"When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long."
Silence is the single greatest reason for the persistence of the porn epidemic. The failure of genuine sufferers to speak up and ask for help serves nothing but to perpetuate this ugly, downward spiral, trapping otherwise good people in a bad situation.
But why do we stay silent? Why do those who suffer from a severe and genuine problem fail to speak out and get help with their destructive habits? Why do we suffer in isolation? For me, the answer came down to one thing: consequences.
When it comes to sin, silence is largely an effort to avoid consequences. Again, this thinking is rooted in fear (see my previous post in this series for more on that), and is not in any way emotionally healthy.
What consequences do we fear? This can vary from person to person. However, for me the preliminary list consisted of:
Loss of reputation
Addicts fear judgment from others for their sins. The idea that people might lose respect for them, or label them a pervert, a deviant, or worse, further motivates their silence. Valued positions they hold at work, at home, in the church, or in the community also might be placed in jeopardy were the addiction to come to light.
These losses, whether real or perceived, constitute deep reputational setbacks for a secret addict. This kind of public disgrace may never actually come about, but to imagine the very possibility is enough to turn an addict off to the idea of getting help.
Loss of relationships
In order to keep their addiction under wraps, users must engage in deceptive tactics to hide their activities. Once discovered, these lies, misdirections, half-truths, and omissions of detail naturally amount to a deep emotional betrayal of those around us. This deceit ruins trust, and it spurs emotional distance from people for whom addicts care deeply.
This is especially true of spousal and child relationships, which are especially revered. To admit or acknowledge the addiction is to risk losing the benefit of such intimate relationships, since family members are less likely to trust the addict or reciprocate their affections. The thought of this potential loss alone dissuades countless addicts from seeking help.
Loss of conveniences
Along with act of speaking out comes the idea of getting help. Asking for help is not always easy and it can require considerable bravery. But, in the addicted mind, it also requires sacrifice.
Getting help means making tough choices, like getting accountability for example. Such a safety measure would obviously hinder access to online material that addicts enjoy. Password protections, monitoring and filtering software, timers, and all other safeguards will limit an addicts freedom of movement, rendering these safety options totally undesirable in their eyes.
In the mind of an addict, these consequences are detrimental to the life of fantasy they vehemently pursue. These ramifications force authenticity into their narrow, clouded view, pushing them to finally make difficult, seemingly impossible, choices.
The choice between porn and family would seem obvious to someone thinking with clarity. However, in the warped mentality of a career addict, it is the ultimate nightmare. The life of secret addiction is entirely absorbed in attaining the best of both worlds. It's about having all the pleasure of sin without any of the consequences, and riding that wave for as long as possible. The confession or discovery of the sin means breaking that wave and suffering, as they see it, through the loss of one or the other.
Rather than make the tough choice and face the tough facts, addicts often choose silence. Because silence is easy. Silence allows them to continue living in the familiar misery which they mistake for pleasure.
Some addicts even foolishly believe, as I once did, that there would always come a time to change later. They think that they can continue with their undercover sin as long as they wish, then they will some day repent and get clean down the road and no one will be the wiser. They often try to slip their entire addiction under the noses of everyone around them. But as Moses told Israel in the wilderness:
“...behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure
your sin will find you out.”
So, the obvious question remains: How do we break the silence? How do we talk about our addiction in healthy ways? Three kinds of communication are important for this:
Communication with God
Prayer is an obvious and necessary part of healing. Constant prayer plays a key role in recovery, obtaining wisdom, building faith, and generally making requests of God. It's our primary avenue to God, and a critical part of Christian living.
Communication with others
Remember the T.A.N principal. Talk to other people about your:
Temptations and triggers - Those things that have been pulling you away from authentic living, and sparking any desire to to go back to the addictive behaviors.
Actions - Specific things you have done, whether good or bad. Not only confessing your sins (James 5:16), but also celebrating your victories. Reflect on how they affected, helped, or hindered you.
Needs - Specific contributions or forms of help you desire from those around you (such as your accountability group) that will help keep you out of the porn cycle.
Telling your story (appropriately)
The ability to share your journey with the right audience and at the right time is surprisingly therapeutic. The encouragement that others receive from hearing about your failures and victories will bolster your will to continue the journey.
At the end of the day, addiction is a disease. It is a self-inflicted disorder that clouds your thinking, and pursues only its own interests. It exists only to feed itself at the expense of everything the addict holds dear. Are you willing to pay that price? If not, then I urge you to reach out now, break the cycle, and get the help you need today. Otherwise, you will, as David said, waste your life away in anguish.