Category Archives: Addictions

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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