There is an addiction that plagues many thousands, if not millions, of Americans: addiction to Internet pornography. This addiction in particular, while receiving more attention in recent years, remains hidden in the shadows far more than any of the other addictions. This needs to change. Internet pornography is the fastest growing addiction today.
Those who suffer from addiction to Internet pornography can take heart, for there is hope. A good place to start would be a reading of Fr. John Breck’s book, The Sacred Gift of Life, in which he tells us that we have become numb to sexual explicitness and exploitation and don’t know what to do about it. Perhaps the first thing we must all know about the Internet porn industry is how vast it really is. This industry profits over $10 billion dollars, more than the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association combined! More disturbing is the percentage of young people that use Internet pornography on a regular basis: 87% of young men and 31% of young women. Among clergy, 37% admit to being addicted to Internet porn.
Like all addictions, we must understand that Internet pornography produces the same effect as cocaine. The brain is flooded with dopamine and testosterone, producing that “high” that addicts ultimately seek in their addiction of choice. Before we can begin the process of healing from the addiction of Internet pornography, we must confront the two main objections that addicts are bound to throw up.
First, they are doing it alone, therefore they are not really hurting anyone. This is a misnomer given statistics that show Internet porn stars die before the age of 50, some before age 35 due to unnatural causes, i.e. drugs or suicide. Each time an addict watches pornography, he/she indirectly hurts the person(s) in the film and contributes to their premature death. Not to mention personal relationships that undoubtedly are destroyed by the lack of trust and respect the addiction will inevitably bring about.
The second objection we will hear from the addict is that it’s really not that bad compared to other addictions. Unlike a cigarette smoker who poisons everyone around him each time he exhales, the porn addict reasons to himself that because he does it in the privacy of his own home, he is not exposing others to his addiction. Also, unlike a smoker who may light up several times a day, the porn addict may view pornography as little as once a week or month. This gives the addict the false perception that he only does it when he wants to and can stop anytime. From an Orthodox Christian standpoint, even once is sinful. Every addiction begins with that first time.
So what then can we, as Orthodox Christians do to help an addict or get help if we are the addict? There is an organization called Sexaholics Anonymous with a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Unlike other programs that may allow for some sexual behaviors outside of marriage, SA only condones sex within the sanctity of marriage as ordained by God and the Orthodox Church. Confession to a spiritual father with a genuine commitment to repent can help to bring about the healing process. There is also a book, The Drug of the New Millenium: The Brain Science behind Internet Pornography by Mark B. Kastleman that comes highly recommended by Albert Rossi. We have the tools necessary to overcome addiction to Internet pornography and return to the state of grace and purity the Lord intended for us to have.