONE time.
Masturbation or Self Pleasure, in its very title is something that is done by oneself to oneself. And of course the word ‘Self’ is obviously the root of the word Selfish. Simply said, ‘Self-pleasure’ is ‘Self-ish’. It is a personal act designed to elicit an orgasm without the assistance of one's spouse. Therefore it is selfish (This is not my definition, but I really like it).
President Spencer W. Kimball stated that, “Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of His Church regardless of what may have been said by others whose ‘norms’ are lower. Latter-day Saints are urged to avoid this practice”.
President Kimball said that in 1965. Until I went searching for a statement from church leaders, I didn't know this statement even existed. Why? Well maybe you have heard the line, ‘If you want to keep something hidden in the church, put it in a manual’. Which seems to be the case here. So many of our youth and us as adults, just have no idea what the church's stance is on masturbation. It could be part of the hush hush culture we are part of…. But I digress.
The above statement was found in a parenting guide (link is here ) put out by the church. In addition to President Kimball's statement it adds this, “The sin of masturbation occurs when a person stimulates his or her own sex organs for the purpose of sexual arousal. It is a perversion of the body’s passions. When we pervert these passions and intentionally use them for selfish, immoral purposes, we become carnal.”
The interesting thing to me is that these statements come from a chapter titled “Teaching Adolescents: from Twelve to Eighteen Years”. Yet many of us as adult men and women are still deeply entrenched in the addiction to masturbation. (This is actually a superb read and guide for parents with children and is surprisingly candid about the differences between men and women and sexuality. Here is the link again.)
I believe that most young men as they enter puberty, and possibly young women as well, experiment with masturbation. Hopefully we have raised them with the law of chastity and they choose to stop or talk to parents or a bishop or put up protections. I, quite honestly, did not. Masturbation became my escape. I make no excuses for my actions at that age as I knew better and I had agency. But in short, broken home, middle child, bad student, and all the rest that goes with being an awkward teen. Masturbation brought me warmth and comfort and of course, pleasure. Even before pornography was a problem for me, masturbation was part of my life.
Masturbation and the brain
The biggest problem with masturbation is that it taps into our brains built in reward system. It ratchets up the excitement level, it quickens our pulse, and ultimately it simulates the orgasm intended for true sexual activity. Only, it is not true sexual activity. It is simulated, but our brain doesn't know that.
All our brain knows is that it feels good. The brain translates this into a reward function. MMasturbation triggers the reward center of our brain in exactly the same way a real sexual encounter would. The brain doesn't know if it is right or wrong it just knows that it deserves a reward when we do it. So when a person masturbates to a climax, the Brain thinks “Good Job” That felt good. Here is your reward. The reward being a large dose of dopamine.
So, after the release of orgasm, the brain offers a release of dopamine. Dopamine is the euphoric ‘feel good’ drug that the brain produces to reward us. It gives us the post intimacy ‘feel good glow’.
It is offered to us for other reasons beyond intimacy to be sure. When learning to ride a bike and successfully maintaining balance, the brain gave us a dopamine hit to reinforce the activity. The same goes for tying shoes, learning to swim, learning to walk, getting an A on a test, Feeling good after a workout, a ‘runners rush’ and so forth. It is also dispensed during highly risky activities such as skydiving, motocross, surfing, driving too fast, and more. It, in conjunction with adrenaline, serotonin, and other brain producing chemicals create the perfect combination for securing a habit in place. In this way, over time and with enough repetition, our brains begin to think that we literally have a “Need for Speed”, or sex, or risky behaviors, or pornography and of course, masturbation.
For some reason though, when involved in intimate or sexual activity such as viewing pornography, having intercourse, and masturbating, the brain gives an even larger dose of domanine. Essentially flooding us with euphoria as a bonus.
Most of us don't have a clue that this is going on in our brain. We just know we feel good (And probably a bit of guilt as well).
The point is, the next time a tiny taste of dopamine is released for any reason, even innocent non sexual reasons, we find ourselves wanting a little more. And guess what, the brain now knows where to get it. Masturbation.
In this way the brain encourages us to repeat good and bad habits. It doesn't know or care which is which as long as it makes us feel good. (the brain is just a computer. It is not our soul. It has a function and it performs it).
