Category Archives: Porn

Your Brain on porn part 5

Pornography as Flamethrower

Unwin also described what may be called “dopaminergic distraction,” where pleasure-seeking dominates and productivity is diminished. Will Durant, in The Lessons of History, wrote that “sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.”

If “sex is a river of fire,” dopamine and other brain drugs are the fuel. Like the astronauts of Apollo 11, we can ride this energy to the heavens, or be consumed in its exhaust, depending on whether we are above the engines in the command module or underneath them, thus exposed to the heat. Dr. Henry A. Bowman said, “No really intelligent person will burn a cathedral to fry an egg, even to satisfy a ravenous appetite,” yet the flamethrower of pornography is torching many cathedrals of marital, parental, and familial love today.

I applaud ongoing efforts to strengthen laws, but in our current legal and social environment, we cannot depend upon the government for restraint. We must face the reality that pornography will affect virtually every family in some way. Dr. Jason Carroll and his colleagues published a widely cited paper in the Journal of Adolescent Research that brings to light the scope of this problem. According to this paper, which reviewed data from five universities, 87 percent of college males and 31 percent of females view pornography. This data crosses all religious, educational, and social barriers.

Pornography has become the sex education venue for the majority of the next generation, an internet candy store, and it teaches that sex is physically and emotionally harmless, with no negative consequences. Men and women are mere visual drugs to be used and discarded, and sex is solely for personal pleasure. The truth, of course, it that those who actually perform sexually to make the pornography are consumed and discarded by pornographers; they are “throwaway people,” as Dr. C. Everett Koop called them.

Help for Healing

Dr. John Mark Chaney’s description of teenage pornography addiction is equally true for adults:

Professionals sometimes fail to understand the power of the compulsion youth are facing, and it is not uncommon for school, religious, or private-sector professionals to advocate a simple treatment plan that is based upon willpower or moral character. Since pornography can be an addiction, these “just say no” types of approaches are likely to only create more frustration and self-defeating ideation . . . the intervention and treatment modality must recognize the problem as a full addiction, and treat it with the same consideration given to alcohol or chemical substances.

Regarding healing, Dr Victor Cline says,

I have found that there are four major factors that most predict success in recovery. First, the individual must be personally motivated to be free of his addiction and possess a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve success. . . . You can never force a person to get well if he doesn’t want to. . . . Second, it is necessary to create a safe environment, which drastically reduces access to porn and other sexual triggers. . . . Third, he should affiliate with a twelve-step support group. . . . Fourth, the individual needs to select a counselor/therapist who has had special training and success in treating sexual addictions.

Let us reach out with understanding to those already trapped, who live in shame and secrecy. Shaming them will not heal them. As Jeffery R. Holland said when he was president of Brigham Young University, “When a battered, weary swimmer tries valiantly to get back to shore, after having fought strong winds and rough waves which he should never have challenged in the first place, those of us who might have had better judgment, or perhaps just better luck, ought not to row out to his side, beat him with our oars, and shove his head back underwater.”

Secular philosophy will not heal them either, and the government can’t save them. Step 2 of the Twelve-Step program for sex addicts says that those healed “came to believe that a Power greater than [themselves] could restore [them] to sanity.” Interestingly, peer-reviewed studies support the success of Twelve-Step programs, which are based on the aid of a Higher Power.

Indeed, Unwin’s research, conducted from a secular perspective, demonstrated that all advanced societies studied, when at their cultural and productive apices, built temples to whatever gods they worshiped. It was in this subjugation of the secular to the sacred, of the limbic to the lobe, that they peaked in their self-control and, therefore, in their self-determination. Will Durant, who described himself as agnostic, also found that “there is no moral substitute” for religion in providing this tempering of the limbic.

The Battle Is Joined

Pornography is a drug that produces an addictive neurochemical trap, “past reason hunted, and no sooner had, past reason hated,” as Shakespeare put it in Sonnet 129. And yes, as we have seen, ice cream and sexuality can be akin to crack cocaine.

While we must continue to fight the good fight legally and societally, we are way beyond avoidance as our only defense. Pornography wants you, it wants your husband or wife, it wants your son and daughter, your grandchildren, and your in-laws. It doesn’t share well, and it doesn’t leave easily. It is a cruel master, and seeks more slaves.

Abraham Lincoln, when he faced a similar war over freedom, said, “If all do not join now to save the good old ship of the Union this voyage nobody will have a chance to pilot her on another voyage.” All hands on deck. The battle is on for sanity and serenity, for peace and prosperity, for today, and for all our tomorrows.

That concludes the article. Again the original can be found at http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php

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Your Brain on Porn Part 4

Dehumanized Sexuality

In addition to cortical hypofrontality and downgrading of the mesolimbic dopaminergic systems, a third element appears to be important in pornography and sexual addiction. Oxytocin and vasopressin are important hormones in the brain with regard to physically performing sexually. Studies show that oxytocin is also important in increasing trust in humans, in emotional bonding between sexual mates, and in parental bonding. We are wired to bond to the object of our sexuality.

It is a good thing when this bonding occurs in a committed marriage relationship, but there is a dark side. When sexual gratification occurs in the context of pornography use, it can result in the formation of a virtual mistress of sorts. Dr. Victor Cline, in his essay, “Pornography’s Effects on Adult and Child,” describes this process as follows:

In my experience as a sexual therapist, any individual who regularly masturbates to pornography is at risk of becoming, in time, a sexual addict, as well as conditioning himself into having a sexual deviancy and/or disturbing a bonded relationship with a spouse or girlfriend.A frequent side effect is that it also dramatically reduces their capacity to love (e.g., it results in a marked dissociation of sex from friendship, affection, caring, and other normal healthy emotions and traits which help marital relationships). Their sexual side becomes in a sense dehumanized. Many of them develop an “alien ego state” (or dark side), whose core is antisocial lust devoid of most values.

In time, the “high” obtained from masturbating to pornography becomes more important than real life relationships. . . .

The process of masturbatory conditioning is inexorable and does not spontaneously remiss. The course of this illness may be slow and is nearly always hidden from view. It is usually a secret part of the man’s life, and like a cancer, it keeps growing and spreading. It rarely ever reverses itself, and it is also very difficult to treat and heal. Denial on the part of the male addict and refusal to confront the problem are typical and predictable, and this almost always leads to marital or couple disharmony, sometimes divorce and sometimes the breaking up of other intimate relationships.

Dr. Doidge notes,”Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and a release from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is addiction, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornography but didn’t like it.” In the book Pornified, Pamela Paul gives numerous examples of this, and describes one person who decided to limit his pornography use, not from a moralist or guilt-based perspective, but out of a desire to again experience pleasure in actual physical relationships with women.

“Porn impotence,” where the man experiences sexuality preferentially with porn instead of a woman, is a real and growing phenomenon. When a man’s sex drive has been diverted away from his spouse in this way, writes Dr. Cline, the wife can “easily sense this, and often [feels] very lonely and rejected.”

An article in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy described a study showing that many women view the pornographic activities of their partners “as a form of infidelity”:

The theme that runs through their letters is that the man has taken the most intimate aspect of the relationship, sexuality, which is supposed to express the bond of love between the couple and be confined exclusively to the relationship, and shared it with countless fantasy women. The vast majority of women in this study used words such as “betrayal,” “cheating,” and “affair “ to describe the significance that their partner’s involvement in pornography had for them.

A Triple Hook

Let me use a fishing analogy to illustrate some of these concepts. Every August, if possible, I try to be on the Unalakleet River in Alaska fishing for silver salmon. We use a particular lure, a triple hook called the Blue Fox pixie. As fisherman know, it is important to keep the drag loose just after hooking the fish, when it still has a lot of fight. As the fish tires, though, we tighten the drag and increase the resistance. In this way the fish is reeled into the boat and netted.

Similarly, pornography is a triple hook, consisting of cortical hypofrontality, dopaminergic downgrading, and oxytocin/vasopressin bonding. Each of these hooks is powerful, and they are synergistic. Pornography sets its hooks very quickly and deeply, and as the addiction progresses, it progressively tightens the dopamine drag until there is no more play in the line. The person is drawn ever closer to the boat, and the waiting net.

Demographic Disaster

Why is it essential to understand the addictive nature of pornography? Because if we view it as merely a bad habit, and do not afford those seeking healing the full support needed to overcome any true addiction, we will continue to be disappointed, as individuals and as a society. Pornography is the fabric used to weave a tapestry of sexual permissiveness that undermines the very foundation of society. Biologically, it destroys the ability of a population to sustain itself. It is a demographic disaster.

The author Tom Wolfe said, “The bigger pornography gets, the lower the birthrate becomes.” Does he have a point? In the 1950s every country now in the European Union had a fertility rate above the 2.1 needed to sustain a population. Now none of them do, and several are at or near the 1.3 rate called the “lowest low fertility,” from which it is virtually impossible to recover. It was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that this decline began, which corresponds precisely with the dawning of the sexual revolution. There is a direct correlation between the growing cultural dominance of the sexual revolution and the diminishing birthrate, and while causation may not be proven, it is strongly supported by the pheromone effect of pornography.

Demographic decline is, of course, multi-factorial. Urbanization, women in the workplace, gender role adaptation, and even increased life expectancy are important factors in the inverted population pyramids. But the primordial, or biological factors of human sexuality and family stability are primary and, in my opinion, haven’t been appropriately weighted.

In 1934 Cambridge anthropologist Dr. J. D. Unwin published Sex and Culture. In it he examined 86 cultures spanning 5,000 years with regard to the effects of both sexual restraint and sexual abandon. His perspective was strictly secular, and his findings were not based in moralistic dogma. He found, without exception, that cultures that practiced strict monogamy in marital bonds exhibited what he called creative social energy, and reached the zenith of production. Cultures that had no restraint on sexuality, without exception, deteriorated into mediocrity and chaos. In Houposia, The Sexual and Economic Foundations of a New Society, published posthumously, he summarized:

In human records, there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. . . . The evidence is that in the past a class has risen to a position of political dominance because of its great energy and that at the period of its rising, its sexual regulations have always been strict. It has retained its energy and dominated the society so long as its sexual regulations have demanded both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. . . .

I know of no exceptions to these rules.

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Your brain on porn part 3

Frontal Lobe Damage

As a feedback of sorts, the frontal lobes also atrophy, or shrink. Think of it as a “wearing out of the brake pads.” This physical and functional decline in the judgment center of the brain causes the person to become impaired in his ability to process the consequences of acting out in addiction. Addiction scientists have called this condition hypofrontality, and have noted a similarity in the behavior of addicted persons to the behavior of patients with frontal brain damage.

