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STRIVE: A 21-day detox from pornography
STRIVE: A 21-Day Detox from Porn,” an online video series featuring anti-pornography crusader and Catholic apologist Matt Fradd, will launch March 27. The series is written and hosted by Fradd and directed by Chris Cope of Cardinal Studios. STRIVE is for men who wish to break free from a porn addiction. Participants sign up at strive21.com to receive access to daily videos in which Fradd takes viewers on a step-by-step process of ridding their lives of pornography. He draws on his eight years of experience combating porn, explaining, “I know what works, and what doesn’t. I can help viewers begin down the path to lasting success.”
STRIVE participants are part of a community of men worldwide and have the opportunity to communicate with Fradd and other participants online. In addition to Fradd, videos feature the stories of those who have left the porn industry. He also presents men with a daily challenge to help them advance to a porn-free life. While this series is for men, he noted that he was developing a second series especially for women. Both are based on the same model as Cardinal Studios’ RISE challenge in 2018, featuring international Catholic speaker Chris Stefanick.
Fradd is from Australia and lives with his wife, Cameron, and their four children in Georgia. He hosts a podcast, “Pints With Aquinas,” and is author of the books “The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography” and “Does God Exist?” Fradd holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in philosophy from Holy Apostles College. In an interview with Our Sunday Visitor, he shared how his experience struggling with and later teaching against pornography brought about this program:
Our Sunday Visitor: Based on your experience, how big of a problem do you think pornography is in the United States?
Matt Fradd: Over the past eight years, I’ve spoken to as many as a million people on the topic. Everywhere I go it is a huge issue with the majority of people I encounter. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we all carry around with us a potential portable X-rated movie theater that can also be used to make phone calls. With the coming of the internet, porn has become affordable, accessible and anonymous. I call them the “3 A’s.”
I’m also hearing about an increasing number of young women addicted to porn, as well as children who at ages 8 to 12 are first getting exposed to it, and then going on to be regular consumers.
OSV: How harmful is it?
Fradd: Over the past 40 years there have been studies conducted by different branches of science on porn’s sociological, psychological and neurological effects on viewers. It previously was thought that for something to be addictive it had to be a substance that you put into your body. But we know from the DSM-5 [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition] that one of the five categories of addiction is natural addiction, like pathological gambling. Such behaviors can produce the same effect in the brain as a substance like alcohol.
Pornography elicits powerful neurotransmitters, called dopamine, in the brain that can lead to us getting addicted. Our brain gets overstimulated, and its reward center becomes numbed. In this state of atrophy our brain craves dopamine, which drives us to more pornography. But as our brain keeps craving dopamine, it craves a harder drug, by which I mean porn, which features deviant sexual behavior and unnatural fetishes.
The viewer suffers in a variety of ways, such as from anxiety, depression, isolation and marital breakdown. It can also affect us physically, making it more difficult for us to engage in and enjoy sexual relations with another person.
OSV: It’s not just Christians who are complaining about the effects of porn. Some in the secular world can see it is a problem.
Fradd: Yes. Science is catching up to what the Church has always proclaimed. You can see this on a variety of nonreligious websites exposing the harm of pornography, such as yourbrainonporn.com, operated by Gary Wilson, an atheist friend of mine.
We’ve also seen many celebrities come out against porn, such former porn star Pamela Anderson. Chris Rock and Terry Crews have spoken about its harmful effect in their lives. James Hetfield, the lead vocalist of Metallica, narrated an anti-pornography documentary.
OSV: You have publicly shared that you once had a pornography problem. Based on your personal experience, what are some steps people can take to break free?
Fradd: The first step is to expose it to the antiseptic life of truth. Bring your problem to a trusted friend to whom you can be accountable. Second, if you’re a Catholic, you can repent and go to the Sacrament of Confession and receive the graces that God offers. I would also recommend Catholics get the support of a good spiritual director.
I also know of many people who have benefitted from participating in a 12-step group, or receiving treatment from a certified sex addiction therapist. That can help you get to the root causes of the problem.
And I’d remind people that patient perseverance is necessary. The wounds didn’t occur overnight, and they’re not going to vanish overnight. Just because you have setbacks along the way doesn’t mean you have failed.
OSV: How did your life change once you had broken free of porn?
Fradd: In the beginning, I was white-knuckling it. It was very difficult, and the temptation was in the forefront of my mind. Over time, with the help of good friends and accountability, I didn’t have to constantly ward off the temptation. That led to a freedom, and I’m rarely tempted by porn today.
That doesn’t mean I won’t ever fall back into it. There’s no miracle cure, not even with STRIVE 21. But once we reach a point where we are healthy, we can understand and avoid those things that might trigger us to go down that road to a dark place.
OSV: How did you get the idea for STRIVE?
Fradd: I’ve had a weird job over the past eight years and have spoken more about porn more than probably anyone on the planet. STRIVE is the first time I’ve compiled all I know into one course that will put participants on the right track to recovery.
We make use of high-production videos — I like to joke that they’re so nice that it’s hard to believe they’ve been made by Catholics — and at the conclusion of the series we break participants into local or video small groups to help them with their ongoing recovery.
It’s really a unique program and the biggest thing of which I’ve ever been a part. I’m excited about it, and I think we’re going to see some great results.
Jim Graves writes from California.