I an a pawn addict: Full-blown addiction (Part 7 of 9)

Published with permission. Written by an addict in South Africa

Full-blown addiction

After all my struggles, if addiction means being unable to control or stop behaviour that you know is destroying your life, then I have to confess that I am a full-blown addict. I realise that most people, and as a result I myself too, have not understood addiction. To illustrate, an example John Piper (whom I respect and look up to) often uses, is stated in this form in one of his writings (http://‌www‌.desiringgod‌.org‌/articles‌/you‌-can‌-say‌-no‌-to‌-porn):

Full blown addiction

Addiction is a relative term. I would stake my life on the assumption that no one in this room is absolutely addicted to pornography or any sexual sin. What I mean is this: If the stakes are high enough and sure enough, you will have all the self-control you need to resist any sexual temptation.

For example, if tonight you are feeling totally in the sway of sexual desire—more blazing, more powerful than you have ever felt it in your life—and you believe that you cannot resist the temptation to look at some nudity online, and suddenly a black-hooded ISIS member drags your best friend or your spouse into the room with a knife at his or her throat, and says, “If you look at that website, I will slit their throat,” you will have the self-control you thought you didn’t have. You won’t click.

Or if a man walks into the room and says, “If you do not look at that nudity, I will give you one million dollars cash, tax-free, tonight,” you will suddenly have the self-control you thought you did not have.

Addiction is a relative term. The fact is, 99% of those who give way to lust in pornography or fornication or adultery, are not decisively controlled by sexual desire. They are decisively controlled by what they believe—what they believe will happen if they act on their lust or don’t.

However, that reflects an essential misunderstanding of the addictive process. Piper is right in his assertion that our behaviour is controlled by what we believe—as Carnes (2010, p. 33) points out, “the addiction cycle is embedded in a larger addictive system which starts with a belief system.”

Addiction, then, when the addict is thinking clearly, really does hold no ultimate power. A gun to the head does tend to force one to think more clearly. However, the truth about addiction, I think I am discovering, is that it undermines my very thinking, so that I do not think clearly, even despite very high stakes: The possible loss of my wife and children, and also all the upheaval, social disgrace, and financial hardship that would accompany that, and even the possible loss of my job if I should look at porn at work, again with similar, if not even more heightened attendant consequences than the former, are very, very high stakes. Granted, not the ultimate stakes Piper speaks of:

He opens our ears to hear Jesus say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29)—the final and ultimate ISIS attack. And he opens our ears to hear Jesus say, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)—a reward infinitely superior to a mere million dollars.

Carnes calls this delusional or impaired thinking. Addicts like me do not normally have a real gun to our heads, or a million dollars on the table. But we (I) have very high stakes with very real consequences. The problem, though, is not that I do what I do despite clearly seeing the consequences, but that my thinking is so messed up that when I do what I do, I cannot see the consequences clearly enough.

So addiction is not something that controls me, even when I see clearly what is at stake. No, addiction is something which subverts my thinking, and prevents me from seeing what the true stakes are. I think my failure to see this, and my belief that if I simply tried the right methods and applied myself hard enough, I would overcome pornography and lust, have blinded me to the fact that I cannot overcome it, that I am at my addiction’s mercy, and that, left to myself, I will simply spiral into self-destruction. All I need is enough time to create the necessary implosion.

My addictive cycle works like this: Preoccupation is triggered by a host of things. Generally, though, the underlying motive is, I believe, escape. If I feel that I haven’t had enough sexual stimulation from, or physical intimacy in, my marriage, and feel frustrated about that, then I don’t want to face those feelings of loss and deprivement. If I have to do work that I find boring or distasteful (routine tasks, like marking tests, or fixing something that someone else has made a mess of), then I seek escape. However, preoccupation need not be triggered by escape only. I could be walking in a shop, or viewing an innocent magazine (I know better now than to read fashion magazines, but that still hasn’t kept me from looking at pornography), or reading something on an innocent website, and see something that just triggers my sexual fantasy (in the latter case, something as simple as an advertisement).

