Category: Dr. Chris Hughes

Letter to Sponsee: Same, Religion, and Addiction

Dear Sponsee,

Thanks for the article from Psychology Today titled “Religious Conflict Makes Porn Bad for Relationships”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/women-who-stray/201704/religious-conflict-makes-porn-bad-relationships

Willoughby’s comments after the article pretty much deflate any take-away from the research that it is religion that is causing the emotional issues – other than a specific anxiety about disclosure of porn-use.   He also claims a literature consensus of mild negative effects of porn (and, btw, that research holds true regardless of one’s religiosity and also doesn’t include the more important spiritually negative effects).

Here are my own thoughts on this:

  1. I (and any decent addiction recovery program will agree) that shame not only contributes to ongoing use of porn, but to several emotional and socially-isolating issues.   The first thing Satan tells Adam and Eve after they transgressed was to hide.   The first thing Sexaholics Anonymous asks people to do is tell their story! As you know – that cuts the shame.
  2. Shame is the reason for high recidivism among pedophiles -because they isolate themselves because of their shame and then keep finding themselves repeating the problem. I can imagine it is not easy for one to say to even a therapist – “hey – I molested the neighbors daughter last night.” Is the answer to this to tell society that we are all just to uptight about sexually molesting children? The slippery slope of secular reasoning tells us: Yes! And there is now even scientific journal articles that have theorized that it is the shame around sexual abuse that causes the problems in children, not the sexual relationship between the adult and child….a sad argument I predicted many years ago given the logical conclusions of the secular arguments on homosexuality.
  3. If there is going to be a cultural push – it shouldn’t be to give permission to pornography – which is typically misogynistic and violent and gives unrealistic views of sexuality and is shown repeatedly to be harmful. Rather it should be to reduce the shame around the fact that we are sexual creatures with normal curiosities and proclivities…so that, for example, adults are speaking to their children early and comfortably about their changing bodies and interests and hormones, and religious and non-religious people alike don’t over-react based on their own sexual shame, etc.
  4. Yes, religion lowers the point at which someone begins to feel guilt. This can be a good thing (particularly when it doesn’t turn to shame) for the following reasons:   I have been to a number of recovery meetings throughout the country, and believe me, there are addicts who are far far away from being associated with any religion. They didn’t have any culturally derived restraints on their sexual behavior.   Rather, they simply saw that their life had become totally unmanageable because of lust – and that they were not only harming others, but that they could easily find themselves dead if they continue to do what they were doing (do we find ourselves dead? =)).   Thank goodness that the potential for “addiction” troubles the religious person early in the process – and they often then feel compelled to seek help early – and not after they spread disease and pain and suffering to themselves and countless others.   For example, I might have been considered “too uptight” about drugs and alcohol because of my religions teachings on the “word of wisdom”….so unlike many in my extended family, including my grandpa – I never became an alcoholic….I simply stayed away from mood altering substances altogether…GREAT! I don’t think I could have handled it – some can – but I don’t think I am one of them.
  5. Also, the tension caused by a heightened conscience is what brings people to a relationship with God once they see they need him. The earlier that one feels this need for a higher power the better.   There is an unmeasurable joy in this that the secularists and researchers do not account for.
  6. We now have decades of data to show that models that promote “smart” or “moderate” drinking of alcohol have, as seen in retrospect, killed many many true alcoholics. Perhaps it was useful in some shame reduction for some people, but there are some that simply need to come to terms with their powerlessness. AA works for the true alcoholic while nothing else does.
  7. Having said the above, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk not long ago saying, essentially, that we should back off on using the term addiction – I believe he said this because of its shame connotations…I believe he spoke with terminology from his perspective on various levels of use… I agree with him. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/10/recovering-from-the-trap-of-pornography?lang=eng
  8. There are strong politics around the secular push that makes many behavioral issues – such gambling and over-eating – OK to be termed addictions – but not sex. For example, I have a friend at UCLA, Dr. Rory Reid,* who led the team about 7-10 years to determine whether sex addiction should be added to the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual for psychiatry). It has all the behavioral and brain chemistry indicators of any addiction….BUT there was a (very) strong feminist coalition that insisted it not be termed addiction because of the legal implications that could result in rapists, for example, getting lighter sentencing from judges. (Of course if one believes that judges should just rule on law that isn’t a problem, but we know they don’t always do that anymore).
  9. In other words (from earlier in #8), it is not the facts that count in the practical and political outcomes of behavioral science. Also be very aware, as I have learned through the graduate school of hard knocks – that there are very (very) strong resentments out there for religion – it is the anathema of secularism – which is in itself a very powerfully experienced religion.   Issues around sex and sexuality, because it is a powerful river that religion seeks to bank and cool for society’s sake, are always the target of secularisms desire to pooh-pooh religion as over-reactive and out-of-style.   Yet the debauchery of drug addiction didn’t start in the streets with homelessness and child-neglect. It started with people like Harvard’s Dr. Timothy Leary extolling the virtues and creative enhancements of psychedelics.   For some – maybe that works – but it hasn’t worked for America in general and for thousands of Americans in tragic particular.
  10. The term addiction and the concept of powerless can be billed as shaming, yes, but the 12 steps are simply a powerful tools for the answers to being HUMANS not simply for addicted humans. You and I know the principles work – because of the peace and joy they have brought to our lives and so many we have guided through this.   When we admit that we are not totally in control, and follow a simple daily program, we can begin to let God do his amazing work and we get our lives back.  So I often tell guys who have “unwanted sexual compulsivity” – “look you may or many not be addicted – but do the program and look at it in terms of a step-by-step template for finding our higher power while in this difficult human condition.

