By Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., SATP, CSAT, Integrity Counseling Services

John came into treatment for pornography addiction feeling very discouraged. He had struggled with it for years. Because of the deep shame he felt, John tried to kick the addiction on his own but with no luck. He was feeling completely helpless. In order for John to succeed in recovery, he needed to switch from feeling helpless to feeling powerless. While these words may seem synonymous, they are completely different.

When a person feels helpless, he has little hope for a better future. He feels as if he’s stuck in his current situation forever. There is no help out there for him. It’s not hard to see how someone in this mindset could easily give up. This is where John was.  He didn’t believe he could overcome his addiction. He even began to believe he would never be able to live without porn.

A person who feels powerless can have great hope for the future. This is because, while he realizes he doesn’t have the tools to fight this battle on his own, there are others who can help him win the battle. He is aware that there are many valuable resources available to him, and he uses them. Addiction can be viewed as an army that the addict must defeat. However, as a lone soldier, he cannot defeat that army on his own. He is powerless. However, when he brings in his own army (therapist, support group, sponsor, etc.), he has the power to defeat that army. He is not helpless.

For John, changing from helpless to powerless began when he started attending a 12-step group. By immersing himself in the recovery lifestyle, he began to truly understand what being powerless meant and how powerful that was. He no longer felt alone in his fight. He was able to find his army to help him fight his addiction. In his group, he found several accountability partners with whom he checked in daily. After a few months John found a sponsor to help him work through the twelve steps. He then found a therapist to help him heal from the emotional wounds that he had been using pornography to self-medicate. He also found a spiritual director to help him grow in his relationship with God. Through admitting his powerlessness, John was able to amass the resources to recover from his addiction. Because of this, he no longer felt helpless. Being powerless actually left him feeling powerful because he knew he was not fighting his addiction alone.

If you are feeling helpless in your struggle with pornography, I want to challenge you to replace that label with powerless. This can help give you the strength to seek out the resources needed for healthy recovery. It can give you hope for a brighter future without pornography. Whenever you feel the urge to act out, you will be reaching out to your army to fight the battle and win! Here is where being powerless can leave you feeling powerful.