Neurosurgeons frequently treat people with frontal lobe damage. In a car crash, for instance, the driver’s brain will often decelerate into the back of his forehead inside his skull, bruising the frontal lobes. Patients with frontal lobe damage exhibit a constellation of behaviors we call frontal lobe syndrome. First, these patients are impulsive, in that they thoughtlessly engage in activities with little regard to the consequences. Second, they are compulsive; they become fixated or focused on certain objects or behaviors, and have to have them, no matter what. Third, they become emotionally labile, and have sudden and unpredictable mood swings. Fourth, they exhibit impaired judgment.

So cortical hypofrontality, or shrinkage of the frontal lobes, causes these four behaviors, and they can result from a car wreck or from addiction.

A study on cocaine addiction published in 2002 shows volume loss, or shrinkage, in several areas of the brain, particularly the frontal control areas. A study from 2004 shows very similar results for methamphetamine. But we expect drugs to damage the brain, so these studies don’t really surprise us.

Consider, though, a natural addiction, such as overeating leading to obesity. You might be surprised to learn that a study published in 2006 showed shrinkage in the frontal lobes in obesity very similar to that found in the cocaine and methamphetamine studies. And a study published in 2007 of persons exhibiting severe sexual addiction produced almost identical results to the cocaine, methamphetamine, and obesity studies. (Encouragingly, two studies, one on drug addiction [methamphetamine] and one on natural addiction [obesity] also show a return to more normal frontal lobe volumes with time in recovery.)

So we have four studies, two drug and two natural addiction studies, all done in different academic institutions by different research teams, and published over a five-year period in four different peer-reviewed scientific journals. And all four studies show that addictions physically affect the frontal lobes of the brain.

Addiction Is Addiction

I mentioned that the dopamine systems don’t work well in addiction, that they become damaged. This damage, as well as frontal lobe damage, can be shown with brain scans, such as functional MRI, PET, and SPECT scans. Recent brain scan studies have not only shown abnormalities in cases of cocaine addiction, but also in cases of pathologic gambling and overeating leading to obesity.

So non-biased science is telling us that addiction is present when there is continued destructive behavior in spite of adverse consequences. As stated in the journal Science, “as far as the brain is concerned, a reward’s a reward, regardless of whether it comes from a chemical or an experience.”

What about pornography and sexual addiction? Dr. Eric Nestler, head of neuroscience research at Mount Cedar Sinai in New York and one of the most respected addiction scientists in the world, published a paper in the journal Nature Neuroscience in 2005 titled “Is there a common pathway for addiction?” In this paper he said that the dopamine reward systems mediate not only drug addiction, but also “natural addictions (that is, compulsive consumption of natural rewards) such as pathological overeating, pathological gambling, and sexual addictions.”

The prestigious Royal Society of London, founded in the 1660s, publishes the longest-running scientific journal in the world, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. A recent issue devoted 17 articles to the current understanding of addiction. Interestingly, two of the articles were specifically concerned with natural addiction, pathologic gambling and overeating.

Frantic Learning

Drs. Robert Malenka and Julie Kauer, in a landmark paper in Nature in 2007 on mechanisms of the physical and chemical changes that occur in the brain cells of addicted individuals, said, “Addiction represents a pathological, yet powerful form of learning and memory.” We now call these changes in brain cells “long term potentiation” and “long term depression,” and speak of the brain as being plastic, or subject to change and re-wiring.

Dr. Norman Doidge, a neurologist at Columbia, in his book The Brain That Changes Itself, describes how pornography causes re-wiring of the neural circuits. He notes that in a study of men viewing internet pornography, the men looked “uncannily” like rats pushing the lever to receive cocaine in the experimental Skinner boxes. Like the addicted rats, the men were desperately seeking the next fix, clicking the mouse just as the rats pushed the lever.

Pornography addiction is frantic learning, and perhaps this is why many who have struggled with multiple addictions report that it was the hardest for them to overcome. Drug addictions, while powerful, are more passive in a “thinking” kind of way, whereas pornography viewing, especially on the internet, is a much more active process neurologically. The constant searching for and evaluating of each image or video clip for its potency and effect is an exercise in neuronal learning, limited only by the progressively rewired brain. Curiosities are thus fused into compulsions, and the need for a larger dopamine fix can drive the person from soft-core to hard-core to child pornography—and worse. A paper published in the Journal of Family Violence in 2009 revealed that 85 percent of men arrested for child pornography had also physically abused children.

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Your brain on porn part 2

This is continued from your brain on porn part 1.

Adrenaline Grass

First, I would like to share an experience our family had a few years ago on a safari in Africa. While on a game drive along the Zambezi River, our ranger commented on the adrenaline grass growing along the banks. I asked him why he used the word “adrenaline,” and he began to drive slowly through the grass. Abruptly, he stopped the vehicle and said, “There! Do you see it?”

“See what?” I asked. He drove closer, and this also changed the angle of the light.

Then I understood. A lion was hiding in the grass watching the river, just waiting for some “fast food” to come and get a drink.

We were sitting in an open-air Land Rover with no doors and no windows. I then understood why it was called adrenaline grass, as I felt my heart pound. My cerebral cortex saw and defined the danger, which registered in the autonomic, or automatic, part of my nervous system. The brain, which is a very efficient pharmaceutical lab, produced the chemical adrenaline, causing my heart to pound and race in preparation for survival. I was ready to run if needed (not that it would have done any good with the lion).

