There is so much talk out there about how to cure an addiction. There are all of the alphabet soup “anonymous” meetings. Some people just say to go cold turkey. But these all seem to be for substances. What about an internet addiction like pornography addiction? No one seems to want to talk about this issue.
To better understand how to cure an addiction, its important to really understand the behavior and what drives someone to do it. Pornography addiction is very misunderstood. People think it’s all about sex, but that’s not entirely true. While it involves sex, what we are really dealing with are the brain chemicals that are released during the behavior. The “user”, actually gets addicted to the naturally occurring brain chemicals just like he or she would to a drug.
They can access these chemicals at a click of a mouse, but after they act out, they feel so guilty and ashamed that they never talk about it. When they finally reach out for help, they have been “using” the drug for a long time and don’t know how to function without it.
There is nothing wrong with these brain chemicals, in fact- they are what make us feel good in our life. The challenge is that internet pornography allows someone to access these chemicals at a rate that is unsustainable in the body. He feels good in the moment, but afterwards, he feels really down. The reason is that he is exhausting his body’s natural supply of these powerful chemicals. When the body feels tired, it wants to feel “up” again, so his brain will crave the only way he knows how to feel up- which is to look at pornography online. Once again, he feels up again as his body releases the serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline, but every time he goes through this cycle, he gets emptier and emptier. Because he is stuck in the emotional cycle, and the cravings are so strong, he probably doesn’t know how to cure an addiction. He needs help outside of himself.
The crazy thing is that his brain has him convinced that if he just goes a little further each time, it will be the time that leaves him satisfied forever. Nothing could be more opposite from the truth. Each time he acts out, he will only create greater cravings. The more he acts out, the less satisfied he becomes.
He might be able to see the cycle, and consciously recognize that he won’t be able to find satisfaction. It’s like a food addict being able to recognize that they will be hungry again in 3 hours, but they still binge on a bag of chips. But his brain convinces him each time to act out again- to chase the ever elusive mirage that this will be the time that finally completes him. The crazy thing is that from a biological perspective, it is impossible for sex to ever fulfill him emotionally. It’s a chemical rush in his brain he’s after. And each time he gets it, his brain gets more numb to the chemicals, and he needs more and more to get his fix.
To learn how to cure an addiction, it’s critical to know what is going on in the body and the brain. You can’t just take away the old behavior unless you first replace the chemicals in a healthy way. You also have to learn how to end the shame that comes along with this behavior or he will keep going back to it.