Hope and Help for Sex Addicts – A Personal Story (+resources)
We recently received an email from Andrew. He, with his wife by his side, has decided to share his story about facing a sex addiction. We’ve shared several stories, mostly from the perspective of the wives of porn/sex addicts. Today, we hear a little more from the perspective of an addict.
Here is what he wrote:
I am an LDS man and a recovering sex addict. About a year ago, I disclosed the extent of my acting out to my wife of twenty years and we each began our own journeys of recovery. I have stayed completely sober since disclosure. This is due in large part to my participation in Sexaholics Anonymous to which I was introduced by an LDS friend and fellow recovering addict in another state. I now lead an SA group in my area and my wife leads a local S-Anon group as well.
Two important things we have learned are that addiction is much bigger and more powerful than most people realize, and that addicts cannot recover on their own. They need the fellowship of other recovering addicts as well as counseling. I have written several essays on recovery and have recently created a website that discusses the addiction recovery experience from an LDS perspective.
Andrew shares his story about facing his sex addiction in this essay, Sitting in a Rowboat Throwing Marbles at a Battleship: A Personal Story of Recovery from Sex and Pornography Addiction
Following are a few snippets from the essays on his website, Rowboats and Marbles.
This is the image he has of what facing an addiction is like (and how he came up with the name of their website). From the about page:
I quickly learned that sexual sobriety and recovery elude so many of us addicts because we do not understand that our addiction is so much bigger, stronger and more cunning than we are. As I was writing about my recovery experience one day, the vision came to my mind of a six-year-old boy sitting in a little rowboat with a handful of marbles. A grey battleship was headed straight towards me and was going to crush me. In desperation, I was heaving the marbles at the ship as hard as I could, trying to sink it. This pathetic picture of a frightened child frantically throwing marbles at a battleship finally and accurately captured the sheer futility of thirty-five years of fighting a battle I could not win and was ill-equipped even to undertake. Thus, the name of this website [Rowboats and Marbles] was born.
His addiction began in childhood as a result of exposure to pornography, sex abuse, and emotional abuse. He’s come to realize that his addiction developed as a way to escape from reality, to self-medicate, as it were. As such, he has a deep sense of compassion for addicts, realizing that for some, their addictions may be reflections of layers of pain, as addressed in this essay.)
When I hear about the proverbial fellow…who destroyed his marriage because he wouldn’t give up his pornography, I immediately think there’s a guy with a broken brain who was really hurting. He may have been subject to abuse or neglect as a child which is when he perhaps was first exposed to pornography by an adult or older sibling. He may have learned to tune out from reality and turn off the pain through fantasy. Lust was the natural partner to fantasy in a broken brain and so it’s likely that it quickly made a home there.
[Recently a commenter asked if we could address this reality — that sometimes pornography/sex addicts developed their addictions as a way to face pain from abuse or loneliness or other trials. But we needed someone to be able to speak to this from personal experience, so we thank Andrew for addressing this.]
In his essays, Andrew discusses the reality that addiction is impossible to overcome alone, but he believes there is great power in understanding that reality and getting the help one needs.
People believe that there truly can be an overwhelming, compulsive power of addiction when it comes to alcohol, cocaine, heroine and cigarettes. These drugs are all tangible things. We can put our hands on them and take them into our bodies. For some reason, however, people are having trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that an addictive compulsion to engage in sexual behavior is practically identical to an addiction to consume tangible drugs. I see people nod in agreement about the addictive nature of pornography, and then the next words out of their mouths are an expression of dismay that a particular man doesn’t just stop looking at pornography if he knows it’s killing his marriage. That’s the point! He doesn’t stop because he can’t stop. He can’t stop because he’s addicted. Being addicted means that his brain suppresses his ability to resist the compulsion to act out with his drug. If you think that it doesn’t make sense, my response is, “Yes! That’s exactly the point! It doesn’t make sense!”
…I am talking here about men and women who want to change, who want to stop what they’re doing, who have tried through prayer, confession, and self-mastery to control their compulsion to do things that are wrong–and then end up going back to them again anyway. This is addiction! It is a disease.
…Addiction is a disease–a treatable disease. In order to treat it, however, you must, in my opinion, get past the idea that you will be cured if you just pray hard enough. I prayed for thirty-six years to be cured. Finally, I heard a quiet voice in my heart and mind whisper that I needed to quit relying solely on prayer and start doing something so the Lord could then do His part. He did not let me down.
The “doing” for Andrew has been primarily through Sexaholics Anonymous (for sex addicts). He is now a sponsor for other addicts, and continues the constant work to stay sober. James’ wife went to (and continues to be involved with) S-Anon (for the spouses/loved ones of addicts). Andrew gives this advice to addicts:
[C]onnect with a 12 Step group. You need the fellowship of those who have gone before you and found recovery. Contrary to what [some] might believe, these groups are full of men and women who have humbly and successfully found real sobriety and are sharing their experience, strength and hope with others. The meetings are positive, inspiring and hopeful because of those people who have found sobriety. Your addiction wants you to remain alone–solitary, unhappy and cut off from people who can help you. Addiction thrives on loneliness, shame and despair. If you want to deal with your addiction in a way that works, walk into a 12 Step meeting and make some friends. I promise they will greet you with smiles.
If I can instill one idea in your head, it is this: You can definitely recover–but you cannot recover on your own! By contrast, you most definitely can stay addicted on your own. In fact, your addiction’s continued survival depends on your staying alone. Like me, you’ve proven ten thousand times that going solo is a perfect recipe for failure. Even if you’re the toughest, smartest, most spiritual person you know, rest assured that your addiction is more cunning and baffling than you are–and it doesn’t care a bit about your strength of spirit. Reach out to those who have gone before you. It will save your life; it will save your soul.
In another essay, he shares more of his feelings about getting help from a 12-step program:
Sexaholics Anonymous helped me get completely sober for the first time in decades. It saved my life. When I talk about sexual sobriety, I mean nothing more or less than “no form of sex with self or any person other than husband or wife.” Not much ambiguity there. I have been sober for nearly a year. Like Job, I have experienced “things [that were] too wonderful for me to know.” I can now look at my wife, tell her I’m sober, and see love, trust and happiness in her eyes. It feels wonderful. I told her in a quiet moment a few days ago, “This is where I always wanted to be.”
Thanks to Andrew and his wife for being willing to share their story. There is much more on their website that explores more fully the challenge of truly overcoming lust and the nature of addiction, the need for outside help to overcome an addiction, and the joy and peace that can be found in the process of recovery.
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Note to readers: The Church also has a 12-step program for addicts, as well as including support meetings (some areas also have family support groups for spouses and loved ones of addicts). For more information and resources from the Church/LDS Family Services (including some locally-created or -sponsored resources), see the following:
- Addiction Recovery Manual and Workbook (available in a variety of languages)
- Family Support Guide (for loved ones of addicts; recommended to be used with the addiction recovery manual).
- Information about Family Support Groups — see if there is an LDS family support group in your area
- Free call-in addiction recovery meetings Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. (MST): Call 1-877-453-7266; meeting ID number is 537277
- References and more resources recommended by the LDS Addiction Recovery Program
- Combating Pornography – help and support for addicts; help and support for spouses, help and support for parents; help and support for youth; help and support for leaders
Other resources that might be helpful include the following: