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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,

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The Bachelorette says that going to therapy was the best decision she made that entire year

 

Open discussions about mental health do not usually happen on television, let alone reality television. A few weeks ago, during week 2 of the Bachelorette, Rachel and Peter made history by discussing their own experiences with relationship therapy. (Click here to watch clip.)

On their first date, Rachel asks Peter a question she says that she gets a lot: “You’re so great, how are you still single?” Peter explains that after his last relationship ended, he saw a relationship therapist. He adds, “[Therapy] has helped me a lot. It has helped me now be more calm in my thoughts.”

Rachel seemed to be quite excited by this concept! She added her own experience with therapy after her last long relationship ended. Rachel explained that she felt that there was something that she wasn’t getting with herself. “So I went to a therapist. It was the best decision that I made that entire year, and again, it prepared me to realize what I want from myself, and what wasn’t working for me,” she says.

While reality television dating isn’t on the horizon for most, it is common for young adults to not know what they are looking for in a relationship! A therapist can assist that person to discover tools for better communication, thoughtful preparations for challenges, setting realistic expectations, and so much more.

The stigma surrounding mental health seems to have gotten better over the last few years, however it is important to note that not all who go to therapy have a mental illness. In a recent blog post, Kyle M. Reid, LMFT wrote, “People who go to counseling are those with the courage and capacity to seek and consider input in helping them function more happily and effectively in their every day lives. Getting help is not a weakness.”

Rachel and Peter are two people that are educated, attractive, and well-spoken; the idea that they would frequently be asked the annoying “why are you still single” question makes sense. Too often the true answer is “there are things that I need to work on with myself.” We applaud both of these individuals for the courage they showed to discuss this topic on national television.

If you are questioning if you should see a therapist, most offer a free consultation. Here at Connections Counseling Services, our therapists are happy to talk to you to discuss any questions you may have. Click here to read our blog on choosing the right therapist for you.

The 12 Steps and Trauma

 

The 12 Steps are utilized by SA, AA, and other groups as guiding principles outlining how to recover from compulsive and addictive behaviors and restore manageability to one’s life.

By Joseph Houck

“Uncover. Discard. Discover. Heal”. This is a pattern we learn in 12 step work.   It sounds simple, right? After all, shouldn’t the 12 Steps help me do this? And shouldn’t it be as simple as described in this formula? But what is soon found when working the steps (and being involved in other healing activities), is that more problems and pain seem to arise. Most people seem perplexed that sobriety can suffer or even get worse when they first start the work of healing and recovery.

What most people forget is that the process of healing and recovery is a MAJOR undertaking because this is an addiction. Recovery requires a great deal of consistency over time.

Addiction is caused when a person stuffs their pain and trauma deep within themselves. Deep hurts that are stuffed and not dealt with directly, (usually because of age or inexperience), callous over and walls are built around the pain and hurt so that the person doesn’t have to regularly deal with the pain.

Trauma wants release and healing, but many soothe stuffed trauma with addictive behavior. Not dealing with the pain deepens the addiction.   Dealing with the pain leads to healing.

It is while working the 12 Steps that people start to see what’s truly going on deep within. We start to uncover the wounds and start to see them for what they are. But when these pains are uncovered they are overwhelming! And triggering! And traumatizing! It’s almost as if the pain is even more powerful when it is dug up then when it was put there.

This can lead to relapse after relapse for months or years because someone who is addicted hasn’t yet learned how to deal with these strong emotions or pain. After all, we’ve thought we can do it on our own for so long! The 12 Steps allow a person to deal with these strong emotions in healthy ways. With the help of others and especially our Higher Power, we learn that we can trust – that we can successfully work through difficult emotions in the safety of being loved and valued.

This initial phase of healing is painful and it does hurt—but it does end. I have dealt with many people, including myself, who have done the difficult work of trauma healing. What I’ve found is that when the pain comes up it arises like a volcanic eruption – as anger, rage, resentment and frustration. If these feelings are dealt with healthily over a large period of time by consistently using healing tools (especially the 12 Steps) these feelings give way to serenity, peace, and joy.

Yes, the road to recovery and healing does hurt initially but the hurt and pain subsides and what replaces it is serenity, peace, and JOY.

Now that’s something that is well worth any effort.


The author Joseph Houck loves helping people heal and is progressing in his education to become a therapist. Having dealt with trauma healing for several years he has an intrinsic and deeply personal view of the serenity, peace, and joy that comes with healing. He can be reached by email at Joe.Houck@gmail.com