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  • Writer's pictureJake Kastleman

How to Help Someone with a Porn Addiction in 3 Steps



It can be so hard to know how to help someone with a porn addiction. The suffering of those of us with addicted spouses or children can be unbearable at times. We worry deeply for our loved ones. We try so, so hard to “knock some sense into them”; to tell them to get help, or to help them ourselves. We talk and talk and talk until we’re blue in the face, attempting to get through.


Sometimes, our spouse or child will have moments of clarity, knowing they need help. But, when we follow up to see if they’ve set up that therapy appointment, looked up that support group they talked about, or started that new daily spiritual or mindfulness practice, we are told that we’re being “crazy” or “controlling” by following up. Or they make up some new excuse as to why they “don't need to do that anymore”, why they “haven’t had time”, or why they’re “too overwhelmed” or have “too much going on.”


We want our loved one to succeed, to feel happy, and to get clean. But they don’t seem to want it as bad as we do. Or, perhaps they do want it, but they just can’t seem to gain any real traction. 


We experience frequent challenges connecting with our loved one and knowing what to say to them. We just don’t know how to help. 


Today, I’m going to teach you how to help someone with a porn addiction in 5 steps. 



Porn Addiction is the New Epidemic

Addictionhelp.com reports that 69% of men view online porn. But how many of them are addicted? I guess that depends on how many know that they’re addicted, or even consider their porn use a problem in the first place. 


How many men only view porn once every couple of weeks and wouldn’t consider that an addiction? How many are unaware of how porn is affecting the way they view women or interact with others, or the damage it's doing to their brain?


How many men have a difficult time connecting with other people in part because porn has trained their brain to see others as objects and makes it more difficult to connect with their deep emotions and form long-lasting, healthy relationships? And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships - I mean all relationships. 


Is that to say anyone who views porn is a bad person or can’t care for others?  No, of course not. But how incredible could they be without the porn? And how many of those 69% of men could stop viewing porn today without craving or obsessing over it once they can’t have it? How many are more reliant on it than they know?  


I speak as someone who used to be in this exact spot. I had no idea how much watching porn was ruining my mental health and relationships until I quit. I also had no idea how reliant I was on it as a mechanism for escaping stress and numbing mental/emotional pain. 



Porn’s Impact on Mental Health & Motivation

Porn addiction - or just porn use in general - is having a very negative impact on the world. It’s causing men to lack drive and motivation. Not just drive to pursue relationships with women - which it certainly does - but drive and motivation in day-to-day life.


In my intensive porn addiction recovery program, I teach my clients to build new lifestyle habits using a concept known as Pleasure Conditioning. Pleasure Conditioning is all about what type of pleasure we are conditioning our mind to in our daily activities. 


For instance, if I spend a total of a couple of hours a day playing video games, watching porn, watching TV, eating junk food, scrolling social media, etc. - then my brain becomes conditioned to pleasure that is easy to obtain and takes little effort. I call these base pleasures. And these types of activities numb the mind and don’t help us grow. In fact, they actually diminish our passion, joy, and capacity. They are mindless - not mindful. 


Whereas, if I spend my days in activities like writing, reading, having conversations, serving people, working, learning, cooking, playing musical instruments, etc. then my brain becomes conditioned to pleasure that is harder to get and takes more effort, leading to growth and happiness. I call these noble pleasures. These activities are mindful - rather than mindless


So, let’s revisit the question from earlier. Who do you know who struggles with a porn addiction? Well, who do you know who struggles with motivation issues? Anxiety? Depression? Anger? Trouble connecting with other people? 


When we engage in low effort, mindless activities that yield an intense mental reward - like porn or video games or social media or junk food - these often contribute substantially to things like anxiety, depression, ADHD, social anxiety, etc. 