Unlike other drugs, dopamine is produced by our brain, one can't just detox out of it or tell it to stop producing it. It is a biological function that can not be stopped.
Therefore we have to learn instead how to resist the pull of the dopamine when it hits (See the LDS addiction recovery program. This is an amazing resource).
This is very, very, very hard to do for someone who has allowed themselves to participate in masturbation over and over for years.
And it is not as simple as saying, ”Honey don't worry. I'll take care of that need for you”. A person who uses masturbation or self pleasure to receive his or her dopamine hit has a special relationship with it. I know sounds weird doesn't it? But I actually began to prefer masturbation to actual intimacy. Or at the very least I wanted to maintain my relationship with both.
The other problem with masturbation and dopamine is that, just like with any drug, the user will always crave a bigger hit. That means what started out as a gateway drug to just get a taste of the dopamine, will eventually crave a bigger dosage. And of course there is always a way to get a bigger dosage. It usually includes escalating the action to darker, riskier, and uglier places.
In comes pornography. As big of a rush that one gets from masturbation, that rush will always be increased when one begins to imagine or fantasize about sexual things. But in time, the imaginations are not enough. Usually the escalation continues to viewing pornography. Pornography when combined with masturbation, in my experience, intensifies the dopamine hit even more. This is where one can become addicted to pornography. Not so much to the trashy stuff itself, but to the bigger hit they get when they view it. Again, the brain does not try to make a moral judgment about whether pornography is good or bad, it simply knows that when you view it, it feels really good. Therefore, it unwittingly encourages that behavior. From there it gets more and more risky as the cravings for bigger and bigger hits of dopamine intensify. Often leading the user to view darker, uglier, and even illegal forms of pornography in order to get the hit they need. Of course the culmination of all of this is often trying to recreate that pornoography. The idea is set into the mind of the user that the only way I am going to achieve or receive the ultimate hit or feed the hunger is to actually participate in sexual encounters in the hope to get the biggest rush.
I know… you might say…. Well.. Then, I as his wife would be the obvious choice to do that with…. Right?
Not always. Not for me. I professed to live a religious lifestyle. I wanted her to see him as clean. I wanted her to see me as worthy. She represents purity, cleanliness, wholesomeness. Furthermore to get the increased hit of dopamine, there had to be some elevated action and there is no risk with her. She was safe. I had been intimate with her already… I knew the hunger I was trying to feed went beyond what I had experienced at home. So… I followed the hunger to other places. (I am quite aware that many men addicted to pornography do bring this into their homes and invite their spouses to participate in recreated fantasies. I am intentionally skipping this at this time as I will discuss this point in a separate post.)
This was my exact path of escalation. I did not understand at the time that dopamine was the culprit. If only I understood the dangers of masturbation as a young man, perhaps I could have sought help… but I didn't. Nor did I want the help. What I wanted was more. I wanted a way to feed the hunger.
So…. In my opinion, anyone who says… it's just masturbation …. Is on a very very slippery slope.
I do not believe (my personal opinion) that masturbation is a simple victimless action. Men and women who masturbate for whatever reason are playing with fire. It ignites passions and hungers and fantasies that will want to be fed.
The world tells us that masturbation is a healthy function and that we should all participate in it. But, as is often the case, the world is lying to us.
The problem is 99% of men have no understanding of the relationship between masturbation and dopamine. They may even feel they are in complete control of their self pleasuring habits. ‘I can stop anytime I want to’ or ‘I only do this because it gives you a break from having to service my needs when you are not in the mood’ or ‘ I only do it occasionally to release stress’. Whatever the case may be, the ability to simply stop the habit becomes increasingly more difficult the longer it persists. One actually doesn't realize how quickly they move to masturbation , when triggered, until they try to stop. By then, it may be so rooted as habit, that simply “Stopping” is out of their means and ability to do on their own.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
My husband has left me and the kids and is with the other woman, who's been in the back ground for almost four years. He only told me this about two months ago. He told me in a phase of amazing grace and seemed to want to get help, but then he sunk back into his addictions and turned again to that relationship. He confessed to multiple partners, over and above her, and years of lying and living a double (and triple) life all at the same time, but barely to porn, he only acknowledged it lightly, and only when I asked.
My question is, why would he make only a partial confession?
