When the negative consequences of porn start knocking louder and louder on the porn user’s consciousness, they can be enough to convince and motivate him to make permanent changes. He recognizes the prob­lems and takes steps to get porn out of his life forever. But this reaction isn’t typical for most of the habitual porn users and former porn users we know. They tell us that their initial response when problems started surfacing was to ignore them and pretend nothing was wrong.

It’s common to react to porn problems the same way smokers might react when they realize cigarettes are causing breathing and sleeping problems, or creating barriers with friends and lovers. No matter what it is, we don’t want to believe that something we’ve relied on for personal pleasure and to energize us is in fact harming us in a significant way.

For example, Rob felt miserable the day his young daughter and wife came home from shopping in the middle of the day and discovered his hard-core porn on the computer. But he didn’t blame his porn use for the problem. Instead he got upset with himself for having been careless.

Rob said, “That incident should have made it crystal clear to me that I had a serious porn problem. But at the time I didn’t see what I was doing as anything out of the ordinary. I was working so hard, bringing in good money, and felt I was entitled to use it. I rationalized that I needed it because I had a strong sex drive. And I figured I could take care of every­thing by hiding my porn better and being more careful next time.”

Porn users often employ a number of strategies to avoid looking at the fact that they may have a serious porn problem. They may take a break from using porn for a while, hoping things will cool down and problems will go away. They may change how they access porn and what type of porn they use. When confronted by others, they may deny using porn, refuse to talk about it, or promise never to do it again. Or they may go on the offensive and verbally attack or blame others who call their at­tention to the serious problems that are going on.

The strategies and self-talk porn users employ to ignore or avoid serious consequences are often effective in buying time. They allow a porn user to continue with his relationship with porn without being constantly reminded that something is wrong. But these strategies don’t permanently fix anything, and in time the serious consequences will in­evitably grow, multiply, and exacerbate each other. One type of conse­quence from porn use can inflame another. For example, a long-term sex problem in a relationship can lead to increased isolation and depression. And the need for more intense graphic stimulation can lead to accessing illegal porn or engaging in other criminal behavior.

This is what happened to Rob. He was eventually arrested and jailed for accessing child pornography on his computer. Rob told us, “My porn habit progressed to include downloading pictures of teens having sex. I kept telling myself I would never get caught. I justified my interests saying the girls looked over sixteen years old. Because I never addressed my porn problem, it ended up costing me everything I cherished. I lost my lovely wife, my two beautiful kids, a well-paying job, and a big, beau­tiful house. As clever as I thought I was, I never saw it coming.”

When we ignore serious problems and refuse to deal with them di­rectly, they will invariably fester and build over time. And if we don’t address them, the danger to ourselves and the people who care about us will only get worse.