We were told that if we stayed in our seats and remained still, the lion would look at the Land Rover as a whole and not see us as individuals. Fortunately this was the case for us.

A Drug Is a Drug

Interestingly, adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is a drug we physicians use in surgery and in emergencies to start a patient’s heart again when it beats too slow, or even stops. So here is the question: Is epinephrine not a drug if the brain makes it (causing the heart to pound and race), yet is a drug if the same epinephrine is given by a physician?

Or consider dopamine. This chemical is a close cousin to epinephrine, both of which are excitatory neurotransmitters that tell the brain to Go! Dopamine is important in the parts of our brain that allow us to move, and when the dopamine-producing parts of the brain are damaged, Parkinson’s disease results. To treat Parkinson’s, physicians prescribe dopamine as a drug, and it helps the patient move again. So is dopamine a drug only if the pharmaceutical lab makes it, and not if the brain makes the same chemical for the same purpose?

Of course, both are drugs in every sense of the word, regardless of where they are produced. Pertinent to our subject, it happens that both of these brain drugs are very important in human sexuality—and in pornography and sexual addiction. Dopamine, in addition to its role in movement, is an integral neurotransmitter, or brain drug, in the pleasure/reward system in the brain.

Disruption of Dopamine

Let’s review some of the important components of the reward system of the brain. On the outside is the cerebral cortex, a layer of nerve cells that carry conscious, volitional thought. In the front, over the eyes, are the frontal lobes. These areas are important in judgment, and, if the brain were a car, the frontal lobes would be the brakes. These lobes have important connections to the pleasure pathways, so pleasure can be controlled.

In the center of the brain is the nucleus accumbens. This almond-sized area is a key pleasure reward center, and when activated by dopamine and other neurotransmitters, it causes us to value and desire pleasure rewards. Dopamine is essential for humans to desire and value appropriate pleasure in life. Without it, we would not be as incentivized to eat, procreate, or even to try to win a game.

It’s the overuse of the dopamine reward system that causes addiction. When the pathways are used compulsively, a downgrading occurs that actually decreases the amount of dopamine in the pleasure areas available for use, and the dopamine cells themselves start to atrophy, or shrink. The reward cells in the nucleus accumbens are now starved for dopamine and exist in a state of dopamine craving, as a downgrading of dopamine receptors on the pleasure cells occurs as well. This resetting of the “pleasure thermostat” produces a “new normal.” In this addictive state, the person must act out in addiction to boost the dopamine to levels sufficient just to feel normal.

As the desensitization of the reward circuits continues, stronger and stronger stimuli are required to boost the dopamine. In the case of narcotic addiction, the addicted person must increase the amount of the drug to get the same high. In pornography addiction, progressively more shocking images are required to stimulate the person.

Your Brain on Porn Part 1

Pornography has been something that I have done some study on during my 4 years at Briercrest as I sought to gain knowledge on the subject to help my brothers and sisters in Christ with this struggle. I’ve read books, wrote papers, and have gone to seminars on the subject and am still learning more about the awful affects it has on our lives spiritually, physically, emotionally, and so forth. It hurts us on so many levels and is one of the darkest activities out in our world today (even though on the surface it may seem harmless). I read this article on the affects porn has on our brain and emotions and found it super helpful! It is a very long article and since I know that most people lose interest in reading anything these days I will break it into smaller chunks to take in! Enjoy!

Slave Master

How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain

by Donald L. Hilton, Jr.

While some have avoided using the term “addiction” in the context of natural compulsions such as uncontrolled sexuality, overeating, or gambling, let us consider current scientific evidence regarding the brain and addiction.

This article will seek to answer two questions: (1) Biologically, is the brain affected by pornography and other sexual addictions? (2) If so, and if such addictions are widespread, can they have a societal effect as well?

The Story of the Gypsy Moth

Let’s begin with a seeming digression. In 1869 the gypsy moth was brought to America to attempt to jumpstart a silk industry. Rarely have good intentions gone so wrong, as the unforeseen appetite of the moth for deciduous trees such as oaks, maples, and elms has devastated forests for 150 years. Numerous attempts were made to destroy this pest, but a major breakthrough came in the 1960s, when scientists noted that the male gypsy moth finds a female to mate with by following her scent. This scent is called a pheromone, and is extremely attractive to the male.

In 1971 a paper was published in the journal Nature that described how pheromones were used to prevent the moths from mating. The scientists mass-produced the pheromone and permeated the moths’ environment with it. This unnaturally strong scent overpowered the females’ normal ability to attract the male, and the confused males were unable to find females. A follow-up paper described how population control of the moths was achieved by “preventing male gypsy moths from finding mates.”

The gypsy moth was the first insect to be controlled by the use of pheromones, which work by two methods. One is called the confusion method. An airplane scatters an environmentally insignificant number of very small plastic pellets imbedded with the scent of the pheromone. Then, as science journalist Anna Salleh describes it, “The male either becomes confused and doesn’t know which direction to turn for the female, or he becomes desensitized to the lower levels of pheromones naturally given out by the female and has no incentive to mate with her.”

The other method is called the trapping method: Pheromone-infused traps are set, from which moths cannot escape; a male moth enters looking for a female, only to find a fatal substitute.

