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Dear Cynthia... > How to help an addict
How to help an addict
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1 post
May 02, 2009
9:55 PM
I know someone who is addicted to child pornography and I do not know how to help them. I have tried rationally discussing this with them but the problem is that they do not think that there is anything wrong with their behavior and do not think that they need to change. Please help. I have tried to convince this person to attend counseling but they are not receptive to the idea.
212 posts
May 04, 2009
3:10 AM
It's heartbreaking, frustrating, and scary to watch an addict use (whatever the substance or behavior is that they are addicted to). One way addiction is defined is with these three tests: 1. Compulsion to use, 2. Lack of control (sometimes seen as abnormal attempts to control), and 3. Continuing to use in spite of negative consequences. Another hallmark of addiction is denial. So no matter how clear it might be to others that a person is addicted, the addict may be able to convince themselves, and often others, that they are not addicted. So the addict is in a terrible bind. They on some level feel out of control, and feel worn down by the attempts to control combined with the compulsion to use. They think about the thing they're addicted to, getting it, hiding it, controlling it, not getting caught, needing it, planning to get it, etc, etc. Obviously this takes a great deal of emotional energy and time. Meanwhile, consequences often start to happen, and that is very scary. At the same time, they can't imagine living without using. Denial is the only thing that helps them with this conflict. If there isn't a problem, then they don't have to stop using.

But for you, it sounds like you think what they are doing is wrong, or disgusting, or some judgement like that. That is totally understandable, most people probably feel that way about child pornograpy. But anybody addicted to anything is very sensitive to shame about it. If you're right that this person is addicted to child pornography, they are going to be very resistant to any implication that what they are bad or immoral, or disgusting, etc. If this is how you see it, you will have a hard time reaching the person.

So you see that between the drive to pretend that there is no problem, so they don't have to face life without using, and the shame involved which also motivates pretending there is no problem, you are facing a fortress of protection from the truth.

generally, the best way to reach an addict is to approach them without judgement. Usually only other non-judgemental addicts in recovery (ie someone who was addictively using the same thing, and has admitted they had a problem, are abstaining, and are actively developing resources inside and outside of themselves to help them avoid using again) can hope to reach a using addict. The only other thing that can impress an addict is consequences caused by the addiction that are worse than giving up the addiction. For some addicts, nothing is worse than giving up the addiction, and sadly, they usually eventually face terrible consequences. Sometimes all the people the addict cares about get together and practice telling the addict how the addict's using affects each of these people After practicing, they confront the addict. There is a science and art to doing this, and there are professionals who do nothing but this work with confronting addicts with their consequences.

If you can find an inpatient or outpatient program for this addiction (or sex addiction in general) you may be able to talk to someone who works with this all the time and can help you with a specific plan for your person.

Let us know how it goes!


Last Edited by on May 04, 2009 3:16 AM

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Email: CynthiaLubow@yahoo.com 

 Cynthia W. Lubow, MFT

 For 30 years, compassionately helping people build self-confidence and feel happier.

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