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Pornography, Defined.

With sex addiction, it is extremely important to live a sober life in order to recover. Sobriety will lift the fog that surrounds the addiction and allow the addict to do the processing work required to make long-lasting, life-altering choices. To be sober, the men that I work with have decided to give up all extra-marital sexual relationships, pornography, and even self-gratification with masturbation. For the sexual addict, giving up these behaviors can be very difficult, so we work to put boundaries in place to keep them from relapsing when they are in a weak moment.

In the course of my work, I hear men say all the time that they no longer watch pornography, but over the course of my time with them, I can tell their minds are still clouded. One of the issues that I see is that men don’t know how to define pornography. Pornography to them may be hardcore videos with multiple people involved in sexual acts, but that is not normally how pornography starts for anyone. Pornography almost always starts with a small spark before it turns the addict's life into a wildfire. It starts as a racy scene from a PG-13 movie, J.C. Penny catalog, or an older sister in a swimsuit at a friend's house.

Pornography can be anything you want it to be. That’s why it’s important to define what pornography is in relation to sobriety.

Using pornography is intentionally looking at any image in order to arouse.

Many men that I speak to are quick to block websites that have explicit pornographic content on them but have a harder time understanding that their mindless scrolling on social media feeds or YouTube is still trapping them in the addictive cycle. It doesn’t matter if it’s hard-core porn, soft-core porn, or just scantily clad friends or influencers on Instagram; the brain is still going through the exact same addictive patterns.

Why is it that men have such a hard time identifying this behavior as a relapse in recovery? Partially because it is so “tame” compared to what they previously did. I know many sex-addicted men who have told me that they don’t struggle with lust or scanning women in public, only to realize when they have a little sobriety under their belt how much they objectify women in public places. I know one man whose wife used to ask him if “immodest women” in movies were tempting for him before they found recovery. He would repeatedly answer no because he knew what his wife didn’t. He looked up way more severe things on the internet most nights after his wife went to sleep. Once he was in recovery for a while, he had to set new boundaries because those tame movies were a temptation for him.

Having this definition of pornography will help you set better boundaries in your recovery. It will also keep you from lying to yourself and saying that you are sober when, in reality, you aren’t. This understanding can make all the difference in your recovery. That’s why it’s helpful to bring on a coach to help you recover. You need someone trained to see the things you can’t see in the moment. You need someone outside the fog to help you navigate your way out to freedom you may not even believe is possible right now. Let me help you see what is possible.

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