My ritualization will then take one of several possible forms. If it has been some time since I have looked at pornography, and if I am a bit stronger in my own resistance, then my addictive nature first wears me down—I might start surfing, just to escape, or I might look to see if I can find a certain image or video, with the full intention (delusion!) of looking only at that one thing, and then returning to my work. I invariably do not. Finding something will inevitably lead to looking for something else, something more. Something more explicit, more sexual, more stimulating. And then if I do find something, I cannot stop looking, and I cannot stop searching for more. This compulsive phase can last for hours, or, in recent years, for hours on a day, several days in a row. I vow that I have seen enough, I vow that I will now stop, that I have got what I wanted (especially if I have just masturbated), but then I find myself back at it within a very short time. It is as if reality is trying to break through, but cannot. Normally only after a protracted binge will I eventually get to the point where I delete the history, delete the files I downloaded, and try to block the site from which it came. But porn sites on the internet are worse than garden weeds. For every one I block, three more will have sprouted by the next time I start looking. A strategy based on blocking bad sites found will always be several million sites behind. And so I find that I have no way to stop my compulsivity.

My colleague at work suggested that I rearrange my office so that my PC screen is visible from the passage, and that I keep my door open. That has not worked—it’s not that the added risk heightens the thrill—it rather detracts from it, for me—but rather that, even despite the greater risk, I keep doing it, or, if I can, I try to close the door for a time without anyone noticing.

When I do eventually come to my senses, and have deleted everything, I always determine that I will not do that again, although lately, I have become so disillusioned with my constant failure and my total inability to stop myself, that I rarely even bother any more—I know that, despite pledging not to do this again, I will do it anyway. So what’s the use of pledging not to? Even though I won’t admit it out loud, I do believe that I am resigning myself to the inevitability of my addictive behaviour.

Porn, then, is a major problem in my life. Although I will discuss the nature of the problem and mention specific consequences below, suffice it to say for the moment that my life feels unmanageable, and I know that porn in my life forms a major part of that—although, I think it would be simplistic to say that my life is only unmanageable because of pornography, and that if I could just get pornography out of my life, everything would be better. Far rather, the unmanageability in my life just fuels porn immensely, and porn, in its turn, just adds to the unmanageability of my life, in a perfect self-fulfilling, self-sustaining cycle. I have constant deadlines at work, and I often miss them because of time I have lost looking at pornography. That increased stress from the work pressure just drives me to more porn (again, I must add that escape from stress is not my only driver to porn—just plain lust and sexual frustration do that well enough too). Because of all of this, I find it easy to work extra hours at home, which means that my family life is affected and also seems unmanageable. And when I work late at night, the temptation to find porn is huge—even though I know I should be sleeping, and that looking at porn will keep me awake for several hours more.

Theo B. Kriek
Huis van Seen: ‘n Plek van Aanvaarding en Waarheid
House of Blessing: A Place of Acceptance and Truth
Pastorale Terapeut/Pastoral Therapist
Pornografie en Seksuele Verslawingsterapeut
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
Sel/Cell. 076 165 1587
Kantore/Offices in: Pretoria en/and Krugersdorp, South Africa
Blog: http://theokriek.wordpress.com
Twitter: @theokriek

I am a pawn addict: My desires exposed (Part 6 of 9)

My desires exposed

Published with permission. Written by an addict in South Africa.

As I have hinted at before, the nature of my addiction makes it very pernicious, at least to me. I would never dream of getting a prostitute, or going to a strip club. In my youth, I once or twice bought a porn magazine from a media store, and I struggled terribly to deal with the shame of doing that. This has several effects in my life. Firstly, it could be easy for me to be self-righteous, and to think that I don’t really have the kinds of problems that others have, that my problems are not so bad. The second effect is that it is easier for me to hide my addiction. Other people might not even call the stuff I look at pornography (or at least, some of the stuff, other things they will definitely acknowledge is pornography). The third thing is that, at the same time, it is easier to find—and harder to avoid—things that trigger me. Seductive women in advertisements might not be enough to stimulate some guys who are into very hard core stuff, whereas, with my predilection for soft core porn, they represent very grave temptations to me.

