Hi all, sorry for never posting before and starting with a question as huge as this, but I’ve been lurking here a while and ultimately decided that this forum was the best place to put my question.
First, I’d like to give some background. I’m a 17-year old male and devout Catholic, raised in the faith. I suffer from social anxiety disorder and minor depression, and see a (non-Catholic but respectful of my faith) psychotherapist over these issues. And with that out of the way, I would like to bring up the crux of this post: I think I am addicted to masturbation.
I discovered masturbation at an early age, but only started to do it regularly and frequently about four years ago. Three years ago I found out that it was a mortal sin, and for the last three years I have sincerely been trying to stop masturbating with all my energy. About a year-6 months ago I was probably at my peak in terms of breaking free of this sin: I could easily go 5-10 days without masturbating and sometimes as much as over 20 days. About 6-8 months ago I experienced a serious relapse, continuing to today: I could not (and can not) go more than three days without masturbating the vast majority of the time, and the longest I can remember for the whole past couple months is about 8 days, a period of purity which took significant psychological effort and took advantage of infrequent but useful goings-on in my life, namely travelling. I don’t know what caused this relapse, but I suspect it is a combination of schedule changes, a (misguided) sense of entitlement and desire for relaxation after the school year ended, and a bout of worsened depression I suffered for a couple of months. Ever since I found out masturbation was a mortal sin I have tried to attend Confession regularly (between once a week and once per two months depending on how I am doing and my schedule), but do not have a regular confessor or spiritual director, in part because of my age and in part because of the practices of the Church I go to to confess. I have tried many, many, many methods to avoid masturbation which I learned through lurking here and lurking and participating on other forums, reading online, and reading books. Here is a (probably incomplete) list of methods I’ve tried that did not work:
-Use a Web Filter/Avoid Porn: This method has actually worked pretty well in terms of avoiding porn, which while I occasionally fall into and used to watch frequently I have been able to consistently avoid for a matter of months even during my relapse. The trouble is that my masturbation is not correlated with watching porn - I can and do masturbate just as easily based on imagination or memories as I can watching porn.
-Get a Spiritual Director: Because of my age I can’t get a Spiritual Director, at least not in my area.
-Avoid Situations Where you Masturbate: Easier said than done in my case. Masturbation for me has always been correlated with two necessary events of the day: showering and bedtime. Before my relapse I was able to avoid temptation to masturbate in the shower fairly well and eliminate it all together at bed, but now I very often fall prey to sin in at least one of these situations every couple of days.
-Use “tricks” to stop masturbating in these situations (e.g. showering in cold water): All of the ones I’ve tried either disrupt the actual function of the situation too much to be useful or don’t work.
-Pray before you enter situations where you know you’ll be tempted (or pray when tempted): This has always been a point of difficulty for me. Even before my relapse, more often or not when I tried this it just led to a larger period before I masturbated in the situation and then worse feelings of guilt after I did. Don’t get me wrong: prayer is an absolutely wonderful thing and was (and may still be) very helpful to breaking free during my better period, but this specific use of prayer has always led to more discomfort than comfort.
-Get a girlfriend (yes, somebody actually suggested this to me to help stop masturbating): Again, easier said than done for a high school boy with social anxiety. Plus the relationships in my school are often very sexual so I don’t know how much getting a gf would help me avoid sin per se rather than just replace masturbation with extramarital sex.
There are probably more but I forgot them. Anyway, the point is I’ve sincerely tried many ways to stop masturbating and (at least post-relapse) they simply haven’t helped enough. Recently I have begun to wonder whether it is appropriate to say (1) I am addicted to masturbation, and (2) this makes some of my masturbation not a mortal sin, not through it not being grave matter but by mitigating my ability to fully consent to masturbating. This is what I would like some answers from others on, because invariably I will not be able to judge myself fairly - either automatically saying it’s still a sin because of how I learned about it and the guilt I suffer from it, or automatically saying my responsibility has been mitigated because of the temptation to masturbate, so I’d like some input on this.