Porn Addiction: Denise’s Story

The original name has been changed in this article for anonymity.

“I was thirteen when I started. My mom had the whole birds and bees talk with me and I still had  questions. She didn’t really know how to answer my questions and I feel like she would have if I kept turning to her, but I didn’t. I started looking things up on the internet, and it just slowly progressed from there.”

Denise’s curiousity turned into a pornography addiction that lasted for nearly six years. She describes it as being one of the darkest times of her life. 

“I felt like Satan had me in this vice where he could just control me at any whim whenever he wanted to. I would always keep track in my head of how long I would last without falling back to my addiction and I’d be really proud of myself for three days and he’d just be like boom,” Denise said. “So I started to grow to where I hated myself and I hated God because he wouldn’t do anything about it. I would pray every night and cry and ask him, why aren’t you doing anything about this?”

Denise wanted to put away the addiction so badly that she would excessively do spiritual things, such as read her scriptures or say her prayers more often. She thought that if she was doing everything right, temptation would have no power over her because that’s what she had been promised.

The addiction went on for two years before she told anyone. The first and only person in her family she told was her mom. Denise was grateful in the end for her mom’s response. 

“She didn’t act disgusted like I thought she would. She was very loving about it and asked what I felt like she could do to help me. She told me, I wasn’t the only one who had struggled with it in the family,” she said, a relief to know.

At around 17, Denise’s life started to turn around when she came across an article found in the Ensign, a church publication. In it, she found a page that talked about pornography addiction, urging those who struggled with it to talk to an ecclesiastical leader. This led her to reach out to the bishop in her ward. 

 “As soon as I talked to my bishop, I had maybe one or two times where I was tempted to look at something, but the desire completely went away.”

That might’ve been the end of her pornography addiction, but it soon pulled up the roots of an older addiction that started since Denise’s Childhood: self harm. She was chained to this addiction up to the point of her leaving on a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“A lot of teenagers don’t realize the shadows that come from Pornography. It’s completely terrifying and petrifying. You can step away from a computer screen you can step away from your phone, but you can’t hide from yourself.”

Denise served a mission, protected spiritually from the desire to give into her self-harm addiction. But the night she returned home, she felt the presence of Satan come to her immediately.

“I heard him laughing and talking to me, and he said ‘You can’t escape you will never hide, I will always find you. You’re mine… So I just sat on my knees crying, telling my (Heavenly) father  I couldn’t do this anymore.”

 She remembered feeling a peace wash over her instantly. A couple of years after that, she had a few instances where she struggled and fell back on that addiction, but with consistent efforts of  being where she was supposed to be and going to the temple frequently gave her the strength to where it’s just gone away and finally she didn’t have the desire to do it anymore.

Denise’s willingness to utilize all her resources and fully utilizing Christ and his atonement in her life was what really helped her through it on her own. 

“Because sometimes we really aren’t strong enough. If you think you are exercising the atonement when you are doing it on your own, you’re only exercising part of it and not realizing the full strength of the atonement comes from all those other resources. Using that full strength of the atonement is the only way to overcome the addiction.” 

Professor Kevin Green, a teacher on the BYU-Idaho campus, agrees. As a licensed counselor in Marriage and Family Therapy, he has worked with individuals who struggle with sexual compulsions, including families that are affected by it. 

“We do everything that social workers and psychologists do, we just look at it from a family lens, a relationship lens. It’s not just the individual struggling with the addiction, it’s also how is that impacting their spouse, their children, their family, their friends so we’re always looking at that systemic nature,” he said. 

Although the recovery process is different for each individual, Green says there are three components that can help in an addict’s recovery plan. 

Number 1 is Honesty. For Denise, she said she never lied so much than when she was addicted because it was always so embarrassing and she didn’t want her family to feel sad or disappointed. 

“The worst times, I would pretend I was sick and stay home to fulfill my need for the addiction, whether it be pornography or self harm during the time,” she said.

Green says in order to overcome an addiction, a person have to be honest in three ways: “They have to be honest with themselves, with others, they have to be honest with God.”

Number 2: Structure. 

“A lot of people think, oh I can overcome it on my own just do it on my own, I can just stop anytime I want. The reality is, they don’t have the structure in place to be able to allow them to do that.”

According to Green, Structure might look like, checking in with a sponsor every week, or checking in with a spouse, family member, ecclesiatical leader, having a support team, or reading materials that can help. 

“Whatever that structure looks like, its helping them reorganize their lives in a healthy recovery way and that means restructuring your life.”

Number 3: Tools.

“Sometimes we don’t have the right tools which is why they need to talk to a counselor, sometimes they need to go to group meetings, sometimes they need to tap into some of these resources because again they’re just trying to do it on their own.”

According to Fight the New Drug, Dr. Nora Volkow, “director of the United States’ National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is convinced that porn addiction is real. She even suggested changing NIDA’s name in order to recognize “addictions such as pornography, gambling, and food.”

Green notes that although the physiological degree of similarity between porn addictions and drug addictions are not the same, the brain and withdrawal symptoms are very similar in terms of its effects. Though Denise experienced some of these effects and still feels the scars of her addiction even after recovery, the healing has helped her in her life. 

“The Lord doesn’t plan for you to do bad things, but you choose those things and he’ll just make the best of them,” she said. “And he definitely didn’t abandon me than I thought he did at the time. I think he was there more than ever. Looking back I can see that. He provided me with tools of escape, tools of getting out of it. And by not letting me forget that pain of it all, it helps me not want to ever go back. And it helps me be a lot more sympathetic and empathetic toward others who have addictions.”

Denise gives her advice to anyone who is struggling with their own addictions, whether it be pornography or something else. 

“To just keep trying because i know it seems like there might never be an end to it and that you are abandoned and completely alone, but there is an end to it and keep trying. Use all the resources you have and don’t be embarrassed about it. Just not be afraid to go and talk to someone about it, if you’re religious, a bishop even it is really embarrassing. Utilizing all your resources is really the only way to make quicker progress than doing it on your own.”

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