I feel frustrated because I haven’t been able to conquer a habit that I’ve had since I was fifteen. I am now twenty-three, and I am addicted to pornography. I can’t avoid it…. I am a university student with very good grades. I have overheard parents setting me up as an example for their children; but only I know how I live, and I am fighting day after day to avoid this shameful habit.
Thank you for writing to us as your first step in conquering this destructive addiction in your life. For some people, pornography is an occasional bad habit that causes guilt, shame, and relationship problems. But according to many experts, that bad habit is likely to turn into an addiction. Increasing exposure to pornography causes the brain to release chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that the body begins to crave, in much the same way that drug-addicted individuals crave their drug of choice. But as with street drugs, the brain soon signals that it must have these chemicals to survive. That signal from the brain is addiction. And the more the person gives in to the craving, the more chemicals are released, bringing about a vicious circle that is never satisfied.
To break the addiction, it is necessary to quit “cold turkey” and suffer the physical withdrawal symptoms that will result when the brain is deprived of the chemicals that it craves. Trying to “cut down” or manage a moderate amount of exposure to pornography will never help, because the brain must be forced to completely break the connection that it has formed between pornography and these chemicals. This may result in tormented dreams or sleepless nights, thus proving the power that the chemicals have over your body when you are not even awake.
Begin to keep a written record of all the times that you are tempted to view pornography. Do you see magazines in the checkout line of stores? Do you pass billboards every day that display half-clothed women? Do you watch television or movies that have suggestive images? Do you work on your computer in a private place? Do you go to places where women are dressed seductively? All of these situations are triggers that lead to the craving. Go through the written record that you are keeping, and think of a way to avoid every situation that leads to temptation. Write down the decisions that you make to avoid these triggering situations.
Many times the addiction to pornography is fueled by negative emotions. Do you get sad or depressed, and look for comfort in pornography? Do you regularly experience feelings of failure or rejection? Are you lonely or bored because of too much time of inactivity? These feelings are other triggers, and in order to bring them out into the open you must find a professional counselor or a trusted friend with whom you can be completely honest.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.”1 In this statement, Paul is giving you an answer and hope for your problem. He said that you should “learn to control your own body.” Learning to control your body is possible, but it will be much less difficult if you decide to accept Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as your personal Savior. He can help you from the inside out. He loves you, and knows your problems and your body better than you do. Give Him a chance today!
We wish you well,
1 1Th 4:3-5