* (BTW Rory (my friend from UCLA) gave me the tests etc (having to do with sex addiction) eight years ago when I personally felt I had a problem. He formally diagnosed me as NOT ANYWHERE NEAR what the literature would call an addict – yet for me, the principles of Sexaholics Anonymous – and understanding my compulsivity as an addiction – have been very powerful for a lot more reasons than regulating what was a very occasional compulsivity for unwanted sexual behavior – for example, my guilt over viewing pg-13 or R rated images. These kinds of images would be NOT be considered porn by the world’s standards – Yet I am grateful for the “religiosity” of my religions standards which helped me find my higher power through the 12 steps before I did some things I would really regret…. now there is a comfort and balance around sexuality AND I feel close to my higher power).

Best,

Your Sponsor

Never Again

How many have felt our passion to NEVER AGAIN indulge in our addiction has been like the passion of Peter and the other disciples in their protestation to Jesus?   “But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise said them all.” Mark 14:31

Yet three times that very night they fell asleep when they should have been watching and in the morning they all abandoned Jesus – and Peter denied him.  More recently, Christ has said that when we lust after a woman we deny the faith and shall fear (D&C 63:16).  

How many of us have gone out and wept bitterly at our weakness?  

With all our will and with all our mind we committed time and again…but we lacked one thing.  We lacked a Power greater than ourselves living within us from day to day.  

So we took step 2:   We came (to meetings).  We came to (we saw how crazy we had become). We came to believe (that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity).    In step 3 we became willing to give all we had to know Him…and so in rigorously living all the steps we found, sooner or later, a Power greater than ourselves that consistently, from day to day over time, lived within us and kept us far from needing to take that first drink of lust. 

After Jesus died, Peter and the disciples met in secret, hiding in fear from those powerful authorities he protected himself from by his denial.  Soon, perhaps tired of the stagnation his fear was causing, he went fishing again.  He subsequently had meetings with Jesus and kept meeting with his fellow believers…and at a very distinct point and not as a specific act of Peter’s will – only perhaps as a result of his ongoing desire and effort –  his Higher Power entered into his heart – it was on the day of Pentacost.  From that day on, Peter no longer feared…He openly acted in the name of Jesus and when his feared persecutors bound him with threats of death he and the other disciples stated: “We ought to obey God rather than men” and refused to do as they asked.   He was free.  He led the greatest movement in our history.  

Adding insult to injury

Yesterday I remembered how in my addiction, when I felt emotionally cornered, I would sometimes slip (flip!) into a reactive place where I utilized a wickedly efficient and sometimes subtle skill for targeting my wife’s most vulnerable hurts.   In retrospect, I see that it was these moments, more than the betrayal, that tipped her over the divorce cliff.  Betrayal + Berating = Bye Bye Bob.  

Since my remarriage, I found myself dipping my toe into that place on two brief moments, but could immediately read the actual physical effects of my words (and much more than the words, it is the subtle and nasty spirit of their delivery) this time and retreated, for her safety, until I was at peace and able to deal with the issue out of love.   

We forget how traumatizing we can be to our wives!  One good targeted verbal assault and for years she shuts down every time our voice sounds pressured.   Put your hand through the wall one time, and she shuts down every time you happen to close a fist.  A lot of tenderness and a lot of time is required to re-establish trust.  I can see why a man who has his wife’s trusting heart is a man fit for Celestial Glory!