A Personal Note on Treating Porn Addicts

The Internet.  Available to the masses only since 1991 — that’s only 21 years ago and this incredible phenomenon has done more to shape the culture and the behaviors and attitudes of billions of human beings than anything since Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440.  Certainly since the invention of the telephone, or radio or television.

Two BILLION people (a third of the Earth’s population) are regular users of Internet services.  Whatever we want – information, goods, connections – we can find it whenever we want it via the Internet.  Yes, everything, including sex.  We can have sex on the Internet whenever we want with exactly the kind of person we want.

The opportunity is too enticing, alluring, fulfilling, immediate and powerful.  So much opportunity and stimulation is available that sometimes it’s difficult to control.  And hard to stop.  For some, seemingly impossible to stop.

Sex, sexuality, and sexual expression of every conceivable variety and type have evolved as a dominant area of content on the Internet.  The Internet isn’t all about progress and evolution.  There is the shadow side of the net.

I read a new book on “cybersex” last night.  Not exactly like porn addiction, but certainly a kissing cousin.  There were the usual stories of people being sexual over Webcams, streaming videos, erotic chat rooms where people participate in simultaneous sexual activities,  posting personal sex ads and then meeting people for offline sexual activities, finding “special interest” newsgroups of a sexual nature (“women having affairs”, “spouses – up after dark”, “she/males tonight”, etc.)

Of course, none of this was exactly news to me.  I’ve been in the sex addiction business for 15 years and, although I certainly haven’t heard it all, I’ve heard enough.  I’m privileged in my line of work to get to know people in a certain intimate way.  I can see…no, not see, but experience viscerally the internal experience of people who are “tangled in the web”.

I’ve witness people destroy their marriages and lose their jobs because they’re exhausted every day from being up until 4 in the morning looking a porn or engaging in cybersex.  I’ve gone through arrests and social humiliation with people who, due to their loss of control, engaged in illegal activities on the Net.  One poor soul had the FBI come to his place of employment to put the cuffs on.  He had made the unfortunate choice to dabble in kiddie porn.

Losing a marriage or a job is one thing.  There are other marriages and other jobs.  But I’ve seen people losing their, well, soul.  By that I mean the engagment in a compulsion with it’s loss of control, it’s human isolation, it’s secrecy and it’s shame  gobble up their essential selves.

What’s really endangered here is the loss of self.  Self- esteem, self- respect,  self- care, self- regulation, and self-worth are eroded by not being in control of one’s behavior and engaging in shame-based sexual activities.

Some of these people have almost lost contact with the human community.  Their worlds become very small.  And it is through, and ONLY through our connections with real human beings and through our engagement with real-life goals and activities that we are truly human.

This is the problem with the Internet in general.  It creates human isolation.  For my part, I know I no longer go to the library where I’m out in the world and in the presence of other people.  I study and research on the Net.  I can’t remember the last time I shopped in a real-world store where I interact with others. (I completely redecorated my home and office from the Internet — never left the house.)

The isolating effect of the Internet on me is miniscule compared to folks ensnared in fantasy relationships with fantasy people or viewing porn on the Net.  This special, secret world of theirs is so compelling, so gratifying, so immediate, so compelling that friends, family, hobbies, friends can’t compare to the exhilaration of  spending hours in the “Erotic Haze.”

When I finished the book, a tremendous sense of sadness overcame me.  Sadness about the millions of people who are looking for connection but with a misguided sense of how to achieve it.  Involvement with porn and cybersex is like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.  The deliciousness of real, human connection is missing.

Porn addicts and cybersex/romance freaks are like people who are dying of thirst but keep going to the empty well to quench their thirst.  The therapeutic work I try to do involves helping people to get interested in the wells that are full of the caring, nurturing and compassion that only other human beings are capable of delivering.

It is only in connection to the rest of humanity and in connection to their authentic selves that their cravings will be finally satisfied.

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