And it’s hard to say that, right? Because things like video games and junk food can be really fun. They can feel like a break from life; they give us an out. But meanwhile, they are dampening the person we could be, the good we could do, the relationships we could build, the dreams we could pursue - the extent to which we could enjoy the present moment and spending time with the ones that we love. 


If you know someone with these struggles, that person may have a porn addiction that contributes to these struggles. And notice I say contributes. It isn’t the whole picture, but it is a part of it.


The more we engage in porn or other addictive behaviors, the worse it makes things like anxiety, depression, and issues with focus and motivation. The worse these struggles become, the more we want to numb out using our addictions. I’ve been there! It is a difficult cycle to break, but it can be done



How do you help someone with a porn addiction?

So, how do you help someone with a porn addiction? Is it a spouse? A child? A friend?


Helping each entails the same steps, with increasing involvement for spouses and children.  



Step 1: Understanding and Empowerment

We need to broaden our perspective on addiction. It’s not ultimately the issue, but a symptom. It increases our struggles, but is ultimately not the source of our struggles. 


Understanding

Addiction is a symptom of underlying mental and emotional pain. When we suffer, and that suffering has underlying self-judgment and self-worth issues (shame), a part of our brain will often influence us to seek out a way to numb and escape the overwhelming pain.


And any of us with serious issues with self-worth coupled with mental and emotional suffering will often seek out an addiction (or multiple addictions in whatever form) to cope with the pain.


When our sexual urges become obsessive, it is always because there is underlying mental and emotional pain that is fueling the addiction. To help someone overcome porn addiction, it is best that we do not see the addiction as the cause - but instead as the symptom. 


Empowerment

Now, here’s what you need to understand - especially if you’re a spouse of someone who struggles with porn addiction - and that’s that the porn addiction has nothing to do with your spouse's sexual urges. 


Let me say that one more time. A porn addiction has nothing to do with sexual urges, and everything to do with attempting to escape and avoid internal suffering. 


When your husband has a porn addiction, it is not because you fall short as a spouse to fulfill his sexual desires. That is not why he is seeking out porn. 


Sex is not a need. Though it may appear to be one - especially to the male mind - it is optional. It often appears to be a need because males can so easily succumb to using masturbation and porn as a way to cope with difficult emotions from the time we are a teen (or earlier). And for a majority of us, this happens very naturally. 


Males and females have natural sexual urges. Men also have an internal biological meter that continuously fills after puberty (i.e. sperm builds up and eventually must be released, whether manually or through a wet dream). It’s just the way it works. 


Just as women have an on-going cycle, men have an on-going cycle of build up and release of sperm. And before it releases, the physical urge to relieve that sperm can be quite overwhelming. This often comes along with an increased intensity of drive and heightened emotions. 


As men, if we have not learned how to direct our mind and use our manly drive and testosterone for purposeful, meaningful, and productive means, then we will be unable to point our manly capacity in the right direction. In other words, we will default to things like masturbation, porn, or meaningless sex outside of a committed, loving relationship in order to relieve the physical and mental pressure of the buildup.  


When used properly, these urges to do and succeed can be incredible! We can change the world and people’s lives using this drive. But, if we squander this potential, we can be left feeling unfulfilled, drained, and isolated. 


In order to overcome porn addiction, we need to develop a recovery mindset and a recovery lifestyle. A way of living that replaces our desire for porn. And this requires us to choose a life of purpose, meaning, accomplishment, connection, and service. Especially as men, if we do not choose this kind of life, then we will be ruled by our sexual urges. Sexual outlets like porn and masturbation easily become the pacifier that robs us of our God-given abilities. 


So, if we are trying to help a child quit porn, we must understand that their life is simply out of balance. They are dealing both with mental and emotional pain that is driving the porn addiction, as well as needing more purpose and meaning in their lives. 


We can empower them by listening to them and helping them open up, as well as getting them involved in serving the community, sports, activities, church, etc. as much as we can.


