Yesterday BaDoink spoke with Stephen Kuhn of the Belt Of Truth Ministries about his personal history with porn addiction and the standards and practices of his Ministry in aiding those who come to him with similar problems. Craig Perra is a man cut from the same cloth. After struggling with porn addiction for years – to the detriment of his life and daily routines – he sought help and decided in turn to help others with his Mindful Habit program.
In their own words, the Mindful Habit program is “a science based, action oriented, goal centric, and structured attack on your sex and porn addiction.” It’s not about using your own compulsions and foibles against you, but rather about learning to change them and adapt them to your own personal circumstances, goals and all the rest.
After learning about Stephen and the work his Ministry does, it’s time to look on the other side of the coin. Is there much difference between faith-based addiction cures and the philosophical slants afforded by the Mindful Habit? Is there a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ option? Can true success be achieved in this field and if so, what are the boundaries and criteria to measure it against? Furthermore, what’s to be done about porn if – to some minds – it does nothing but feed the beast?
What is your view on faith-based healing when it comes to pornography and sex addiction?
The overwhelming majority of faith based porn addiction healers are good people trying to help their flock find healthy sexuality. This is no small task considering they are operating within a belief system that often views healthy sexual activities, like masturbation for example, as sins against God. Throw in a dash of shame and an institutional fear of sex, and you have a host of obstacles to healthy sexuality.
Religion has a long way to go – ironically porn has helped to drive this discussion in many religious communities.
Have you dealt with any clients who have come from faith-based programs? If so, have they fared better or worse than non-faith-based programs?
60-70% of my clients are religious. Many come to me from faith based programs because they aren’t getting the results they crave. Ultimately, these clients need less spiritual and more science-based behavior modification.
These clients come to me obsessively focusing on what not to do – in most cases this means NOT watching porn and masturbating (and sometimes it’s prostitutes and/or strip clubs). And these guys are stuck for a very important reason.
Here’s the deal – to break a habit you must make a habit – this is a scientific fact. This means you must do something else. This means that men struggling with unhealthy sexuality must focus on the life they want to create for themselves … and not exclusively run away from the life they don’t wait. If they do, they will fail. You can’t run away from yourself.
These men obsessively focus on the problem (i.e. pornography) and see their struggles exclusively through the addiction lens, and this is never the case. There are always root causes to compulsive numbing and escapist behaviors and porn is no exception.
You were once a pornography addict. Can you tell us a little about how this came about?
I’ve had an unhealthy relationship with pornography since my first exposure at ages 8-10. Porn was used by an older neighborhood boy to lure me into a sexual relationship. Coupled with sex-negative childhood religious based teachings, I was a mess from a very young age.
Porn was rarely a “leisure activity” in that it wasn’t an open part of my sexuality – it was always a dirty dark secret and the content I was watching grew more and more extreme over time. It’s wasn’t a light, fun hobby for me.
My porn use always spiked when I was having troubles in my life. I later learned that I was using my sexuality, through pornography, to numb, cope, and escape from my problems. Porn wasn’t a harmless hobby in fact ultimately I couldn’t perform with my wife because I was so ashamed of my sexuality.
What methods did you use to overcome your problem?
My greatest success came, not when I “surrendered” or declared myself “powerless” – two prerequisites of any 12 Step Program – but when instead of running away from the life I wanted, I started taking aggressive action towards the life I wanted to create for myself. This included prioritizing my sexuality – not from the disease based addiction lens, but from a masculine one that embraced the power of my sexuality.
This drove me to focus on healthy sexuality vs. experiencing my sexuality through the disease model of addiction. Which one do you think is healthier long term?
Are you able to put a figure on how many people are successfully treated by Mindful Habit? Are there some that don’t ‘make it’?
I have a 93% “graduation” rate for my one on one coaching. Of these 87% of men agree that my program profoundly changed their lives. That being said, clients relapse, especially in the early stages – – this is often a very important step in the journey to healthy sexuality. It’s actually a powerful growth opportunity.
Tell us a little about the kind of clients you deal with. What kind of demographic features the most?
The average age of my one on one client is 39 and all are male, however I work with clients as young as 23 and as old as 76. The average age of the clients in my online program and those who purchase my workbook and CDs is closer to 34.
