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Did you ever wonder where to start with a case of pornography addiction? Well, as you guide someone towards freedom the first place to start is just by creating some distance between them and the addiction.

Now, to be clear, this is part of series which began with an introduction to the pornography problem in your assembly. So I’m addressing this subject for the next little while in every second post. Please begin by reading the linked post above if you have not already done so. There’s some important background information in there that I am going to assume you’ve covered before coming to this episode.

Now for what I am covering in this post I would expect that you would normally spend one session with the porn addict to go over these behavioural pieces. Having said that, you will want to check back in in the next session, and following sessions, to make sure these interventions are holding.

How Behavioural Interventions Help and Don’t Help

Romans 13:14 says “…make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (ESV)

I want to put this first step into the context of an overall recovery strategy.

I believe that creating distance and barriers between the addict and the pornography is an important first step in recovery. However, it also completely insufficient for recovery on its own. And yet, many times folks never go beyond this step.

Allow me to explain.

What this step does is remove the provision for the flesh so that the addict’s ability to gratify his or her desires is made much more difficult.

But what we are missing out when we only put barriers in place is the first part of Romans 13:14 which says “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ…” (ESV). That’s actually the much more involved, much more intensive part of the process.

Flesh vs. Flesh

Typically when an addict has summoned enough willpower to ask for help they’re often relieved to have found someone who is wiling to help. And they are excited about the possibility of breaking free of this besetting sin. So there’s good energy available to put some of these practical measures in place and so this is the right time to do that.

However, at the end of the day, this part of the process is really just fighting the flesh with the flesh. It’s using behaviour to defeat (old, sinful, coping) behaviour. That has a place, but not as a long term strategy and certainly should not carry the expectation of deliverance from the problem.

Yes, this will help. And you might see a person go cold turkey and think, “Yay, we’ve whupped the problem!” but that’s not going to last. You’ll see a relapse pretty quick if you don’t keep going with the next steps.

More is required. And we will get to that in future posts. But let’s examine this important first step together.

You Can’t Trust the Addict, and the Addict Can’t Trust Himself

Philippians 3:3 says that we are to “have no confidence in the flesh” (KJV).

So we need to eliminate the stash. Back in the good old days, when people only really got addicted to alcohol, eliminating the stash meant finding all the bottles and pouring them down the drain. So there was nothing to go to.

Eliminating the Stash

For the porn addict, this means cleaning house, virtually.

The first thing you’ll want to do is ask the addict where they were finding and using pornography:

  1. Was it on their phone? (Most of it will be via their smartphone).
  2. Was it on a tablet? A laptop?
  3. Did they buy any books or DVDs or magazines?
  4. Did they have any email addresses they used to access password protected sites?
  5. Would they search for it via social media? Or did they have sites they went straight to?
  6. Do they have a collection of images stored anywhere?
  7. Were they involved in any chat groups? Any virtual relationships? Any social media contacts they need to block?
  8. Keep asking, “Is there anywhere else you look at porn? Or other ways you act out?”

Basically you’re making a list of sources. Now: you need to be thorough in your questions and go slowly enough to consider all possible channels or avenues that may be open.

However, you shouldn’t be surprised if the addict just goes to one or two sources. They’ll typically have one well-defined route between the decision to look at porn and the porn.

A Couple Precautions

As you’re doing this you want to be taking care of a couple things concurrently.

First, the addict will often name the porn sites they look at. When that happens I am praying, “Lord, help me to forget that name. Please remove it from my memory.” That’s an acknowledgment of my own vulnerability. I should say, so as not to assume anything, that you should NEVER BE CURIOUS about what they were looking at. Don’t let your curiosity take you down that road: kill it while it’s fresh. You don’t need to see what they were looking at in order to be a help to them. Guaranteed.

The second thing is you want to be listening in a non-judgmental fashion. Meaning you are not communicating any condemnation or disgust or disappointment. You don’t want to do anything to increase the shame the addict is feeling: you want them to feel safe with you because they are in the process of obeying James 5:16. They are confessing their sins so that they may be healed. So it is very unhelpful at this point if you chide them or shame them in any way.

All you’re doing is repeatedly asking, “OK, where else did you seek out pornography? What devices did you use? Anything else you can think of?”