For our spouse, we can plan things to do with them, encourage them in their efforts to accomplish and do great things, give them to-do lists (yes, seriously), and create systems in the home and family that foster meaningful connections, hobbies, and interests.  


Don’t Try to Control Them

All this said, for those of us who have a spouse or child with a porn addiction, we can’t control them. In fact, attempting to control them will actually fuel the addiction, because negative emotions like shame, judgment, and control are not the solution to addiction but its cause. 


Addiction stems from a feeling of unworthiness. Therefore, to help someone overcome porn addiction, we need to go through the patience-testing process of loving them, understanding them, and having compassion for the pain they carry inside


Does this mean we need to let them walk all over us? Certainly not! But it does mean we need to try our very best to show them understanding and care in order to help them heal the underlying feelings of insecurity and fear that drove them to addiction in the first place. 



Step 2: Self-improvement & Self-care

If you want your spouse or child to get help and quit porn, do everything you can to work on yourself. Learn mindfulness techniques; practice daily physical, spiritual, mental, and relational routines that improve your well-being; serve your family in every way you can; plan fun activities together; make friends that help you feel belonging; go to therapy; begin your own addiction recovery…


Do everything you can to heal and feel happier, and this will likely motivate your spouse or child to do their own work to heal as well. Or, it may not. Either way, you will better be able to handle whatever comes and to help them if you work on yourself and turn your thoughts and actions towards serving and loving them and others around you. 



Step 3: Boundaries & Intervention

When it comes to friends, spouses, or children who struggle with a porn addiction, we want to make it clear that we are not the source of their mental and emotional stability. We are not their savior. We are not responsible for their recovery, or the lack thereof. 


Boundaries

This requires a very mature, firm, and respectful stance. We must tell these people that we will not be treated with disrespect, nor will we allow ourselves to be manipulated. We will not be held responsible for their relapses. We will also not stand for emotional abuse or neglect. 


We must speak up for ourselves, without contempt or resentment (as much as we can), and without pandering to our loved one’s manipulation, coercion, or delusion. 


In most cases, I’ve found that struggling addicts are unaware of their negative habits of fear tactics and manipulation. Our spouses were often taught these tactics when they were young by other people who were hurt and suffering. Now, it is our job to be a chain-breaker, and this often requires blunt, respectful declarations of self-respect and holding appropriate boundaries. 


These are not boundaries about every little decision this person makes, but expectations about how we ourselves will be treated by them, and perhaps expectations about what our spouse must do if they are to remain married to us. 


But remember, of course, that we always do our best to hold these boundaries and expectations in combination with understanding and empowerment as well as self-improvement and self-care. 


Intervention

My hope is that what I’ve said so far will be enough to bring your spouse or child to sobriety. But, sometimes something more drastic is needed. 


If you want your spouse or child to heal and get better, sometimes you need to be the one to tell them so. Sometimes, you need to lay down what you will and won’t accept, and that they need to get help. Period. 


Hopefully, you can help them see the light, and they will go willingly. But, they may not, and then a decision must be made on your part, and that needs to be handled very delicately and personally. 


If your spouse or child is open to getting help, I invite you to check out the No More Desire program. 


Many solutions out there - like Internet filters, accountability buddies, talk therapy, or church or religious programs - have merit, but many are also missing some key elements for long-lasting sobriety, which are daily exercises and hands-on practices that build new mindset and lifestyle habits. 


To recover, we need step-by-step instructions to develop a recovery mindset and lifestyle. It isn’t enough to just “stop watching porn”. Addiction is a symptom of deeper, underlying challenges. 


The No More Desire Intensive Recovery Program is a one-of-a-kind program with a unique approach for getting sober. My clients don’t just quit porn, they build a recovery mindset and lifestyle using hands-on, daily exercises that retrain their brain and forge new habits that last a lifetime. Once this mindset and lifestyle is established, their desire for porn naturally fades. 







Episode 52: How to Help Someone with a Porn Addiction in 3 Steps



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