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The Real Issue With Porn Addiction Is The Difficulty In Recognizing It

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I tune out whenever celebrities come forward with personal issues. Celebrities are human beings. They are allowed to have struggles and demons like everyone else, the only difference being when they talk, people tend to listen.

If "Hollywood Actor X" opens up about a drug addiction, it becomes a national headline. For the rest of us, it is only a headline within our inner circle.

We get so used to celebrities bringing attention to social issues that we overlook what's actually being said. These individuals yield so much influence that speaking out is more than welcome. When there is an issue worth diving into and discussing, we want as many attentive eyes and ears as possible. At the same time, speaking out feels so common that doing so stops holding the weight it should.

Terry Crews' openness on porn addiction should have your attention. It certainly has mine.

I know what you’re thinking: Porn addiction doesn't sound like a real problem. When you have communities losing people to chemical dependency and families sending relatives to rehab centers, why should we be concerned about the person who spends too much time watching people have sex on camera?

The common thought I hear is that porn addiction isn't a genuine issue. On a local sports radio station in Atlanta, Crews' story was treated with little care, something not worthy of serious conversation or people's energy. Porn addiction is just some idea perverts throw out there to feel better about their behavior. No different than the guys who claim they have sexual addictions after getting caught cheating with multiple people. It's something that should be easy to cure: Just stop looking at porn.

If it were that simple, why are there so many honest and sincere accounts of how the constant urge to watch porn has negatively affected lives? Why is the burning need to watch porn described in the same way as alcoholism or needing a pack of cigarettes just to get through the day? Why is Crews, a man who has achieved more open success than most could ever imagine, citing that his addiction to porn has messed up his life?

Addiction doesn't merely boil down to the tangible chemicals we digest. Addiction is the result of the emotional elements at play that generate the need for the vice in question. We tend to attach ourselves to certain behaviors because of the role access to those vices has in making us feel better.

Porn isn't something you inhale and exhale or consume through a bottle at your local bar. But it can have the same stronghold on your mental and emotional facilities and is just as accessible. We should be concerned about porn addiction because technology has made it one of the easier vices to get our hands on. Gambling requires a partner willing to make a wager. Alcohol requires money. Drugs require someone with the know-how to create them. Porn can be accessed with the touch of a finger.

The part that makes porn addiction so scary, and presumably, the reason Crews felt the need to speak up, is how easily it can sneak up on a person. In a society that does not consider porn addiction to be a real thing, how does someone address the issue or even know when it has become a problem worth addressing?

It isn't just that porn can be damaging to a person's life. The real talking point is that people addicted to porn might not even realize it has become a problem. It is hard to notice what the damage actually looks like, and as Crews said in his series of Facebook videos, life can get "really messed up" by the time that damage is clear.

How do you know you're addicted to porn?

I do not believe something is an addiction merely because you do it a lot. Listening to video game music every day (as I do) doesn't make it an addiction. Something is an addiction when it interferes with your daily life. Porn can play such a prominent role in one's daily existence that it gets in the way of things he or she wants to do in life. And with today's technology, an addict can get his or her porn fix in spades.

I readily admit that my years as a young adult (or should I say a younger adult) was plagued by porn addiction. Going through a day without watching porn was a challenge. It might have been different if I were living in the age of label-less VHS tapes or hiding magazines under sofa cushions. Feeding into and hiding a porn addiction would have been much more taxing. But living in an age of cable modems and entry guarded by a promise to be over the age of 18 made my addiction easy to lose control over.

I got my introduction to a porn with a Kelly Monaco video; it took two days to download off of Kazaa. By the time I was entering college, porn wasn't just something I glanced at; it became a regular part of my day. I'd rather watch porn than text a friend, go outside or even go out on a date. Porn had a vital place in my life that I wasn't willing to let go of. I was hooked.

Socially, college is rough when you are the shy, boring type. Especially when you are the shy, boring type who hadn't been in a relationship or dated before college. You're surrounded by a ton of beautiful girls and guys who would prefer to talk about what they want to do with those girls rather than share notes before class. Porn became my escape, my substitute for something that was lacking in my life. I couldn't get those beautiful girls, so I settled for watching them. Porn did its job until it became the monster that took over my life.

There is said to be two stages in which one can tell porn really has a hold of them: escalation and desensitization. I reached a point where a Playboy model dancing in front of a backdrop escalated to watching two people performing sexual acts, which escalated to videos containing three or more people, too many moving parts and acts that looked more painful than pleasurable. Before you know it, so much graphic porn has been consumed that you're numb to it. I think back to the things I watched and am horrified by how normal it felt.

But it wasn't just pornography that was no longer enough for me. Real life, with real women, in real sexual relationships was no longer enough. I became the real-life Don Jon, "Nothin' else does it for me the same way."

That was when I knew I had a problem. That was when I realized there was this "regular" life I urged for but felt powerless in attaining. No one thinks an addiction to porn is damaging until you start watching your life take a detour on the way from point A to point B.

The sad part is I didn't know how to overcome it. That is the gloomy reality for anyone dealing with addiction. You cannot grow out of an addiction the way you grow out of playing with dolls or wearing backward caps. We can try all sorts of deterrents that can work for a day, but curbing years of a behavior doesn't happen in 24 hours.

Crews says that porn addiction has power when one doesn't acknowledge it and "put it out there." It's remarkably cliche, but true: Knowing there is a problem is the first step toward beating the problem itself. I didn't start the process of overcoming my addiction until I opened up to my friends and family.

Hey, you can't kill a monster until you can get it to come out of hiding, and the monster isn’t truly real until it finally walks on land. Typically celebrities say their piece and the world moves on. If Crews has it his way, sharing his personal story will be the start of the discussion no one knew was necessary. Or better yet, maybe it is the discussion no one was comfortable with having.