In the Odyssey, he Greek hero Odysseus (or Ulysses, as he was known in Roman myths), Circe warns Odysseus regarding his trip. She says:
First you will come to the Sirens who enchant all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men’s bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men’s ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must lash the rope’s ends to the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you faster.
So Odysseus recounts this prophecy to his men, and they quickly reached the island of the Sirens for the wind blew favorably for them. However, it quickly calmed and the men went rowing. So Odysseus took a wheel of wax, cut it, kneaded it with the help of the sun, and plugged his men’s ears with it. They in turn tied Odysseus to the mast as he stood upright on the crosspiece. Upon coming within earshot, the Sirens started singing. Odysseus continues:
“‘Come here,’ they sang, ‘renowned Ulysses, honour to the Achaean name, and listen to our two voices. No one ever sailed past us without staying to hear the enchanting sweetness of our song- and he who listens will go on his way not only charmed, but wiser, for we know all the ills that the gods laid upon the Argives and Trojans before Troy, and can tell you everything that is going to happen over the whole world.’
“They sang these words most musically, and as I longed to hear them further I made by frowning to my men that they should set me free; but they quickened their stroke, and Eurylochus and Perimedes bound me with still stronger bonds till we had got out of hearing of the Sirens’ voices. Then my men took the wax from their ears and unbound me.” (Source)
And so it is also with pornography addiction. As Patrick Carnes states, “Addiction rests in delusion, denial and deception.” A friend of mine has a question that he loves to ask people, “How do you know that you are deceived?” Or, “How do people know that they are deceived?” The answer is simple, but think about it. How do we know if we have been deceived? Simply without some sort of help, we don’t. We don’t. We don’t have the slightest clue without something external to me whether that be a friend, a book, the Bible, or the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we don’t know if we have been disillusioned or deceived. Frankly, we don’t even know if we are in denial until some sort of crisis. And often and typically, if not always, the crisis is external to ourselves.
Yet, with all addictions, there is that voice that everyone hears that calls us back to our sin. Just as Israel kept wanting to return to Egypt, likewise an addict sometimes has in his/her mind that he/she wants to return back to Egypt. As the saying goes, “Better the devil I know than the one that I don’t.” However, addicts hear those voices as though those voices have the power and the pull of the Sirens, where, if we are not tied down to something, we will do everything we can to go there, even though we may not want to return. Patrick Carnes calls this the “Sweet Voice of Escape” from Paul Jefferson’s song where he sang, “Addiction is like the sweet voice of escape.” This internal conflict and contradiction is typical of us addicts.
So as I think through this story, there are three important things to consider.
- What are some things that I have been warned about that if I do or come close to doing, it’s already a lost cause, just as though Ulysses approached the Sirens without being tied down?
- A second thing is that pornography does offer something.
- Who do I have that will inform me of possible future traps, just as Odysseus had Circe?
What are some things that I have been warned about that if I do or come close to doing, it’s already a lost cause, just as though Ulysses approached the Sirens without being tied down? One thing that my wife and I have talked about is my looking at pictures on the internet as part of my job. Periodically, in creating something for work, I’ll go to the internet to pull Creative Commons pictures of a wide variety of things. However, when I do this, there is always the possibility of seeing something that will cause me to stumble for I can only control the words I type, not the results. And people are crafty and will post inappropriate pictures with the wrong safe-guard level tagging on purpose. So this is one thing that if I do without some immediate support (e.g., doing these type of searches with my wife, etc.), then I will be sucked in and will fall victim (though a victim may not be the best word as it was spawned by a poor choice) to the “Sirens” of sorts.
A second thing is that pornography does offer something. It is not something that is completely and utterly empty. There is something there. There is some sort of pull. Pornography promises the ultimate and best fix. Pornography promises control, power, and acceptance. Just as the Sirens promised knowledge, charm, wisdom, even divine knowledge and wisdom, likewise, pornography promises similar knowledge, charm, and wisdom, even divine knowledge and wisdom. For with the pornography addict, we control the destinies of what they are watching or seeing. We see things that only God should see. We are privy to intimate things. However, it is only a show. It is false. It is empty. It is vain. And eventually we learn that pornography, like other addictions, fail the fantasy, the promises.
So, as an addict, I need people around me. I need friends that will tie me down. I need advisers that will inform me of possible future traps, just as Odysseus had Circe. These people are people in my life that understand the addiction, that will call me to the rug, that will love me enough to speak truth in my life. These are people who will drop everything they are doing to help you. These are people who are committed to my success at overcoming this problem. For me, these are my friends from my therapy group, 12 step groups, old friends, and my wife. However, I must do my part as well. As much as I’d like to blame some of these guys for some of my failings, I cannot. I must do my part and call them when I need them. And I must also do my part and have more than one person to depend because having only one person to depend on is setting myself up for failure. Yet, while this process can take a long time, it doesn’t have to take that long. However, I must have these people in my life, because as an addict, I do not look ahead that often. So I need those people around me often. I need these people around me deep enough to really know me (something I struggle with greatly).