Today I sit down with Annie Hall. She discusses her husband’s pornography addiction and their journey to recovery. We talk about the pain, the frustration and the hurt. We speak at length about what her assumptions were and how Priesthood leaders are unequipped in some ways to handle such issues but the cultural idea that Bishops can solve any problem as the mouthpiece of God in a Ward can slow down and even hurt the process of recovery. Annie tells a story that is a piece of all us as we examine our lives.
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While Annie Hall is a courageous woman, it’s a good thing that she’s not a licensed therapist, counselor, or clinical psychologist.
Why not? She would lose her license and be permanently banned from the field for defining addiction in the broadest, most inclusive and expansive way.
Mormons love to label any undesirable behavior an addiction. It’s so much better to generate crushing guilt and torturous shame that way.
While I respect your two cents and to some degree agree with you I should also note the great help this episode has been to others who got so much out of it. I share one of those comments here
– One of the best, honest interviews I’ve heard on recovery for LDS members, in a long time. As a recovering meth addict, with 10 yrs of sobriety, the disease cannot be forced into remission by prayers, fasting, self-help books, blessings and scriptures.. and they like! They are only part of a complex cocktail of tools needed. CMA (Crystal Meth Anonymous) was not only my angel for recovery, it brought me back to the church after a ten year hiatus! Again, No scripture, fasting, Bishop, Stake President, my calloused knees… Provided the clear path for me, those were light posts… May this listening to this episode, anyone who needs to be in support groups, the addict, the spouses, family, friends, etc… You need to relearn how to be the loved ones you want to be! Be humble to know you need all the help you can get! Humility, letting go, giving away, real accountability with yourself and another, at least,coupled with ruthless honestly is the only way! Example, I did 180 meetings my first 90 days and then relapsed! It’s not easy, it’s a life long journey— isn’t that our doctrine? Remember, you’re not the “special one,” who can do it differently—- sorry, you are special, you’re just not “that” special! Love this Bill Reel. May this touch all of us that are suffering!!!!
I normally love your podcasts Bill, but I too see this as a very risky podcast for anyone hurting and struggling with this issue. Your guest had strong opinions founded in myth, judgment, and leagues away from helpful with her definitions of addiction and approach towards her husband’s problem. There are many good licensed trained professionals in the Mormon online community that can talk intelligently about this issue, and I’ve listened to and read enough of them to know that your guest’s approach is counterproductive. If you feel like you are struggling with this issue, steer clear of the uninformed messages on this interview.
I’m sure there are many therapists, counselors, and clinical psychologists that don’t believe that viewing porn is an addiction and that some would even argue that it is healthy, normal, or not a big deal. However, a CSAT certification (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) is quickly becoming an industry standard for addiction professionals now that internet pornography is so prevalent and easily accessible. Besides CSATs, other research and non-religious organizations such as Fight the New Drug argue that pornography use is more than just an undesirable behavior – it physiologically alters the brain, weakens self control, destroys self worth, causes objectification of others, and negatively effects sex life.
I believe that there are WAY more people addicted to porn that don’t believe they are addicted than those who are labeled as a “porn addict” or think that they are addicted to porn but really aren’t. I also think that people can go a long time “white-knuckling it” (sobriety without recovery like those who go an entire two years on a mission without looking at porn) before they get back into their addiction cycle. Like you said, nobody wants the label “addict” so they don’t even consider it a possibility, which is unfortunate. In our situation, as soon as we realized that my husband’s undesirable behavior was in fact, an addiction, there was finally hope for him and for us! We didn’t feel like he was a ticking time bomb anymore or that it was only a matter of time before he gave in to the “natural man” – there was finally a solution to lasting sobriety! Here are a few opinions from some other friends whose husband’s are addicted to pornography:
“I feel like labeling it as an addiction, gives hope and a solution rather than guilt and shame…for the addict and the wife.”
“My husband said that he didn’t ever feel hope for stopping until it hit him that it was an addiction. He promised himself time after time that it would be the last time. But he kept thinking he just needed to be stronger. Once he realized it was an addiction, he realized he needed help. And that gave him hope.”
“Addiction” has some negative connotations, but the term is also widely accepted as a disease for which there are proven, effective treatments. “Problems” or “issues” are typically hidden, whispered in secret. Those are the terms that breed shame. “Problems” are something we hide, work through “on my own,” etc. “Problems” are much more shameful than addiction.”
I disagree that Mormons love to label any undesirable behavior as an addiction – in my case and many other LDS couples’ cases people are hesitant to call anyone or themselves an “addict”. The husband’s “addiction” was never labeled as an addiction – it was labeled as a “problem” and/or “an undesirable behavior” and/or “normal male issues” that could be fixed with perfect obedience. Had the addictive behavior been treated like an addiction in the beginning, whether it was an addiction at that point or not – it could have prevented so much damage to the individual and the family.
The current LDS pamphlet on pornography, “Let Virture Garnish Thy Thoughts” only gives one little blip on getting outside help in addition to help from Bishop. It says: “Some people may need additional help to abandon pornography. Addictions are sometimes symptoms of other problems. Your bishop may refer you to a professional counselor who can help you.” While the pamphlet gives good suggestions like fasting and praying, participating in positive activities, changing your environment, learning constructive ways to deal with negative emotions, and confiding with a family member, it won’t be enough for those who are already addicted. The connotation in the pamphlet makes it sound like those who need help outside of the church’s suggestions are an exception, rather than the majority, which produces a lot of shame for those people who have tried the churches suggestions and are still struggling. It doesn’t even mention a 12 step program or reaching out to other people who have found lasting recovery and sobriety. (Many studies show that up to 70 percent of Christian men view pornography monthly – and even if it is just half of that percentage, that is still a large percentage!) Thankfully, the church’s “Overcoming Pornography” website is better (though it emphasizes the spiritual side of recovery which is only part of the recovery equation) but it continually is making changes and improving!
My husband got rid of the crushing guilt or torturous shame that fed his pornography usage by bringing it to light, by being vulnerable, by being honest, by no longer worrying what other people thought about him, by embracing powerlessness and accepting God’s enabling power and grace, and by asking for help. As a result, he found recovery and is one month short of two years sober.
I loved this podcast and consider it one of the best. I have never heard that there is a difference between recovery and repentance. I immediately did some research on recovery. Very insightful.
I really enjoyed the podcast. I loved what she said about being willing to be vulnerable at church and really just in life in general. I am so tempted some weeks to never return to church because of some of the insensitive comments (don’t get me wrong, i’m sure over the years i’ve made some of them myself) that can be so “perfectionist inducing” or judgmental, but when i hear talks like this I think how important it is for people to keep coming, and to speak up and be willing to be vulnerable and share real life pain, doubts, problems, etc. Thanks as always for the insightful guests and commentary!!