Editor's note: Experts respond to questions raised during the seven-part anti-pornography series, March 1- April 21.
What can men do to overcome pornography addiction?
If a person has an addiction, then he will most likely need professional help. These things, used in combination, will help.
- The person needs to surrender to the fact that he has an addiction. If it were not an addiction, he probably would have quit by now. But no amount of willpower and determination will get him to stop permanently. So the first thing is to come to grips that "I have a problem, it is a serious problem and I am responsible for solving this problem." This type of humility helps with willingness to get the needed help.
- The person needs to come out of hiding. Experience has shown that developing a network of support and finding out that you are not alone is very beneficial in the recovery process. He should talk to someone he trusts about his addiction, such as a close friend, a family member, his bishop, or other priesthood leaders. Engage in the service of a qualified licensed therapist who has training and experience in the treatment of sexual addiction. Including both spouses in treatment often enhances its effectiveness.
- The person needs to disclose and tell his story. This self-disclosure should happen in a safe environment with his ecclesiastical leader, and the therapist involved. This telling of his story allows for a new freedom. Since isolation is a major part of the addiction, it provides a way out of isolation and reduces shame of a burden carried alone.
- Therapy helps the person struggling become sensitive to the triggers that precede the acting-out behavior. Becoming familiar with the personal addictive cycle helps stop the cycle of acting out. The recovering person needs to become knowledgeable about his own addictive system.
- If you are an addict, negative self-talk will sabotage and defeat your efforts at recovery. Positive self-talk becomes necessary. Not only should you be using positive self-talk, but you should also be associating with people who are positive and provide a positive environment.
- A common denominator of those succeeding with recovery is spirituality. Including the Lord with recovery is essential. There is a saying in the "White Book" for sexaholics anonymous that says, "Without God I can't, without me He won't." Our Heavenly Father can help us do all that is required in recovery. It is hard work. Fasting and prayer with hard work make for a good recovery plan.
- The person should have a daily devotional and a recovery plan written out and shared with at least one person. A written plan helps the person stay accountable. Don't give up. Keep trying, and get extra help when needed.
Are recovery and forgiveness really possible?
Recovery is possible; we sometimes use Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46 as a model. It is God's rhythm of recovery and healing. This rhythm is a process, not an event. In verse 45 it speaks of waxing, distilling, and dews, all of which are a process and sometimes very subtle. President Gordon B. Hinckley read a letter in general conference from the wife of an addict, who wrote that after many years "I have watched my husband change and I have forgiven him." The truth is, it takes about three to five years for a person to recover from an addiction and for the healing to take place for the spouse. The first year is the hardest, and then things get better every year after that. Recovery and forgiveness are not events; they take time and the help of the Lord. We encourage bishops to stay involved with their ward members for months after the acting out behavior has stopped. There is still work to do in years two through five.