Ministering to the Victims of Cyberporn

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Northern California/Nevada district council's private Internet conference, Gene Roncone, hosted an online interview with Dr. Doug Weiss through the month of January 1998. The purpose of the interview was not only to educate our pastors but also to induce productive discussion on the conference. Conference participants with observations regarding the daily post were free to express themselves.

It should be noted that both the topic and material discussed in this series could be considered objectionable. However, considering the seriousness and relevance of the topic we understand that it can not be addressed without giving Dr. Weiss the freedom to confront the issue directly.

DOUGLAS WEISS, Ph.D. is a nationally known Christian author and therapist. He has appeared on Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael and many other national television and radio shows. He has authored several books including, Women Who Love Sex Addicts, Beyond Love, and Steps of Hope. Douglas Weiss is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist as well as Licensed Chemical Addictions Counselor. He is currently the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Ministry in Fort Worth, Texas (web: http://www.sexaddict.com/, email: Heart2Heart@xc.org).

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RONCONE: Is sex addiction something new to our modern age or has it been something the church has had to deal with in the past?

WEISS: No, there is nothing new about sex addiction. Lets look at Genesis 39:7-19 [KJV/NIV] and see a classic example of how the sex addict acts out as exemplified in Potiphar's wife.

v.7 She looked at Joseph as a sexual object.

v.9 Joseph knew it was against God.

v.10 The sex addict and sex addiction will try to talk to you every day.

v.11 I believe Potiphar's wife set the scene so that she would be alone with Joseph.

v.12

v.13-20

RONCONE: What are the factors contributing to sexual compulsive behavior in ministers?

WEISS: In 1991 John Thornburn conducted research concerning contributing factors regarding extramarital sexual activity among male Protestant clergy. He found in a:

"...Random sample of 500 male Protestant ministers across the country. The survey sought to investigate three areas; factors that might influence Pastoral infidelity, factors contributing to sexually compulsive attitudes and behaviors and ministers emotional investment in extramarital sexual relationships. Five factors were distinguished as predicting 'at risk' pastors. Those five factors include:

  1. a family origin history of addiction,
  2. marital adjustment,
  3. sexual attraction and arousal in a ministry context,
  4. low self esteem feelings,
  5. consumption of pornography."

"When attempting to identify the sources of thoughts, attitudes, and feelings that strengthen addiction's hold on them, the sex addicts with whom we worked most commonly cite:

  1. one or more traumatic events during childhood—usually involving death, divorce, abuse, or victimization,
  2. parents who were uncommunicative or frequently absent from the home,
  3. families in which affection, encouragement, and trust were virtually nonexistent while criticism, harsh punishment, and rigid—though unwritten—rules were ever-present,
  4. Prohibitive messages about sex, primarily from parents,..."
RONCONE: After repentance and forgiveness how can pastors give addicts some practical tools for recovery?

WEISS: Recovery from sexual addiction has some basic principles that when applied, help the sexual addict sustain his recovery program. Early recovery is not simply understanding the facts nor is early recovery simply talking about sexual addiction. Recovery goes much deeper than simply talking about what was done in the past. Many Christians may talk about getting better. The Prodigal Son (who was a sex addict) did not get better or restored when he realized he was in bad condition. He had to consistently walk back to get the blessings of his freedom after weeks or months of walking. Then the party started—not before.

The Five Commandments are simple and can be used much like a check list that you can put up on your wall or mirror at home. Write the commandments down and check off if you have done them today, this week, this month, and the first 90 days. This behavioral check list for the recovering sexual addict can assure him that he is putting behavior toward recovery as opposed to just coming to an understanding about his sexual addiction. Coming to an understanding is not the only answer for the addict. You may have been in pain for years and years and possibly have had behaviors that have been repeated hundreds of times. It is for this reason that the Five Commandments, when put in place, gives the addict an action plan so that he can begin to arrest the addiction that he has been struggling with for so long.

Simply put, the Five Commandments are the last five behaviors you have read in Exercises #3-#7. These Five Commandments are simple:

  1. Pray in the morning
  2. Read recovery literature daily
  3. Call someone in recovery daily
  4. Meetings—attend Twelve-Step Meetings
  5. Pray again, and thank God daily for sobriety

The following check list will help you monitor your behaviors toward recovery. Remember only believe your behaviors when it comes to recovery. Don't talk yourself into believing that if you feel free, you are. Behave free and you will be.

RONCONE: What are some helpful materials that pastors can recommend to addicts in recovery?

