I’d heard warnings about porn being addictive, but like Eve, I stood around the tree for a while and thought about the forbidden fruit: You know, it might be “pleasing to the eye.” a little nibble can’t do any harm, can it?1
Well, the nibble turned out to be pretty good. So I guessed I’d try a little more. Before I knew what was happening, it had grabbed me like a monster octopus. I was amazed at how quickly it happened, and how hard it was to break away.
A Massive Problem
I am not alone in this. The specific numbers vary widely in the different studies, but there is no doubt at all that porn addiction today is massive, and Christians are not exempt. Millions of church members of all denominations are caught in its spell.
At a Christian conference in Austria, 75% of the men in attendance admitted to being involved with pornography. At a men’s retreat in Oregon, before 2,000 men, Shelley Lubben of Shelley Lubben ministries challenged those who were struggling with porn addiction to stand. Thirty percent rose to their feet. She immediately challenged them a second time, with the result that some 70% were standing.
Porn has always been considered a male problem, but no longer. One out of three visitors to all adult websites today are women and 49% of women report having downloaded sexually explicit material. Several surveys have shown that 17-20% of church-going women struggle with porn addiction.2
Why Is It So Powerful?
Understanding some of the things that give porn its power can help us in the struggle to break away. The addiction to pornography is similar to other types of sexual addiction, and not too different from all other kinds of addictive behavior. Contrary you might think, its roots are physiological, as well as psychological. Most of us have heard about endorphins, sometimes called the feel-good hormones. Physical exercise, a good laugh, a hug and thoughts of gratitude can increase their flow.
So does sex. Sexual excitement activates the production of several endorphins, notably oxytocin which works directly on the brain to strengthen pair bonding and identification. God designed the sex act to be part of the total intimacy of heart and mind that is marriage. It is powerful for strengthening the union and bonding of husband and wife as they grow toward the goal of becoming one flesh and one spirit.3
Pornography, too, activates these pleasure chemicals, but it is a critical short circuit. It produces the excitement, the “high” of sex, without the object and without the closeness, the giving and sharing that is part of married sex and without the natural checks and balances that marriage brings with it. It produces hyper stimulation of a natural function that can be repeated again and again at all hours and for hours at a time.4
It might be an exaggeration to compare the high that comes from pornography to a psychedelic “trip” produced by street drugs. Nevertheless, it is powerful. There is a sense of euphoria. The pupils dilate, the breath and pulse rate increase, as do salivation and perspiration. Between sessions, the addict feels a great anxiety and eagerness and can hardly wait for the next “fix”.
Making the Break
When making the break, at first it seems you can hardly stand it, that you’ve just got to go back again. When quitting I found encouragement and help in understanding what was going on. I knew my brain was hungry for one more endorphin high, but that the struggle would not last forever. And so it was. After just a few days of nail biting and sweating it out, the nearly irresistible pull was much weaker, and in few weeks it was nearly gone. Notice I say, “nearly”, rather than “entirely”, because I don’t think that it will ever be totally over.
But there is one thing you’ve got to get inside your head: that is that you can never go back, not even a little bit. At times, when I was trying to break away, I would think: I’m really not going to look at porn again; I’ll just sort of touch it with my fingertips. By going back even a little, by sort of edging up to it again, I was prolonging the suffering and symptoms of withdrawal; I was perpetuating the cycle of despair and sense entrapment it brings, and that was monumentally stupid.
I am speaking from personal experience in overcoming, but I realize we are all different. Getting over it—maybe I should say getting into recovery—was difficult and took several tries. But by the grace and power of God it was possible. I have heard that some have found help by joining up with an accountability partner. Others connect with an online support group and still others get the help they need through counseling. The internet is the main purveyor of porn nowadays, but it also offers a lot of help. Open your web browser and type in “pornography addiction”. You will find many helpful sites.5
There is an adversarial relationship between porn and spirituality. Porn destroys weakens spirituality and will eventually destroy it, but spirituality is not passive. Its role is not limited to meekly accepting the blows that porn throws at it. It is an aggressive combatant that wages a war on our behalf. Keep your spiritual life strong through a healthy and vigorous devotional life. Focus your religious experience on a love relationship with Jesus Christ. When Jesus is a vivid reality in your life, when He walks by your side at every hour of the day and night, when prayer is as natural to you as breathing, your porn temptation will slink away like a hyena from a blazing fire
Drawing From the Fountain
“Our life is to be bound up with the life of Christ; we are to draw constantly from Him, partaking of Him, the living Bread that came down from heaven, drawing from a fountain ever fresh, ever giving forth its abundant treasures. If we keep the Lord ever before us, allowing our hearts to go out in thanksgiving and praise to Him, we shall have a continual freshness in our religious life. Our prayers will take the form of a conversation with God as we would talk with a friend. He will speak His mysteries to us personally. Often there will come to us a sweet joyful sense of the presence of Jesus. Often our hearts will burn within us as He draws nigh to commune with us as He did with Enoch. When this is in truth the experience of the Christian, there is seen in his life a simplicity, a humility, meekness, and lowliness of heart, that show to all with whom he associates that he has been with Jesus and learned of Him” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 129).6
When this is our experience, when it truly becomes a way of life, then pornography, instead of being a dominating power, will seem like a much-regretted and bitter memory from the past.
- Genesis 3:6 ↩
- http://www.blazinggrace.org/cms/bg/pornstats gives the results of a number of surveys. See also http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html#internet. ↩
- An excellent summary on this subject: Nature’s Own: The Feel Good Hormone, by Nicole Stevenson. Also see this new book (2014) available on Amazon: Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction by Gary Wilson. Understanding the science behind addiction can help defeat the monster. And Wilson offers some practical advice. Available in downloadable Kindle format almost anywhere and in Paperback in the US. You can read Kindle books on any device by downloading this free app.(It’s probably the best explanation of porn addiction available today. Check the customer reviews.) ↩
- In a study of Internet addiction of 396 addicts, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, the average time spent on the Internet for nonacademic and nonprofessional purposes was 38 hours per week (Cooper, A., Scherer, C., Boies, S., Gordon, B. Sexuality on the Internet: From Sexual Exploration to Pathological Expression. 1999. Vol. 30(2), 154-164.) ↩
- For more on the subject, see Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction, by Gary Wilson. Understanding the science behind addiction can help defeat the monster. And Wilson offers some practical advice. Available in downloadable Kindle format almost anywhere and in Paperback in the US. You can read Kindle books on any device by downloading this free app. ↩
- You can pick up your own copy of this classic commentary on the parables of Jesus on Amazon.com – all the way from free to over $60.00 for leather-bound. ↩