Addiction Part II: Pornography

Sorry to be so late with this second post on addiction. Computer problems invaded my world.

Most of my comments regarding pornography addiction will come from information I have gleaned from various sources. One of the main ones is so important that I believe I should point it out right from the start. A book that was critical to my thinking processes in the early stages of dealing with my own pornography problem was Protecting Your Child In An X-Rated World: What you need to know to make a difference. It is published by Focus On The Family by Frank York and Jan LaRue. Although it was printed in 2002, it is still available on Amazon .com and the information is timeless.

I read the book while I was still awaiting information on the Federal government’s plans to prosecute me for visiting pornographic sites containing, among other things, child pornography. I was initially angered by some of what I read because the authors are adamant about the need to prosecute anyone who visits such sites, even if they never intended to retain any pictures, which was my case. They emphasize a point that I had never considered before reading their book. That point is whenever anyone views a pornographic image, whether it is of a child or an adult, the person in the picture is being abused all over again. I had never considered that and frankly didn’t want to consider it when I first read the book. There were times when I had to put the book down and think to myself, “these people are crazy, I wasn’t abusing anyone.” I have since come to respect their views and recommend their book

In this post I will share a point that Frank and LaRue made about what happens in the human brain that leads to pornography addiction. There are some who dispute their arguments, but I will share them nonetheless because there is ample evidence to support their stance. They make reference to the work of Dr. Victor Cline, a psychotherapist and specialist in marital and family counseling. Cline believes that a person goes through four primary steps.

     1] Addiction: He states that the repeated exposure to pornography leads to a person becoming addicted to it. There is a desire to keep going back again and again due to the pleasurable experience he/she achieves.

   2] Escalation: The addict eventually becomes bored with the level of images seen and seeks to find more explicit ones such as incest, bestiality, violence and even mutilation.

   3] Desensitization: Eventually, what was once shocking becomes commonplace. The guilt once felt is replaced by a justification in a person’s mind that “must be everyone does this.”

   4] Acting out sexually: Not every addict will progress to this stage, but unfortunately all too many do. This stage involves the addict choosing to act out the behaviors seen in the pornography. The result is most likely going to be some form of illegal activity or at least painful and harmful to someone else.

Cline goes on to report that porn makes a permanent impact on the brain. In his testimony before the Reagan Administration’s Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography he describes the chemical changes that occur. He reports that, “research suggests that experiences at times of emotional [or sexual] arousal get locked in the brain by the chemical epinephrine and become virtually impossible to erase. These memories, very vivid and graphic in nature, keep intruding themselves back on the mind’s memory screen, serving to stimulate and arouse the viewer.”

Other researchers suggest that additional chemical changes may occur in the brain when a person is viewing pornography. One report refers to an opium-like effect and the possibility exists that repeated exposure to stimulation from viewing porn may strengthen the connections between nerve cells and increase the amount of tissue in the brain.

Given the findings mentioned above, it would be easy to see why some conclude that there is no cure for sexual or pornographic addiction. If it is true that there is a permanent change to the brain cells, that conclusion seems reasonable. However, I remind you that we have a God who is all-powerful and able to accomplish anything. There is hope for the person who has experienced addiction to pornography and I will address that in my next post.

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Addiction Part I: How It Begins

One of Satan’s most subtle and crippling ploys is to snare people into a cycle of addiction. Once addicted, it takes extreme determination to break free. But, praise God, He always makes a way for us to escape any of Satan’s tactics against us.

The process of becoming addicted to something works in a similar manner no matter what the object of the addiction. It always starts with a desire to please ourselves. Satan is always at the heart of any addiction as he encourages the thought processes that tell us that we need to feed our sinful desires, first and foremost. There may be numerous environmental circumstances that add impetus to a person’s tendency to engage in activities that become addictive, but that does not negate the sin factor of attempting to please self above all else. We are most familiar with addictions to drugs and alcohol. Addiction overtakes a person to the exclusion of other excellent things.

An addiction begins when we start doing something or”taking something” and we receive great satisfaction from it. The problem arises when we feel that we have to have more and more in order to have the same degree of satisfaction that we had at the beginning. Perhaps using the example of drugs or alcohol would be the easiest way to explain it. If a person smokes marijuana once and gets an enjoyable feeling from doing so, he/she is likely to want to try it again. It doesn’t take long before the feeling that was initially achieved from the first couple of marijuana cigarettes fails to give the same “high.” Therefore, it now takes smoking more of them more days per week to achieve the same level of thrill as the first one did. Soon the person is addicted to the marijuana and wants more and more as often as possible.

I will refrain from getting into the question of whether marijuana is physically addicting or not, because that is not my point here. I realize that some would say that it is not addictive. Whether marijuana itself creates a bodily need for more and more or whether a person just decides he or she wants more is not the issue. The point I am making is that addiction begins with something that gives a little satisfaction, but eventually requires more and more to achieve that same level of “enjoyment.”  I will hasten to add that most hardcore drug users will say that they started with marijuana and became dissatisfied because they no longer got the same thrill and required something more powerful.

