4 Experts Offer Advice on How to Conquer Porn Addiction

“The addicted need to let go of their shame and reach out for help.”

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In 2015, the U.S. Catholic bishops approved Create in Me a Clean Heart: a Pastoral Response to Pornography, a statement discussing Church teaching on human sexuality and chastity, why production and use of pornography is always sinful, porn’s disastrous effects on individuals and society as a whole and suggests a pathway for those addicted to pornography who wish to break the addiction. The bishops wanted to address the issue, they said, because “In our duty as pastors and shepherds to proclaim Christ, we must state clearly that all pornography is immoral and harmful and using pornography may lead to other sins, and possibly, even crimes.”

Highlights of the statement include:

  • The bishops declare that pornography is a sin against chastity, so “such [sexual] intimacy should not be put on display or be watched by any other person, even if that person is one’s own spouse. Nor should the human body be unveiled or treated in a way that objectifies it sexually and reduces it to an erotic stimulant.”
  • Regular porn use can destroy a person’s ability to have healthy relationships and successful marriages. Porn is connected to “adultery, domestic violence, the abuse of children in child pornography, and sex trafficking. It also can be implicated in contraception use and abortion, given that it promotes and even celebrates promiscuity and a view of sexuality devoid of love or openness to new life.”
  • “Pornography use within marriage severely damages the spouses’ trust and intimacy both because of the pornography use itself and because of the deception and lies usually involved in one spouse hiding his or her behavior from the other. It has been identified by divorce lawyers as a major factor in over half of divorces.”
  • Porn users can find themselves “trapped in a cycle of fantasy, ritual, acting out and despair.” However, the Church is a “field hospital,” and has much to offer to help. These include spiritual tools such as prayer and the sacraments; the bishops also encourage individuals to seek “ongoing support such as counseling, spiritual direction, coaching, accountability groups, couple to couple groups, conferences, and retreats for men and women.”

Some Catholics have made an apostolate out of combating pornography and have tried to help those free themselves from the addiction; here are some comments they offered.

 

Matt Fradd works with Integrity Restored (http://integrityrestored.com/) and speaks to tens of thousands of teens annually about the harmful effects of porn.

He said, “We’ve reached a tipping point in our culture. Everyone either a) struggles with porn use or b) knows someone who does.”

He compared defenders of pornography to apologists for the tobacco industry in decades past. He said, “As the research continued to pile up about how harmful smoking is to your health, they’d continue to deny it. We see the same thing happening with defenders of porn today.”

He pointed out that 26 peer reviewed studies have demonstrated that porn affects the human brain in much the same way as a drug. He said, “It is not a drug we can inhale or inject, but one to which we can still become addicted.”

Fradd speaks about the seven myths of pornography, including that it is “adult entertainment.” He opined, “It isn’t adult entertainment at all. Studies have shown that porn erodes the frontal lobe of the brain, which we use to make executive decisions. Porn makes us more juvenile, not more of an adult.”

Another myth, he said, is that freedom from porn is a destination, at which one someday can arrive. He said, “I encounter people who believe that if they say a certain prayer, wear a certain scapular, read a certain book or have a certain holy priest pray over them, they can be pure. But freedom is not a destination, it is a daily choice.”

 

Fr. Sean Kilcawley is Director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, who works with Integrity Restored.

Fr. Kilcawley taught religion to high school students, and noticed that pornography was an impediment to living a Christian life. He said, “With modern technology, all high school students have immediate access to pornography. Regularly viewing it leads to a distortion in how they see themselves and each other, and is an obstacle to embracing Christ.”

He, therefore, sees anti-pornography apostolates as “the first stage of evangelization.”

Fr. Kilcawley noted that as he’s known for his work combating pornography, many have shared with him their struggles with porn. They include young males, but “I’ve met with people from an addicted second grader to a grandmother in her 50s sending erotic photos to a man to whom she was not married. These are not bad people, and may be involved in their parishes. Pornography is a cancer in the Church that affects everyone.”