It is also useful to talk about when and where he or she is consuming the pornography. For example, it’s often on a phone in the bedroom at night. You’d want to consider the logistics of that when going to the next step of setting up walls.

Setting up Walls

The next step is responding to that information with practical barriers. You want them to find ways to make it hard to continue to consume pornography.

So you’ve established the sources of pornography. You know how they access it, where they usually access it, and when.

Your job in this next phase is to tell them what the goal is: to create barriers between them and the pornography. You want this to be very collaborative. It is not all on you to solve the problem. In fact, any way that you can facilitate them coming up with these solutions is great. You can question their ideas, “Will that really work if…?” and just help them build solid walls.

Usually what I’m looking for here is both physical and digital.

Physical Walls

Most porn is consumed on phones and most people take their phones to bed. The only people in the world who need to have a phone by their bed are those who are on call for their work. That’s the only scenario I can think of: being on call. Or maybe if they have a parent in the final days of their life or something like that.

But most of us absolutely do not need to have our phones charging (or even present) in our bedrooms. So have them find another place to charge their phone overnight.

Just keep going through the physical options:

If they look at porn on a computer, can it be moved to the living room?

If they use porn in the bathroom, can they commit to putting their phone on the desk or counter before going into the bathroom?

If they have a physical stash (DVDs, magazines, etc.) will they commit to dumping the entire stash in the garbage? And make sure the garbage gets taken away?

Just be working with them collaboratively to create some physical barriers or walls between them and the source.

Virtual Walls

There are a number of options here, depending on what they would like to try.

At the very least they should have accountability software on their Internet. I don’t have the time or space to go into this in detail, but I’ll suggest a few tools.

Covenant Eyes is a browser plugin for computers and they also have a browser for smartphones. You can disable the native phone browser (like Safari or Chrome) using parental controls on the phone and have them only able to browse with accountability through the Covenant Eyes browser. I use this software myself.

One quick side-note on accountability: it is not the spouse’s job to manage the addict’s recovery. So I recommend against sending that accountability report to the spouse as long as they are in recovery. It’s too traumatizing if a relapse occurs or even if something comes up by accident on the accountability report. The report should go to a same-sex person who is close to the addict and willing to hold them accountable and ask about things they see on the report.

Circle is a device that allows you to do some filtering and accountability although it’s more on a device basis. This device is particularly useful for limiting the time spent on the Internet in your home. We use this device in our home after purchasing it on Amazon.

Often, OpenDNS can be configured on their Internet router at home so that porn sites are filtered out. Of course, this won’t work if they have data on their phone. Again: this is why you’ve asked about how they access, so you can create relevant barriers.

Accountability is important because it allows them to exercise their will and their moral muscle against viewing pornography.

Filtering may be useful if accountability is not enough but I would hope that as your work with them progresses they would not need filtering.

However, if there are children in the home using Internet: you need to have filtering. I think that’s a basic feature of responsible parenting.

Basically, as far as the addict is concerned, you want to leave no portals open or, at least, no portals without accountability.

The goal here is to create as much distance between the addict and the images or videos they seek out. Again, this is an important short-term strategy to make sure the ease of access is eliminated.

White-Knuckling

After going through all this with the addict you’ll want to ask them when they plan to have all this implemented by. And you’ll note down what they are committing to, as will they. And then you’ll be sure to follow up by your next session with him or her to make sure they’ve followed through.

They may run into some unexpected hiccups and you’ll want to just use your gut to tell you if they’re trying to avoid doing something or if part of the barrier is more difficult to implement than originally anticipated.

But you also need to know that all of this work is not enough. I call it white-knuckling. It’s only the addict holding on by his or her own strength. It will work for a time but there is much more to be done.

You see, we know from the doctrines of the gospel that using the law and any activity of the flesh is insufficient to produce sanctification.

It’s not enough to merely create barriers between us and sin. That’s not true sanctification. It’s not addressing the heart-problem. But, it is one way of fleeing youthful lusts and demonstrating that we can have no confidence in the flesh. And so I think this is a great first step as long as we’re all clear that more is needed.

In our next session on this topic, we are going to start working on the beginning part of those heart issues.

 

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About the author

Caleb Simonyi-Gindele

An overseer himself, Caleb's mission is to help other elders lead their local assembly through some of the unique challenges of the 21st century: both doctrinal and shepherding. More about Caleb.