My other question is, I'm trying to let him go and entrust him to God. I don't know what else to do, is there anything I can do? I pray for him so much. Is that all I can do, then?
Thursday, September 22, 2016
I just wanted to take a moment to share a personal update for my wife and I. We are so thrilled to report that after 3 years of begging, pleading, and convincing, our area will finally be starting a pornography addiction recovery group. Our first class starts in just 2 weeks.
As I began my personal confession process almost 3 years ago, I knew based on my habits and hungers that seemed to be on auto pilot, that I was not going to be able to beat my addiction with out help. We went to the LDS church addiction recovery website and searched for a class nearby. Unfortunately the closest group to us was an hours drive away. We committed to making the drive every week. At the same time, we asked the stake what the chances are that we could have our own class. After all we lived in a tri stake area and there was nothing for pornography addicts at all.
The request was accepted and agreed with, but with the bureaucratic process being what it is, it either got sidelined or back burnered for any number of reasons. We never stopped asking though. At least 3 or 4 times a year (probably more) we would suggest again and again the importance and need for the class. Our good stake president wanted to make it happen but was battling some oposing forces from other local stakes.
We never gave up. We continued to drive an hour north every weeks for 3 years time. We, with the bishops permission, started our own little group within our ward for brothers that were struggling but unable to make the weekly drive. With a group of about 4 to 6 brethren, we were able to work the steps and find healing together.
Approaching the 3 year mark of my initial confession, We continued to plead for a local group. Finally the 3 stake presidents were able to agree on the need for the group and informed us that we would be starting one in just a few short weeks.
Be careful what you wish for! Our stake president was only to happy to tell us that not only would we have our own group, but that he would like my wife and I to be the group leaders!.. Honestly not what we were looking to do, but thrilled none the less.
The Moral? Never give up!. Our leaders know this is needed. If you don't have a pornography specific group in your area... then ask... and keep asking. Part of the reason so many areas don't have groups is because the leaders don't know how badly it's needed.
We simply kept sharing the stats and encouraging the stake president to ask his Bishops how many brothers they knew of in their wards that were struggling. The numbers make a very compelling argument.
Here are a few of the stats we shared and a link to many more if your interested.
- 64% of Christian men look at pornography at least once a month. (source: covenanteyes.com statistics).
- there is no evidence to suggest that the numbers are lower inside the mormon church. (Source: rowboats and marbles)
- in fact it seems to go against it. If your a fundamentalist Christian (like a mormon) you are 91% more likely to have a pornography addiction.. (source: covenanteyes.com statistics).
- in Salt Lake Valley the ratio of general addiction to pornography addiction groups is nearly 1 to 1. The church recognizes this is needed. (Lds addiction recover Web site, find a group near you)
For some quick stats go here... http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/
To download the complete statistical report (its big, and very detailed) go here. http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornography-facts
Good luck on your quest to get a group started in your area.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
- We have to be careful and constantly vigilant. Over time we can become confident in our recovery. Our confidence feels good. We are putting weeks and months and perhaps even years between slips. We may falsely believe we have this beat for good. But, Satan is patiently watching and waiting for us to offer any kind of opening. All it takes is a stray thought or an unexpected trigger for our brain to begin pumping out the endorphin's. Those endorphin's start the craving, the want, the desire, the hunger. And that is when the adversary strikes. Simple things such as going for a run, playing a video game, driving to work, walking through a grocery store or mall, watching tv or a movie, even listening to music with suggestive lyrics can all be filled with triggers. You may think that some of these things are tame and certainly your husband wouldn't find a trigger in such simple actions or activities. But you would be wrong. Especially if he is trying to eliminate pornography from his life. These ‘lesser’ triggers can become a feasting ground and a compromise for ditching the darker filth of our habit. Not intentionally, at least not at first, but they slowly begin to creep into our view and gradually overtime become an acceptable substitute for the ‘Real Thing’.
