Chris Gordon: the time to break free from porn addiction is now

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A still from the anti-porn website fightthenewdrug.org

Pornography addiction is a huge problem. It is becoming a pandemic. In most Western countries, including Australia, approximately 70% of men are porn addicts. We spend $2 Billion per year on porn. Alarmingly, the number of women addicted to pornography is also on the increase.

Today, the porn addict does not have to suffer the embarrassment of requesting a dirty magazine over the counter at the local petrol station. Sexually explicit images and videos are readily available online. The central home desktop computer has been replaced by an ever growing range of mobile devices with screens. The porn addict hides alone in the darkness of a private room.

Currently there are around 4.2 million porn websites in the world and search engines receive 68 million requests for porn each day. Every day 4.5 billion emails containing pornography arrive in email accounts. Of greatest concern is that fact that there are 100,000 child porn websites now in existence.

Pornography addiction rips our social fabric to shreds. It destroys marriages, families and careers and can lead to mounting debts and risky behaviour. Porn addicts experience feelings of solitude, shame and guilt. Married women cannot compete sexually with the girls on the screen and wonder why their husband no longer finds them satisfying.

Pornography has the same effect on the brain as narcotic drugs and alcohol. While viewing porn, neurotransmitter chemicals and hormones are released in the male brain. An adrenalin rush is caused by dopamine mixing with testosterone. The addicted person experiences a strong sense of excitement or a high. Messages are sent down the spinal cord to the genitals for sexual arousal, resulting in an erection.

All of this activity results in anxiety, which is relieved by an orgasm as the addict masturbates. Once the orgasm is achieved, opiate chemicals are released into the brain giving strong feelings of euphoria and then relaxation. The brain likes this whole experience and addiction develops. Like any other drug, however, a tolerance to and a dependence on porn soon develops. The addict no longer finds soft porn satisfying. He turns to hardcore, fetish, violent and child pornography to satisfy his cravings.

If the addiction goes unchecked for a lengthy period the porn victim arrives at a stage where he no longer finds porn itself satisfying. He then turns to extra-marital affairs, anonymous sex and prostitution in an attempt to act out what he has seen on the screen and to find satisfaction. His life can easily spiral out of control.

Physical addiction to porn is strongly connected to emotional addiction. Unconscious emotional conflicts, deep emotional wounds, selfishness and a sense of entitlement can all lead one to use pornography to ease emotional pain. Other contributing factors can include loneliness, insecurity, anger, poor body image, excessive pressures and lack of fulfilment in life. Pornography does not cure any of these issues.

The good news is that there are ways to overcome pornography addiction. The first step, as with any other addiction is to admit that you have a problem and ask for help. You cannot solve this problem on your own; you will have to employ the help of others in order to recover.

Your relationship with Christ is extremely important. A strong daily prayer life, including spiritual reading is vital. Forge a relationship with a good priest you know and allow him to take care of your soul. Regular exposure to Christ’s reparative graces via the sacraments of Holy Communion and Reconciliation will speed your recovery. A weekly visit to the Blessed Sacrament in adoration is also a very good practice to develop.

You must develop a deep awareness of yourself and the things in your environment that are unhealthy. Purify your environment of pornography. Get rid of all porn, avoid private computer use, destroy magazines, videotapes, and DVDs, block sexual Internet sites, avoid certain businesses or parts of town, and end unhealthy relationships. Store all screened devices in a central location before retiring at night. No screens in the bedroom.

Professional counselling is necessary to learn strategies to avoid pornography triggers and break free of the addictive cycle. Counselling can help to weed out the root emotional causes of the addiction. In certain circumstances marital counselling may be required. Google Catholic Care Sydney to find a counselling service near you.

An excellent anonymous online recovery program specifically designed to accompany persons in their journey towards sexual integrity can be found at: reclaimsexualhealth.com

Everyone is capable of growing in virtue. In cooperation with God’s grace, virtuous people can avoid all vices, including pornography. With some effort we can grow in chastity, honesty, faithfulness, charity, and courage. Be on the lookout for friends and family who may be addicted to porn. Confront them privately and offer your help. We cannot ignore this problem any longer.