You will beat this addiction (some call it merely a bad habit, but that is not rigorous honesty) in large part to having many around you to support you. The more support the better! Here are great supporters:
- Spouse/trusted family member
- 12 Step Guide
- Find a 12-Step Meeting to attend
- Sponsor/support person from your 12-Step group (to text/call when needed)
- Therapist (shop around to find one that you feel comfortable with)
But the biggest thing is that you have decided you want this behind you; you want to be clean; you are repenting daily of things you need to; and are firm in your resolve. This determination is what will help the very most!
It will be important for your spouse/loved one to set boundaries to help them feel safety in their relationship with you and in the home. It will also be important for you to set safety boundaries for yourself. Here are examples of good and healthy boundaries:
- Decide to fiercely tell the truth, no matter the consequences. Dishonesty has broken apart more marriages/families than pornography has.
- Filters on all computers/phones/tablets/etc. This is not a cure, but a safety net.
- Having passwords on the computers which only your spouse/loved one knows.
- Only getting online to perform focused searches (no browsing anytime/anywhere).
- Having your spouse/loved one in the room while you are on the computer; and if that’s not possible, imagine them there with you.
- Accountability (i.e. reporting to your spouse/sponsor every night if you have remained clean and free of pornography in your thoughts/actions).
- Make a list of activities to do when you get burned out, so when that happens you know you have good options.
- When you get in inappropriate situations where you feel cornered or stuck, know that you can ALWAYS change the situation. Be bold. Protect yourself by being courageously diligent.
- Use the Mind-Body Bridging Technique when you have an inappropriate thought: simply say to yourself “it’s a thought” and move on. No analyzing the thought or why you had the thought. No guilt. No shame. Simply acknowledge “it’s a thought” (a synapse between two neurons) and continue forward. Do this as many times as needed. Everyone has weird/random thoughts. You’d rather it be a thought than a memory anyhow.
- Have a short conversation with yourself when you see immodesty: “I really don’t like that. I want no part of that. That is not who I am.” Acknowledge to yourself it’s not okay and move on.
- Pray daily to see women as God see’s them. Have the YW theme or other respectful quotes or scriptures on your mirror, in your wallet, etc.
- Make your “dailies” top priority (more important than sleep, work, school, etc.): fervent prayers and serious scripture study.
- Build regular exercise into your routine. It will help freshen the mind and clear the body of toxins.
- Come up with written reasons why you don’t want to continue down the path the addiction has led you. Reasons that help you feel you will be the protector of your wife, and of her virtue. The crowning characteristic of love is loyalty.
- Commit to stand in “that place” of emotional discomfort and handle your REAL emotional needs. It may hurt to feel those strong emotions, but don’t back down. It will get easier.
- You have two duties: to stay away from pornography; and to forgive yourself.
Take time to serve others. You will begin to find your real self in this process. Make a special effort to serve your loved one. They may not show appreciation at first, but as you continue, you will see them soften at your valiant efforts. You will start to feel good about yourself. Find out your loved ones “love language” and do your best to provide love to them that way. Because your spouse has so much extra on her plate right now, service is a great place to start: help with meals, the house, the children, etc. Leave her heartfelt notes. Serve family members. Magnify your calling. You will begin to feel the fruits of these things!
Another important way to serve your wife at this time is to allow her time to cope and make sense of this turmoil. Volunteer to take care of the kids/housework for a weekend and allow her the opportunity to step out of her roles to refresh herself. You will notice she will come back a little happier, a little stronger, and a little more tender.
Pray for your loved one. Most times they are experiencing a lot of hurt, emotional rollercoasters, feeling victimized, and alone (among a myriad of other feelings). It is as if a bomb has just gone off in their lives and they are left to pick up the pieces. Fast for them. It will make a difference. I have felt it.
Index or do Family History: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2014-06-01-redeeming-the-dead-redeemed-me?lang=eng
Speaking of the addicted individual, President Boyd K. Packer stated: “The suffering you endure from resisting or from leaving a life-style of addiction or perversion is not a hundredth part of that suffered by your parents, your spouse or your children, if you give up. Theirs is an innocent suffering because they love you. To keep resisting or to withdraw from such a life-style is an act of genuine unselfishness, a sacrifice you place on the altar of obedience. It will bring enormous spiritual rewards. Remember that agency, that freedom of choice that you demanded when you forsook your covenants? That same agency can now be drawn upon to exert a great spiritual power of redemption.” —“Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 86.
Creating Healthy Emotional Bonds
You have been connecting emotionally with unhealthy fantasy. When you have felt B.L.A.S.T. (bored, lonely, angry, stressed, or tired) you have looked for outside fixes/numbing. In laying that aside, you now will strive to create healthy emotional bonds with your loved one and develop that tie as your safe harbor. When you face challenges, go to your loved one to express your feelings. You will find you receive strength and often trust from doing this, and it will grow easier with time. Don’t give place to excuses such as: she won’t understand; she doesn’t care about all that; I’ve already hurt her enough; she’s too busy; etc. Just do it!
Reading and discussing uplifting resources regularly with your loved one will give you opportunities to building emotional bonds together. This opens doors to having a safe place to share your feelings, and build your unity.
Make a concerted effort to form good, deeper relationships with others: spouse, your parent(s), siblings, etc. It may be intimidating to reach out, but you will find real joy in return as those relationships blossom.