My clients are men who have experienced success in their lives, and their sexuality is out of control, often resulting in part from copious amounts of porn watching.
Is there blame to be apportioned when it comes to sex/porn addiction? Can something like that be directed towards parental attitudes, a lack of education or anything else?
PORN IS NEVER THE ROOT CAUSE PROBLEM. Compulsive porn use is a system of greater issues that must be addressed. I can’t say this enough. Porn is a serious problem for these men, however, it’s never the only one.
There are always other root cause drivers of compulsive porn use. This is true even for those clients that haven’t experienced what I call the big four: childhood physical, mental, or sexualt trauma and neglect. Low self-esteem is a common theme in my work, especially for my Type A men.
Do you fear the problem – the volume of people seeking help/becoming addicted and so on – can only get worse? What can be done to stem the tide, if anything?
We live in a culture that is bat shit crazy about our sexuality. We arrest women for breastfeeding in public and as men we play this insane peek-a-boo game with the areola and ass. We objectify women and see them as body parts.
We live in a hypersexualized culture raised with a puritanical belief system around sexuality. Media and advertising preys on the most vulnerable insecurities around our sexuality – sex sells. And hardcore graphic pornography is available on any device connected to the internet. So yes, the problem is going to get a lot worse. As of 2009, porn has been cited as a contributing factor in 47% of divorces in the U.S. – and it’s only gotten worse.
The solution is a national dialogue on pornography, the good, bad, and the ugly, and healthy sexuality – for men this conversation is critical. Our sexual energy is one of the most powerful forces in human nature and it can’t be fed and nurtured with cheap “saccharine” alternatives – like much of the commercial porn produced today, so much of it focused on teens, and abuse towards women.
What are your views on pornography as a whole?
Most commercial for profit porn is like the iconic snack food the Twinkie – it may taste good, but it’s not good for you. It has no nutritional value and ultimately will make you sick. For some it’s a harmless hobby, but for others, like me, because of my past, I need to honor and respect my sexuality, and that means I choose not to watch pornography.
The industry is here to stay and it can help those that take the use of its product too far.
Our sexual energy is powerful. Kinsley, Freud, Napoleon Hill, Charles Darwin – these great thinkers all agreed that our sexual energy one of the most powerful forces inside us. As men, I believe that we must learn to honor, respect, and cherish that power and prioritize our sexual health. This is a must in our hypersexualized culture.
I am anti-censorship, pro-free speech and want everyone to find healthy sexuality as they define it. I have friends and relatives who watch porn. If you do or do not, you must prioritize your sexual health. I think we can all agree on that. That’s the revolution I want to lead.
Regarding the adult industry, it needs to do a better job protecting children from early exposure (the average age of exposure today is 11), and help those who take their porn hobby too far.
Commercial porn, an industry that profits off this sexual energy, has an obligation to help those struggling just like the other vice industries – gambling, tobacco, and alcohol. It’s good business and the right thing to do.
I’d also like to see performers protected to ensure that these human beings are respected, paid fairly, that they work in safe working conditions, and treated in an honest and ethical way.
People with no knowledge or modes of comparison may fail to register a difference between The Mindful Habit and faith-based addiction cure programs. What are the primary differences in both approach and method between the two?
The Mindful Habit System is action oriented, goal centric and grounded in science based behavior change modalities like habits and mindfulness. This action oriented approach is why my program attracts type A, highly successful men like lawyers, doctors, professional athletes and doctors – these men need results fast. While many men who use my program are deeply spiritual, it’s a secular program designed to produce results and to help clients find healthy sexuality and improve all areas of your life.
My program helps clients stop their unwanted behavior AND empower them to create great lives.
Would it be fair to say that the latter deals moreso in ‘shame’ as opposed to your program?
My program is specifically designed to discharge shame – it’s a useless emotion and only drives more negative behavior. While many religious based programs try to deal with shame in a healthy way, they can’t escape the fact that so called porn addicts are offending a creator God that will punish offenders for their sins. It’s hard to escape the shame in these programs and often this construct reinforces the negative behavior the addict seeks to avoid.