“What’s the one piece of advice you would give
to someone struggling with porn addiction?”
Forest Benedict, LMFT is a Sexual Addictions Treatment Provider and the Clinical Director of LifeSTAR.
Connect with Forest:
Spiritual Connection/Personal Blog: forestbenedict.com
Sexual Addiction Resource Blog: Lifestarcentralvalley.wordpress.com
Steve: Hey guys, Stephen Kuhn with Belt of Truth Ministries. I’ve got Forest Benedict on the line. Forest is a sexual addiction treatment provider, MFT intern, and the program manager of LifeSTAR. Forest, thanks for joining us today. What’s the one piece of advice that you would give to someone struggling with porn addiction?
Forest: Yeah, the one piece of advice may sound like something that’s a little bit different, but really is that to have the kind of self-control that’s required in recovery, that basic self-care is really a necessity. When I think of recovery, I think of it as a lifestyle change, wherein we’re moving from a lifestyle of self neglect and self-destructive behavior to a lifestyle of self-care. One thing I think is really helpful for people in understanding why self-care is so important is really looking at how pornography addiction impacts the brain. And the way that it impacts the brain is it really causes harm to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain and we need that thing working well to have self-control, to be connected with our goals and values, and to have empathy for other people and emotional balance. That kind of harm that the pornography does to that part of the brain gives us less self-control. Having self-care in place that strengthens that part of the brain is actually really an essential part of recovery.
And so some of the basic self-care that I recommend for those seeking recovery, again it’s going to sound very basic, but all of these that I’m going to mention actually strengthen that part of the brain that gives us self-control. The first one is sleep, and just not being sleep deprived and getting adequate amount of sleep, I know people, it’s kind of well-known in the recovery field that if you’re tired then it’s a pretty common trigger, but I think a lot of it has to do with how sleep affects the brain, and so sleep is super important, getting adequate sleep, taking naps if you need to. Exercise is super important to strengthen that part of the brain. We teach a mindful breathing exercise, it’s really just focused on the breath and I’m happy to share that with you if I can, but it’s something that actually strengthens that self-control part of the brain. And even healthy diet is actually related to recovery too. I’ve written about this, how sugar can be really triggering for people trying to recover from sexual addiction. And also I think there’s a potential for becoming addicted to sugar. It’s like when we take away the porn, we still crave that dopamine and sugar is that easy outlet for dopamine, easy way to access dopamine. Limiting sugar and eating real food that’s healthy really does play a part in strengthening the part of the brain that helps us have self-control.
And then the other piece of that self-care puzzle would be abstaining from pornography, which might sound like a no-brainer. No pun intended. But then another part of it too is video games. I think that would be kind of surprising to people, but the research I’ve done is that video games kind of do similar things to the brain that pornography does. Some people are trying to heal their brain from the harm that’s been done with pornography, abstaining from pornography and video game and doing all these self-care strategies again be really helpful. To practice on a regular basis, it’s like strengthening a new muscle, you have to get into a routine and practice it and so another thing I tell people is this can get really messed up when we have things like vacation, when we go out-of-town, and we say to ourselves “I’m on vacation. I don’t have to sleep. I don’t have to eat good. I can do whatever I want.” That can really be kind of time in the brain for relapse, really. There’s no vacation from recovery. That’s why I recommend people maintain these types of things even when they’re on vacation, taking care of themselves.
And so maybe the last piece I’ll throw in there is that I find that people dealing with pornography addiction have a huge level of shame, and a lot of criticism. And so when you throw out a bunch of things like these are healthy routines to bring into your recovery journey, they could become very self-critical and kind of jump on themselves if they make a mistake or if they slip or relapse, be very self-critical. I’ve studied this idea of self-compassion because it’s another thing that I don’t think is very well…I haven’t heard a lot about it, especially in the church in particular, this idea of self compassion, self forgiveness, because what we find is that people actually are more likely to change if they are actually a little kinder to themselves. It’s the self-criticism that makes people more likely to relapse. And so that’s why I say as you think about these self-care strategies, if you can be a little gracious with yourself and patient with yourself that it’s going to take some time to learn a whole new way of relating to yourself more in this caring way.
Anyways, that’s kind of it in a nutshell. I’ve written a lot of stuff on this, self compassion. I wrote an article, people might be interested in, called The Science of Self Control, why Christians are called to self-care, so kind of tying that back-end. That’s basically it, that whole idea of self-care and how that leads to healing the addicted [06:51].
Steve: Great! Thanks for sharing that. You mentioned some of those articles. Why don’t you tell people where they could find out more about you online and where they can find some of your writing?
Forest: Okay. Yeah I do. I write in a couple different places. If you go to LifeSTARcentralvalley.WordPress.com, that’s where I write a lot of articles related to sexual addiction, recovery, provide lots of great tools for people, dealing with shame, self-compassion, all kinds of things. I try to bring in science and really relate it to what people are doing. And then if you go forestbenedict.com, that’s just forest with one R like Forest Gump, I have my personal blog and that one is actually very Christian-oriented, and it’s a lot about finding a deeper connection with God and so I will bring some stuff related to recovery in there but it’s really about feeling the relationship with God.
Steve: Great! I’ll be sure to add those in the show notes, so anybody watching this just look below this video and you should find all those links. Forest, thanks again for your time, I really appreciate it, and good luck with all that you do.
Forest: Thank you very much.
Steve: See you.