After years of struggling in isolation to overcome pornography, Chandler founded Relay—an app that helps people stay connected and accountable along the road to recovery. It makes it easy to find and maintain tight-knit support in a team-based environment. Chandler served a Spanish-speaking mission in New York City and graduated from Brigham Young University in Strategy and Computer Science.

Enter Chandler…

“It is not good for man to be alone.”

This is the first thing that God says about Adam (not speaking directly to Adam) after He created him, and God wasn’t just referring to Adam; this statement was meant as a general referendum on the state of mankind. It is not good for any of us to be alone — we were created to help each other, to work together and learn together through our time of probation.

Small wonder, then, that Satan’s ploys to draw us off the straight and narrow path are designed to isolate us. Pornography use is perhaps the most poignant example. It begins with simple curiosity, but the adversary immediately cements scintillation with a strong sense of shame, telling the user “You want this, but no one can ever know about it.” Pornography use is thereby linked to secrecy and isolation. As habits form, loneliness deepens and relationships deteriorate, and to cope with these negative feelings, the user turns right back to the short-term pleasure that continues to cause long-term pain.

Connection, the Antidote for Isolation

It’s a cycle of isolation. Isolation leads to loneliness, and to cope with that people use pornography, which causes shame, leading one to isolate oneself. (Note that you can replace the word “pornography” in that cycle with any unhealthy coping habit: binge eating, gambling, substance abuse, and more)

I know this because I’ve gone through it (if you haven’t yet, pause and listen to my story here on the Leading Saints podcast).

Statistically, either you or someone close to you, has gone through it too.

So how can you break this vicious cycle, especially for someone you love?

We have to come back to core principles: it is not good for man to be alone.

Connection — real, deep human connection, is the antidote to the poison of isolation.

Administering connection is not nearly as simple as injecting an antidote to a physical poison, however. The right type of connection is key, and I submit that a key element of that is peer connection.

Peer Connection

If you talk with someone who’s worked to overcome pornography habits for a long time, chances are they’ve tried to reach out to family and friends for help (or worse, been “caught” by family or friends), and found that these relationships are often harmed much more than they are helped by this connection. Parents and friends often overreact to the initial revelation of pornography use; they don’t know how to respond to a discussion about pornography, much less provide emotional support and help keep someone accountable in their recovery journey. Spouses are typically even less prepared — the emotional trauma caused by their partner’s pornography problem makes them perhaps the worst person to rely on for the raw honesty and deep connection needed to overcome compulsive habits.

Who else do they have, then? As a church leader, you may be a core part of the spiritual aspect of their recovery journey as they confess and forsake their sins. Yet your temporal and emotional availability are finite resources, and with so many sheep to care for in your flock, you may not, on your own, be able to provide the deep connection a person needs to recover.

To truly break free from the cycle of isolation, people need to work with peers — peers who understand their struggle and won’t judge them for it, peers who are removed enough from a person’s personal life that they can provide perspective without becoming emotionally involved.

With peers who have gone through the recovery journey, or even those who are currently on the path to recovery, one can reach the kind of openness and vulnerability that are needed to make real change.

Finding Peer Connection

That seems intuitive enough, but how can you enable someone to find peers and create those connections? Here are a few options, along with pros and cons of each, based on my personal experience.

The Church’s ARP Program  Pros:

  • Peers who share similar beliefs (LDS faith) can make deep connections more quickly
  • Working with peers who you may know from your local congregation can be a strong incentive for accountability

The Church’s ARP Program Cons:

  • Sometimes the ARP program lumps several types of struggles together, and the recovery process for different challenges (e.g. pornography habits and substance abuse) should often look very different, especially as pornography use is typically not a diagnosed “addiction”
  • Many people have an emotional barrier of shame that inhibits them from getting out and showing their face to others who may recognize them

Local 12-Step Groups (SA, SAA, SCA)  Pros:

  • These free local groups are often unaffiliated with any particular denomination, so one gets the benefit of a God-fearing group without the potential shame of encountering acquaintances
  • These groups are even more deeply rooted in the 12 Steps than ARP, and the 12-Step system can be very powerful for some people

Local 12-Step Groups (SA, SAA, SCA) Cons:

  • Getting out and showing oneself in person can still be hard, and logistics get especially difficult when a spouse or family is unaware of the struggle
  • Meeting once a week is typically not enough for deep connection and accountability

Group Therapy Pros:

  • These groups are led by trained professionals who can effectively address the heart of the issue for many individuals in recovery
  • Clinician-led programs often provide structure that ensures a positive group dynamic and an experience that leads to healthy habits

Group Therapy Cons:

  • These groups can be expensive and even cost-prohibitive
  • Therapists typically don’t have time to lead or moderate group chats, so engagement is often limited to one or two sessions a week

Digital Support Group Apps (Relay, for example) Pros:

  • These groups are available on-demand from the comfort of one’s home, eliminating the emotional and logistical difficulty of meeting in person, and providing 24/7 support
  • The app platform itself provides tools and education to help the person recover

Digital Support Group Apps  Cons:

  • Although less expensive than group therapy, these apps are not free, which can be a barrier for some (though many give scholarships for those in need)
  • Digital, asynchronous connection is not quite as powerful as in-person, live connection, although these apps are a great way to supplement in-person connection (or a great starting point if jumping into a face-to-face settings feels like too big of a leap)

I attended many groups during my recovery, and while I loved the connection I felt with other young men who were dealing with the same struggle, I felt that connection often evaporated between our group meeting sessions. We’d all come back each Thursday night and share how hard the week had been, yet our group text was silent throughout the week — no one reached out for help, myself included.

I came to realize that seeking help from others isn’t just as easy as sending a text message or making a phone call. Our own emotional barriers and Satan-induced shame keep us isolated, even when we know we have peers who understand us.

That realization led me to create a platform where I can tap a button to ask for help instead of finding a way to explain myself through text. (Again, listen to my Leading Saints podcast episode if you haven’t yet; there I explain a lot more of my recovery journey)

Our Role — Facilitate Connection

Ultimately, no matter where the peer connection comes from, it is critical that we help people in recovery find that connection. They are a small raft floating helplessly in a sea of isolation, and the shame grows ever deeper as their habits build on themselves. They need peers who can empathize with their challenges and enable vulnerability through love and understanding.

“It is not good for man to be alone”. Help those you serve find peer connection to end the cycle of isolation that perpetuates pornography habits.

How do we help leaders

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