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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How I Overcame My Addiction to Pornography

My addiction came in waves, but it was always a steady ebb and flow. The addiction was always there, despite how strong or weak it was. Sometimes I would measure my progress (or lack thereof) in months, but a lot of the time I measured it in days.

The first very important step that I took was finally recognizing the situation for what it was. We could get into a lot of discussion about what constitutes pornographic material, porn vs. erotica, etc (which we will have that discussion, don't worry), but for now, let's stick to the very basic idea of pornographic material: if it feeds a sexual appetite and it involves anyone but your spouse, then let's call it porn. So, there was no way for me to get around the fact that eventually, I had to call it how it was: a porn addiction (as much as I frequently tried to justify and rationalize that it wasn't).

Recognizing that, not only did I have an addiction to porn, but that what I was doing was wrong, led me to have the desire to quit. Which, we all know, a desire to do something is a lot easier than actually doing it. But really, that was the key. It all starts with the desire.

As long as you have the desire to stop, then you are a step ahead of the adversary. That desire is what will keep your head above water.

Although, to be honest, there were times throughout the years when the addiction was so strong and I was losing so much hope that I would never overcome it, that I essentially threw in the towel, and lost that desire. Then again, maybe it wasn't loosing the desire, so much as loosing hope. You might give up on yourself, but the important thing to remember is, no matter how much it might feel like it, the Lord doesn't give up on you. That fact is what would get me back on track to wanting to quit and finding the hope that I could do it.

An image of a knotted rope coupled with a quote by Elder Richard G. Scott: “When you feel that there is only a thin thread of hope, it is … a massive … link.”

I started reading my scriptures regularly, and like I mentioned in "My Story," there were times I would read the scriptures and view porn in the same day. However, as I began to fill my time and thoughts with good things, eventually those good things started to outweigh the bad. I started getting more involved with church. Not just going on Sundays, but going to service activities, "magnifying my calling" as we would say in the LDS world (like making the most out of your church assignment), etc. Eventually, as I began to not only occupy my time with good things, but also to occupy my thoughts (through scripture reading and prayer) the days turned into weeks and the week turned into months. By the time I turned 19, I had finally gone months without viewing pornography (not sure how long exactly, probably around 6 months).

That's when I made an important decision: to tell my bishop. Bishops in the LDS church do not have the authority to forgive. Forgiveness can only come from God. However, a Bishop does have the tools necessary to help us repent and to help us get back on that path of worthy discipleship. If you are LDS and are struggling with an addiction to pornography, I promise you that the only way for you to overcome it is by being in open and constant communication with your bishop or branch president. If I could go back in time, I would have told my bishop on day 1.

The greatest tool that I had was being able to understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Dedicating my time, my thoughts and my desires to the Lord is what gave me the strength to put the addiction behind me and move forward. The thing with pornography is that you don't have to go "out into the world" in order to be attacked by the adversary. You could be safe and sound in your bed. The only way to protect yourself from temptation and attack is by arming yourself with more than just a passive commitment to the gospel.

Here are some things that helped me on my journey:

1. Commit to have meaningful scripture study every day. Read with a purpose. Read with the faith that the Lord will give you specific instruction for that very day, and you will find it in the passages you read.

2. Have meaningful prayer and pray multiple times throughout the day. If you are in constant communication with the Lord, there will be less interference from the adversary.

3. Cut out everything in your daily routine that is not good. There are a lot of things that are not bad, like Netflix or video games, but that doesn't mean that those things are necessarily good, either. Speaking of Netflix as an example, I love it. But there are times when I need to give it up for a week or two and fill that time with things that are more constructive and valuable. Idleness is one of Satan's greatest tools, so is distraction. Take a break from those things that distract you from constant communication with the Lord.

4. Find opportunities to serve. Whether it's helping your roommate do their dishes, visiting the temple (if you're able to do so), or joining a service committee, you can find ways to serve every day if you're willing to look for the opportunity. When you serve, you are doing what Christ would do, and when you're doing what Christ would do, only goodness can come from it.

5. Do Family History work! This goes along with service, but I mention it separately because I have a firm testimony that your ancestors are just as invested in this battle you face as you are. They want you to succeed and will be right there with you as you fight your battle. Anyone can create a family history account here.

6. Wherever you're most likely to be tempted to view pornography (on your computer, on your phone), put pictures of Christ, your family, the temple, whatever motivates you, all over it. Make it so that you cannot look anywhere without seeing that picture. There are a lot of great gospel pics here.

7. Keep track of your progress. Have a count down or calendar and set goals and milestones for yourself. Start small. Start a one week or 30 day countdown and when you reach that goal, reward yourself with something positive and fulfilling, then start again. Keep setting your goal higher, taking one day at a time.

8. Have hope. Sometimes you will fail. Sometimes, you'll wake up in the morning totally not expecting to even be tempted by it, and then by that night, you'll be viewing porn. Don't give up on yourself. It's one time, and that time passes. Move forward and leave it in the past.

9. Study the Atonement of Jesus Christ. His Atonement isn't just for paying the price of our sins. It's also for giving us the strength to overcome our sins and temptations and addictions. You can read my two favorite talks on this by Elder David A. Bednar here: In the Strength of the Lord and Bear Up Their Burdens With Ease.

10. Talk about it! Confide in someone and let them know your struggle. If they don't respond the way you expect them too, don't be afraid to try another source. There is power in talking about it and letting people know.

If you have any suggestions, need help, or want to share your experience of how you are fighting this battle, email me at battletogether16@gmail.com.

5 comments:

  1. Cassy, it means so much to me that you would share your story in such a powerful and uplifting way. I had a problem with pornography for most of my teenage years as well; but now, one of the most gratifying feelings is knowing I'm in control of what enters my mind. Sometimes I have to physically put up my hand or speak out loud to keep Satan at bay, but, like the scripture says, "The power is in me, wherein I am an agent unto myself." I'm proud of you girl :)

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    1. I love you Kate!! You and Cassy are my heroes :)

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    2. Thank you so much Kate!! I love you!

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  2. It's great that you shared your story. So many times I think this plague is seen as a male issue. Pornography addiction does not discriminate in any way!!

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  3. I'm so proud of you Cassie, to be willing to put yourself out there on the internet about this in order to make it known. But most importantly, you are so willing to help others too. Love you sweetie!

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