WEISS: There are four that come to mind.

RONCONE: What are the most important things to remember in the first 100 days of recovery?

WEISS: The five most important things to remember in the first 100 days of recovery are:

  1. Pray: Pray in the morning asking Jesus to keep you free today.
  2. Read: Read the Bible and read freedom related material.
  3. Call: Call someone in your group to check in with during the day.
  4. Meetings: Attend every meeting possible.
  5. Pray: Pray in the evening thanking God for keeping you free today.
RONCONE: What are some biblical examples of successful recovery from sex addiction?

WEISS: The most popular is probably the story of the sex addict coming back home in Luke 15: 11-32 [KJV/NIV]. In this scripture reference, a younger brother gets half an estate (probably a significant amount) and spends it all on drinking and prostitutes. Verse 30 says, "devoured thy living with harlots" [KJV/NIV]. The prodigal son probably qualifies for a sex addict. It would take a lot of sexual services to go through this entire inheritance.

v.17

v.18

v.21

v.22

v31

This is a beautiful picture of how God feels toward the sex addict who may have squandered his substance and life but he definitely woos them back into a loving relationship even if they slept with prostitutes.

RONCONE: What are some scientifically measured effects of pornography?

WEISS: In his book Don't Call It Love, Patrick Carnes said:

"...two highly relevant facts emerged from our study of sexual addiction. First, among all (sex) addicts surveyed 90 percent of the men and 77 percent of the women reported pornography as significant to their addiction. Secondly, for some the cost were staggering."

Zillman, & Bryany, also reported in an article entitled "Pornography's impact on sexual satisfaction" (Journal of Applied Psychology 1988 Vol. 18[5] 438-453) that:

"Exposed 160 male and female students and nonstudents to videotapes featuring common, nonviolent pornography. Exposure was in hourly sessions in 6 consecutive weeks. Exposure strongly impacted self assessment of sexual experience. Subjects reported less satisfaction with their intimate partner's affection, physical appearance, sexual curiosity, and sexual performance proper. Subjects assigned increased importance to sex without emotional involvement."

RONCONE: What practical things can we recommend to the people we pastor to help protect them from having a relapse in sexual addiction on the Internet?

WEISS: Sex addiction definitely keeps up with the technological advances of man. First there were drawings, then photographs, 8 mm, video's and now we have CD ROMS, cybersex computer pornography and even virtual reality sex available. These new technologies can be highly addictive, isolating and they need to be addressed in the 90's for the sex addicts.

The Internet provides an outlet for sex addicts to access many of these technologies and pornography. The Internet problem can be addressed in several approaches. There are several approached to use in helping protect someone who has begun to get caught up in cyber porn.

RONCONE: What are some successful and practical tools we can give our people to help them overcome temptation?

WEISS: It is important to help them remember what the addiction took from them and its terrible cost to their lives and families. This realization can truly be painful and they can have very sad feelings accompanying this realization.

Although at the moment they do not feel this pain and discomfort, there will also be days ahead when their addiction will attempt to have them forget this moment. If their addiction can get them to forget this pain and discomfort, it will be easier to talk them into "another ride" on the sexual addiction train. It is in the pain and discomfort of the reality of what their addiction has cost them, that they may feel committed "not to do that again!" In the hopes of strengthening their recovery and giving them one more tool to recover by, encourage them to capture this moment of pain to help rescue them in future.

You can also encourage them to use the back of a business card that is blank and write at the top of it the word "COST" along with what their addiction has cost them and what it could cost them five years from now. Tell them to write themselves some notes that only they would understand and place this in their billfold. When they start to feel the addiction try to talk them into acting-out, tell them to pull out the card and talk back to the addiction. Having the facts puts truth on their side so they can escape a relapse in the future.

EXAMPLE: COST

Now: $52,000
5 years: $135,000 When left house
Emotionally illiterate
1 ruined marriage


RONCONE: That is great! Can you give us any more suggestions?

WEISS: Sure. In recovery as we discussed earlier, a phone call may be their only link to reality. In a moment, the addiction can sweep them off their feet and have them swirling in thoughts, pictures, devices and an entire host of feelings. It is as if they have fallen off a boat and it is moving away leaving them in a storm. Somehow they need to connect to the boat so someone, anyone, can throw them a life preserver.

In the case of the sex addiction storm, you can tell them to pull out a phone card, call someone (possibly you) and be pulled safely to the shore of recovery from the waters of sexual addiction. If they were left to themselves, they may have drowned this time.

