Here is a conversation between two young single adults, Mary and Jack, who want to share about their experiences with pornography use.
Mary: So, porn… let’s talk about this.
Jack: You first?
Mary: Okay. What do you want to know?
Jack: What brought you to this point, Mary? First, I’d like to know what your background is and then we can talk about why you care.
Mary: To make a long story short — I never imagined that pornography would be a part of my life. I figured, “I’m a good girl, I do good things and therefore pornography will never be a part of my story.” But then I was wrong. I found myself very close to a friend with used porn compulsively. I saw his pain and I felt helpless and confused as to what my role was in our situation. I felt alone, trapped, clueless, and didn’t know who I could talk to…or who would have answers to my questions. And I think those feelings of isolation and confusion led me to have this intense desire to understand the issue — not only for me, but for my friends and family. So I started studying it — not only on an academic level, but on a personal, relational level as well.
Jack: I see. It sounds like you just kind of jumped right in without any hesitation. Maybe tell me more about that.
Mary: Well, yeah, it was scary. I don’t think that pornography will ever not be scary for me — or anyone.
Jack: That’s fair.
Mary: But I did jump in — the reason mostly being that I realized that I didn’t really have any other choice. Seeing how relevant the issue is, I don’t think that any of us will ever be able to avoid it. While the issue may always feel a bit uncomfortable, my fear has diminished significantly. The more I understand the less I fear and the more love I feel for those affected by porn.
Jack: Hmm, at first, as you explained it, you seemed to have a sense of being held captive to this problem you thought you would be exempt from. But then, as you faced it, you experienced this liberation of sorts. That’s kind of beautiful don’t you think?
Mary: Haha, yes! What makes it beautiful to me now is seeing and feeling incredible hope for those who pornography has affected. I guess I want all girls out there — those who are in a relationship with someone with a history of porn use, or who use porn themselves, or that have family who use pornography– to know that there are resources for them, and there is hope! There is not one blanket answer or solution for everyone who is close to someone with a pornography addiction. But educated on the subject — knowing what addiction is and isn’t, knowing what recovery looks like and doesn’t look like, and seeking help for yourself — can give you direction and peace and hope.
Mary: Yeah. Hope. There is so much hope! Jack, your experience has been quite different from mine. Tell me about yours, and about hope.
Jack: So, hope. Well, first, as you know, I am coming from the other side of this story we find ourselves in. I have had an addiction to masturbation and pornography for nearly a two decades at this point. I had my first exposure at the age of six.
Mary: Six. Wow. That’s pretty early. Most of the research I’ve been involved in tags the average age of exposure to pornography around 10 or 11. For a lot of young people who struggle with using pornography, they had an early exposure, would you agree?
Jack: Definitely. Regardless of what the age is though, I think it’s important to understand that the individual you’re talking to was once an innocent child who simply didn’t know better or did but for whatever reason slipped up. It wasn’t until the age of 10 that I learned that this was something I shouldn’t be doing. At this point, I tried to stop. At the age of 14, I viewed pornography for the first time and things went down from there. I tried countless times, every time, to stop. I’d confess to my Bishop, pray harder, read more scriptures, do more service, you name it, I tried doing that thing. I would binge every month and then be clean for a short period after that, but I couldn’t seem to escape that cycle. This isn’t sounding very hopeful, but don’t worry, I’ll get there.
I was able to knuckle down some sobriety to serve a mission which I did. I didn’t view pornography while out in the field, but still struggled with masturbation from time to time. I came home thinking that I wouldn’t have to face it again and that I left it behind forever. About a month after coming home, I relapsed again. At this point, I felt hopeless. I thought to myself, “If a mission couldn’t change my heart, what could?” I became suicidal, believing the lie that my death would ultimately cause less pain than the life I would live as an addict. Through tender mercies and God’s divine hand, I did not go there. I approached my Bishop and for the first time in my life I had a Bishop suggest that what I was struggling with was compulsive pornography use and he suggested therapy. I agreed and began to respond proportionally. The pieces of recovery didn’t all come at once, but they came. At first I started seeing a therapist, then I started to attend 12-Step groups, then group therapy. I got a sponsor, then I started helping others with their own addictions, and now I’m writing a blog about it. It’s interesting how hope developed.
Mary: Tell me more about that, Jack.
Jack: It wasn’t all at once. Years ago, when I heard someone suggest that this was something you could overcome, I would say, “yeah but not me.I’m too broken.” One of my first experiences with hope was a call from a friend who felt impressed to call me. I was in a dark and lonely place and at the time of his call I was wrestling with the thought of suicide. He was a dear friend of mine who perceived that something wasn’t right. He asked a few inspired questions, and I opened up. I didn’t think I was lovable and believed that by telling him where I was at might destroy our friendship . Gratefully, the exact opposite happened. If he could have, he would have hugged me over the phone. He told me how much he loved me and cared about me. He let me know how much God cared about me too. This was the turning point for me. And there have been many similar turning points since then. Over time, my hope grew and I began to believe again, or maybe for the first time, that I was lovable and that this didn’t need to be part of my future.
Mary: It seems like the first step for you to feel hope was to regain a sense of worth and to feel loved. For those out there that might not know much about how to help others with compulsive pornography use, but want to help them feel love, what would you suggest?
Jack: From the many friends I’ve had who have struggled with addictions or trauma or pain or any kind of experience that could potentially scare someone forever, I think the best way to help anyone is to genuinely love them. And I think the more we understand someone, I mean truly and honestly understand someone, the more we are able to help them feel truly understood and connected and loved.
Mary: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing, Jack.
Here’s another scenario. When you’re in a romantic relationship with someone who has had experience with pornography, it feels a little different than being a loyal friend because all of the sudden — it’s not just your friend’s future, but it could be your future together. I’ve never been on your side of this. I’ve been on the supportive side. I’ve felt the numbing fear that comes from wondering what my role was in all of this. I’ve been confronted with the question “Can people truly change?! Will this always be a part of my future?” What’s your take on that?… [See next blog post for continued conversation)