I am often asked what I’ve done to become free of my pornography addiction and stay strong in my recovery. Each time I’ll share different things depending on where the person is in their own recovery, but I thought it might be useful to share all of the activities, books, online sites, etc., that have been critical in helping me recover and find my freedom.
The Short List (my experiences with each are below if you want more info):
- A professional addiction recovery counselor (mine specialized in marriage and family relations and that was also super helpful at the same time).
- Alcoholic’s Anonymous “Big Book” (free online at http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/alcoholics-anonymous).
- Setting and following “Bottom Lines”
- SAA meetings (look for one in your area: http://saapp.org).
- “He Did Deliver Me From Bondage”, by Colleen C. Harrison.
- “How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about It”, Steven Stosny Ph.d, Patricia Edd Love.
- LDS Addiction Recovery Manual
- LDS Addiction Recovery meetings (If you attend church, I recommend speaking with your pastor or equivalent leader and requesting help with addiction recovery, in particular group meetings and professional counselor referrals).
- “Like Dragons Did They Fight” by Maurice Harker.
- “Every Man’s Battle”, Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.
- “Putting On the Armor of God”, Steven A. Cramer.
- The Bible (and Book of Mormon)
- Write in your journal
The Full List (with descriptions):
I’ll start with the pinnacle tool that lead to my ultimate freedom from addiction and a peaceful, happy recovery: The Alcoholic’s Anonymous “Big Book”: You can order a copy from Amazon or another book store. You can read it for free online at http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/alcoholics-anonymous. I love this book. I have a big print hard copy. My copy is marked up, written in, dog eared (I normally hate that) and read, read, and re-read. Using this book, attending a 12 step SAA program (see below), and working with a sponsor was the final key for me.
To be fair, before I started my SAA program, I finally hit my rock bottom and realized I could not do this on my own and took the recommendation of a friend, also fighting this addiction, to go see his counselor. What a huge difference that made. And what a SHOCKER it was to learn about what it meant to be an addict. That was humbling, frustrating, depressing, shocking, ground breaking, emotional, but ultimately strengthening and freeing. My counselor was able to guide my wife and I in our relationship together (still working on that, but in a good way) as well as guide my journey to recovery. He was never pushy, and let me guide my path at my own rate. He never told me what to do, he simply knew what questions to ask, how to help me open up and communicate what was inside, and then encourage me to seek further help which led to my recovery.
I also believe that I needed multiple things along my journey to find what I was looking for. Another great read is the book “Like Dragons Did They Fight” by Maurice Harker. This book does a great job tying your brain and how it works to the cycles we face in our addiction and prescribes a kind of boot camp like method for counter-acting them. This is a religious based book (but does not preach it’s specific religion, it just uses scriptural referrences to back up the teachings). I like the practicality of this book and have recommended it to several people with very positive results.
Hard to hide it at this point so I won’t bother, but I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m a Mormon. Please do not let that be a hinderence to your reading my blog. I will not preach to you. I will encourage you to follow your own religion or philosophy. Everyone is welcome here. We are in this together and I want the experience to be inclusive, not exclusive. Having said that, I used every tool at my disposal to recover and that included my church. I encourage you to do the same with your own church. If you don’t have one, ask a friend who you think lives their religion well, they will be likely happy to help you find the help you are looking for. Finally, if you cannot find what you are looking for, I am always happy to help — it’s why I am here and do what I do. Just ask.
My counselor recommended the book, “He Did Deliver Me from Bondage.” It is an LDS take on the 12 steps by a private author (versus a church sponsored book). I’ll devote an entire blog post to this book and the wonderful author someday. The biggest thing I took from Colleen Harrison was to trust the process and to really give it a chance by not holding back, but giving it everything I had, be honest with myself, and above all — follow instructions to a “T”. The two biggest pieces of advice I took from her and still use today is “Write your feelings down. In earnest. Answer the questions fully and honestly and WRITE them.” the other was “Take your time with the process. If you spend an entire day on a single paragraph (she actually has you do that at the start of each chapter with one paragraph per day for a week to practice the habit), then that might be the most healthy thing for your recovery. She instilled in me that it was not a race. It was a journey. It was a process, not an accomplishment to simply check off when you were done.” If I could ever meet her I would give her the biggest hug in the world! She was instrumental in truly saving my life!