The inevitability of Defeat
- Satan is crafty, but some of his most useful tools are 1. a reminder of how much we craved those feelings before and (believe it or not) how good that craving felt. and 2. a constant feeling that we will ultimately, eventually lose this fight. It may sound strange to one who is not accustomed to addiction, but porn addicts have fought and lost and fought and lost and fought and lost the fight soooo many times that failure starts to become an expected part of the process. So, to the addict, there is often a feeling that relapse is inevitable. It's like a barely audible hum always there in the background. It gets louder whenever we cross paths with one of the ‘lesser’ triggers mentioned above. Even in recovery, many feel that someday they will eventually find access to those strong feelings again. Its because of this feeling that many addicts never fully turn their lives over to the Savior. Even after months and years of recovery, they may discover that they have left the door open a tiny crack waiting for that inevitable relapse. Satan knows this and uses it in his efforts to topple us when weak.
- It is at this point, when our lust is becoming fully charged by the flood of endorphin's, that Satan begins filling our head with suggestions. “Maybe just let your mind wander a little bit”, “ You have done so well, you have earned a little taste.”, “What can a small look hurt”, “You don't need to look at porn, just something soft core.”, “ You see that girl walking out to her car?, go ahead and look again.” ; and on and on. Remember that 10% resistance I spoke of before? This is where it dwindles to about 5%. We find ourselves overwhelmed by the want, the rationalizations, the influence of the adversary, the feelings of lust and somewhere in all of this, we hit what I term the Decision point. This is where we ultimately choose to give in.
- At some point in the battle described above we give in to the hunger and make the decision to indulge in one form or another. Now you may ask yourself, “Why can't he just stop at this point? Why doesn't he look around him and realize that he is about to sin? Why doesn't he think of his wife or his children? Why isn't the forthcoming pain of the repentance process enough to stop him from pursuing this choice?” I believe the answer is ‘Tunnel Vision’. Tunnel vision is the ability to forget everything of importance in our quest for feeding the lust monster. We shut out our wife, our children, our success thus far, and we lose sight of the Bishop, the commandments, even the painful process of repentance we have already been through. When the scriptures speak of blindness, they are talking exactly about this. It happens because all of a sudden, the endorphin's are pumping at full speed, old familiar feelings are engaged, and nothing seems more important than getting the drug. In this state of mind, everything else is blocked out until you feed the beast. Once you have made the choice to sin, the spirit is gone and the adversary is laying down full and complete coverage to make sure you don't see a way out. That is not to say we can’t change course and make good decisions in tunnel vision, however, once we have advanced to this stage of the slip, we rarely ever do. (I offer a more detailed explanation of tunnel vision in a previous blog post http://dearaddict.blogspot.com/2014/06/dear-addi-how-do-addicts-live-double.html )
- This is the saddest part of the process. Because it shows the lengths to which we will go to get to our fix. It reveals the level of desperation we have descended to once we have decided to partake. This is where we are in heavy addict mode. The addict knows he must be sneaky. He can't just get on any computer and start searching. Most addicts have already installed filters, watch dogs and devices to keep them from doing exactly this. And hopefully those protections will kick him out of his quest and he will use the 5% willpower he has left to stop himself. But for those that are determined, the plotting to find some way past, through, or around the filters begins. It is a sad state of mind to be sincerely out of control. Unfortunately with the plotting, comes the lies, the deceit and the cover up. The dishonesty is always connected to the relapse. It can be something as simple as hiding in the bathroom with his devices or staying up late to watch TV or internet shows that are inappropriate. Or it can be as devious as creating a false email address or getting a second secret cell phone. The weirdest part is that while in addict mode, these deceitful ideas seem to be justified. Why? Because we make a bargain with ourselves that as soon as we have completed the act, we will never do it again. We knowingly become totally dishonest and rationalize that it is to protect our loved ones from the pain of discovering our sins. It is absurd, It is absolutely maddening, and completely juvenile activity. But, tunnel vision keeps us from recognizing the truth in that moment.
The quest for filth begins.
- This part of the process is hard to describe. I think it is obvious that one who is addicted to porn is going to have a few frequented sites or places in mind. For me, it started out simple. A search for something pretty basic that will feed the lust hungry demon inside of me. But it escalates quickly. I always felt that there must be more to see or partake of. Whatever it was I was looking at in that moment, was ok, but wasn't completely fulfilling. It gave me a taste of satisfaction, but, surely there must be something better, more exciting, more able to feed the hunger so… Let's follow this link and see where it leads. I could start in, what I believed to be a fairly tame place, and before 30 minutes had passed I would find myself searching one disgusting term after another, looking for something to heighten my lust even more. Lust leads me to believe that somewhere in my quest through porn I would eventually reach some sort of pinnacle. That is why we keep going back. We never seem to find it. And in truth, it is not find-able. Lust is a starving beast whose hunger will never… ever be satisfied. So for hours on end the porn addict will sift and search and watch and view leading himself deeper and deeper into simply wanting more. The problem is…. there is never enough and eventually, as was my case, in order to get even more, the porn had to jump from the page and land in reality. And isn't that Satan's ultimate goal? My experience has taught me that viewing Porn is simply practicing for adultery. If left unchecked it will always, eventually, lead off the screen and into real life.
