BYU student talks about his struggle with pornography

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Second in a series
Latter-day Saint. Returned missionary. BYU student.
Stock photo
Stock photo

Someone we’ll call Jason has another descriptor: pornography addict.

He describes the past decade and his battle with pornography this way: “You haven’t just visited hell, you live there every day.”
He answered questions for The Universe with the hope his insights and perspective could help others.

Universe: When were you first exposed to pornography?

Jason: Ninth grade.

Jason: Pornography didn’t come first. Impulsive action came first. And I fell upon that not by will too, but kind of haphazardly. I was sitting a wrong way, not even thinking. Your body reacts, and I felt aroused by something. That came far before pornography. It was something I experienced that I didn’t understand. … I didn’t seek it out at all. I honestly don’t remember when my first encounter with pornography was because the “objective” wasn’t to look at something, rather to stimulate. So I don’t even remember my first encounter.

Universe: At what point would you say you were addicted?

Jason: When I started choosing to lie to others, which came quickly. You know, when you do something that you don’t want to do, that you shouldn’t be doing, by the standard of the Lord or another person. I started lying to cover up tracks. That’s when I thought that I was addicted.

Universe: How long did you keep it a secret?

Jason: Too long. Until I got caught.

Universe: How old were you when you got caught?

Jason: 15

Universe: How has your addiction affected your self-confidence?

Jason: In regards to my confidence now, when you digress and you fall back it doesn’t take much to take all the progress that you’ve ever had in fighting it and go straight back to ground zero or lower. One offense, one thought is enough that Satan uses to just drive you to the depths of hell. And you don’t crawl out. You sit there because you feel like you’re trapped. You think, “I’m so pathetic. I’ve been given so much. I’ve been taught so much. I’ve had so much success against the destroyer.” But, that one instance is enough to take you back to ground zero or lower. Regardless of how many people say, “Stop moping. Stop worrying about it. Stop thinking about it,” unless you make a decision to choose to let the Atonement work in your life it’s very hard. It’s hard to let yourself come out of it. It’s more than just forgiving yourself and the repentance process.

Regardless of how honest you’ve ever been in your life, things like this can make you a coward in seconds. I know there have been times in my life where I have done a lot of good, where I’ve done great things and blessed a lot of people. It’s hard to remember those things, and they disappear. It’s as if you never had done them when you digress just once. It might not even be opening the site and engaging in impulsive action with your body. It can just be a thought of what you might have done. And, boom. That fast, your confidence goes out the window.

Universe: How has it affected your dating?

Jason: When your confidence goes out the window all you can think of is, “How can I impress them,” which is never the goal. When you’re looking to marry someone, you’re not trying to see who can you impress and how long will that impression last. In a relationship it’s about who wants to love me for me, and when the person they need to love you for you is participating in trash, well, that’s how you feel in that relationship. You don’t even want to try to get people to be interested in you because you don’t want them to invest in trash. You wouldn’t invest in trash. Why would you invite somebody else out on a Friday night to do the same?

It’s to the point where your life just sucks. Where you haven’t just visited hell, you live there every day. And you could be the one who’s serving the most in your ward; the one who’s doing the best in their personal goals — you still live in hell because people could find out; someone could know what your past was, and when they know what your past was all the validity of your relationships with them goes down the drain.

Universe: What aspects of your addiction do you wish your friends could understand?

Jason: I don’t necessarily think that you should go and read a book about pornography and the addictions. I don’t need somebody to tell me how it affects me. I know. I feel it. And I don’t need any kind of physiological or psychological explanation of what it’s doing to my body to understand that it’s destroying me.

I wish that roommates and friends just provided me an opportunity to see that they really understand the Atonement so that I could call on them in times of need.

This might be the biggest blessing in my life, having to go through this hell, because of how I look at other people. I will never shun somebody who has any kind of addiction for anything; because I’ve been in this position I can see other people who are in it, and my heart is overflowing with remorse for them.

To me, it’s not about understanding the sin; it’s about understanding the sinner.

Universe: Why haven’t you asked for the help of more friends/family?

Jason: Because it’s hard. It’s nobody’s choice but my own. The fear of overloading somebody else. Why ask somebody else for help when I know they’re dying themselves? Maybe not the same thing, but it’s a hard pitch to sell to someone struggling that we could help one another, because you never want to feel like the person who needs to be helped. Sometimes, not always, I think it’s more like, “I can’t give him this or her this.” They’re trying to figure out life just as much as I am.

Or because I’ve heard them go on rants about how much they hate it. So many friends have told me, “I just hate sin. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.” Regardless of whether they have an understanding of sin and sinner, it still makes me really scared.

I know lots of friends that I would love to have the support of. But, because I’ve heard them go off about rants of how they don’t ever want that in their lives … it’s hard to reach out to friends when you don’t know.

I’ve done this with many friends where I’ll ask them, “What do you think about addiction?” And I pose it in a way that I’m trying to help somebody else — because I am. But I’ve said, “What would you do?” And I give them my scenario. And it’s kind of funny because you’d think that people would catch on, but they don’t. I listen to their answers, and I’d say eight times out of 10 the answer is, “I don’t know.” They’ll sit there and think, but they won’t come up with an answer. It’s not important enough. It doesn’t touch their heart. It doesn’t pierce their spirit enough to say, “You know, I’ve never thought about it. I should probably figure it out.” I’m not blaming any of those people. I love all my friends dearly, especially those that have said, “I hate sin,” because I agree with them. I hate it, too. That’s why I’m trying to get out of it.

Universe: What circumstances are the hardest in which to resist temptation?

Jason: Being alone is the biggest one. Not necessarily being in a room by yourself, but just being alone, period. Feeling like you don’t have anyone to talk to. And if I knew I could just call someone up and it wasn’t inconveniencing them ever, I think that would solve 80 percent of my problem.

And then, following failure. Any failure reminds me of that specific failure (pornography addiction). If I miss a day in the gym, thoughts start coming. Not thoughts of, “Oh, I need to go and pull something up on the computer, or I need to stimulate something.” It’s just like, “I failed. I didn’t do it. Great. I always do this. This always happens. You’re such an idiot.” It just continues until I get to the point where I’m annoyed with how much time I’ve spent talking about how bad I am, but there’s no going back.

Universe: Where have you turned for help?

Jason: I turn to things that have nothing to do with pornography or, in a religious sense, repentance. I turn to motivational videos. I turn to going and doing something I’m good at. Like playing a sport or a musical instrument. When I feel like I’m being successful in those things I have more of a desire to do what I’m supposed to: read the scriptures, pray, go to church.

Universe: What advice would you give to BYU students who are in a similar situation?

Jason: When you have the courage; when you feel like you’re in that moment where you could make a good decision that would change your life back, act in behalf of getting better. There are so many times where I felt, “This could be the time,” and I’ve skipped it. Make a decision to act in courage. Make a deliberate decision. Say, “I’m going to do something today to get a step ahead of what I’m doing.” Whether it be call the bishop if you’re Mormon; whether it be throw your computer away; whether it be take the Internet off your phone, whether it be call someone and tell them you’re sorry because you brought that into their lives. Anything, small or big, and it shouldn’t be defined by anyone else’s opinion but your own. When you feel the courage to do something right, do it. Those little instances count for a lot.

Next in the series: Pornography is a women’s struggle too.

Other stories in the series:

What about pornography?

 Pornography: A woman’s struggle too

Pornography impacts relationships

Pornography addiction recovery, ‘there is hope’

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