Every year, the Holy Father puts forth a specific intention for each month. During the month of April 2020, Pope Francis is asking people worldwide to pray for those who suffer from addiction, that they may find help, accompaniment, and freedom.
A compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects upon withdrawal or abstinence.
In short, addiction is destructive.
The Addicted Life // Life in a Distant Country
In Henri Nouwen’s book Return of the Prodigal Son, he writes that we live in a world that fosters addiction because what the world offers can never satisfy the deepest desires of our heart. This results in a culture that is lost and anxiously grasping at money, power, reputation, and sexual gratification, which results in lust rather than love. He writes:
In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father’s home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in a ‘distant country.’ It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.
We are the prodigal son when we look to the world to find love, a vast emptiness which will never fulfill what our heart longs for most. Ultimately, we can only be fulfilled by God Himself. Yet as Henri Nouwen noted, we often look for this fulfillment in other ways.
Secrecy and Shame
While it is not spoken about very often, one common way that women search for this fulfillment is through pornography and masturbation.
In The Gathering Place podcast, Beth Davis and Jenna Guizar speak about a very specific addiction: the addiction to porn. In their episode titled Shame, Porn and Spoonfuls of Grace, they speak about the reality of spiritual warfare and the devil’s desire to keep us in our shame. They also share about how the struggle with porn can be an isolating one. If you are struggling with this, know that you are not alone, and freedom is possible! Resources are out there, and the Lord wants to free you. He is longing for you to run into His arms, not the arms of the world. God is stronger than the evil one and our minds and souls can be restored through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Pornography and Masturbation
Let’s talk about porn. The so-called “free drug”.
A 2019 story on Fox News titled “Porn Addiction: Why Americans are in more danger than ever” stated that people are watching porn “at the expense of their loved ones and religious beliefs.”
And it’s not just men.
In order to give into the temptation, you don’t always need to be viewing explicit porn. The temptation could arise from a soft sex scene in a romantic movie.
The Deep Consequences
Unfortunately, giving into these temptations results in a host of negative consequences.
In addition to sin, these include the downfalls of losing romantic interest in one’s partner, feelings of shame and isolation, and the tendency to view others as objects for our own pleasure.
Fight The New Drug speaks about how porn damages consumers’ sex lives, stating that “study after study has shown that porn is directly related to problems with arousal, attraction, and sexual performance. Porn leads to less sex and to less sexual satisfaction within a relationship.”
After these habits are built, arousal is connected to porn, not to one’s significant other. When this happens, one no longer needs to see or touch their partner in order to get aroused, making it harder to get turned on unless porn is being used.
Not only this, but a 2010 study showed that nearly 90% of best-selling porn included violence. This, in turn, results in men desiring to bring violence into the bedroom in order for them to climax; and the same goes for women.
“But That’s Not Porn” … Or Is It?
Over the past few years, the popularity of the 50 Shades of Grey book and movie franchise has shown just how widespread this problem is. This is only one example of several romance novels and T.V. shows that are really soft porn normalized by society.
Their deceitful message—that these violent desires are normal, healthy, and even sexy—has a particular appeal to those enslaved by pornography.
While, deep down, many know this to be false, they do not think it is possible to be free of their chains, and therefore desperately want to believe that their enslavement to these desires is “normal.”
The fact that 50 Shades of Grey was in vogue shows just how many people in our society struggle with some sort of addiction to porn. We are left with a Blockbuster hit peddling a message which is so false. The fact that, as a society, we cannot condemn the disordered violence in these movies speaks to how many people are held down by the chains of pornography.
Porn addiction has dire consequences. But there is a way out. The way out requires courage, and it requires asking for help.Porn addiction has dire consequences. But there is a way out. The way out requires courage, and it requires asking for help. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
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A Real-Life Experience Of Addiction
On The Catholic Feminist podcast episode Overcoming Pornography to Find Uncompromising Purity, Claire Swinarski interviewed author and speaker Kelsey Skoch about her past addiction to pornography and masturbation.
Their conversation shed light on how isolated a woman can feel if she struggles with this addiction. There is a stigma that this is only a “male problem”, which then causes a lot of shame and embarrassment when women struggle with the same thing. While men can more easily find community to help them overcome this struggle, women aren’t so lucky.
But women, you are not alone.
According to a Barna Group survey, 76% of women ages 18-30 years old have viewed pornography at least once a month.
Kelsey pointed out that Priests say that about 50% of women confess porn or masturbation in the confessional. And that’s only the women who have the courage to confess it. Kelsey admitted that it took her eight years before she brought it before the Lord in Confession.
The Way To Freedom from Addiction
Overcoming an addiction doesn’t just take willpower, it takes accountability. It also takes grace.
Remember, temptations happen, and a temptation is not a sin. It is an opportunity to fight the evil one and choose the good. God has given us free will and the power to choose right instead of wrong, and we deserve to eat the banquet, not the scraps thrown to the dogs on the dirty floor.
Here are some words of encouragement that Kelsey gives to those struggling to overcome temptation, specifically to porn and masturbation.
Bring God into your struggle. Addictions are a result of looking for fulfillment and love in the wrong places, so run to the One who is Ultimate Love.
Evaluate Your Triggers
These could be sex scenes in a movie or making out intensely with your boyfriend. Some women are triggered by the comparison brought on by social media. Comparison feeds the feeling of isolation, which can lead to giving into temptation in order to receive a temporary high.
For others, a trigger is ovulation. During this time, make sure you surround yourself with a strong support network to both distract you from temptation but also to build you up.
If having your phone by your bedside is a trigger, leave it in a different room and buy an alarm clock.
Seek Spiritual and Professional Healing
Porn addiction and masturbation are often symptoms of something deeper, and a counselor or spiritual director can help you discover and heal from the root trauma or experience.
Bring Your Sin to the Confessional
There is healing in naming your sin, renouncing it in Jesus’ Name, being reconciled to Christ and His Church, and receiving the grace to resist the temptation in the future!
Keep striving to pursue the good and fight temptation. The enemy wants you to surrender hope. Hold fast.
His Grace is Sufficient
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a Pastoral Response for those who struggle with pornography and in it they wrote:
Freedom from pornography is possible! No one needs to fight this battle alone…Certainly, none of us is free from weakness and concupiscence, which remains after Baptism…But the Lord invites us with all our weaknesses to trust and abide in him.
His grace is sufficient, but we need to implore Him for it and work with Him in it. He is waiting for us to return from the “distant country.” As Henri Nouwen puts it, let us “look not with the eyes of my own low self-esteem, but with the eyes of God’s love.”
He eagerly awaits our return so that we can sit with Him at the banquet table.Finding and Fighting for Freedom from Addictions #BISblog // Click To Tweet
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