I am going to consult Ricky Chelette for an explanation of how certain things, emotions, or experiences trigger our need for a pornography fix.
1. The first point he makes is about addiction triggers. Though many of you think that what triggers a person is the sight of a good looking man/woman, I think something much deeper is taking place. Most of our triggers fall into one of these broad categories: Health. Hunger. Angry. Lonely. Tired. Stressed. Depressed. Whenever we feel one of these feelings or something closely related to one or more of them, we have the thought of RELIEF. We all want relief from the pain, hurt and stresses of our lives. Archibald Hart asserts that the two major drives that underlie the addictive process are excitement seeking and tension reduction. This is often “set off” by a particular starting stimulus. We can call this the “trigger mechanism” for the addiction. It is the emotion or occurrence that starts a given cycle of addictive behavior.
Let’s imagine that Dave, a fictitious salesman, is generally bored with his job, but he loves to ski. Skiing is the only source of real excitement in Dave’s life; he lives for the snow slopes and dreams about nothing else. Clearly he is an addict because he neglects every other aspect of his life. Now, say it is Friday morning. Dave usually spends Fridays in the office writing up orders and processing his paperwork. This is a part of his job he particularly hates. Every form, letter, and purchase order is like poison to him; he even dislikes touching them. Dave checks his watch. Nine-thirty in the morning. Still six and a half hours to go before quitting time. He tries to concentrate, but the dull routine of his job acts as a stimulus for his addictive need. Boredom is the trigger for his addiction craving. He wants to be on the mountain. He wants to feel the cold chill of the wind and hear the swoosh of the skis. He checks his watch again. Only 9:50. The more bored Dave becomes, the more he craves his skiing fix. It’s going to be a long day!
Trigger mechanisms like Dave’s boredom begin the addictive craving for a given cycle of need. They differ from person to person and from addictive behavior to addictive behavior. Hart offers some additional common triggers: anxiety, isolation, boredom, depression, crises, sense of failure, unmet sexual needs, criticism, selfish needs. There are many other possible triggers for addictive behavior. In fact, anything that threatens failure, rejection, or abandonment can become a stimulus for an addiction cycle. Add to this the personality traits of passivity, under-assertiveness, or dependency, and you have a powerful set of addictive triggers. People often develop a deep desire for instant gratification.
2. The second point Chelette makes is about medication. The way that we find relief is to seek some form of medication. This does not have to be actual medication, though it can be and this is how people get addicted to drugs, but it is medication all the same. It is something that causes us to experience pleasure and relief.
3. The third point he makes is about preparing to medicate. Even the action toward the intended medication, is somewhat medicinal itself. For example: If you are going to do the big M (masturbation) for your medication you might get undressed and lay in bed, or jump in a warm shower. If you are going to cruise P (internet Porn) on the internet you might get into something more comfortable and begin the search process. If you are going to act out with another or “cruise,” you might get cleaned up and put on some alluring clothing or other articles that would give clues to your intent. Basically, you go through some sort of ritual of preparation. It just doesn’t “happen.” However, we have done this ritual so many times that it feels quite automatic–we may not even realize that we are doing it. It is at this stage that most people tell me that they feel as though they really can’t help themselves–“it is like another person has taken over my body and I am just on autopilot.” In many ways, they really are.
4. The fourth point he makes is about going from thought to action. I am convinced that once you move from thought to action, it is very difficult if not nearly impossible to stop the ultimate medication/action from taking place. Yes, of course God could intervene, but He has created us with free will and He rarely interferes with our willful decisions. During this phase of the cycle you are also likely to be producing adrenalin; a very strong chemical that makes a person’s heart rate increase, increases their blood pressure, and gives them a sense of invincibility.
5. The fifth point he makes is the actual follow through on the medicative fix. You carry out your medicative fix by doing the big M or having sex and achieving an orgasm in some way. When you do this, your brain produces a chemical called endorphin. This chemical is extremely strong, some say even ten times stronger than cocaine. Every time you achieve an orgasm or act out in some way to achieve your medication, endorphins are produced and your body responds in a very predictable way. This is why you get that feeling of pleasure, euphoria, or peace when you orgasm (medicate). There are actually chemicals being produced in your brain that make you feel good. The preparation for the orgasm also can produce these chemicals but not in the same quantity or intensity as the orgasm itself.
I want you to think of your brain as a CD. Each time endorphins are produced, you burn another track on that CD. If you keep playing the same tune (producing the same chemical) over a period of months/years, you burn a rut in your CD and it is very, VERY difficult to get out of that rut. It is a universal, psychologically proven fact. We establish pathways in our brain that demand that we do certain things and get our fix. Thus, we continue to the cycle of medicating our hurts. . . However, like every high, it is followed by an equally powerful low. The low begins as the chemicals in our brain are absorbed and assimilated into our bodies. We first begin to feel guilty. You see, what happens with our desire to medicate is that each time we do it, it takes a bit more stimulation to get us to the place that we have the same medicative results. We constantly need more. That is why we spiral into deeper addictions. It draws us in, deeper and deeper, until we reach the black hole–DEATH. James 1 says when sin is complete it will brings forth death: spiritual death, emotional death, and even physical death. The process is gradual most of the time, but it is guaranteed.
How can an addictive process be broken once it has begun? How do we break the cycle of sin in our lives, the need for a ritualized fix? In addition to turning to God, I think that we have to learn how to cope effectively and Biblically with our triggers. This is not easy, but it is possible. Here are some suggestions from Archibald D. Hart.
1. Understand the dynamics of addiction. The greater his or her understanding of the dynamics of the addiction, the greater his or her ability to overcome it.
2. Anticipate the triggers and expose them. Knowing the kind of circumstances that tend to “kick off” addictive behavior means that the addict can either avoid the trigger or formulate a plan for keeping the trigger from “working.” Ask a close friend or spouse to check-in with you when a trigger is going to happen. Sanitize your environment.
3. Addicts need to find alternative ways of responding to their trigger mechanisms. This means learning to deal with need in a more wholesome way. For instance, if boredom is a trigger, the addict needs to learn some way of handling boredom without resorting to the addictive behavior. If the trigger is depression, the addict must seek help in discovering the underlying cause of the depression and overcoming it. Suppressing depression is never a cure — it only prolongs the depression.
4. Last, addicts must seek spiritual and psychological healing. An addiction is a very complex learned response involving the whole person — mind, body, and spirit. The longer one has been controlled by it, the deeper it is entrenched. Lots of hard work is needed to undo these complex connections of thought, nerve, and hormone. I believe that God’s intervention is needed as well, whether He works through a direct miracle or through a more natural healing process.