What makes addictions so hard to break and what drives us to replace one addiction with another? In most cases, there are underlying root causes that led you to the addiction in the first place, and that will lead you back to addiction until they are addressed.
Some of the more common root causes are depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Or as noted in Unhooked, by Dr. Frederick Woolverton and Susan Shapiro, “I almost always find an unmistakable link between a patient’s substance use and the failure to realize his or her dreams” (Pg. 39).
Typically addicts will use an addiction to escape the pain or difficulty of these feelings and instead feel the numbness that comes with addiction. Addictions can make you feel temporarily better by numbing your emotions and offering an escape from difficult issues and feelings. However, there is a cost.
Avoiding the root causes doesn’t solve anything and instead will simply defer your problems, often compounding them over time and bringing more problems into your life. So, how do you go about addressing the addiction and the root causes?
Here’s some quick pointers for starting out:
- Write every day. Write about your addiction, including details like how you engaged in it, what you were feeling before, during, and after, and any other thoughts you have. Writing about your addiction and getting specific can help reveal insights that otherwise might not be apparent.
- Prepare to feel like hell. Quitting addictions can often be discouraging to so many people because of how bad it feels at first. This is a combination of withdrawal but also because you are forced to deal with the difficult feelings that the addiction has allowed you to escape from. You need to be prepared to face the difficult feelings, no matter how bad it feels, and get through it. It’s a lot easier if you realize this before you get started.
- Rely on people instead of substances/behaviors. Addictions can be appealing because they are so dependable for getting a fix, whereas people are a lot harder to depend on. As Dr. Woolverton notes, “unlike a reliable martini, a joint, a cigarette, a pill, a candy bar, Internet porn, or a $400 pair of beautiful designer shoes, people in your world are flawed, flaky, annoying, impossible to control, and often busy with their own lives” (Pg. 42). However, relying on people will help to challenge your assumptions, keep you honest, and work towards addressing the root causes.
- Find additional sources of support such as a 12 Step program like AA or an addiction counselor. It’s worth noting that sometimes addiction counseling is covered under health insurance plans so it is worth contacting your health insurance provider to find out.
- The less secretive your life is the better. Addicts usually live very secretive lives, keeping secrets from their friends, family, and loved ones. The secrets help enable the addiction so when quitting it’s important to try to eliminate as many secrets as possible. Be honest with those close to you and don’t do anything that needs to be kept secret. This will help keep you on the right path.
In addition to the underlying causes of addiction, porn addiction also has as underlying symptom which may or may not have been a cause, and that is narcissism. Dr. Woolverton notes in his work with porn addicts that they tend to think in a way that is self-centered, focusing on their own desires and pleasure. This actually makes sense since porn addiction is inherently about pleasing yourself.
A good way to cure this narcissism is to start putting other people before yourself. This can be achieved by doing nice things for people, volunteering, putting the interests of your friends first, and especially putting the interests of your partner above your own.
Genuine concern for your partner’s happiness and pleasure will get you away from focusing on your own pleasure all the time. This will also make you feel good about yourself and help to break you from the addiction.
Summarizing the Steps to Beating Porn Addiction
In order to fully address an addiction there are actually two steps:
- Quit the addiction
- Address the root causes
Obviously, the majority of this blog focuses on the first step: how to quit porn addiction. For a detailed post on how to go about this, read the long guide to quit porn addiction.
The second step, addressing the root causes, is inherently more complicated. If you need assistance with this step an addiction counselor can be a really effective way to discover what your underlying causes are and how to address them.
To discover your underlying issues on your own there are two methods that can really help you. The first, as mentioned, is to write every day. Writing will help you sort through your feelings and gain a better understanding of yourself and what you are going through. I highly recommend you start this if you haven’t already.
The second technique is mindfulness meditation. If you’re trying to get in touch with your own inner feelings this can be a great way to do that. Some great resources include the Art of Living Foundation, read books on mindfulness mediation, or search for a local class near you and attend a class in person.
Finally, as Dr. Woolverton noted, many addicts suffer from failure to realize their dreams and dissatisfaction in their lives. This can be a powerful area to focus your attention to address your root causes.
Obviously, this is not an easy step. Be honest with yourself and think about what your dreams are, or what they were, and how you got away from them. Then make an actionable plan to begin working towards achieving them. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams.
Action is the key here. So many of us have thought about our dreams but never pursued them. It’s easy to think about, but when it comes time for action laziness, lack of confidence, discouraging feedback, or any number of excuses get in the way. Taking action will bring renewed satisfaction into your life.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking this is a lot of work to overcome an addiction: quitting the addiction, addressing root causes, and pursuing your dream. But as Dr. Woolverton noted, “stopping can also be the most significant emotional decision you will ever make” (Pg. 39).
Beating an addiction should be a life changing experience. Sure it’s a lot of work, but would you rather go through your life feeling numb or living the life you really want for yourself? No matter how difficult the journey, the payoff is extremely rewarding.
Have an experience you’d like to share? Please share your experience and knowledge in the comments.
- Woolverton, Frederick, and Susan Shapiro. Unhooked: How to Quit Anything. New York: Skyhorse, 2012. Print.