Simply put, tell them to keep phone numbers in their wallet, car, home and office so at any place and anytime they can call someone when they feel the storm coming or while it may be in full swing so they don't have to experience a relapse that day. Remember they can not recover by themselves. It is much better to call first than to relapse and call later. The calling card is one tool that can save them so encourage them to make one as soon as possible.

RONCONE: Why can't the addict's recovery be confined to an isolated experience at the altar? Why the need to involve them and others in the recovery?

WEISS: There are some sins that are so crippling that the victim needs the help of others to be delivered. Lets look at 2 Kings 5:9-14 [KJV/NIV] and John 9:1-8 [KJV/NIV] as an example.

In 2 Kings 5:9-14 [KJV/NIV], Elisha told Naaman to dip seven times in the Jordan and then he would be healed. Naaman did and he was healed. In John 9:1-8 [KJV/NIV], Jesus put mud on the man's eyes and told him that he had to wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did this behavior and he was healed.

These are a couple illustrations of how God will involve the person needing healing in the process. Many addicts want a "quick" fix but many will have to be involved in the process of their healing from sexual addiction.

Sallie Swisher, recently said in the The Journal of Treatment and Prevention:

"This surveyed 248 counselors...regarding their perceptions of the nature and treatment of sexual addiction/compulsivity. A combination of individual and group therapy was most often suggested. Strategies most often recommended for treatment of sexual addiction included cognitive restructuring, defining behavioral boundaries, empathy, positive self-talk, and recognizing and avoiding high-risk situations."

The Journal of Treatment and Prevention also reported that, "This week more than 40,000 persons will attend a local peer group made up of persons struggling with the consequences of sexually damaging behaviors."

RONCONE: How can we as pastors help recovering addicts maintain their recovery between sessions?

WEISS: In The addict's active sexually addicted life-style, he rarely thinks of the pain he is causing himself or anyone else. In recovery from sex addiction, when the addiction "talks to you" it will try to sell you as to how "A little bit won't hurt," or "Who will know?" "You can act out just one more time." "You are sober enough." "It won't affect your recovery." These and many other lies try to maximize the current benefit to you (i.e. it feels good) and minimize the long term effects (i.e. this could be the beginning of two-to-ten year binge and you'll lose your marriage, business and possibly get a sexually transmitted disease). This addiction is very crafty!

A tool that has helped recovering addicts maintain recovery is having a negative experience locked in, almost memorized that maximizes the pain and minimizes the pleasure to act out. For some sex addicts this picture could possibly be getting picked up by the police. For others, their worst picture is getting kicked out of the house for good, seeing their child's faces when they leave, seeing their spouse cry, hearing a judge say "no visitation privileges," the loss of a job, risking AIDS or even abortions. These are only a few experiences. You may have one or more painful moments. You may want to write out down these experiences to remind yourself.

Have them write down these experiences, picture it in their mind as vividly as they can and feel the feelings. Tell them to practice this picture in a public place (they will be as likely to act out) 2 to 3 times a day for three days. Rehearsing this image and feeling will make them ready to beat the addiction when it starts talking to you. Here is an example

The days I practiced this painful experience were:

  1. ___________________________

  2. ___________________________

  3. ___________________________
RONCONE: Why is it so important for pastors to know how to minister to the sex addict?

WEISS: Unfortunately the facts suggest that pastors are totally unprepared to deal with one of societies fastest growing social problems. We just finished a clergy survey of 1,800 members from 6 denominations through the Internet. Those we surveyed had an average of 14 years of experience in ministry. 72% were senior pastors, 13% were associate pastors and 15% identified themselves as "other". The results showed that:

RONCONE: If any of the ministers on this conference are struggling with these issues how can they get help?

Webmaster's note:

Don't forget the Ministers' Hotline, sponsored by the A/G Office of Ministerial Enrichment. You can call 24 hours a day and get help anonymously without charge.

1 (800) 867-4011

For more information, contact Wayde Goodall wgoodall@ag.org.

Also, there's the National Prayer Center. If you're struggling with an addiction, break the cycle when it starts and call our (800) number for prayer at that moment.

1 (800) 4-PRAYER

For more information, contact the A/G National Prayer Center at prayer@ag.org.

