At times, porn addiction feels inescapable. The grip that it holds on our hearts, as well as the effect that it produces on our minds can be so overwhelming that we are unable to see a way out. The only light at the end of the tunnel seems to be an oncoming train.
The porn struggle is often described as the feeling of being trapped in a net or a pit from which there is no escape. This imagery is not at all inadequate in my opinion. It accurately captures the feelings of helplessness, despair, and confusion that often accompany this unfortunate addiction. I myself have often felt the reality of that trap.
However, looking back at my time as an addict, I have found it far more helpful to frame the porn addiction discussion not in terms of a trap in which we are caught, but rather of a cycle we repeat.
The nature of this particular cycle is especially dangerous. Using porn leads us into a guilt-induced depressive mental state, and we medicate these negative emotions with more porn. This leads to further depression and guilt followed by more porn. It's a venomous, self inflicted pattern that fuels it's own continuation. It is truly a loop of self-perpetuation.
The constant returning to porn is further encouraged by its ease of access, its anonymity, its powerful appeal to natural human desires, and its ability to instill shame, fear, and silence into its consumers.
I prefer this cycle analogy over the pit/net analogy (and other appropriate analogies) for a number of reasons. The most prominent of these is that, with the advantage of hindsight, I can see that porn was something from which I could have walked away at any moment. It was within my power to free myself whenever I wished, but it was not within my conscious awareness.
So, the problem wasn’t inability, but rather it was ignorance. The result was that, rather than becoming trapped by porn against my will, I was continuously returning to it of my own will.
We sometimes feel as if we don’t have the power or the strength to give up porn, but I don't think that's quite accurate. I would venture to say that we actually do have this ability. I think each of us has the psychological, emotional, and spiritual muscle to escape from porn addiction’s grip. After all, the only effort required is to lift up a finger to press the “off” button. How hard can it be [sarcasm]?
What we truly lack is knowledge. The real struggle lies not in having the ability to walk away, but in knowing how to walk away and never come back.
I also find the cycle analogy to be useful in that it follows measurable steps that tend to occur in sequential order. This gives us some sense of perspective and predictability. It helps us determine where we have been, where we are, where we are likely headed, and the path we took from one place to the next.
Most importantly, if we know the pattern, we can also learn how to break that pattern and leave the cycle for good. The porn cycle breaks down into four steps:
Guilt (fear and shame)
Over the coming weeks I want to explore each of these steps in depth. Using my personal knowledge and first hand experience, we will reveal what these steps are, how they work, and how we can deal with them.
We can exit the porn cycle at any point in the process. It’s simply a matter of arming yourself with the right weapons to fight against the allure of porn’s empty promises.
It’s been said that knowledge is power, and in this case, they’d be right.