Two Fallacies

What does this have to do with pornography? Pornography is a visual pheromone, a powerful, $100 billion per year brain drug that is changing human sexuality by “inhibiting orientation” and “disrupting pre-mating communication between the sexes by permeating the atmosphere,” especially through the internet. I believe we are currently struggling in the war against pornography because many continue to believe two key fallacies:

Fallacy No. 1: Pornography is not a drug.

Fallacy No. 2: Pornography is therefore not a real addiction.

As an illustration of Fallacy No. 1, consider the following statement by a Wall Street executive whose mainstream company discreetly profits from pornography: “I’m not a weirdo or a pervert, it’s not my deal. I’ve got kids and a family. But if I can see as an underwriter going out and making bucks on people being weird, hey, dollars are dollars. I’m not selling drugs. It’s Wall Street.”

Now consider both fallacies as elucidated in the following statement by an executive in the pornography industry:

[T]he fact [is] that “drugs, booze and cigarettes” are all physical, chemical agents that are ingested and can indeed have measurable, harmful, addictive effects. The mere viewing of any type of subject matter hardly falls into this category and, in fact, belittles the very real battles that addicts face over drugs, booze and cigarettes—all of which can be lethal. No one ever died from looking at porn. While some compulsive types can be “addicted” to anything, such as watching a favorite television show, eating ice cream or going to the gym, nobody suggests that ice cream is akin to crack cocaine [remember that statement] and should be regulated to protect . . . people from themselves—instead, these compulsive actions are rightfully viewed by society as personality defects in the individual. . . .

Here I will review some of the science he refers to, and also discuss whether pornography is a “physical, chemical” agent, i.e., “a drug,” and also consider the latest research on natural brain rewards in deciding whether it is a true brain addiction.

Original article can be found at http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php

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What Porn Does to Relationships Pt. 3

How a married couple practically addressed pornography in their marriage.

Editor’s note: A little over a month ago, John and Rachel Buckingham wrote two web articles for us about what pornography and sexual addiction had done to their marriage. You can read those articles here and here. Now, they check in and talk about the decision to fight for their marriage and practical steps they’ve taken to try to heal and forgive.

There are no shortcuts to overcoming sex addiction. There are no tricks, no secret formulas, no patches and no “get free of addiction quick” plans available for the low price of $19.95.

If there were, we would have been the first callers on the line.

There is only our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our adoptive relationship with the Father. Without Him, our marriage would be in shambles; characterized by distrust, hurt and the ever-present sensation of horrible betrayal. Without Him, we would now be enemies and strangers, alienated from one another by John’s actions with little hope of true intimacy for years to come. With Him, we have found repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

We have found love.

John on making the decision

That is not to say starting out on the road to recovery has been easy, or that I have been suddenly cured of sexual addiction. On the contrary, the months following the confession of porn use to my wife, Rachel, have been marked by discomfort and sacrifice, and each day I find myself bombarded with the temptation to engage in and pursue adulterous thoughts and actions. Nevertheless, Rachel has chosen to forgive and trust me once again, and we have taken steps together to establish accountability and safeguards for me in order that we might make no provision for the flesh.

While situations and areas of weakness vary greatly between sex addicts, it remains true that we have willingly chosen to subject ourselves to the slavery of sexual sin. Whatever the reason, whatever the root of the matter, we have chosen this path for ourselves and we can—by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ—chose to leave that path. The choice is a difficult one, to be sure, but it is nonetheless a choice that cannot be made for us. We must choose to take action. I made my choice on the day that I confessed my porn use to Rachel.

Sin must be rooted out.

From that day, with the support of my wife and a few godly men, I have turned to distance myself from the insidious behemoth of sexual addiction. Together we have established a system of accountability via an Internet activity monitor and set up Internet filters with OpenDNS that not only block pornographic and sexually explicit websites but allow for the blacklisting of sites that, although not pornographic, present an opportunity for sin.

In addition, we have chosen to avoid the use of smart phones and have decided to forgo dedicated cable television and Internet access in our newest apartment. For our protection, only Rachel knows the passwords to her computer and to our filtering account. Furthermore, I meet with a mature brother in Christ who is also privy to my Internet browsing activity. Rachel and I avoid sexually explicit movies and television shows, and I choose to leave the room while my wife exercises each day with her Pilates workout video. While some of these things seem inconvenient, annoying, trivial or uncomfortable, the truth is that we’re barely scratching the surface.

It’s important to note here that overcoming sex addiction is neither easy nor simple, nor is it achieved by merely gritting one’s teeth, putting one’s back into it and trying just a little harder. Decisions, willpower, privation and a wife’s forgiveness alone cannot and will not free an addict from the burdening chains of addiction or sin any more than a rock can turn itself into a beach ball. If we are to genuinely triumph over the power of sin in our lives, we must seek the only One who ever has: Jesus Christ.

If any person has shown me a concrete example of Christ-like love, it has been Rachel. In the face of my adulterous behavior, Rachel chose to forgive and trust me. This choice was immensely difficult, but I’m so grateful she did, as my battle to overcome sex addiction would be exponentially more daunting without her love and support. Her genuine forgiveness is a reflection of the forgiveness that Christ offers us all, and opens the door to an intimacy I had feared would be lost forever.

