In recent weeks, news about President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19 flooded the internet. For at least a day or two after his diagnosis and subsequent stay at Walter Reid medical center, there was at least some bi-partisan support in wishing the President a “full and speedy recovery.” I can’t tell you how many times I continued to see this phrase written from friends, family members, politicians, & even world leaders who know the President. A speedy recovery.
And while I completely understand the sentiment and the wish for a quick recovery of a potentially serious virus, I began thinking more and more about that phrase: “A speedy recovery.”
It’s amazing to me how many men who come out of addiction believe there’s some kind of fast track in recovery to get on. As if recovery is some kind of fast food drive-through lane. In all reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Recovery from compulsive sexual behavior is one of the most challenging and simultaneously one of the most rewarding journeys a person can ever be on in life.
But the truth a person must embrace about recovery is that it isn’t a quick process. Exposure to pornography and the way it impacts a person’s life is very significant! And so while healing from porn addiction is possible, it takes time for someone to become the person that God created them to be.
So why can’t a person coming out of a porn addiction simply abstain from sexually compulsive behavior and be ok?
I believe there are two important reasons for why we can’t rush the recovery process:
1. Your brain needs to re-wire.
Over the course of years, scientists have studied the brain and understand it more than ever. And research has proven how damaging the effects that pornography can have upon the brain. Each exposure releases dopamine and other chemicals from the reward center of the brain:
“Scientists have long known that sexual interest and performance can be increased simply by introducing something new—like a different sexual position, a toy, or a change of partner.  That’s because the brain responds to new sexual stimuli by pumping out more and more dopamine, flooding the brain just like a drug would.  And “new” is exactly what internet porn sites provide: an endless stream of fresh erotic images delivered at high speed, in vivid color, 24/7. Before consumers even start to get bored, they can always give themselves another dopamine boost just by clicking on something different, something more stimulating and hardcore than before.  In fact, porn consumption follows a very predictable pattern that’s eerily similar to drug use. Over time, excessive levels of “pleasure” chemicals cause the porn consumer’s brain to develop tolerance, just like the brain of a drug user.  In the same way that a junkie eventually requires more and more of a drug to get a buzz or even feel normal, regular porn consumers will end up turning to porn more often or seeking out more extreme versions—or both—to feel excited again.  And once the porn habit is established, quitting can even lead to withdrawal symptoms similar to drugs.” 
Because of the tolerance that takes place in the brain, repeated exposure to pornography creates neuro-pathways in the brain. Imagine ditches being dug in a field. A person must continue to find a more exciting, more exhilarating high than they found before. And so the brain is literally wired to view and experience sexual intimacy through the lens of hardcore pornography. Fortunately, scientists have also described the brain as “plastic”, meaning that it can be shaped and ultimately through healthy conditioning, it can re-wire to become a healthy brain.
Your brain is incredibly important in the healing process. And it bears repeating that the brain takes time to heal. Patterns of thinking and response that have been trained for years can often equally take the same amount of time (or longer) to go back to normal. Thankfully, there are many methods of helping your brain to heal, especially when you undergo moments where you feel triggered to look at pornography.
Let’s look at a second reason why the recovery process can’t be rushed:
2. Your heart needs to heal.
Pornography is quite literally traumatizing to the soul. You might think that’s extreme, but that’s exactly the kind of effect that it has upon our hearts. Pornography teaches children and teenagers that sexual intimacy looks and feels a certain way when nothing could be further from the truth. It warps how a person views the opposite sex and teaches them that people are simply objects to be used, not actual God-created lives to be treasured.
Not only does pornography affect how we interact with others, but we use it to medicate our deepest pain. Because we don’t know what to do with feelings like anger, fear, & loneliness (plus a host of others), we attempt to run to someone who will treat us the way we think we deserve. Someone who won’t reject us. Someone who won’t stress us out. Someone who will accept us no matter what.
Pornography is filled with lies. One of the greatest lies that that you can enjoy the immediate gratification of thousands of virtual sex partners and long-term satisfaction of a real relationship. “But even if your partner has no problem with porn, it can still damage your relationship. Studies have clearly shown that porn erodes a person’s ability to love and feel loved with a real partner.  When men are exposed to porn, they rate themselves as less in love with their actual partners,  and less satisfied with their relationships and sex lives.  They become more critical and dissatisfied with their partner’s appearance, sexual performance, sexual curiosity, and displays of affection.  ”
Do you see how much the heart is impacted by porn addiction? Do you see the effects it can have upon the brain? It’s no wonder that we must give our recovery the time it needs and not try to rush the process. Some have said that our recovery journey takes blood, sweat, and tears if we want to see long-term success.
But there’s good news! You don’t have to walk through recovery alone. Small Groups Online helps men find community with other men who are also walking through the same struggles involving pornography addiction, masturbation, & any other sexually compulsive behavior. Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to meet online with a group of men who can help encourage and support you on your journey.
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Frank is passionate about helping individuals live with sexual integrity. He also works alongside his wife Tracey in helping spouses who have been devastated by their partner’s addiction. Frank & Tracey live in beautiful southern Delaware with their two children: Nathan and Addison.