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The Three Aspects of Addiction

Why is it so hard for us to stop using porn? It seems like it should be a simple matter. After all, we know from experience that every time we succumb to the temptation, we always ends up with the same pain and miserable feelings of failure and disappointment in ourselves.

It can be so confusing for us addicts. We have tried to find the solution to our problem in so many different directions:

Maybe all we need is more self-awareness? Maybe we can figure out the root cause that makes us run to porn and want to escape from the problems of life?  Maybe we just need to replace this bad habit with better and more positive choices? Wouldn’t that be enough for us to finally stop using porn? Maybe having a partner and regular sex would change all that? But then again, why is it that even after getting married, so many of us continue to watch porn? Why didn’t marriage solve our problem?

The experience of countless addicts has proven that the standard ways of coping are simply ineffective when it comes to addiction even when we use every ounce of our will-power. They simply do not work for us. We keep falling back and can’t stop.

We’ve all been there. And after this endless cycle, we’ve come to understand that our problem has three separate aspects. Without addressing all three, we cannot have long-term recovery and there is little chance of real self-control.  Our problem is a) psychological, b) physical, and c) spiritual, and we need a comprehensive plan for all three.

The Psychological Side

The mental element is the clearest: we just cannot stop our compulsive behavior. We know very well that it will cause us grief, but this knowledge simply doesn’t help us. We seem to be drawn back to it against our will. We seem to be missing the basic mental mechanism that’s supposed to stop us from doing things that hurt us. A person who touches a hot oven once and gets burned, will be careful not to touch it again in the future. However, we’ve been burned so many times, but we still can’t stop! Each time, we convince ourselves that the oven isn’t really hot.

The bottom line is that porn serves as an escape from the difficulties of life, a kind of hiding place from challenges we don’t want to face.

Beyond that, we get something when using porn that we haven’t found anywhere else, and it gives us more than just a place to hide. Some of our members describe the feeling while using porn as a time and place where they feel acceptance, warmth and fulfillment of their fantasies.

The Physical Side

We call the physical dimension an “allergy,” because of the abnormal reaction we suffer from using porn. We aren’t doctors or scientists, but using the term “allergy” helps us explain things that are difficult to understand. Ordinary people can watch a little porn and then stop, but not us. Some people can see a picture or a video and walk away, but once we succumb to the impulse, we’re like a car without brakes, going down a steep hill. Something in our brain isn’t working properly. Even though we know for certain (in our sober moments) that even one step in the wrong direction will send us into a tailspin that ends in a crash, we keep telling ourselves that this time will be different, and we’ll be able to stop before it’s too late. Just like a person who is allergic to peanuts can have an abnormal reaction if he eats even one peanut, we have an abnormal response when we’re exposed to sexual stimulation. We’re not talking about a skin rash or difficulty breathing, but an uncontrollable need to continue using porn without being able to stop until we crash.

The Spiritual Side

When we talk about the spiritual dimension, we don’t mean religion. We’re referring to our outlook on life, and the realization that without change we cannot heal. Our program is based on this desire for change, using a spiritual approach. When we say “spiritual” we mean the changes we need to make so that we switch from a life based on self-gratification to a life based on what we can contribute to others. In other words, what we give, and not just what we take. Porn addiction, just like any other addiction, is the opposite of spirituality. When we’re consumed with porn, we’re totally self-absorbed. This is the clearest symptom of addiction. Recovery requires the opposite: to stop focusing on ourselves, and instead, let God enter the picture.

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Even though addiction is a problem that has three aspects, we rely mainly on a spiritual solution. Obviously, we need to address the physical and emotional aspects as well, but that is not where we focus our efforts. Our experience has shown us that when we focus on the spiritual solution, as offered in the program, then the emotional and physical problems get alleviated too.