While having a healthy spirituality is a good start to keep oneself free from porn, Father also believes the addicted must also employ actions such as going to a qualified counselor and a spiritual director, participating in a support group and using filtering software. He said, “The one thing to do is to do all of these things.”

While it’s a tough battle, Fr. Kilcawley said, those who are successful achieve a spiritual rebirth and “become excited about what Jesus is doing in their lives.” Whereas porn causes a spiritual malaise, those freed of it “are on fire, and want to go out and spread the Gospel.”

 

Peter Kleponis (www.peterkleponis.com) is a Catholic therapist from Pennsylvania who regularly speaks against pornography, is author of Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography (see the companion website, www.integrityrestored.com) and served as proofreader for Create in Me a Clean Heart.

Kleponis noted that the largest population of porn users is tech savvy children ages 12-17. Pornographers are aware of this and that porn is addictive, and hence target the young “to get as many addicted as possible so they’ll have customers for life.”

He “fell into” helping patients recover from pornography additions after an increasing number of men and their wives came to him for treatment. He said, “It’s a major epidemic in our society, but no one is talking about it.”

In his practice, Kleponis regularly sees the effect of porn addiction, including broken marriages, lost jobs (as employees are fired for looking at porn rather than working), promiscuity, STDs and unwanted pregnancies. As a tolerance develops, viewers seek more intensive experiences, such as deviant sexuality, fetish and violent porn and child pornography, even though they often are not interested in sex with children.

Like Fr. Kilcawley, Kleponis recommends getting involved in a recovery program (as a mental health professional, he authored the first such Catholic program), just as an alcoholic or drug addict would enter a program to overcome their addictions. He advises priests to treat porn addiction not as a moral failing but a disease, and to refer the addicted to counselors trained in combating sexual addictions. He said, “The addicted need to let go of their shame and reach out for help.”

 

Sam and Beth Meier have assisted with the anti-pornography efforts of Archbishop Joseph Naumann and his Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, specifically with the My House Initiative.

Sam had struggled with pornography since age 12. He married Beth at age 20, thinking marriage would cure his porn addiction. It did not, and in 2004 Beth gave him an ultimatum: give up the porn or she would divorce him. Wanting to save the marriage, Sam sought help at a Christian counseling center specializing in sexual addiction. With counseling, he said, “I took responsibility for my sins and selfishness, and implemented practical ways to change.”

Previously he had blamed Beth for his problems, a view he now sees as absurd, and he is grateful for what he terms “Beth’s tough love.”

Sam’s counseling was based on a modified version of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 steps, and involved the support of other men with Sam’s struggle. Twelve step programs, Archbishop Naumann said, “are helpful on the human level to provide people practical assistance in dealing with addictions, and to dispose them to be better able to access the grace of the sacraments.”

Other components of Sam’s recovery included prayer and the reading of recovery materials. Sam and Beth also began attending conferences and reading books on the Theology of the Body, which provided healing as well. He’s had slips, but otherwise Sam has stayed free from porn. Beth, too, has been undergoing recovery, too, from anger, bitterness, resentment and a lack of trust of Sam. She said, “It took me a while to understand the nature of addiction. There were times when I used to ask, ‘Why doesn’t Sam just stop?’”

Accountability is an important tool to “keep Sam honest.” He has been involved with support groups and uses filtering software. Support groups can be key, as when he does feel tempted, he can pick up the phone and call a friend in his support group, or a friend in the same situation can call him.

When Sam began his recovery process and became involved in his recovery group, Beth immediately saw his demeanor change. When he returned home, he was smiling, laughing and in good spirits. Beth discovered that she, too, needed the support of a wives support group. She also came to understand the nature of addiction, and why it was so hard for Sam to leave his old lifestyle.

She’s also thrilled that viewing porn is no longer a part of Sam’s life: “It’s been miraculous to see Sam change. Words can’t express how exciting it’s been. I only wish My House had been around when we started our marriage.”