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Steps to Hell – Description of Steps an Addict’s Brain Goes Through as it Slips Toward Misbehavior

One of the young men I work with demonstrated a keen grasp on one of the most important elements of sexual addiction recovery that I teach.  I invited him to write up.  He did a fine job, and I posted his discussion below.  Also, I used my excellent skill with graphics (marker and paper and smart phone camera) to provide a diagram.

Chemical Scale

There is a scale that Maurice likes to use that looks like 90” of a circle, so that it starts in the upper left hand corner and gradually falls off to the lower right hand of the page. This scale is divided into 10 parts or phases; the 10 phases of addictive behavior. Basically it describes the process of how normal, rational, good people do really stupid things, like go in debt $15,000.00, lose a wife and kid, and destroy their temple marriage and blessings just to look at pornography.

The Scale ranges from 0-10 and lists how this process works out in the addicts head.

Level 0. This is normality. Here we think rationally, like normal human beings. The addict here thinks “I can’t believe that I’ve ever fallen for that, it’s so stupid and silly, I’m just fine without it.” and they really think and feel like they are, at least as long as they are in level 0.

Level 1. This phase is called “Strong negative feelings you don’t believe”, or the “chemical” phase. This is where the devil, his minions, tempters enter the picture. You see, Satan realizes that if we’re always thinking clearly and rationally we’d never lose our temple marriage for slutty pictures, so he’s found a way of sneak-attacking us. The ambush is usually so hidden, we don’t notice it, or even think ourselves humble as we begin to sip his drugged water.

Here is how it works: “You’re stupid”, he whispers, “You’re dumb”, “you’re worthless”, “you’re ugly”, “you’re tired”, “you’re weak”. Any of those sound familiar?

It’s called the Chemical phase, because as we begin to believe these negative emotional lies, our body begins to pour deviant chemicals into the mixture of our brain and we lay the seeds of our own undoing, even as we may think: “Look at how humble I am, I just realized that I’m stupid, arrogant, and ugly.” We say almost proud of our humility.

Level 2. This phase is “Strong negative feelings you do believe”, or the “feelings” phase. This is where we begin to believe the crafty lies of Satan and they begin to weigh us down. In my own experience I believe that these phrases or sentences that Satan whispers to us are carefully crafted and personalized to our own weaknesses and hardships. Satan knows us and carefully crafts his tempting to make us doubt, despair, disbelieve, become distracted and depressed.

The more we believe these lies, the heavier we become. The more we hate ourselves. The more pain we heap on our own backs. In fact, in between stages 2-3 is the “painful buildup”. We become increasingly lonely, depressed, dejected, disappointed, and life becomes every second more bleak.

We begin to ask, “how do I get out of this?”, which question leads us to level 3.

Level 3. This phase is the “Dude” phase, or the “thoughts” phase. It’s the “dude” phase, because usually this phase goes something like this: (imagine this conversation going on in your head),

“Man, I feel awful. I hate life. How do I feel better?”

“You know there is something you could do.”


“You remember that one time looked at that picture, [or that you hooked yourself up]?”

“Oh yeah. But I don’t want to do that.”

Which leads to level 4, the “Stupid conversation” level, or the “words” level.

“I don’t want to do that!”

“But you want to feel better, don’t you?”

“Yeah. But…But…But…”

“But…it’s only once. Just once more won’t hurt. You can quit after this time I promise you. It’s better to do it now and get it over faster…”

The list goes on and on. Ask any addict, and they will be all too familiar with this conversation. If they are open, they’ll probably even laugh and say, “That’s so true! How do you know?”

It’s universality is because even though we’re all so different, Satan has found a technique that works on basically everyone who lets their guard down, and by the time they realize it, it’s too late.

This stupid conversation almost always leads to level 5, the “I Give Up Moment”, or “Action” phase.

We’re too far along to fight any more, there are too many deviant chemicals swimming around in our head to think straight anymore; “Forget it! I don’t care anymore”. And the addicts remains just that.

The reason an addict who seems like a “normal”, good person will give up so much for a stupid and silly addiction is because that he gives in not when he’s at level 0 and rationally thinking, but when he’s at level 5 and can’t think at all because of the chemicals swimming around his head.

I’m not sure what levels 6-10 are, Maurice just said they aren’t really important, because by level 5 you’ve made up your mind and there is no going back.

So in review:

Level 1: The “Strong Negative Feelings which I Don’t Believe” or “Chemical” phase.

Level 2: The “Strong Negative Feelings which I Do Believe” or “Feelings” phase. This begins the “painful build-up.”

Level 3: The “Dude” or “Thoughts” phase. Here is the “Offer for Relief”.

Level 4: The “Stupid Conversation” or “Words” phase. This is the battle of conscience and chemical. The latter almost always wins.

Level 5: The “I Give Up Moment” or “Action” phase.

The problem with men in this whole process is that we naturally can and do disconnect from our emotions. We can choose to ignore our feelings, so that phases 1 and 2 can happen unnoticed and before we realize we’re under attack, the battle is half lost; we’ve already emotionally decided what we’re going to do.

Overcoming addiction, and becoming a true man in general requires that we learn to connect with and recognize our emotions.

We are told to bridle our passions, which like bridling a horse means not killing the horse, or letting it do whatever it wants, but learning enough about the horse to know how to lead and guide it so that you can have a powerful friend and ally in your battles.

Men and emotions have an intricate relationship. Men are, by nature and instinct, the protectors and the providers, which means we need to have the ability to separate our emotions from our thoughts sometimes.

As Protectors, we need to be able to kill Lamanites on Saturday and teach Priesthood on Sunday and not have a guilty conscience.

Like Dragons Did They Fight Book Cover

As Providers we sometimes have to do jobs we don’t enjoy to be able to provide for our families. “Shutting-down” emotionally can be a powerful tool, but it also lays the key for our own destruction if we don’t know when to power-on and when to power-off our emotions.

As you can see, L.R. did an excellent job of describing this dynamic.  He gave me permission to post this and to give his name, but I will withhold.  At least those who know him will be able to give him credit.

To learn more about the Chemical Scale and other principles taught in our addiction recovery programs, get a free ebook copy of Like Dragons Did They Fight.

For more detail on how we train men to overcome sexual addictions, visit Sons of Healman (for young men) and Men of Moroni (for men).

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