Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pornography is a Symptom, NOT a Disease

So earlier today I shared my thoughts on why whether someone has an addiction to porn should be the deciding factor in a relationship. I said that no it shouldn't and here is some of my reasoning why: Pornography is a symptom not a disease.

Pornography, like any other addiction, is a coping mechanism. For those not familiar with the term a coping mechanism is an "adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort." Once we can acknowledge that pornography is a coping mechanism we can find the root cause of the addiction.

For me, I became addicted to pornography because I was deliberately isolating myself from healthy relationships for fear of someone finding out I was gay. You see I was raised in a very conservative family who belongs to a rather conservative church. I mistakenly believed that if people found out I was gay I would no longer have a place to call home and that I would be excommunicated. I learned through a series of difficult experiences that both those beliefs were false.

To hide my being gay I avoided all physical contact, which any health care or mental health professional will tell you is a bad idea. This avoidance of contact led me to become depressed and it was a long time before I recognized the depression for what it was. Thankfully I have been blessed with family and friends who love me and are willing to call me out when I start retreating again.

During my loneliest moments pornography became my way to feel something other than pain. It never really got rid of the pain but I could ignore it for a little while. When I tried to get away from the porn I thought there must be some kind of miracle cure that would remove my addiction. I was told that I should just pray or read the scriptures or sing a hymn and that everything would be better. Well, it didn't get better because everyone, including myself, was treating pornography like a disease instead of a symptom.

With the help of a counselor I began to discover what my triggers were. I began to discover that if I could manage my depression I could manage my addiction to pornography. I learned that there are things in my life I can control and by controlling those things (like how much sleep I get, how well I am eating, etc.) I could remove many of my triggers before they could get me to relapse.

For those of you who know someone who is addicted to pornography don't condemn them. Believe that with the power of the atonement they can be healed and reach a point where they no longer need the coping mechanism of pornography. If someone comes to you and tells you they are addicted to pornography just love them. Share your testimony of the reality of God and of Jesus Christ. Don't tell them you understand if you don't. Don't pity them and don't pat them on the back and tell them it will all be okay. Hold them close and don't let them run away. The fact that they told you means they trust you. Honor that trust by trusting them back and loving them. Practice true charity and if you need help ask for it. Ask a professional, pray to God for wisdom, seek counsel from your religious leaders. Remember that you who are seeking to help those you love are no more alone than those who are in the throes of addiction. Pull them closer and love them.