“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.Then when lust
has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
- James 1:14-15
So, you made a bad choice. You were tested by the temptation, and you failed. Now you find yourself in a bad place. Welcome to the second step of the porn cycle.
My definition of “using” porn is this: watching/viewing porn accompanied by masturbation.
This may seem like a simple definition, but porn use can have a number of complex and long lasting ramifications in our lives. Temptation is strong, and it is indeed possible to resist, but indulging seems so much easier and enjoyable in that moment. But isn't that the lie that Satan sells us? This will be fun. This will be enjoyable. It will be worth it to experience all this pleasure, and it's so easy.
But that could not be more wrong. Porn complicates our lives to such an extent that it can take years to recover from its effects. Among other things, it hinders our spiritual growth, complicates (and often destroys) positive relationships, and pushes us into a mindset of complete self-service. Our lives ought not be dictated by such pursuits, because they are unworthy of the purposes for which God has designed our lives.
I'd like to address three of the major ways in which porn use and addiction affect us negatively:
This should be obvious. The spiritual ramifications of lust and pornography are as real as they are deadly. When we fill our hearts with the images of porn, we are not only disobeying the words of our Savior, but we are enabling a wide division between ourselves and God. This separation results in spiritual death. This death, experienced by every person at some point in their lives, is the same one first spoken of by God in the Garden of Eden when He warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Our choice to use porn begins a chain reaction that leads us down the direct path to spiritual death. When we chose porn, we choose lust. When we choose lust, we choose sin. When we choose sin, we choose separation. When we choose separation, we choose death. This treacherous road leads us to precisely where the devil wants us: away from the safety of God's presence, and into the vulnerable isolation of sin.
Porn is a fantasy. It's a means for your mind to create a world that denies the harsher realities of life in favor of concentrating only on that which brings us pleasure. Within this fictitious setting, there are no concerns for real interactions, real emotions, real relationships - no care for real life. This lack of authenticity is dangerous.
In terms of your emotional health, beating porn addiction is essentially an effort to return to pure, unhindered authenticity in your life. Fears, challenges, and hardships are as much a part of this life as joy, excitement, and love. But the addiction tells us to simply escape from these pains. The addiction wants you to hide away in a make-believe world in order to shield you from dealing with these difficulties in meaningful ways. This results in disastrous consequences for both ourselves, and for those around us.
In time, this lack of authenticity will grind your life into dust. Your existence will become a meaningless wasteland of emotional detachment. You will not be able to find true happiness because you will be obsessed only with escaping into porn. You will not only become incapable of forming new emotional connections, but will also deteriorate existing ones, because you will always prioritize porn above people. In fact, as long as you obsess over porn, it will win out over everything else in your life.
Naturally, porn addiction also has a number of measurable effects on the physiology of the brain. One of porn's most prominent effects is the increased release of dopamine. Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical that is released when we do things we find pleasurable. It's your brain's way of rewarding itself for activities you find enjoyable. Food, money, laughter, sex, exercise, and many other activities can trigger the release of dopamine.
Repeated, prolonged dopamine hits will eventually alter your brain's chemical function. It hardens your brain (literally) to its own sensitivity to this pleasure chemical. Thus, higher amounts of dopamine are needed to achieve the same highs as before. This means that longer, more intense, and more extreme porn use must occur in order to escalate the dopamine release the brain is seeking. This is the basis for the addiction. It can take up to a year of clean living before the brain is restored to a state of normal functionality.
And these effects are only the beginning. Porn exposes us to so many additional detriments and perils that we do not have time to address here. Sadly, these risks affect the lives of real people in real ways every day. It's easy to see how pornography can lead us down not one, but many dangerous paths. But using porn also leads into a battle - a long and weary internal battle that can seem nearly impossible to win: the battle over our own guilt and self worth, which is the next step in the cycle.
In the next article, we will take a look at step three: guilt.
Stay strong, and know that, while the cycle may continue, there is always hope to break it. Always.