For those recovering from porn addiction, social isolation can be especially difficult

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(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

While this time of social isolation is difficult for many struggling with addiction, those addicted to pornography are having a particularity tough time.

Chuck Carrington has been working at the Virginia Beach Christian Counseling Center with men addicted to pornography and their families through support groups and counseling. But now that people are trapped in their homes for most of the day, support has started to become difficult, especially for those who were on the path to recovery.

“There’s this pressure now of being put into a confined space with your loved one,” he said. “There’s cabin fever and when people are put into these constructed spaces, their coping mechanisms start to come out.”

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Carrington was running a support group for men to meet and discuss their pornography addiction. But with new social distancing protocols, these groups have had to move to online platforms.

Carrington runs a group that meets by online video about twice a week with approximately eight men in each meeting. While it provides a different kind of interaction, this platform also allows the men to maintain anonymity because they can choose not to show their face during the meeting.

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But even with this resource, the stress and anxiety of this pandemic is starting to put pressure on recovery for some.

“For some forms of addiction, the isolation isn’t as threatening because now you don’t have as much access,” he said. “But with pornography, it’s boredom and downtime that create the perfect storm when paired with social and emotional pressure.”

Carrington said he has seen a lot of marriages and relationships experience extra stress during this time as well, whether it’s due to distrust because of the addiction or because of the anxiety surrounding the pandemic.

When talking to his support group or individual clients, Carrington said there are various strategies they discuss for making it through this difficult time while recovering from addiction.

“I don’t want to see them lose their momentum because of artificial social pressure,” he said. 

First, he said he tells people they should expect a sense of anxiety and uncertainty and prepare for that. He educates them on how those feelings occur, what they could mean and how to not let their emotions deter their progress.

For those in relationships, Carrington suggests the client find a place in or near their home where they can create a sense of space. By talking with their partner and discussing where each of them can go to have alone time to decompress, the relationship can then have moments where each person can breathe.

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He also suggests those addicted to pornography should avoid their devices as much as possible. A good distraction is by doing social activities, such as playing cards with family members or talking to loved ones on the phone.

Carrington said it can still be a difficult process and people might relapse.

“So we do know that relapses happen and when that happens the worst thing you can do is make it the end of the world,” he said. “We tell them that relapses happen but we’re hoping you won’t experience one and if you do, we have the protocols in place to help you.”

Each client has a different set of protocols in place to avoid and handle potential relapses, Carrington said. One of the most important aspects is for them to understand their triggers.

Carrington said those with pornography addictions have to find inventive ways to manage their recovery.

“These are all strange, new changes,” he said. “Any change will cause anxiety and loss. All change is difficult, even good change and this has to be a new normal for people.”

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