Rachel on choosing forgiveness

At the same time as John was presented with the decision to turn from addiction, I was faced with a similar choice: forgive him for what he had done, or not? Before all of this happened, I used to think I would forgive anyone unconditionally, especially those close to me. But when he confessed, I was hurt more deeply than I had ever imagined possible. He had promised to love and cherish only me on our wedding day, and yet, after only four months of marriage, he had broken that very promise.

I didn’t know how to respond.

I knew I should forgive him, but there was a part of me that didn’t want to do so. I didn’t want to trust him, or even let him look at me, much less be vulnerable and open with him. I feared he would just betray me again.

So I prayed.

I wanted to forgive him, but I didn’t know how. What would true forgiveness look like? How would I act? Would I ever be able to fully trust him? I asked God many, many questions that night, and He responded. He told me I had two choices: I could be hurt, angry, bitter, closed off and never trust my husband again, or I could truly, wholeheartedly forgive him and trust that God had brought us together for a reason. God made it clear the first choice would result in further damage to our marriage, alienating us from each other and preventing reconciliation and healing from even beginning. The second, however, would allow God to begin healing the damage immediately. It would still be a process, but it wouldn’t be delayed or drag on.

But what did that choice mean?

It meant forgiving him. Trusting him again as if he had never betrayed me. It meant handing over my heart once again and letting go of all of the anger, hurt, and bitterness. It meant moving on and having honest conversations. It meant being vulnerable and open with him. It meant exposing myself to possible rejection. It meant being selfless and putting his needs above my desire for control or my pain, putting the good of our marriage above what I felt was good for me. It meant letting go of my right to get even. It would be extremely hard and would require sacrifice, but it would be worth it.

After a few days of deliberation and struggle, I chose to forgive him, and it was quite possibly the most difficult decision I have ever made. It required me to believe in him again, to trust him with my heart and give myself to him again. On that day, I chose to let him in and asked him to be open with me about his struggle so we could fight it alongside each other by working through the issues and deep wounds caused by his addiction.

I have never looked back.

Love and reconciliation

Once invited in, the spectre of sexual addiction never completely vacates, and the recovering sex addict should not expect the battle will fully be over while he remains on Earth. Just as an alcoholic might “fall off the wagon” with just one drink, it only takes a sex addict (recovering or no) one moment of weakness to find him- or herself knee deep in the swamp of sexual immorality. As such, we must always remain vigilant against sin, that we might protect ourselves against the sexual immorality that would cause so much pain and hurt. In the sexually supercharged American society, even an innocent walk down the street can prove to be dangerous.

Now, by the grace of God, we have been reconciled to each other, and He is working in our relationship as we seek Him together. His love and forgiveness is awesome and incredible, and we fall more in love each day. Intimacy has been restored to our relationship, but sex addiction no longer enslaves us. There are still hard days, fights and the sin of the flesh, but we are slaves to Christ, and the truth has set us free.

John and Rachel Buckingham are servants of Christ, writers, wanderers and avid coffee drinkers. Read more about them on his and her blogs, where they write on life, love and the faithfulness of God.

What Porn Does To Relationships Part 2-Relevant Magazine

Part 2: A wife examines what porn did to her marriage—and how they found healing.

[Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series. Click here to read the first part, written by Rachel’s husband, John.]

A few weeks ago, my husband sat across from me and told me he had betrayed me by looking at porn.

It had happened innocently enough (if that’s even possible)—he was surfing and ran across some inappropriate pictures. Stumbling across inappropriate pictures turned into looking for them and then actively seeking out pornography to watch while I was falling asleep in the next room, wondering why my husband hadn’t come to bed with me on our four-month anniversary.

Not only was I shocked when he told me, I was also hurt, confused, scared, betrayed and angry. I felt like my world had just been turned upside down; my safety and security were crumbling away. His confession was overwhelming.

Within minutes, the foundation of our marriage was shaken. The trust we had built was destroyed. I no longer felt safe or loved. I was suddenly bombarded with lies—he doesn’t find me attractive; it’s my fault he strayed; I’m not beautiful; I’m not sexy; I am a horrible wife; I’m a failure; he is stuck with me; he doesn’t love me … these seemed to instantly go from ridiculous to quite possibly true.

Through God’s strength (and only through His strength—my first instinct was to withdraw and never trust my husband with my vulnerability again), I met my husband’s gaze and told him I forgave him and still loved him. And then we proceeded to talk about the crippling consequences of his actions to our marriage.

The conversation was eye-opening not only about the reality of lust, but also about its devastating effects. While I had known for quite some time that he struggled with lust, I had refused to really admit it to myself and deal with it, assuming it would dissipate with marriage. I didn’t understand the reality of lust, and no one had ever openly explained it or been willing to talk about it. Even in the church, it was always glossed over: “Men struggle.” End of story. How far from the truth that is! That day, I listened to my husband tell me that he not only struggled with lust, but was also addicted to sex.

For those like me who don’t know what sexual addiction is or how severe it can be, here is a definition. According to allaboutlifechallenges.org, “sexual addiction is, in its simplest form, a normal sex drive that has become obsessive to the point that behavior is out of control. … Sexual addiction can take on many forms, from the use of pornography and masturbation to repeated sexual affairs, patronizing prostitutes, and voyeurism. … The many forms of sexual addiction have one thing in common, the behavior is done in secret, and the sex addict becomes skilled in hiding this secret life from those closest to him.”

