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.

Why porn should not be the deciding factor in a Relationship

Recently I have seen a lot of articles on this topic. Specifically on if a woman should run from a relationship because the man has an addiction to porn or not. Let me point out a few issues I have with the current debate.

First off, everyone is assuming that only men become addicted to porn. To risk opening a can of worms, 50 Shades of Grey is pornography and far more women than men have read it and watched the movie. Men and women gravitate to different kinds of porn. Many modern romance novels are written pornography and many women are addicted to them. Stop trying to make this just a man's problem because is isn't.

Second, there are so many generalizations used in this particular discussion that people are ignoring the commandment to love one another. Instead they are deciding to reject and abandon their brothers and sisters who are in desperate need of love and support. Being ostracized for an addiction is never what Jesus Christ taught.

Instead he taught "And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not; But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name. Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed." (3rd Nephi 18:22-24) Note the part where he said I am the light that ye shall hold up. How do you hold up that light? By following his example. In John 8 what did he tell the woman caught in adultery? "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more" (John 8:11). So why are is it okay for us to condemn those who are addicted to pornography? How many of us actually know what it means to condemn someone? Just to be safe I looked it up. Condemn means to to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; indicate strong disapproval of; or censure. It can also be used to 
to pronounce to be guilty and to declare incurable. By condemning someone for their addiction to pornography, which I have seen repeatedly in the last few days means to declare someone incurable and by consequence to deny the power of the atonement. 

I know this is not the intention of those who hastily judge those caught in the throes of addiction but in essence they have said you are incurable and should not be given a chance to repent and gather with us.

Now I am going to do something radical that I am sure many will not understand. I am going to tell you all the absolute truth I am a recovering porn addict and I am not ashamed. Do you want to know why I am not ashamed? It is because I know that I can be cured and healed through the power of the atonement. I know that I have been redeemed and saved by my trust in the Savior Jesus Christ and work everyday to be better than before.

One of the hardest things I have ever done was to tell my fiance that I am addicted to pornography. When I told her she shared with me one of the most powerful testimonies of the atonement I have ever heard. She told me that at one time she decided to never date someone who had an addiction to porn but that as she had sought forgiveness for her own sins and trials she learned that it was wrong to judge a persons worth and candidacy for an eternal marriage on a sin they were repenting of. She did not condemn me then and even though I have relapsed several times over the last year she has not condemned me for any of them. Instead she charitably prayed with me and for me. She has given me the courage to say no to temptation because now I have someone working with me. She inspires me to be better each day.

Pornography addiction should never be the determining factor in a relationship, whether the person with the addiction is repentant and seeking to change should be. Whether they are working each day to become the god or goddess that they have in embryo inside them should be the determining factor. Please stop putting everyone who has struggled with porn into the same group because we are not all the same. Be charitable and share your testimony of the atonement instead of your fear.