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Utah couple learned recovery from porn addiction is possible

Published: Friday, Sept. 24 2010 9:00 a.m. MDT

Pornography, he said, is "emotionally devastating" to a person. Worse, he said, its impact is growing.

"I think the days of sitting back and saying, 'It's no big deal. This isn't going to reach out and touch my family.' Those days are gone," he said. "We live in a new reality, in a new world and we have to prepare for it. We don't wring our hands; we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

A double life

Steven thought that marriage would satisfy all his sexual needs and that pornography would no longer be a part of his life. But "what I hoped would be the case was not. I began to live very much a double life," he said.

Looking back today, he sees he wasn't willing to give much of himself in his relationship with his wife. "I was unwilling or unable to put myself 100 percent in our relationship and I know that was a very difficult thing for Rhyll."

Then when he began to travel for business, the behaviors intensified. He began to carry the burden of his actions.

"I determined at about age 36 that I could not continue in this double life. I had hid it. Rhyll knew nothing of the behavior. So I determined that I had to come forward."

Talking to his wife, Steven says, was one of the most challenging experiences of his life.

"I told her essentially everything. I can remember it being a lifting experience for me, more so than I thought that it would be. But I could see obviously how challenging it was for Rhyll. It was this huge shock to her. She had no idea."

Rhyll said to this day, the words, "I need to talk to you" still bring "fear to my heart."

"I was blown away, not with anger. It was, 'What has happened to my life.' I was very quiet and cried a little bit. I thought, 'I don't know what to do about this.'"

He felt hopeless

Steven's resolve to stop viewing pornography did not last. He enjoyed a few years of sobriety before the habits returned. "I know exactly the first time that I acted out again after coming forward," he said. "I know where I was and I know exactly what I did. I know the feelings that I felt."

He was so ashamed that he became more determined than ever to hide and lie.

It would be 10 years before he would come forward again.

Steven quit his job to eliminate the need for out-of-town travel and moved his family.

Rhyll became hyper vigilant in her quest to find the family help.

Thinking of the story of a pioneer woman who carried her husband in a handcart when he could no longer walk, Rhyll determined to carry her husband through recovery.

Although the process of drawing strength from a strong pioneer woman was helpful to her, it wasn't helpful to Steven.

He was uncomfortable in therapy and 12-step groups. "When I went the first time I thought, 'Wow, I don't think I really belong here.' " Steven said. "I did, but I didn't realize it. So I went to two or three meetings, then I stopped going."

Three years later he slipped back into the behavior.

By then, Steven said, he felt hopeless. Filled with shame, he continued to hide until 2005, when he determined he would come forward one last time. "When I made the decision that I would come forward I knew that I had made it in my heart because the feelings that I had changed. They changed from fear to hope. And they changed from the attitude of can't do, to can do, and that I must do."

'Out in the Light'

Earlier this year the Witherspoon Institute undertook a multifaceted, multidisciplinary, scholarly exploration of pornography and the Internet age.

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