By Dan Griffin, MA, Senior Fellow at The Meadows

I was seven years old when I saw my first pornographic magazine. From then on pornography has had a reoccurring role in the confusing and painful twists and turns of my relationships and my sense of my own sexuality. According to the Wall Street Journal, 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn websites. There are a few problems that are having a greater impact on men in the Twelve Step communities around our country. For some, porn seriously interferes with their lives and does damage to their relationships. Since people rarely, if ever, talk openly about their use of pornography, or their feelings about it, it can be difficult as an individual to know whether their interest in pornography is “normal.” Sometimes, especially among men, there can be an assumption when it comes to porn that everyone is watching it, and everyone

If Porn is Your Secret Lover…

Actor and former NFL player Terry Crews recently posted a series of videos on YouTube and Facebook in which he talks about his own struggle with porn addiction. “It became a thing where I didn’t tell anyone. It was my secret. Nobody knew. And that allowed it to grow. And, it got bad.”

Thanks to the Man Rules, many men find it difficult to talk about their feelings or their sexual desires. So, many men turn to porn when they are feeling sad, lonely, frustrated, or aroused because, for them, it’s easier than talking to their partners. Porn can’t reject you. It doesn’t require intimacy. It doesn’t expect you to listen, it doesn’t expect you to be vulnerable, it doesn’t expect you to be accountable for your behavior. The relationship you have with porn is a very uncomplicated one…But, it’s also an empty one.

If you’re keeping your porn use a secret from your partner that is a problem. It may not be a sign of addiction but it does mean that you are violating the trust that is necessary for a healthy and intimate partnership. It also means you’re likely keeping some of your deepest thoughts and feelings a secret from your partner. And, the “high” you get from watching porn is allowing you to mask the pain you feel as a result of not allowing yourself to be known. When you lose your true self underneath layers of addiction-whether, it’s porn, or alcohol or other drugs, or video games you don’t have to take any of the risks that come along with being truly intimate with another person, but you also don’t get to experience any of the rewards. Rewards that include feeling truly connected, feeling less alone, feeling a sense of true confidence and a higher purpose in your life.

If you feel disconnected in your life and find that you turn to porn as a way to deal with frustrations with intimacy and relationships…you might have a problem.

As Mr. Crews – so wisely says in his video series, “By not telling people it becomes more powerful. If you tell people it loses its power.”

If You’d Always Rather Be Watching Porn…

“People say ‘You can’t be addicted to pornography, there’s no way.’ But, I’m gonna tell you something: If night turns into day, and you’re still watching… You’ve probably got a problem!” says Mr. Crews.

Men who are addicted to pornography often find themselves spending hour after hour in front of a computer screen, clicking one highly-charged sexual image after another, at the expense of the rest of their lives. And, sometimes, highly-charged, can also mean that their credit cards are being highly-charged as well! While there is a plethora of free porn available, as one’s need for increased stimulation grows, they can often be attracted to more graphics and salacious images which often requires membership to a site.

Have you ever gone to a porn website, just for a quick peek, only to look up seven hours later and not have any idea where all that time has gone? Do you find yourself often canceling social outings, rearranging business meetings, skipping appointments, or calling in sick to work so you can stay home and watch porn? Do you always look forward to times when your spouse and children will be out of the house for a long period of time, so you can watch porn? Maybe it has even gotten to the point where you have started watching porn while you are at work. First, in the bathroom on your phone. Then, in your office. Then you’re downloading videos and pictures. All of these are signs that you might—you guessed it—have a problem.

If You Are Using Porn to Avoid Sex…

Sometimes these men use pornography as a way to retreat from sex because they equate it with negative experiences and feelings such as violence, shame, abuse, control, domination, and secrets. When I interviewed men for my book A Man’s Way Through Relationships, I was not at all surprised to find that nearly one-third of them had experienced some form of sexual abuse in their pasts. The Man Rules keep men from talking about sexual abuse, let alone even being able to see those experiences as abuse. These men often have reactions to sex that are confusing. Sometimes, for these men, porn becomes a replacement for sex because it is safer The confusion and pain of sex is too hard to navigate with another human being.

If you’ve experienced sexual or emotional trauma, and you find yourself acting out in ways that are destructive to yourself and to others… you deserve to get help, find peace, and show up as the man you truly want to be.

You’re Not Alone

There is often a strong stigma associated with pornography and sex addiction. Some people want to deny that porn and sex addiction are real. Many people don’t want to talk about. And, many others don’t even want to hear about it. It can be very difficult for men who are struggling with these problems to come forward. But, I can assure you, that you are not alone in this. Thanks to the courage of men like Terry Crews, we are breaking the silence about porn addiction and the toll it is taking on the lives and relationships of countless men and women.

The first step if you think you have a problem is to find a qualified Certified Sex Addiction Therapist in your area. He or she will listen to you without judgment and help you come up with an appropriate treatment plan. You can overcome it, and you are worthy of a life free from shame and fear. Also, feel free to give one of the Gentle Path at The Meadows Intake coordinators a call at 855-333-6076 to find out if an inpatient sex addiction treatment program might be right for you. Whatever you do, make a commitment not to live in secrets and shame anymore.