WEISS: By calling HEART TO HEART COUNSELING CENTER at: 1 (817) 377-4278 You can receive a time that is convenient for your individual or couples appointment. Next, you will receive our toll free appointment line to call in at the time of your set appointment. Payment is handled by Visa / MasterCard / Discover or a check in advance of appointment. Your calls are totally confidential. You will be speaking directly to me. I have a lot of experience in the field of sexual addiction & sexual trauma. You will receive an accepting ear because I have been there myself. I have over nine years of successful recovery from sexual addiction as well as helping thousands of people become successful in their recovery, both by phone and in my office in Fort Worth, TX. If you are struggling, your recovery can also be successful.

RONCONE: What are some common characteristics of sex addicts?

WEISS: Many times we find that it is a learned behavior. Look at 2 Samuel 11 [KJV/NIV] & 1 Kings 11:1-6 [KJV/NIV] concerning David's sexual acting out with Bathsheba and Soloman's sexual excessiveness as an example.

A national survey of 600 recovering sex addicts by Dr. Carnes (from Out of the Shadows) would also support this trend. His research revealed the following about sex addicts.

Family of origin

Victimization

RONCONE: How does a person's addictive drive take them hostage and hijack their sense of self-control and moral judgement?

WEISS: As a sex addict, their brain has been conditioned neurologically to their acting-out behaviors. Many sex addicts were exposed to pornography at a young age and began to masturbate and/or fantasize with it. Every time the addict ejaculated, he sent a rush of chemicals to his brain called endorphins and enkephalins. The brain, as an organ of the body, has no morality. It just knows that when it gets a rush of what I call "brain cookies," (or chemicals) it feels good. The rush could be from heroin, sky diving, sex or cocaine, but whatever has caused the rush, the brain as an organ would not have a moral dilemma on how it got this rush.

After frequent ejaculations brought on by acting-out, the sexual addict begins to develop neurological pathways in the brain while acting out sexually. The brain as an organ, adjusts to getting it's neurological need met by the cycle of going into a fantasy state and 20 to 30 minutes later sending the brain a rush of "brain cookies" through ejaculation.

RONCONE: How can we help them overcome the power of these destructive forces?

WEISS: To recover from sexual addiction, you must retrain your brain to not connect the fantasy world with these so called "brain cookies." To stop this biological cycle that the sex addict had set up sometimes for as long as 10 years to 50 years ago, he or she will need a biological reconditioning cycle.

Place a rubber band on either wrist and when you start to objectify, fantasize, or have sexually inappropriate thoughts, snap the rubber band on the inside of your wrist. This sets up a cycle in your brain that says "fantasy = pain" instead of "fantasy = pleasure." The body is designed to avoid pain, and so this will reduce the amount of fantasies that you are having and eventually lessen the thoughts so that you can focus on your recovery. You can memorize and quote appropriate scriptures to strengthen your spirit, but use the rubberband to recondition your brain.

The average person who is very consistent with this reconditioning exercise of the brain finds about 80% of the fantasy life-style subsides within the first thirty days and if continued throughout the first 90 days, they find intruding thoughts are minimal and manageable with other exercises discussed later. This is a great exercise to truly "take your thoughts captive."

You deserve a clean thought life and a retrained brain, and with consistency, you can have it.

RONCONE: One of the most terrible things about this kind of addiction is that it entraps the addict into seeing others through a demonic and demeaning way instead of the way Jesus would see others. How do you deal with this?

WEISS: Exactly! When a sex addict looks at someone in a sexual way, they are objectifying him or her. They need to begin to see this person as a someone who has feelings. This individual may have children and/or parents who love them. They may have been badly hurt by someone in the past. They are not cars that they can look at and compare shapes and proportions in order to determine their value. Nor some picture to be scanned into their "video" world so that they can manipulate them into your sexual fantasy world.

As pastors you should encourage the addict to pray for others and ask God to protect them, their spouse and children. This will help the addict put others in a relational context instead of an object context. This prayer may help them break up the fantasy otherwise known as the "bubble" of addiction before it fully forms around them. It may actually give their mind the freedom to get back to healthier thinking. They must be brought to understand that the individuals that they objectify are persons God created, and He thinks highly of them.

Ask the addict how he would feel as a father if he saw someone looking at his precious child in a lude or sexual manner? Would they not feel sick and then angry? They must understand that God is the father of the individual they are looking at, and no matter how old or attractive that person is, God has feelings also about that person. The addict should be taught to pray for them so they will be on the right side of God.


Copyright 1998
Northern California-Nevada District Council of the Assemblies of God
125 Bethany Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95066

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