Friday, July 25, 2008

breaking a pornography addiction

David Powlison offers some very helpful advice.

What does progress in your struggle with pornography look like? In all
typical human struggles (like anger, anxiety, escapism), winning doesn’t mean
achieving perfection. It means having a new goal and a new direction. Your
direction in life determines your final destination. Where are you headed? Are
you going in the right direction? Going in the right direction in your struggle
with pornography means learning to fight your temptation to sin, to handle your
guilt when you fail, and to understand and avoid the circumstances in which you
are tempted.

Making progress in these three areas does not mean you will
suddenly get teleported from the mire in which you now live to the mountaintop
of freedom from all temptation. Change in these areas means taking many small,
incremental steps in the right direction. For example:

  • A decrease in the frequency of a sin is progress. It’s not good that you are still indulging in pornography, but if you are doing it less, you are going in the right direction.
  • A change in the actual nature of the sin is progress. If you are no longer having an affair or premarital sex, and now you are battling pornographic fantasy, it’s good that your struggle has changed from your actions to your imagination.
  • A change in the battleground is progress. When your battle has moved from purchasing materials or going onto explicit internet sites to battling the old fantasy tapes that are still in your mind, that’s movement in the right direction.
  • An increase in honesty and accountability is progress. You are moving forward when you are willing to be truly candid and accountable to a trusted friend, spouse, or pastor and say, “Here’s where I’m struggling.” An appropriate openness to others is a very significant step towards change.
  • Not always responding to difficult circumstances by indulging in sin is progress. When your life gets hard, if instead of going straight to your fantasy life, you pray for help and ask others to pray for you, then God is at work.
  • Repenting more quickly is progress. Learning to go more quickly to the Lord of life, instead of wallowing for days, weeks, and months in the gloom of “I failed again,” is a sign that God is at work in your life.
  • Learning to love and consider the interest of real people is progress. Your immoral fantasies use other people in an imaginary world. Caring for others, even in small ways, means that Jesus is changing you.


  1. Leaving aside for a moment the proposition that "pornography" = "sin;" with which I disagree, I'm not sure if the advice works from an addiction standpoint.

    My understanding is that indulging in the addictive behavior more sporadically might actually make the addiction worse because the occasional indulgence provides a more potent reinforcement than the constant indulgence.

  2. I think it's possible to be come addicted to anything, given time and means. Probably 95% of the people who indulge are bot addicted, but...

    i like this list - I do think that openesss has become fraught with issues, though, what with lawsuits, etc.

  3. Doug: To leave aside the view of "pornography is sin," (which I wholeheartedly believe in) there are various opinions as to how to deal with addictions. One of my grad school professors acknowledged this, and thought that some substance abusers could improve by gradually diminishing their intake to occasional use. Obviously, the spiritual views of the client have to be considered.

    Lemming: The addictive list grows every day. I've seen articles on people "addicted" to blogging.

  4. Accountability can also be a HUGE help for the compulsive porn viewer.

    Have you ever heard of accountability software? Accountability software is specifically for adults who want to guard where they go online without any blocking or filtering. Combined with filtering, it's a great Internet safety solution for the whole family. If you want more info about it check out my post “Breaking the Lure of Internet Porn” -