It is easier perhaps to consider the process of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. In this case I will use alcohol. A person can become addicted to wine, beer, whiskey or other powerful alcoholic beverages. It isn’t having one of these drinks occasionally that causes a person to become an alcoholic. The process here again, starts with the person getting a feeling that they find satisfying after drinking it. Often it is a feeling of relaxation or stress relief. It becomes addictive when just one occasional drink does not produce the same satisfying feelings and therefore a second or more is needed to produce the effects. Eventually, the human body becomes accustomed to having a certain level of alcohol streaming through the veins and the person tries to keep that level up in order to feel “good.” However, soon the “feeling good” goes away as the alcohol controls the person and they are now addicted. Stress and other life issues may aggravate the problem and the person uses the alcohol to cover up bad thoughts and feelings. Family life, jobs and friendships can soon be destroyed by the addicting powers of the alcohol. 

Satan will have won a great victory in a person’s life if he can achieve the state of addiction and seeming loss of control of healthy choices. It may seem to the person in this circumstance that all is lost and there is no hope. That is exactly what Satan wants us to think. However, God has the upper hand in all situations, including addictions. There is nothing too powerful for a person to overcome through Christ.  Always remember that “…the snare is broken and we have escaped.” Psalm 124:7  Satan cannot keep us ensnared when we trust Christ to free us.

In Part II on addiction I will address what actually goes on in a person’s brain when an addiction develops. In that Blog I will use the example of pornography addiction to make the case. Watch for that entry next week. Finally, Part III will address the hope that we have through Christ in breaking free from addictions of any kind.

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The Trap of Anger and Bitterness

I have had the great privilege for the past seven months to lead a mens’ Bible study group for those who have felt some serious pain and wounds in their lives. We have been using a curriculum developed by Cindy Sherwood, from Colorado Springs. She developed the curriculum for women, but now it is being used very successfully with men as well. Her curriculum is titled “The Healing Journey” and her ministry is called “His Healing Light Ministries.”

Recently, we discussed the topic regarding the issue of “unforgiveness.” It may seem like a rather harmless concept, but in reality it is like a cancer eating away at us. If we are unwilling to forgive others, we may soon be trapped in another of Satan’s snares called “anger and bitterness.” If you are caught in this snare then you will likely be miserable, depressed, and lacking peace and joy in your life. That is just where Satan would like you to be. Do you want to be free from this trap?

In Luke 6:37-38 we find what Jesus says about forgiveness and judging others: He says “…condemn not and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: …For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you.” If we refuse to forgive and hold anger and bitterness toward those who have hurt or offended us, then our heavenly Father will not be able to forgive us. Do you think you have ever hurt or offended your heavenly Father? Are you expecting Him to forgive you? If we expect to be forgiven by Him, then we need to forgive those who have offended us.

Remember that “…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. We like that verse and the thought that Jesus loved us and died for us even before we asked Him for forgiveness is amazing.  However, for some reason we don’t employ that same line of thinking many times toward those who have offended us. The problem is that that the unforgiveness eventually turns to bitterness. If you are ready to make the move to be free from the pain and anguish you carry because of your anger and bitterness toward someone, your first step must be to ask God to forgive you for the sin of unforgiveness toward others. Secondly, even if only privately by yourself, forgive those who have offended you. The best senario of all is to go to the one who has offended you and explain that you have been offended at some time by them and ask for their forgiveness for your anger and bitterness directed toward them. They may not apologize, but you will have done your part to release yourself from the Satan’s snare.

Give God the praise for releasing you from the trap. You may find that the other person didn’t even know you were offended or they may still act offensively toward you. The important thing is that you have followed Christ in forgiving as He has forgiven you and you can now enjoy the peace and freedom from knowing that is true.

 

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Ten Steps To Breaking Free

I found that there were ten essential steps for me to truly break free from the snare in which Satan had entangled me. In my case the snare involved the sin of Internet pornography and the life of pain amd misery that followed. I share these steps in the hope that they will be found helpful by someone else.

1. Confess, repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

2. Humble yourself totally before the Lord.

” Humble yourseves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

3. Pray multiple times per day.

“Evening, morning and noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice.” Psalm 55:17

4. Find a prayer and accountability partner, someone who knows about your struggles and who will be available to you at any time.

“Brethren, if ye be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galations 6:1

5. Seek Godly counseling.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” Psalm 1:1

6. Read God’s word and renew your mind.

“Thy word is lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

7. Resist the devil. Rid yourself of things that may make you fail.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

8. Change the things you think about.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

9. Limit time spent alone.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

10. Associate with Godly friends who know about your struggles, who will encourage you.

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

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Internet Accountability: A Top Priority

The Internet, as most of us know, can be one of the world’s greatest assets or one of Satan’s most powerful tools to destroy lives. The availability of the Internet has opened lines of communication and been an incalculable boon to business and trade worldwide. However, included in the business boon online has been the availability of pornography to an extent that few people realize. Just as the Internet has been a terrific stimulus for all kinds of business it has also been the root cause of untold pain and destruction the lives of people and marriages. It is no longer necessary for those who wish to view porn to go to an adult bookstore, order videos or subscribe to adult channels on television. All that one would like to see is available for free in the privacy of one’s own home.