This isn’t just looking at girls in low-cut tops, and it doesn’t go away when men can have sex with their wives, as I had assumed. In fact, according to my husband, it has nothing to do with wives and love. Also, what I hadn’t understood is that it is an addiction—like alcoholism—and should be taken seriously.

Though I still don’t fully understand sexual addiction and lust, my husband and I talk about it, how he struggles and how it affects me and our relationship. We have both come to realize the importance of open and honest communication with each other, even when it isn’t easy to talk about this struggle. When I go to bed early, I ask him to be careful—a practice he says helps him fight against the temptation. In the morning, I ask him if anything happened the night before. This open communication keeps us accountable to each other; accountability is key in fighting this battle since it brings light to what was hidden. My husband is not only accountable to me, I know that he discusses his struggles with men in his life, which is incredibly valuable, in my opinion, since they can understand the temptation and struggle in a way I simply cannot. The struggle with lust and sexual addiction is not a battle that can be fought alone since sin thrives in darkness; shedding light on the struggle lessens its power.

Not only does open and honest communication help my husband fight this battle, it is also necessary for a healthy marriage. When my husband felt ashamed because of his struggle, he withdrew. Sensing his withdrawal, I would close off as well rather than trying to be open and run up against the wall I felt my husband building. Our lack of openness led to us not sharing life with each other, including not discussing the difficulties and trials we were facing. To be honest, the less we connected and communicated, the less intimate I wanted to be with him. So I wouldn’t initiate sex as much and was more likely to reject his advances, which caused him to not initiate sex as much either. It was a vicious cycle, because the longer we went without having sex, the harder his struggle with lust and sexual addiction became.

The struggle against lust and sexual addiction is serious and certainly not something to blow off or take lightly. It isn’t simple, and it doesn’t go away with marriage and the accompanying sex. It has far-reaching consequences that affect every aspect of life—from the physical to the mental and emotional to the spiritual—and not just for the partner struggling with lust and sexual addiction, but also for the other partner as well. It is a battle to be grappled with that cannot be fought alone. Vulnerability and communication, along with accountability, are crucial since they unite husbands with wives and/or with brothers in Christ that can fight alongside them. But most importantly, we have a fearsome warrior in God, who loves us, provides us with armor to withstand the schemes of the devil, and fights for us. This struggle against lust and sexual addiction is not an easy one, but it can be fought.

Rachel Buckingham just returned to the States from living in China, where she gained an appreciation for tea while maintaining her love of coffee. She is married, writes freelance, blogs avidly, teaches English, loves connecting with people, and most importantly seeks after God to surrender her life to Him for His glory. Feel free to contact her at Buckingham.rachel@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or at www.rachelbuckingham.wordpress.com.

What Porn Does To Relationships-Relevant Magazine

Part 1: A husband’s confession, a wife’s grief and truly confronting temptation.

[Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series detailing the damage that pornography and sexual addiction can do to a relationship. Check back tomorrow to read about the other side of that addiction, written by John’s wife Rachel.]

Hi, my name is John, and I was a sex addict.

I am also a believer in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and married to an amazing and beautiful woman of God.

To be honest, I thought my addiction would go away with marriage, thought I had been prepared for the strong pull of lust and pornography by a four month fast from my personal computer, thought I was strong enough to stay pure, thought that the safeguards I had built against myself were enough, thought I wouldn’t look at pornography ever again.

How wrong I was.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

The truth is, the temptation of sexual addiction doesn’t lessen with marriage at all. On the contrary, it actually becomes stronger. In spite of what we see today in movies and television, marriage is hard, and true sexual intimacy within marriage is even harder. Unfortunately, while behaving selfishly is easy and natural to our flesh, serving takes a great deal of hard work and sacrifice. And although some find it easy to love, serve and sacrifice, it certainly isn’t a first instinct of mine.

Therefore, in spite of the fact that my wife is everything I could want or ask for in a woman, my flesh nonetheless turns to the “thrill” of feeding an addiction to sex that began when I was twelve years old. An addiction that continued to grow in strength into my teen years and throughout college, eventually leading to daily porn use and several sexual flings that ended in dramatic heartache. As commonly happens with sex addicts, my use of pornography wrought havoc on my ability to have healthy relationships with “real girls,” and it wasn’t until a year after I graduated from college that I found even a vague semblance of healing from what had become a serious addiction to sex.

In early 2010, I asked my girlfriend to marry me. She said yes, and a few long months later we were married. It was a happy and and joyful day, to be sure, but I felt more relief than anything else. “Finally,” I thought. “My struggle against pornography is over.” Although I was confident that I would be “OK,” I nonetheless felt it necessary to try to explain my addiction to my wife. Like a fool, I tried to do it gently and without going into too many specifics or actually explaining the ugliness of the sin in which I had lived for so long. “Things will be fine,” I told myself. “After all, we can have sex whenever we want now.”

And without further ado, we started our new life together.

The first couple of months went great, and because I didn’t have much temptation, I began to let down my guard. And suddenly the streets seemed to fill with alluring girls in all-too-tight clothing. The world around me was one humongous temptation, and it seemed that everywhere I laid my eyes was yet another source of temptation. Even worse, every website I visited seemed to have some woman or another inviting me to indulge in a bit of lust, to relive the days of pornography and masturbation. Convicted, I tried to communicate these things to my wife, but I was ashamed by my sin and the fact that I was struggling, and avoided being clear on the true nature of my struggle.

