We, the members of Porn Anonymous, suffer from a common problem: an inability to stop using porn in a variety of forms, and unhealthy sexual behavior. It expresses itself in a mental obsession and compulsive activity. We have become addicted to the virtual sensation, whether in moving video or still-life pictures, erotic novels, sex chats, correspondence and every other such medium. Use of porn served a wide variety of our needs and desires. Therein, some of us found relaxation; others found excitement and pleasure or unlimited vitality; and still others, consolation, distraction, and escape. The common denominator for all of us is that submitting to this solution became the problem itself.
When the urge to use pornography took hold of us, not a single promise we had made or technological filter could hold us back. When it left us, we felt empty, alone, and depressed. Our vain attempts to stop in whatever way we could, only made the problem worse. We started to fear ourselves – in fact, we were full of fear that our dark secret would be revealed, and thus we settled into a double life and lost faith in ourselves. We continued to maintain an outer façade of respectability, all the while knowing how low we had sunk on the inside. The split personality was too difficult to keep up.
If we were in a relationship, our situation was even worse, for we had to constantly hide our distress from the person who was nearest and dearest to us. Our love talk came with trepidation and guilt; our acts of love contained appeasement and compensation – all this from the loss of control and distortion of the world of sexual concepts.
The more we sank into the morass of addiction, the more our isolation increased. Some of us suspected we could not go on with this anymore, and sought a way to throw in the towel and give everything up. To their great horror, those of us that did, found that in many instances these thoughts also caused us to sink deeper as the falls got ever more painful and recurrent.
Although we kept up our behaviors, we did try to stop in every possible way and with all the seriousness we could muster. We would invest great willpower and energy into quitting, and promise ourselves over and over again that this would be the last time. We tried every solution we could think of, including getting an internet filter, swearing we would never do it again, and self-help techniques. Those of us who led a religious lifestyle tried to reassert their faith in G-d and to fulfill their religious and community obligations.
At times we were lucky enough to experience a temporary relief of the obsession and were convinced that we would never return there. However, despite our efforts being met with partial success, we never succeeded in overcoming the powerful urge to use pornography. Even after being sober for a while, the time always came when the desire for porn was stronger than anything else, and the inevitable slip wiped out all of our achievements. Thus we were dominated; we were slaves, driven by urges and desires that controlled our lives.
The real change in approach began when we understood that we couldn’t stop our compulsive use of pornography alone, and we sought help. This time, unlike other times, we agreed to completely open ourselves up to others and not to leave a single dark corner. Every petty thought, every wave of lust and every desire, were exposed to the light of day. Our fellowship supplied us with a haven where we could feel safe and loved, and the friends we made there empowered us to seek help any time we felt the urge to succumb. We began asking for help before using pornography instead of afterward.
The next step was to turn to a Higher Power and seek His help. That meant we had some serious work ahead of us; putting our house in order, patching things up with those around us and strengthening our conscious connection with God, as we understood Him. We discovered that our illness has three aspects to it, and unless we dealt with all three, there could be no recovery. Our solution was in principle based on a spiritual dimension but it also had to deal with the physical, the allergic reaction we experience every time we use porn. Thus recovery could only come once we were totally ready to stop using porn of any sort, to cease all intentional acts in that direction, and to abstain from all improper sexual conduct.
None of this was easy, but by spiritually connecting to a Power greater than ourselves, we succeeded in steadily moving forward. The result was that our uncontrollable craving for sexual pleasure and excitement was replaced by a life of giving and connecting to ourselves and to others. Instead of sublimating our sorrow and drowning it in porn, we learned to share it with others, thereby connecting instead of cutting ourselves off.
Through steadily working the steps, we began to feel hope. Over time, our obsession with pornography, which had been such an important element of our being, faded away. Being freed from our slavery to porn likewise enabled us to live with ourselves. Only when we learned self-love did we succeed in developing a genuine relationship with others and with God.
Listening to the experiences of others, while sharing our own, helped us to remember where we were coming from, and to feel the loving touch of our Higher Power. Our greatest source of shame slowly became a source of meaning, hope, and faith.