Lying has no part of you anymore if you want to be truly free. A recovering addict wrote the following to me: “Dishonesty is a greater evil than pornography. By allowing myself to view pornography, I felt guilt for my sins. I allowed this guilt to turn to self shame. I undertook to cover my shame through excusing myself and comparing myself which cultivated dishonesty. Dishonesty with myself allowed me to go further down the path of pornography than I originally recognized. I did not recognize where I was on my journey to hell because I had been dishonest with myself and others along the way. In walking back, I am realizing what my dishonesty enabled me to do. Yes, pornography is an addiction, but dishonesty enabled this addiction to continue. Had I remained honest, then I could not of allowed myself to rationalize along my trek to hell.” Pray for the courage to tell the whole truth as you interact with others, especially your loved one. This will build trust.
Message From a Recovering Addict
When I was around 13 years old, I had a reflective moment in which I wish I could go back and change. What was this reflective moment? I was imagining having a conversation with my adult self. This conversation came out of a problem I was dealing with at the time. The problem I was dealing with was a pornography addiction. I did not recognize it as an addiction. I thought it was just a bad habit or a problem. The Holy Ghost did let me know that it was something that I should not be doing as an Aaronic priesthood holder, but nevertheless I kept finding myself caught in this trap.
As I pondered on what my adult self would tell me to do to help get me out of my addiction, the only thing I could come up with was “don’t do this or you’ll end up destroying your marriage and family.” Although this was a really good answer for what pornography addictions lead to, it was not something that helped me get out of my addiction. Rather it was something that pushed me into greater despair.
Here I am 20 years later, and I want to finish the conversation I imagined as my 13 year old self. I feel I need to give my younger self an answer that would have helped him. At the time, the only message I received from my older self was one of fear that drove me further into despair. What I needed was hope. I needed to know that it was possible to pull myself out of my addiction. I needed to know what tools I could use to curb this earlier on in life.
I will attempt to provide the answer that would have changed his and my life for the better. There are five things I would have focused on in order to help out my younger self.
First, I would lovingly told my younger self that it was an addiction, and that he needed to treat it as an addiction. Immediately after I let him know the bad news, I would give him a message of hope. My younger self would have really benefited from knowing that it is possible to break out of the bonds of addiction. I would give him examples of lives that I have seen changed, and how my life has dramatically improved as I emerge out of my addiction.
Second, I would have encouraged my younger self to talk to his parents. Yes I realize that this would have been an extremely hard sell to him. Nevertheless, I would have encouraged him that his parents would be able to help him. They would be able to provide him with strength and courage he needed, as he worked on overcoming this addiction.
Third, I would have given my younger self the tools I use to provide me with the spiritual strength and protection I need in my life. The tools are as follows:
- Strengthen your testimony of our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ.
- Read the scriptures to be inspired, not just to check it off a list. Allocate at least 30-60 minutes a day and don’t let anything stop you. (Rising early in the morning has worked well for me.)
- Say sincere prayers, not just repetitive ones. Kneel when praying, and don’t lean against anything. Pray out loud even if it is quietly rather than just in your mind.
- I have used Family History to draw me near my Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ.
- Do NOT let inappropriate thoughts have place in your mind.
- Use President Packer’s analogy of the mind being a stage, and when something inappropriate enters, rush it off the stage by replacing it with something good.
- Use the “It’s a thought” technique. Essentially what you do is NOT let your mind expand on negative thoughts. When a negative thought enters your mind uninvited, simply say to yourself “that’s a weird thought” or “that thought came out of the blue” and drop it. Don’t expand on the thought. Don’t try to own it. Just say to yourself “it’s a thought” and drop it.
- Do NOT put yourself in situations where you are inviting negative thoughts into your mind. By doing so, you’ll render these techniques and their spiritual protection void.
- Continue to strengthen your weaknesses that they might become strong.
- Be fiercely honest at any cost both with yourself and with others.
- Do not excuse your own sins because of the sins you see in others.
- Take courage to get out of any situation in which you feel uncomfortable. That uncomfortable feeling is God’s way of telling you to get out.
Fourth, I would talk to my younger self about depression. Once again, this would be a hard thing to discuss with him. However, I know that bringing this to light earlier in his life would be a great blessing for him. For nearly 20 years I have been dealing with it, but I did not realize it. There were many times in my life when I felt down, but did not know why. One thing I have learned while in recovery, is that I used pornography to self medicate my depression. In order to root pornography out of my life, I would need to address its enablers, one of which has been my depression. So I would encourage him to work with his parents to get the help he needed with his depression. Once again I would give him comfort and knowledge that this is not his fault, but one of his challenges that I know he can overcome.
Fifth, I would have encouraged my younger self to learn to express his feelings better. This has been another enabler which has contributed to his struggle with pornography. Somehow, somewhere along the way, the lie that “nobody cares what you think” or “no one cares how you feel” was planted in him. I would tell him that this is a great lie which has lead him to self medicate over the years, and it is false. Many people care about what he thinks and how he feels. I would encourage him not to answer “fine” when he’s really not. Further I would guide him to tell trusted people how he is really feeling. I would give him many examples of people who would be willing and anxious to lend an ear or arm of support. I would tell him that it may be uncomfortable at first, but he would find it to be an immense blessing as he progresses in life.
Finally, I would close and let him know how much confidence I had in his ability to do this. I would tell him that I know he has it in him. I would then leave him quoting a line from Elder Holland’s talk in October of 1999 that has given me much strength. I would say “Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—20 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”
I am very grateful to my Savior in providing me a way out of my addiction. I am immensely grateful for my sweet wife and her love and support. And hopefully in another 20 years when my older self is talking to my current self, the only thing my older self will say to me is “Good job! You’ve done these past 20 years right the first time.”