I was just in a conversation about pornography addiction and the tendency of addicts to look outside themselves for people to blame.
• “If only my dad hadn’t left his Playboys where I could find them.”
• “If only those other kids hadn’t talked about it so much when I was young and curious.”
• “If only my religion teachers had better articulated why it was wrong.”
• “If only the ISPs would do more to block porn.”
• “If only the porn industry weren’t so aggressive in its marketing.”
• “If only the government would do more to restrict the porn industry.”
• “If only my job weren’t so stressful.”
• “If only women would notice me more.”
• “If only my wife were more loving.”
For me, I think part of the reason I wanted to blame others was that it seemed to be the only alternative to blaming myself. My thinking was as follows:
Whereas I am using pornography and can’t seem to stop even though I believe it is wrong and unhealthy, either I must be a bad person or someone else must be responsible.
No one wants to believe himself to be a bad person, so naturally the alternative seemed more appealing. And to some extent, the actions of others do play a role in making pornography addiction more likely. But even if that’s true, knowing that one’s addiction may be partly someone else’s fault does absolutely nothing to make it better.
Another problem is the assumption that if I am addicted to using pornography, I must be a bad person. Perhaps only those who have struggled with addiction get how hard it is to fight and can understand the inner conflicts that emerge during withdrawal. An addict can sincerely want to change but still be overwhelmed with urges, and even worse, a fear that those urges will never go away unless satisfied. It’s like having two voices in your head, one saying, “No, don’t!” and another saying “Oh, just once more!” or, worse, “You can’t change. Just give up already.” Sometimes it’s not so much that the addict doesn’t want to change; it’s that he doesn’t know how.
A pornography addict is not necessarily a hedonist whose only interest is carnal pleasure. Sometimes, pornography is a distraction from pain. My addiction started when I was a boy struggling with depression. Pornography wasn’t my first addiction; I was addicted to TV shows, computer games, action figures (playing with them and buying them), junk food and I don’t remember what else. A boy doesn’t know that what he has is depression; he knows that he feels miserable and that certain thing seem to relieve it, if only temporarily.
As an adult who recognized he had a problem, there were things I could do to address it. (I’ve discussed that elsewhere on this blog.) While I’ve been out of the cycle of pornography addiction for more than a year, I’ve come to the realization that my next step is learning to address the depression that’s always been lurking with in. I don’t know whether I will ever be totally free from that, but I am learning about the ways others cope with and manage it, and that’s what I’m now looking into.
My point is, my addiction was not made better by blaming myself or anyone else, nor will my depression be. What I need to look at is:
Where am I?
Where do I want to be?
What can I do to get there?
Once I figure that out, I can also ask, “How do I keep from ending up there again?” But there is no benefit in asking, “Whose fault is it that I was there in the first place?”