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Pornography Addiction

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==The Call to Genuine Repentance==
The notion of repentance is often misused and in order to understand its true meaning, one needs the guidance of a spiritual father. In our Orthodox faith, unlike Western understanding, repentance does not have a legalistic perspective. It is, indeed, “an act of reconciliation, of reintegration into the Body of Christ, which has been torn asunder by sin,” [[]] but it is so much more. Repentance should also not be limited to remorse about an evil deed, nor to feeling sorry about hurting somebody. This is the beginning of a long process; repentance is not an instance, but a process. “The Greek term for repentance, μετανοια, denotes a change of mind, a reorientation, a fundamental transformation of outlook, of man's vision of the world and of himself, and a new way of loving others and God. ” Saint [[John Chrysostom]] says: “it is necessary to repent, not merely for one or two days, but throughout one's whole life .”
(De Compunctione I, i PG 4,7:395 and I, ix :408)
The addict’s worldview is altered by his addiction: women are objectified; notions like intimacy, vulnerability, self-esteem and self-offering are perverted; everything evolves around him. Therefore, the true “metanoia” represents a complete change of the worldview. Addiction is a process and repentance is also a process, a reversed-engineering. If addiction is a movement from life to death, repentance, as a theanthropic act is a Pascha, a Passover from death to life. Therefore, the addict is called to transcend the fallen state and once again taste life. Fr. John continues
:“Metanoia is the gate­way to oneself, to one's fellowman, and to heaven. It leads inwards, but it also leads outwards by leading inwards. The world ceases to rotate round the self and begins to gravitate towards the other - the divine and the human other. Sin has the opposite effect.” [[]]
This is what exactly is needed in addiction: a change of mind, a change of focus, a gravitating toward the spouse, centered on Christ. This is the true calling to repentance.
==Recovery Through Couple Counseling==
Like a person affected by stroke, who lost the ability to talk or walk, the addict has to re-learn in small steps how to love sacramentally and turn away from sin, toward his spouse and God. On the other hand, the spouse has to assess the emotional damage, so she would be open to receiving her husband’s love and consequentially, healing. This stage is maybe the most delicate and the priest is called to extreme sensitivity and discernment. Marital intimacy, closure and trust are the most damaged and they both have to strive to achieve the previous state of unity. Therefore, I think that the recovery process is somehow similar to the pre-marital sessions. Sin is a regress in the marital journey; but, they can get up and start over. Therefore, the initial sessions are meant to be a re-alignment to the path to theosis.
===The Service of the Holy Sacrament of Marriage===
The goal of this stage is to help the couple realize the meaning of being married, to refresh in their mind the goal of marriage. At this point, a positive perspective is needed; the transgressions should not be even mentioned, because the focus is now on re-connecting the addict to his wife. The remembrance of wedding day is especially important because it has been a moment of satisfaction, fulfillment and unity in their lives as a couple. Also, it will become a reference moment and will decrease the marital tension. After the relaxed and content space was created, the priest talks about the Service of Marriage itself, emphasizing key aspects of the commitment they were called upon. “The exchange of rings as a pledge to share and exchange both their physical and spiritual goods, a pledge of eternal love and devotion ,” [] the crowning as symbols of marital priesthood, but also martyrdom (witness) they are called to, the common cup as a sign of ultimate communion and finally the receiving of Holy Communion as a symbol of entering the realm of Kingdom of God as a couple are just few aspects that can be touched.
The focus of this paper is recovery of the couples from sex addictions; therefore, I will not to over-emphasize any of the pastoral aspects. They are meant to be starting points for any priest confronted with this problem. Also, the priest should assist the couple in their recovery by providing further resources on every aspect of the treatment. Father Theodore Stylianopoulos provides an excellent perspective on the rite of Marriage with deep theological insights . (Stylianopoulos, Fr. Theodore, Toward a Theology of Marriage in the Orthodox Church, in Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Boston, 1977 volume XXII, number 3)
===The Theology of Marriage===
After discussing the day of marital commitment, the priest should approach a very difficult, but vital aspect: the Theology of Marriage. I will briefly re-emphasize the importance of each of these steps: man, in his broken nature, turned his face away from God, and because of the prolonged exposure to sin, he cannot see clearly. As a joke, it is said that masturbation causes blindness. Nothing can be more true! It most certainly creates blindness; if not physical, spiritual for sure. By providing a fresh perspective on life and marriage, the priest opens the spiritual life of the addict and offers in exchange of dark, light.  :“Through the presence of Christ in marriage, the water of natural passions is changed into the fruit of the vine, the noble wine that signifies the transmutation into the new love, a charismatic love springing forth to the Kingdom. ” (Evdokimov, Paul. “The Sacrament of Love” Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary’s Press, 1985, p.122)  Than, how can we experience Christ’s presence in our marriage? The Orthodox theological literature on this issue is extensive and in depth. A.M. Stavropoulos emphasizes two aspects of marriage: as a sacrament of love and as a little church: “the four main lines, on which a spirituality of marriage is based and which can appropriately define Christian marriage: its sacramentality, its vocation to share in and witness to God’s love for humanity; sanctification of and by the family; and the apostolate of the Christian family. ” (Stavropoulos, A.M. The Understanding of Marriage in the Orthodox Church, Le Messager Orthodoxe, 58, 1972) Charalambidis presents Marriage as an image of Kingdom of God, because in marriage both the man and the woman are called to restore the authentic personhood, which transcends the notion of male and female. This is possible only through an authentic and ontological unity in the Holy Spirit . The same theme is presented by Father Calivas in his article. Marriage becomes a new life in Christ, because Christian spouses conscientiously work to transform their home into Church. In this new identity Eros is transformed into agape . (Calivas, Alkiviadis. Marriage: The Sacrament of Love and Communion in