Logged on, locked in: Recovering from a pornography addiction
It's a problem so dark and hidden, many don't realize it's there.
The porn industry brings in billion of dollars every year.
Some refer to it as an epidemic. Users can find it faster, cheaper and easier than drugs or alcohol.
Sex therapists say the porn industry has changed dramatically in the last several years.
Now, instead of buying a magazine or DVD anyone can access porn instantly on the internet.
Experts say the possibilities are endless and that's what keeps bringing viewers back.
Tray Lovvorn appeared to those around him as the All-American Man.
He was the husband to a beautiful wife.
The father of four and a preacher.
It almost doesn't fit that he had a dirty little secret.
"At 8 years old what nobody knew was that I was exposed to a stash of pornography," Lovvorn said.
For 2 decades, Lovvorn was an expert at wearing a mask.
He hid his double life of porn addiction and, eventually, infidelity.
"I thought well I'm a believer. I've got to be a good witness so I've got to keep that 'hush, hush'," he said.
Until his wife found out.
Melody Lovvorn was blindsided.
"It broke up our family," Melody said. "It wasn't necessarily what he did. It was the lies and the deception and all those things were hard to get over."
Therapists say that news can have lasting affects on the spouse.
After 11 years, the marriage ended.
Melody took the children and left.
"Really why was he running to other women and pornography when I was so readily available," Melody said.
Tray says it wasn't that Melody didn't satisfy him.
The video and images had become his safe place.
"For me it was when life got stressful again, when life was coming at me with more than I can handle I reverted back to the medicine that I coped with life with. That's what made me feel better," Tray said.
What kept him coming back was the high.
Unlike drugs, watching porn delivers a natural sensation.
"Oxytocin is that chemical that makes us feel calm and relaxed," Dr. Jim Meginley, a local sex therapist and couple's counselor, said. "That twilight kind of dreamy or sleepy state."
Oxytocin creates a sense of attachment between partners.
While many counselors and therapists do not call obsessive porn use an addiction, Dr. Meginley does.
He believes the internet fuels the dependency.
"Many of my clients have said, 'I don't look at last week's pornography'. So there's this constantly searching for new images, new stimulation, new fantasy, new material," Dr. Meginley said.
It's a problem that gets little attention.
Especially, here in the South.
Research by Undone Redone (Tray's nonprofit organization) claims as many as 70 percent of church-goers watch porn and one in every 6 youth pastors is a regular too.
"One of the problems about being in the buckle of the Bible belt is there is a lot of shame and a lot of closed secrecy related to our sexuality," Dr. Meginley explained.
He says that's why many never get help.
"It's an epidemic, if not a pandemic in our culture," Tray said.
When Tray hit bottom, his obsession stripped him of everything and everyone he cared about.
"I got to a place where I realized I was worth recovery. That I was worth more than for this small story," Tray said.
Today, Tray and Melody have reconciled and remarried after 6 years of divorce.
Now, together, they've found a way to turn their heartache into hope and healing for others.
They started a non-profit and they counsel other couples.
Tray says it's not about putting the past behind them but a reminder of where he was and where he never wants to be again.
"Life is still hard in certain places now and in helping others couples it keeps it fresh, really, with what has happened," Tray said.
Tray and Melody's non-profit organization, Undone Redone, offers counseling services as well as a number of other services.
They teach classes to parents on how to protect children from accessing pornography online.
They also hold classes in churches to help congregations address the issue of porn.
You can find their information here.
Dr. Meginley is the owner of Alternative Counseling Associates in Chattanooga.
He has worked on more than 60,000 cases here.
More information on his services can be found here.