One of the biggest advantages to the person who gets caught up in the Internet porn habit is the total lack of accountability. Even the most godly appearing Christian can easily become trapped in the sin/repent cycle of lust and sin through viewing Internet porn. It seems that one could go on for years and never get “found out” regarding their online habits. However, it is important for Christians to remember that God is not mocked and be sure your sins will find you out. Hundreds of thousands of marriages have been destroyed because of the sin of Internet pornography. Individual lives have been destroyed, testimonies ruined, jobs lost and financial devastation brought on, all because of this sin and the lack of accountability for the person involved in it. These ramifications are, of course, just what Satan desires for the child of God.

I am not advocating that people avoid the Internet altogether. I am advocating that basic precautions be taken to avoid the snare that Satan is waiting to trap you in every time you go online. One approach is to utilize some of the excellent programs out there to minimize the possibility of Satan’s attacks being successful.

One such program that works well for me is the Internet filtering and accountability services from http://www.covenanteyes.com/. Covenant Eyes offers online filtering of websites and gives the administrator an opportunity to customize how much filtering is desired. My favorite part of Covenant Eyes service is the accountability portion. This service gives the user the opportunity to select one or several accountability partners who will receive a report of all websites visited by the user. The report can be generated daily, weekly or monthly. It is an outstanding deterrent for the user to deliberately access sites that are known to be problematic. I have discovered that when I know that my accountability partners are going to be informed weekly of my web explorations there is no stronger force to keep me honest and pure.

Covenant Eyes offers rates that are discounted for families and lower rates for churches when multiple members sign up. I urge you to go to their website at covenanteyes.com to learn more and start protecting yourselves, your employees and you family as soon as possible.

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Sen. Scott Brown urges victims of sexual abuse to tell someone.

Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown has revealed in his new book titled Against All Odds, that he was sexually abused at the age of seven and again at age ten. His abuser when he was ten was a camp counselor who threatened to kill him if he told anyone. He did not tell anyone then, including his mother, or later not even his wife. His wife found out when she read his book. Many people may find it unusual that he would not have reported such a thing. Unfortunately, the fact is that silence on the part of victims of sexual abuse is the norm.

There are various reasons why victims keep silent. Sometimes it is because of threats of physical harm, as in Brown’s case. Other times it is fear of public humiliation or that as the victim no one will believe you. I know of a case where a person did report and was then humiliated by family members and told to keep quiet about it. I only wish that person would have still sought someone else to tell until there was a receptive ear.

I can relate to this story by Scott Brown because a similar incident happened to me at age twelve. It was not an adult who abused me, but rather two older teens. They threatened to harm someone in my family if I told. They also threatened to “ruin me” by telling stories about me at school. They told me that I was “worthless” and continued that throughout the school year. It was obvious to me that they were telling “dirty stories” about me at school by the way they and their friends treated me and the vulgar notes I found in my locker. Through all of that I remained silent. I truly did feel worthless.

Sen. Brown indicated that a school teacher and coach took him under his wing and mentored him and that was what helped him to be strong enough to get through school. Amazingly, I too had the experience of a coach and teacher who took great interest in me and encouraged me. His support and guidance helped me to overcome at least temporarily, the burden I was carrying. I still never told my “dirty little secret.” I carried that secret until I was in my mid-fifties, until through a series of circumstances which I describe in detail in my book The Snare Is Broken [pictured on the left] I was forced to reveal it.

I concur with Sen. Brown that if you or someone you know has been sexually abused, you need to tell someone and perhaps seek counseling to finally put the situation to rest as much as possible. Also, we need to be sure that we instruct our children more vigorously about the issues of appropriate and inappropriate touch and the need to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable as the result of physical touch by other children or adults.

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Introducing Bruce Hughes

Bruce D. Hughes Ph.D.

This is my first entry on Broken Snares and I’d like to introduce myself. I’ve been a Christian for forty-six years. I accepted the Lord at the age of eighteen while dating my high school sweetheart who has been my wife now for the past forty-three years. We have two adult sons and five grandchildren.

I spent thirty-six years working as a special education teacher, supervisor of teachers, children’s mental health worker and finally executive director of a human service agency. Additionally, I taught at a local college for twenty-six years. During all that time I was active in our local church working as a youth leader, teaching adult and teen Sunday School and serving as a deacon or trustee.

I have recently completed my autobiography titled The Snare Is Broken. It is the story of my journey to freedom from the devastating grip of sexual abuse and pornography.

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