My counselor also recommended the book, “How to Improve Your Marriage without Talking about It.” That was a very interesting read. It really helped me improve my marriage with my wife because it was focused on what “I” could do and turned me away from what she could or should or might do. As an addict we want to be able to control everything and everyone (that’s part of our illness) but we cannot and should not. This book was an excellent way for me to focus on how I could serve others without worrying about what I got out of it or whether or not I was getting the desired response from the other person.
I attended my church’s pornography addiction program after debating it for several months (maybe even 6 months). I was TERRIFIED to go! Who would I see there? What would they think of me? Hah! If only I knew that (a) everyone else thought the same thing the first time, and (b) we only care about each other and want the best for each other. I finally talked a friend into going with me and was able to get the courage to go. I enjoy it. I think it’s good. To be honest, I don’t think it’s “great” and I wish it were “great”. I think the potential is there and just last night my wife said, “Well maybe they need someone like you who is willing to speak up to share with them what you think and how things could improve.” It’s not much, I think the basics are there (12 step, group support, sharing, etc), but they don’t really encourage utilizing a sponsor. There are some other things, but that’s the biggest for me. Still, I continue to go and am able to help others and I continue to be helped as well, so I give it a thumbs up still. Find a program to attend and go regularly.
My church has what I would call an abridged version of the AA 12 step program. It includes specific to my church quotes and scriptural references for help, but all in all, I think it’s a great book and frankly speaking I believe that anyone (religious or not) would benefit from it. The key is to WORK the program and especially to write your answers in the space provided for each question. There is an “action” section at the end of each step that asks you to answer several pages of questions. This is INCREDIBLY helpful, and healing.
My mother gave me my copy of “Every Man’s Battle” as she had heard it discussed on a radio program and wanted to do anything she could to help me. I love the support my parents have given me in my journey. I would give this a B rating. It’s a good read and gave me a few tools but in general I don’t know that it really had anything that would lead to recovery in it. I also can’t say that I agreed with some of the advice in the book. This is a take it or leave it recommendation, I’m just being thorough.
One of the last books on the list is “Putting on the Armor of God.” Interestingly enough this was the first book I read in the list. The part of my journey that this book played was in reinforcing the reality that there is an unseen enemy that has the ability to influence our thoughts. Most religions would refer to this as the devil or lucifer. I don’t know how else to refer to him and his followers other than “the enemy”. There is a real battle going on and we need to be prepared to fight it. I don’t want to over dramatize this (this is not Hollywood in other words). I just want to say that not all thoughts that come into our heads are ours and that can be helpful in recognizing that we are not “bad people”. We are simply sick people who need treatment and help from others. It is a battle, but when properly armed and trained, we can fight and win it! I was blown away when I read this book to recognize some of the key phrases that the enemy whispers to us in our moments of weakness. I had heard almost all of them. It was reassuring to know they were not my personal thoughts and that I was not alone in having them. It helps to put them into perspective.
Finally I included the Bible and in my case also the Book of Mormon. Reading the scriptures gave me strength in my daily battles. It made things easier. However, it was not by itself, enough to help me defeat my addiction and find recovery. I needed multiple things. But I would be remiss in not including the power of reading scripture each day.
Non book items I included were writing in my journal (I touch on the power of writing when I talk about the Addiction Recovery Program manual above) and meditating (I like yoga and prayer). I will reiterate it here because I think it is so valuable. Learning to express yourself, even if you’re angry, frustrated, lonely, sad, happy, joyful, relieved, at peace, etc., is a fantastic way to help with the healing aspect of your journey. It also helps you identify your growth and improvement. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look back and hear the addict talking instead of the person I am today. But it gives me hope and strength to know that I can change. And if I can change, I promise — so can you!