“I’m only hurting myself!”
Probably the most common myth encountered when it comes to porn addiction is the idea that it only hurts the consumer. From the addict’s perspective, since he or she is consciously deciding to seek the high in private; then it couldn’t possibly be harmful to anyone else. But the addict’s understanding is limited and biased. To downplay the damage the addiction causes to others or to dismiss it altogether frees them from accountability or responsibility. This is classic “avoidance” and “denial” by the addict that their problem is really a problem at all.
Combating this myth is difficult simply because until someone is ready to own up to the reality of the damage that is caused, there’s very little that family members and friends can do. However, that doesn’t leave us to passively watch a loved one self destruct. There is a way to be involved and challenge the lies the addict is believing. There is a way to undermine the myths that serve to keep the addict from progressing toward sobriety. Here are 2 strategies to confront this myth:
Viewing the damage…
For the addict there’s little understanding of the damage that is done, or that is being done because they simply refuse to see it. Until there is a real encounter, with the real damage that has been caused by the sexual addiction, little will change.
If you’ve never been on the ground and toured an area shortly after its been hit by a tornado then you can’t appreciate the damage a tornado can do. In a similar way the addict can’t fully understand the devastation their life of infidelity and lies is causing.
To help them see things clearer it will be important to let them experience what I call, boundaries and loss. In their groundbreaking book Boundaries Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend help us understand the need for boundaries as we relate to those who can’t see the negative impact their lives are having:
“What we can do is set limits on our own exposure to people who are behaving poorly; we can’t change them or make them behave right.”-45 Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud, and Dr. John Townsend (emphasis mine)
Such boundaries are critical to the addict coming to terms with the pain and chaos they have created. Boundaries allow them to begin to see and feel the consequences of their behavior and the damage that has been done.
With those boundaries the addict experiences loss. Before boundaries the addict could have his/her “…cake and eat it too!”. They lived wild and free only accountable to themselves. But with boundaries they lose that carefree lifestyle and must face the reality of the brokenness all around them. Generally there is a great deal of push back here. There is anger, and resentment because they feel entitled to do whatever they please since, “no one is being hurt, but me.” During this time they may lose the privilege, and gift of sexual intimacy with their spouse because the spouse has drawn a boundary and doesn’t want to be merely a masturbatory outlet.
But this experience of “loss” is good! It very well could be the wake up call to a new awareness that their private life of self destruction has a broader impact than they know. A true indicator of legitimate recovery is when the addict becomes aware of the fact that it’s not just themselves they are hurting.