Names have been changed for privacy.
Originally published January 31, 2015.
Jack Miller, a college student, was first exposed to pornography at about 15 years of age.
His addiction started there.
“At first, I was looking at catalogs,” he said. “I eventually got on the computer with more time.” During his sophomore year of high school, he thought he had a problem when his parents caught him looking at it. Even then, his addiction lasted throughout high school.
Miller later admitted to looking at pornography to his bishop. Soon after, he served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“That could have been one of the scariest moments of my life because I was risking having to leave on my mission later,” he said. “Luckily, it worked out, and I left on time as planned.” But Miller faced a new challenge when he came home.
“I came back [from my mission] and figured out what a smartphone was,” Miller said. “All of the sudden [pornography] was even more accessible.”
Once you admit that you have an addiction, you admit that you’re powerless against it. – Jack Miller
Miller came to BYU-Idaho after his mission. It was about this time that he started looking at pornography again. Still, he never thought it was an addiction because he only viewed it on occasion.
“I never considered it an addiction because it was off and on,” Miller said. “I wasn’t looking at it every day.” Miller’s singles ward bishop, however, told him otherwise. Miller started to see his problem as an addiction after meeting with his bishop. “Even though it wasn’t constant, a long period of time shows that you have an addiction,” Miller said.
Reed Hendricks, a BYU-Idaho counselor who specializes in sexual addiction behavior, said the admittance process is key to recovery. “A good treatment is that they’ve got to learn to acknowledge honestly what they’re doing,” he said. “[They need to] acknowledge what it’s doing to their life.”
Zachary Moss, a stake missionary group leader for the LDS Family Services Addiction Reco
very Program, said changes begin to take place after acknowledgment: “[When] you realize you have an issue that you need to do something about, changes start to happen.”
“Once you admit that you have an addiction, you admit that you’re powerless against it,” Miller said. But after accepting his addiction, Miller took action.
Hendricks said motivation comes from one of two sources: within or without. To progress, motivation has to come from within.
“It might start out with being compelled by some other outside source,” Hendricks said. “It ultimately [has to] come from ‘I want to do it for myself.’”
At first, Miller’s motivation was his family. He said he wanted to secure his family’s support. “You don’t want them to be disappointed in you,” Miller said. “…You don’t want them to see you like that.”
Miller then saw the path he was heading down. He reflected on his goals of marriage and family and knew he had to make some changes. “At that point, it scared me,” he said. “I finally saw the person I was becoming.”
“People who have addictions will almost always want to conceal it,” Hendricks said. It is important to talk to others because it helps release guilt and shame. “They become less authentic and less honest with themselves.”
Moss said confiding in others also helps relieve life’s pressures. When Miller told his girlfriend about his pornography addiction, he said he felt comfortable telling her because of the trust they had established.
“It’s like letting sunlight in,” Moss said. “It makes you feel a lot better.” Miller had tried to overcome the addiction himself at first, but he later accepted help from others.
“You need some kind of help from another source,” Miller said. “You have to make your effort and turn to support from others.”
Once you are addicted to something, you are addicted for the rest of your life. You really have to change and become a new person. – Zachary Moss
Hendricks said people often turn to one resource for help: “Some people try to turn it over to God. Other people want to go to counseling and try to change their behaviors. That usually doesn’t [create] long-term change.” Hendricks said long-term change occurs when people combine these resources.
“[Receiving] proper help with the emotional aspects of addiction and from [God] to strengthen us, heightens our abilities,” Hendricks said. “That’s when people make long-term, lasting changes.”
However, people with an addiction will always struggle with temptation.
“Once you are addicted to something, you are addicted for the rest of your life,” Moss said. “You really have to change and become a new person.” Hendricks said treatment goes beyond changing people’s behaviors. He, like Moss, said people also have to change their nature.
“If we only try to stop the pornography use without changing the triggers, we never make any long-term change,” Hendricks said.
People with addictions become less and less effective at tuning in… They are less connected to what is happening emotionally, physically and spiritually.” – Reed Hendricks
Triggers are emotions that can cause people to relapse. Such triggers include loneliness or low self-esteem. Hendricks said one or more triggers occur before relapse. To avoid this, he said people need to be aware of what triggers them.
“People with addictions become less and less effective at tuning in,” Hendricks said. “They are less connected to what is happening emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”
Miller’s trigger is unused time. “I try to make sure I’m filling my time with something, even if it’s just playing video games,” he said. Yet, people should not just keep themselves busy. Hendricks said people need to meet their different needs. “Being busy with good things isn’t the same as actually meeting the need,” he said.
Despite the circumstances, Moss said help is available for anyone with an addiction. People can find help through addiction recovery programs, church leaders, and non-profit organizations.
“There’s always help,” he said. “There’s always hope.”
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