And so the barrage continued.

Finally, four months after my wife and I were married, my defenses—weakened by my fear of the consequences and a concurrent lack of support—completely crumbled; I again used pornography. Not far away were my old tormentors guilt and shame, and that night I could barely sleep from the sense of condemnation that washed over me. I hated myself for what I had done; this sin didn’t just affect me now, it also affected my wife. I had betrayed her trust. I felt worthless, faithless, and disgusting. A Judas. A traitor.

The next day I could barely look my wife in the eye. I knew that I had to truly tell her what I had done. I didn’t want to live a life of deceit, constantly lying to the very person closest to me. I wanted the intimacy of a marriage without deception or secrecy, no matter how terrified I was to confess my sin. Slowly, painfully, I told her what I had done.

She was devastated. All the love and trust and intimacy we had worked so hard to build for the last four months was called into question and our marriage was shaken to its very core. I feared it wouldn’t stand, and I wouldn’t have blamed her in the least for walking out altogether. She had every right to do so.

Before I was married, I believed I could overcome the temptation of lust and pornography by mere force of will; while after my wedding day, I assumed all sexual temptation would simply disappear. The truth is that I, in and of myself, am completely incapable of conquering an addiction to sex, and being married just raises the stakes. Neither is permissible to gloss over the sin itself in order to save face or avoid shame.

Throughout various conversations with Christian men about their struggles with lust, masturbation and pornography, I hear (and have myself used) a great deal of softening rhetoric. Language such as “I’ve had some problems with lust …,” “I stumbled again …,” and “I messed up the other day …” are very common. They are also untrue. The sin of lust isn’t just a “mistake”, a “mess up”, or a “problem”; it is no less than an act of sin which is reprehensible to God, and nothing short of honestly confessing and repenting of that sins is good enough for God.

Sexual addiction is not a thing to be taken lightly. It is a destroyer of relationships and a corruptor of the body of Christ. Satan uses it against us to crush us and divide us one from another as we cover our shame with lies or half-truths. We simply cannot master it without the power of Christ in our lives, and we must not be reluctant to make any sacrifice in order to break the hold of such sins. To make any excuse for sin is to allow it an ever-widening foothold in our lives, and we must be utterly ruthless and aggressive in rooting it out.

John Buckingham is a wordsmith, English teacher, former homeschooler and international bumbler. He maintains several blogs and has recently returned from China, where he learned that he’s neither as humble nor as patient as he originally believed.

Why you need to stop watching porn

I would say that my friend Ryley has done a great job at bringing some helpful stats on this subject on his blog http://dayoldmusings.wordpress.com/ and handles the subject appropriately. So do yourself a favor and check it out. However I have to say that the more we hear we about why pornography is not only wrong but dangerous the better we will all be, esecially if we take time to listen! So here is a short list of reasons why you NEED to stop watching pornography.

1. It is against the very way God made creation to function.

God has set the world to work in certain ways that line up with his will and direction. When we deviate from this we only end up hurting ourselves and actually rebel against the God who loves us. Proverbs talks a lot about this and would be an important (among many) book to read when battling against this. Ephesians 5:3 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”

2. It hurts your brain.

Every time you engage in an activity that fires up your pleasure center it feels really good! This in of itself is not wrong, however when you engage in an activity that is constantly doing this, like porn, then part of your brain actually gets damaged. Donald Hilton Jr. writes “Just like other addictions, pornography addiction will interrupt dopamine, which functions as a neurotransmitter, and it will cause a part of the brain to shrink,” Hilton claims. “The shrinkage occurs in the Ventral Tegmental Area, or VTA, at the front of the brain.” Basically when you are addicted to porn your emotions are not in check and the things that bring you joy and pain are lowered and you do not feel emotions to the level you should. Along with this it often leads to people being more short with others and irritated a lot easier!

3. Once you start its VERY difficult to stop.

Pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever. Ask almost anyone who has ever struggled with pornography about the images they have seen and they will likely tell you how they still can access the scenes in their brain, this makes it very tough to kick the addiction!

4. It ruins your ministry.

The last stat I heard on this subject was that 4 in every 10 pastors struggle with pornography. The stories I hear of pastors (both youth and lead pastors) getting fired or quitting because of pornography addictions is frightening. This is tearing the church apart and if you are considering being in ministry and struggle with this I hope for yourself and the church you are going to serve that you take this seriously and not allow it to cause troubles down the road

5. It ruins your marriage.

It would be a delusional thought to figure that marriage will fix your porn addiction. With that backward logic the same person would have to assume that marriage would fix their drug or alcohol addiction too. Marriage does not give you the right to watch porn, it allows you to have sex with your husband or wife. Sex is not porn therefore having sex does not solve your porn problems, your still going to be addicted to porn, don’t be a fool! This assumption i believe leads to many divorces. I always thought that was true but never actually saw it as a real problem since i didn’t know anyone personally who has experienced this. However this has hit close to home for a lot of my friends and their marriages suffer because of it. Do not go into a marriage without seriously working through this addiction and making sure your spouse is aware of it as well!

Well there is far more to be said but ill stop there, hope this was helpful for someone out there. If this is a reality for you please please please seek help and realize how serious (since it is a sin) this really is!

-bent 😉