burning-desire

In the early years, as I have already mentioned, I looked at what I could access—the stuff my friends, or my brother’s friends, had; my dad’s stash of porn; fashion magazines. By the time of my early years at university, the fashion magazines continued (e.g., in a doctor’s waiting room, etc.), but the new circle of friends did not have pornography. However, as censorship eased up, the TV became a new and easy source of pornography. I didn’t need full-blown porn movies to get my fix—just main-stream movies with occasional nudity or sex scenes were quite enough for me. This continued even into my marriage, although it did become a little harder to watch these things on the TV then. Eventually, in my fight against porn, I stopped watching movies on TV altogether. So even though that could now be a source of temptation, it is pretty well managed at the moment (unlike my porn addiction). In the end, my pornography use has shifted almost entirely to the Internet.

So what do I look for? Firstly, not too hard core. Stuff that is too explicit, or shows what is generally considered deviant behaviour (violence, anal sex, etc.) tends to turn me off. Even things showing too much male nudity in a sex scene I find off-putting. Some fetishes do figure in my addiction, though, chief of which is probably body painting. The thought that this woman is wearing nothing when it appears, at first glance, as if she is, is somehow very stimulating to me. So also the thought of working with a woman in that way stimulates me. I think it is the situation of this woman allowing this to be done to her, and presumably also enjoying it, that triggers me. This may be the reason why, much to my own disgust, I find videos showing (not too explicit) lesbian porn stimulating, although anything showing homosexual porn or even too much male nudity, I find very disconcerting.

Other than that, what I find stimulating is pretty standard stuff—things like Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photos. It does not even have to contain explicit nudity, although that is not to say that I avoid nudity. But sometimes, what you don’t see can be even more stimulating that what you do see. Generally, the kind of stuff I have found myself looking at lately is movies that contain sex scenes or nudity. I will download the full movie, then forward through it at high speed, looking for the scenes. If I find something, I then play through it at normal speed, or sometimes very slowly, even stepping through it frame by frame, to see at which point you can see the most, or exactly what they do and do not show. This, of course, is a huge data suck, as it could be 500MB per movie, for a minute or five of porn. I also watch user-created movies from video sharing sites like YouTube or Vimeo, which are often shorter and contain only porn. Because the things I find stimulating are such common fare (soft porn), one way that I often try to find porn in an attempt to skirt filters is sites showing TV advertisements. These sites are often not blocked, and invariably contain a category for sexy or “hot” advertisements. Additionally, they are shorter (easier to download, and don’t consume as much data), and often are shot in such a way as to “tease” the viewer (showing just enough without showing everything, which is already, for me, showing too much), and I find that also very stimulating. The big problem with these sites, though, is that they often contain thousands of advertisement video clips, and I may find myself spending days on end working through every page to see which stimulating videos I can find. The flip side of this, which is also important, is that these videos can also be a way to find new sites that I haven’t blocked yet—if I just search for a specific video, I can look through the results until I find it on a new site that I haven’t blocked, and then I can start going through all the other videos on that site.

Last year, I hit a low point when I came across a South American TV show demonstrating sexual positions. I eventually hunted down all the episodes (I think there were just more than 30, across two seasons) and watched them in close detail. Of course, it was evident that the couple were not really engaging in the sex acts they were depicting, but this represented a huge amount of time lost, looking slowly through about thirty episodes with about ten to fifteen minutes of porn each.

Looking at all of this in summary, I see that my sexual addiction is centred mostly around voyeurism, with perhaps a touch of fantasy involved. However, given my shameful and non-confrontational (i.e., unassertive) nature, this means also that I avoid the more open forms of voyeurism like strip shows, etc. This just makes it easier for me to hide what I am doing from everyone, and to maintain a higher level of hypocrisy. Thanks to the easy and overabundant availability of pornography on the Internet, this has become frightfully easy to do.

Theo B. Kriek
Huis van Seen: ‘n Plek van Aanvaarding en Waarheid
House of Blessing: A Place of Acceptance and Truth
Pastorale Terapeut/Pastoral Therapist
Pornografie en Seksuele Verslawingsterapeut
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist
Sel/Cell. 076 165 1587
Kantore/Offices in: Pretoria en/and Krugersdorp, South Africa
Blog: http://theokriek.wordpress.com
Twitter: @theokriek