X-Rated Internet Addiction

Mark Searles is a family man, an insurance inspector, a devout Christian — and a recovering Internet porn addict.

"It's just you and the computer; there is no one to tell you no," Searles told CBS News science and technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg.

Searles says for nearly a year he would sneak onto his home computer and indulge his fantasies — for several hours at a time.

"What I'm doing I know is wrong, but it kind of pulls you in," he said. "When you become an addict, you forget everything else. All reasoning gets put way on the back burner."

But Searles' dirty little secret was exposed one day when his wife discovered some of the Web sites he'd been surfing.

"I was a combination of sad and angry and disappointed and hurt," Kim Searles said.

The world of pornography has clearly changed. Buying porn used to mean risking embarrassment. Today, porn is consumed in private, online, by an estimated 40 million Americans.

Addiction to Internet porn often isn't dealt with simply because nobody wants to talk about it — which means they often don't get help. But now, thanks to one group, people are starting to talk about it — in places like a church in Fort Wayne, Ind., over breakfast.

The gathering is called "porn and pancakes." Men come to get help for themselves and others, or just out of curiousity.

"We wanted to create a safe place where people can go to get help and realize they're not the only ones," said youth minister Craig Gross.

Gross founded a virtual ministry, xxxchurch.com. He takes his traveling road show to churches across the country. Using his skills as a pastor, along with some slick videos, Craig hammers home the ills of porn.

"We think that there's a world that's kinda gone astray when it comes to this industry and we wanna talk to you," Gross preaches.

Some people just want to head off problems before they start. At the church in Fort Wayne, two fathers brought their teenage sons.

"It's going to come into your life. If you don't think it will, you're just kidding yourself," said Jim Villers. "If you think it's not going to come into your kid's life, you're kidding yourself."

How common is it for your friends to be surfing porn online or on a cell phone?

"Oh, it's like every day," said Villers' son Skyler.

Ironically, people are seeking help online, at sites like one from the University of Texas. Another solution: Installing Internet monitoring software so someone you trust can keep track of the Web sites you visit.

Mark Searles didn't have high-tech help. He says his wife has helped him remain clean, and his son has already learned a lesson about how harmful Internet porn can be.

"It's very humbling to have a 9-year-old tell a 37-year-old man, 'Dad that's wrong.' Because even at nine years old, he knows that's bad," he says.

It's all part of bringing a difficult subject into the open.

  • Christine Lagorio

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