Is it possible for someone to be addicted to pornography?Â Many people scoff at the notion that there is, in fact, such a thing as porn addiction. But ask the man who climbed into a dumpster to retrieve the porn he shamefully discarded days earlier. What do you think he might say? There is no doubt in my mind that pornography addiction is real. In my roles as aÂ pastor and a clinical social worker, I\’ve seen the devastating impact of porn addiction on individuals and families. Like marijuana, porn is aÂ â€œgateway drug.â€Â It can lead to other forms of sexual addiction.Â Dr. Patrick Carnes is a pioneer in the field of sexual addiction treatment. His research and writings provide us with ample evidence that pornography, along with masturbation, can be highly addictive.
The popular contemporary Gospel artist, Kirk Franklin, has spoken of his previous struggles with porn addiction. He, along with his wife, Tammy, took the bold step of going onÂ The Oprah Winfrey Show, in 2006, to talk openly about his addiction and its impact on their marriage. I thank God that they had the courage to put a public face on this problem. However, Kirk is not the only Christian man who has struggled with pornography.Â Someone has jokingly said that 70% of ChristianÂ men have struggled with some form of sexual sin, and the other 30% have a problem with honesty.Â How big is pornÂ addiction in the Church?Â A ChristiaNet poll suggests that as many as 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women are addicted to porn. Research reveals that 37% of pastors are frequent or regular consumers of internet porn. Even if these numbers are a bit inflated, they are shocking, nonetheless.
In hisÂ â€œFaithful & Trueâ€Â workbook, Dr. Mark Laaser gives us a helpful framework for understanding addiction. He indicates that there are five key words in the definition of addiction: (1) Repetitive, (2) Degenerative, (3) Unmanageable, (4) Medicative, and (5) Destructive. Aside from these key words, porn is addictive because the user is often motivated by secrecy and shame. According to Dr. Laaser, in order to classify a behavior as an addiction requiresÂ â€œa pattern of repetitive use for at least two (2) years- however, not necessarily every day.â€Â Secondly, an addiction isÂ â€œdegenerativeâ€Â in that itÂ â€œintensifies over time.â€Â Dr. Laaser says,Â â€œThe person requires more of the activity to achieve the same effect.â€Â Third, an addiction isÂ â€œunmanageableâ€Â in that the addict is powerless over the addiction and cannot stop, no matter how hard he or she tries.Â Â Fourthly, an addiction isÂ â€œMedicativeâ€Â in that the addictive substance or behavior is mood-altering. Simply put, addictsÂ â€œself-medicateâ€Â to numb themselves, in an attempt to escape painful emotions. Lastly, an addiction isÂ â€œdestructive,â€Â and in some cases, deadly. Addictions have led to destroyed marriages, wasted time, depleted finances, ruined careers, and clinical depression.Â In fact, addicts are statistically more likely to complete the act of suicide. Sadly, a friend of mine, who was addicted to porn, among other things, took his own life.Â He was a fellow minister and mental health professional, who even wrote a book on addiction, to which I contributed. News flash!Â Anyone can fall into the destructive trap of porn addiction.
In 2004, a panel of experts testified before a Senate subcommittee that pornography is dangerously addictive.Â The neurological effects of porn on the brain were calledÂ “toxic.”Â They indicated that exposure to porn, over time, can actually alter the brain\’s chemistry, much like addiction to drugs. Dr. Mary Anne Layden, a psychologist, was one of the witnesses at the Senate hearing. She said thatÂ â€œthe same criteria used to diagnose problems like pathological gambling and substance abuse can be applied to problematic porn use.â€Â Anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher, has found that neurotransmitters, like dopamine, saturate the limbic pleasure centers of the brain. Thus, the pornography addict longs to come back for one moreÂ â€œhit.â€Â ButÂ â€œone moreâ€Â turns into 2 more, and so forth. One expert has called internet pornÂ â€œthe crack cocaine of pornography addiction.â€Â With millions of adult web sites, a pornographic image is only a click away.Â Look at it this way . . . Your brain is like a digital camera, and your eyes are like lenses.Â Every time you look at a pornographic image, you are storing it in your memory, for years to come.Â How tough is porn addiction to overcome?Â Dr. Victor Cline says,Â â€œSex and pornography addiction can be a more difficult addiction to break than cocaine.â€
Sobriety from porn addiction includesÂ â€œprogressive victory over lust.â€Â Lust is the self-centered desire for that which is forbidden by God. Lust is the driving force behind this addiction. The one who is being lusted after has been reduced from a person made in the image of God to a mere object of another\’s satisfaction. That\’s why Paul said,Â â€œPut to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity,Â lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatryÂ (Colossians 3:5, NIV).”Now that I\’ve established that porn addiction is a real problem, I\’d like to offer a solution, in the form of an acronym for the word A.I.R.Â TheÂ â€œAâ€Â is for ACCOUNTABLE, theÂ â€œIâ€Â is for INTENTIONAL, and theÂ â€œRâ€Â is for RELATIONAL.Â First, if someone wants to begin the process of recovery from porn addiction, he or she must become accountable to others who are on the road to recovery, themselves.Â 12-Step recovery fellowships, likeÂ Sexaholics AnonymousÂ (SA), have helped many obtain and maintain sobriety. Some have found more acceptance in recovery meetings than in their own local church. Also, there are Christian-oriented programs and workshops that address the problem of porn addiction, such asÂ Every Man\’sÂ Battle. Secondly, one must be intentional about goingÂ â€œto any lengths necessaryâ€Â to stay sober.Â Â This includes removing anyÂ â€œstashâ€Â or external triggers of the addiction. Finally, a person who isÂ â€œhappy, joyous, and freeâ€Â from lust is relational.Â God has wired us for relationships. Some Christians might say,Â â€œJesus is all I need to be set free from my lust.â€Â But such people don\’t fully appreciate that God works through people. After all, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Consequently, every addict needs to experienceÂ â€œGod with skin on.â€Â Many people are learning how to avoid the trap of isolation. In fact, they have found that it is impossible to recover without connection to a supportive community.Â After a lifetime of searching,Â they are finally experiencingÂ â€œtrue intimacyâ€Â with others that has absolutely nothing to do with sex.Â If you are in bondage to pornography, I invite you to come up for some freshÂ â€œairâ€Â now,Â before you drown. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Reverend Joel A. Bowman is the Founder and Senior Pastor ofÂ TempleÂ of Faith Baptist Church inÂ Louisville,Â Kentucky. He is a native of Detroit, Michigan. He was licensed to preach the Gospel, in 1994, at the Historic Second Baptist Church of Detroit. Pastor Bowman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who practices astherapist and pastoral counselor. Pastor Bowman can be reached at