Valley Voices

Forest Benedict: My path out of porn addiction — a therapist’s journey

My education in the “field” of sexual addiction began at age 12. Raised in a single-parent household, my mother was very protective. Yet, unbeknownst to her, a night at a friend’s house resulted in my first exposure to pornography.

This unexpected incident changed the course of my life for years to come.

I was a kind kid, excelling in school, service and scouting. I was also a prime candidate for addiction, burdened with multiple memories of pain that no child deserves to bear. My new-found interest in pornography first developed into a habit, growing gradually into a self-destructive force that bound me with secrecy and shame.

I mastered sneakiness. Like any addict, I was skilled at finding my “drug” and covering my tracks. My ability to hide my behavior was so perfected that when I finally told my mother about a dominating addiction that required professional treatment, she was shocked. I was 24 years old.

This marked a new path in my recovery journey. After checking into a treatment program and steadfastly applying what I learned, healing began. Opportunities to help others opened up. Discovering that sexual-addiction work was my life’s calling, I moved to Fresno, where I earned my master’s degree and became a therapist. My senior paper was entitled “Protecting Children from the Path of Pornography.”

After graduation, I became certified as a sexual addiction treatment provider and went on to work with a local outpatient treatment program called LifeSTAR of the Central Valley. Recently, I became licensed and was promoted to clinical director of the program, where I am honored to work with addicts, their partners and young people as they recover from pornography addiction and its detrimental effects.

I love the work I do. This is my dream job.

I am also passionate about changing the world we live in. Understanding the science of sexual addiction, I see pornography as a drug. Members of the younger generation has unprecedented access to pornography, and they are not only becoming addicted to it, but it is shaping their views of sexuality and the value of human life.

Dr. Jill Manning describes online sexual activity as a “hidden public health hazard,” and I am gravely concerned that the largest consumer of online pornography are adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. The average age of exposure is estimated to be 11 years old. I can state with certainty that as our children become more technologically savvy, this average age will only decrease.

My son accidentally accessed a pornographic video on our iPad at age 5.

My story has come full circle. I have not indulged in pornography in over 11 years. I long for that freedom for everyone. Once an addicted young person myself, I hope to be a voice for those who are silently struggling, yet too ashamed to speak up.

In light of the current pornography pandemic, we face both a serious challenge and a profound opportunity. May we all do our part in protecting the most vulnerable among us, knowing that the ripple effects will greatly improve the world our children inherit from us.

Consider these key points:

For these reasons, it is my mission to educate others, through both writing and speaking, about what can be done to protect children from pornography.

Here are some suggestions for all concerned adults: