Pornography addiction and families, BYU conference teaches about recovery

By Mandy Morgan

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Oct. 20 2012 5:00 p.m. MDT

Addiction recovery isn't about abstinence. It's about a lifestyle change.

That's the mantra of Daniel Gray, co-founder of Lifestar Network, a treatment program for pornography and sexual addiction in the U.S. and part of Canada.

Gray, Donald Hilton and Mark Chamberlain discussed recovery at the Pornography Addiction and Families social work conference on Friday at Brigham Young University.

The experts shared information with participants — social work clinicians, students and faculty members — throughout the day in keynote speeches, breakout sessions and a concluding panel discussion.

The theme of recovery also addressed ways pornography and sexual addictions affect couples and families in general.

"It's destroying intimacy in marriage relationships," Hilton said. "It negatively affects how men view women, therefore creating a chasm between (them). It is impossible to hide emotional damage, the family sees it."

Because members of the family are able to sense when someone is being affected emotionally, like with sexual and pornographic addictions, they also are affected, according to Hilton.

"Pornography addiction creates a man who is more critical and selfish," he said. "This creates a much less loving environment for the family."

Hilton believes pornography and the much easier access to it in today's world, is helping to fuel the increased divorce rate, especially among younger couples.

Technically, though divorces have reportedly gone down in the last few years, so have marriage rates. About 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, reported the American Psychological Association this year.

"In today's world, with Internet access, what we are seeing, especially with youth, it is easier for them to be pulled into it," Gray said. "In the 70s it was on videos, but now — talk about virtual."

Protecting children is tougher and tougher.

"It has infiltrated into homes. The average age of exposure is now 9 years old and more women and girls are coming into it," Gray said. "It is really troubling. There is an increasing potential of addiction."

In his keynote speech, "Therapeutic Strategies in the Treatment of Pornography and Sexual Addictions," Gray discussed top treatment strategies and much of the process that leads to recovery with addictions.

He emphasized the need for addicts to openly admit to a problem and ask for help with treatment to recover. Much of the time, open environments need to be created by those close to the addict, so that transparent and honest communication can take place.

"The lifeblood of these addictions are secrecy and lies; creating an environment to discuss, and allow for openness can self-soothe," Gray said.

A person who is struggling with an addiction but keeps to himself about recovery and wants to do everything alone is 100 percent guaranteed to fail to recover successfully, Hilton said.

Family support, ecclesiastical leaders, therapists and 12-step help programs are necessary for full recovery, the experts said.

"These are the things most people do to gain freedom," Hilton said. "Don't try and do it alone. Don't waste the years."

However, one struggle that is paired with these addictions is that of determining whether it truly is an addiction, or more like a habit.

"Biologically speaking, I believe there is a quick hook with pornography," Hilton said during the panel. The experts all expressed opinion surrounding the idea that, though simply habits can set in with these behaviors, addiction follows quickly.

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