The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Boston 1995, Vol. 40, Nos. 3-4 ) I am well aware of the theological depth and richness of the articles mentioned above. The purpose of this step in the recovery process is not to make the couple theologians or to reveal the fullness of dogmatic understanding of Sacramental Theology. In order to grasp the meaning of the resources offered, one needs a solid theological background. The priest should be comfortable working with these terms, but a good theologian is the one able to express deep theology in simple words. Therefore, the sole goal is to make the couple realize that Marriage is not about a social agreement between two people for the welfare and fulfillment of the individual. This is the contemporary perspective on marriage. The spouse is supposed to make you happy and if you are not, divorce is an accessible solution. The first reaction in the case of pornography addiction is disgust and repulsion, but this can be the beginning of something beneficial, beautiful and rewarding. Each fall is an opportunity for rising. ==Fighting Guilt and Blame==Realizing  Especially if the failure addict come from a Christian background, guilt and new commitment==shame is often related to sex addictive behavior. Stephen Arterburn says that sex addiction is cyclical; “after the act, the sex addict feels intense guilt and self-reproach (often promising himself it will never happen again). Days or weeks later, the scene is repeated. ” Yet, “addicts will often act out sexually in an attempt to block out the very pain of their addiction. This is part of what drives the addictive cycle. ” [] This guilt builds up over the years and leads to anxiety, anger and inner emptiness. Depression and low self-esteem are often consequences of pathological remorse.  If a priest does not handle these extreme cases correctly, a sex addiction correlated with profound guilt can evolve into sexual anorexia: “the beginnings of compulsive religiosity may signal the onset of a period of sexual anorexia.” [,-Love,-and-Poly-Behavioral-Addiction&id=65520] These are extreme cases and not the focus of the paper. However, two points have to be made: a priest, even with the best intentions, can do more harm than good; therefore, in some cases, the addict has to be referred to professional psychologists. Secondly, guilt is a serious issue and it has to be treated accordingly. When an addict comes forth begging for help, there must have been a terrible inner turmoil; the priest and the spouse are called to sympathy and sensitivity. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many situations. Instead of realizing that the struggle has to be against the flesh, the spouses turn against each other. Blame occurs as a “normal,” but destructive reaction of the spouse and the priest is called to take sides: “clients typically believe that if the therapist can change the other person, everything would be fine. ” (Mamalakis, The Spiritual Life and How to Be Married in It, Raising Lazarus, p.217)This is where efficient marriage counseling plays a tremendous role in recovery. The feeling of betrayal creates a large amount of anger and the priest should help them direct this anger against the sin and to make this a joint effort. The addict experience grief, as he looses his “best friend,” the addiction and only by violent anger against sin (Gal 5:13-25), can he succeed.
==The Journey to Recovery==
==Prayer Life and Confession==
When we are hurt, we truly realize our brokenness. In pain, the beauty is revealed. When exhausted by cry, we are truly ready to see God’s love. These are all statements applicable in the case of anyone struggling but even more so, in the case of struggles against our own fleshy passions. If sin is turning away, prayer is turning toward. In prayer, the addict turn to God and to the spouse and in prayer, they both acknowledge their brokenness and their trust in God. In prayer, relationships are healed and love connections are restored.
In this chapter, a special emphasis should be placed on Confession, as the ultimate restoration of the repentant sinner. It is not an absolution of guilt, but it addresses the very foundation of one’s visceral struggles. It is a way, in which the repentant is being constantly motivated and inspired; it is the way the spouse receives divine power to forgive and to love. It is the place where the addict breaks out and cries, hoping for healing and comfort. “The addict usually finds a great sense of relief after admitting the secret of addiction. The end of the double life and shame may bring a premature sense of accomplishment. ” []
This chapter was meant to provide a healthy foundation for a full, permanent recovery, following the steps of professional addiction fight. Finding a “support group” in the spouse, and together in God, with the help of the spiritual father is the foundation of a successful recovery. Also, one of the most devastating consequences of sex addiction is the permanent feeling of emptiness (which leads to depression, low self-esteem, social isolation etc.) and the only real alternative is the life-giving love of Christ. Only in prayer and Confession, the addict feels relieved and loved. In God, the spouses learned again to love each other sacramentally, to transcend the restrains of loving and to continue their struggles to actualize God’s Kingdom on Earth in the Sacrament of Marriage.
Pornography addiction, Internet affairs and Cyber-sex are all different faces of the same problem: a selfish reaction of an individual, in which the focus is shifted from the significant other to himself. By creating a world of his own with the main purpose of self-gratification and irresponsible pleasure, one is tempted to isolate from society and get immerse in his seductive and addictive creation. Once addiction occurs, he develops a tolerance and therefore need a stronger dose of stimulant. This can lead to compulsive sexual behavior (in case of pornography,) offline affairs (in case of Internet emotional affairs) or to irresponsible sexual actions (from cyber to real sexual intercourse.) Everything is a process and because of the private character of sexual behavior, it is discovered when the individual hits rock bottom: low self-esteem, perverted worldview, abusive relationships, marital distress and many other.
This is when recovery process is required. The priest is called to work hand-in-hand with a Christian psychologist, as they share the same goal: the restoration of the individual and couple affected to the state preceding the addiction. Pastoral and psychological sessions overlap and are congruent. A special emphasize is put on the spouse, because she is also a victim of addiction; feelings of disappointment, betrayal, anger are very common. With great sensitivity, the priest is called to assist the couple in directing these negative feelings against sin, rather than each other. This attitude can bring genuine healing, as they experience an authentic joined repentance, which is a profound “change of heart” and renewed worldview.

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