- There is this weird out of body argument that seems to happen while one is looking at porn. Once you are in it, you have already crossed the line into sin, so the argument to turn away now seems fruitless. “I'm already here, I may as well feed on as much of it as I can before I turn it off,” I would tell myself. I can recall moments of such extreme want, that even with the Savior as my desktop image, with pictures and quotes adorning my walls, even when my wife would call me while I was in mid viewing, nothing could distract me from the hypnotic trance I was trapped in. There was one goal and only one goal and no matter the amount of spiritual influence, nothing was going to break my determination to forge on. It is a voluntary hypnosis filled with fantasy and filth. It is a warm and enjoyable quicksand that we willingly step into as it sucks us down to a suffocating death.
The first signs of guilt arrive
- In my case there was also, sometimes, a recognition of… “what am I doing?” and “how did I get here again” This begins to settle in as the addict is trying to get out of this current moment of indulgence. For most porn addicts… it ends with masturbation. What is the point of all of the hours of digging and watching and time wasting if it doesn't end with some form of climax. As we move into the final stage of the process, this is when the guilt begins to really settle in. I can recall reaching this point of the process and looking up at myself in the reflection of the monitor. I was so completely disgusted with who I saw there. There I sat reaping the rewards of my hours long quest, and thinking to myself… “you are the most disgusting filthy, worthless, weak, person! Look at what you have been reduced to?” My self loathing, self hate and shame were all I had left from my wasted day of indulgence.
- The guilt is immediate. The regret is instant and the shame is heavy and thick. The long wasted hours of looking and searching and watching are suddenly meaningless wasted time. The self hate, and feeling of failure are intense. A hollowness and sense of worthlessness is ever present. And the feeling that I am never going to escape this secret compulsion that is my hell, is the overwhelming thought in our mind. Anger is present as well. Anger at myself for not being strong enough to withstand. Anger at this addiction that it is still so present in my life. If you ever wonder why your porn addicted husband lacks patience or is in such a foul mood all the time, it could just be that he is hating himself at the moment. I can recall several occasions after coming home from a long hard day “at work” and being in such a cranky mood that my wife would give me a wide berth and encourage the kids to ‘leave daddy alone for a bit”. The weird part is, being so accustomed to lying, I actually thought I was pulling off the cover up.
- The plotting begins again. Telling her the truth will only add pain to our current situation. She will think that I am never going to beat this. She will suspect me and think I am slipping all the time. I don't want to give her the feeling that this is a hopeless cause. I want her to believe she can trust me again...so… I must lie. As an addict, I can only assume that the accumulation of successful lies over the years begins to make us feel invincible. ‘I have lied and lied and never been caught before so… why shouldn't I continue?’ Lying is so second nature to an addict that sometimes we don't even consider the option of telling the truth at all. The lies extend into other parts of your lives as well… things that didn't need to be lied about but, since lying is easier than confrontation, why not? I found myself lying about whether I had run out to grab an unhealthy burger for lunch, because I knew my wife would prefer I not get one. Lying just becomes a way of life. It just seemed easier than disappointing her again. It is the most backward thinking of all…”I want her to trust me, so I guess I should lie to her.”
- With the lies already firmly in place and since I have gone undiscovered, perhaps I should continue to partake just a little longer before I say goodbye to this forever…again. And so, the cycle of stopping starts again. Most Porn addicts have tried to stop hundreds and hundreds of times. After every slip, we promise God and the reflection in the mirror, that this was the last time. And we mean it with all our hearts until tomorrow… when the hunger creeps back in. I can remember relapsing multiple times in the same day, each time believing with all my heart that I was finally done, only to relapse again within hours. The loss of control eventually gives way to the viscous cycle of addiction.