A few months ago I had a client who came in looking for help overcoming an addiction to pornography. As is typically the case, he was first exposed to pornography when he was very young, around 10 or 11, and from that point the wiring in his brain started heading down a path of seeking sexual images, videos, and stories to excite him and over the years it got progressively worse.
I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of men and women who have shared similar stories, and they have tried for years to get past a pornography addiction. Sometimes they can put it behind them for months, even years with a few of my clients, but then the wrong stressors, or triggers, hit and they can immediately fall back into familiar, negative patterns. This client informed me that his ecclesiastical leader had recommended that he come to me, and that he explore several other treatment options, one of them even carrying a price tag of a few thousand dollars.
During our assessment he shared that he had already tried several approaches, working with his church leaders, reading books, amping up his personal prayer and scripture study, working with a previous therapist, opening up to his wife, attending 12-step meetings, he felt like he had tried everything. I shared with him that it was pretty clear that he was looking for a quick fix, he was hoping that one of these programs, or professionals would tell him something completely new that he had never heard before that would instantly change him, that he’d wake up the next morning and his well-patterned negative behaviors would be gone. He immediately agreed, and jokingly asked if I did, in fact, have any magic pills? I thought about pulling the old “here, try these ‘magic candies’ with the “W” on them, the “W” stands for “Works!” as in, “it works!” I may have had one of my earliest teens believing this for a few minutes until he saw that the candy I was offering actually had an “M” on it when he turned it upside down!
But his honesty led to a very productive conversation about putting in the work to overcome this addiction, that it had to do with several areas of his life. I was able to share with him years of experience in working with clients struggling to overcome this addiction as well as several other negative behaviors, that the key was indeed understanding the past, his patterns, and his triggers, but that there were several other key areas of his life to pay attention to that would ultimately lead to him finding some relief from the guilt, shame, negative self-image, damaged relationships, untapped potential, all of the things that were the result of his turning to pornography to cope with, or check out from, his life.
He became one of the first people that I gave access to my new online pornography recovery program called The Path Back. The Path Back is a faith-based recovery program for people struggling with pornography addiction and compulsive sexual behavior. There will be a lot more info in the coming weeks about The Path Back, including some exciting things happening in the press and in partnership with other groups who are helping people fight the battle against pornography, and its negative effects on individuals, couples, and families. For now, you can head to http://www.pathbackrecovery.com to learn more about the the program, The Path Back, and you can pick up a short guide I wrote called “5 Common Mistakes that Christians Make Attempting to Break Free from Pornography Addiction.”
Unfortunately the pornography industry is continuing to grow at an alarming rate, the battle to arm our children and teens with tools to help them resist the traps set for them by the pornography industry is only beginning. The days of “if my kids see it” are gone, it’s now “when they see it,” and we need to do all that we can to get ourselves on higher ground so we can lift up those around us. So check out the site, download the “5 Mistakes” report and start spreading the word, it’s time move this conversation from the shadows out into the open so we can not only fight this battle, but win!
Finally, the client I mentioned earlier in this post gave me permission to share the following: “I came into Tony’s office already feeling defeated, defeated as a man, as a father, as a husband, as a child of God. I didn’t see a way out, I had tried everything. I appreciated Tony’s calm demeanor, and his confidence, his belief in me. I felt like at the very least I had somebody who I could talk to. But from our first meeting when he asked me if I was looking for a “magic pill” to overcome this addiction, something clicked, because I guess I sort of was looking for an easy fix. We continued to meet, but he also gave me access to his program The Path Back. From the first video I felt like there was hope. I felt like God was telling me that he had never turned his back on me, and that he has been putting people in my path for years, but that now it was time for me to take action. Tony’s program helped me really understand what my addiction was about, but more importantly how to get rid of it! I now have months of sobriety, when before I couldn’t go days. I feel hope, I feel alive, I feel loved. I am so grateful to have found The Path Back, and I have already shared the program with a few trusted people around me who need that same hope, and love.”
Yesterday I stopped at the store on the way into my office for a bunch of bananas, my go to quick lunch these days is an Adams's all-natural, crunchy peanut butter sandwich with a cut up banana (for the record, I've never tried a grilled peanut butter and banana, rumored to be a favorite of Elvis Presley). When I got to work I set my bananas down and immediately became engrossed in completing the final stages of The Path Back, my online pornography addiction recovery program that is ALMOST READY TO LAUNCH! Whohoo! And from there my first client arrived and I was off!
A few hours into the day one of my clients made a joke about the "banana" in the room, which I took as a half-hearted attempt at humor in reference to my elephant in the room (see my previous post). I gave a courtesy laugh and we kept moving forward. About half way through my noon session I jump up to grab a book off my shelf to give to a client (The Illustrated Happiness Trap just in case you're interested, absolutely wonderful book that lays out nicely why we feel the need to compare ourselves to others, why we beat ourselves up and some strategies to knock it off!) and I find my bananas sitting on my bookshelf, right behind me and directly above my head! I felt like there was a lesson in there somewhere, but I loved the fact that I had 5 clients in my office up to that point and other than the attempt at humor, no one asked the question of why I had a bunch of bananas right behind my head on my bookshelf? I'm a huge fan of communication, at times it can be hard to be a bit comfortable with the uncomfortable, meaning when you feel like you want to say something, or point something out but it might feel a bit awkward, but I try and be the guy that says you have food on your face, or your fly is down (something my kids remind me of often!).
One more quick memory, when I was on a date in high school, I can't remember for the life of me who it was with, but I went to the restroom mid-date to blow my nose, something I still can't do in public, it's just not pretty! I came back to the table, and thankfully my date said, "I think you have a piece of pickle on your lip." I reached up and grabbed it, and that wasn't a piece of pickle, it was a booger! Thankfully we were eating at Carousel, a sandwich shop, and I believe my sandwich had 1,000 Island dressing so the "pickle" seemed like a reasonable thing to be on my lip. Thankfully she didn't just reach over, grab the "pickle" and pop it into her mouth, because I don't think at that time of my life that I WAS that guy who would have said something ? So my challenge for the week is to be that person who points out the bananas in the room, or the pickle on your date's lip, but maybe this time, just for fun, you can make a move to eat the pickle, and see how uncomfortable they might get! Have a great day!
Here is an article on human sex trafficking and how it relates to pornography.
Ted Talk by retired physiology teacher, Gary Wilson. He explains how far reaching porn has become in our modern world.
See the video here.