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Mark Jorgensen Q&A: How Desert Solace Center Treats Sex Addiction

Residential Treatment Facility Open to Men 18 and Older from the Santa Clarita Valley or Anywhere Else Who are Affected by Pornography Addiction or Sex Addiction

By Stephen K. Peeples

Once underground, pornography has become a multi-billion-dollar aboveground business in the past half-century, and part of contemporary culture, for better or worse. In the past few decades, increasingly easy availability in print, home video, DVD and the Internet and have sped pornography’s spread.

In her May 2013 Wall St. Journal article “Online Pornography’s Effects, and a New Way to Fight Them,” columnist Holly Finn noted that “12 percent of websites are pornographic, and more than 40 million Americans are regular visitors, including 70 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds, who look at porn at least once a month.”


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While many men can take or leave viewing pictures or videos of other people having sex, for some, pornography can become an addiction. The associated addictive behavior, including denial, shame, guilt, withdrawal and more, can severely disrupt their own lives, and adversely affect their loved ones.

Fortunately for those men and their families, treatment for pornography addiction or sex addiction is also increasingly available, and the subject is being discussed more openly now than in years past.

Desert Solace Founded to Treat Pornography Addiction or Sex Addiction

Desert Solace logo

In her WSJ story, Finn referenced one such residential treatment facility, Desert Solace. Located in St. George, Utah, Desert Solace takes a spiritually based, multi-discipline approach to treating pornography addiction and sex addiction.

Part of that approach includes providing education about “pornography (addiction) as a brain disease (not moral failure),” Finn wrote.

“This is a tricky one, because one could read that statement to say the addict has no responsibility or accountability for his actions,” said Mark Jorgensen, Desert Solace co-founder (with his wife, Jerri Jorgensen, pictured below) and the center’s managing director. He is also a recovering pornography addict.

“Of course, addiction begins with a choice to indulge in a particular behavior or substance,” he said. “But as addiction takes hold, the actions of the addict become a function of the more primitive midbrain, which governs the primal instinct of survival, instead of the frontal cortex, which govern logic and decision-making.”

“I'm certainly no neuroscientist, but there's a great explanation online of what I'm talking about from one, Dr. Donald L. Hilton Jr., MD,” Jorgensen said. “Probably the best, simplest, layman's explanation of addiction (in general) as a brain disease is found in a documentary called ‘Pleasure Unwoven’ by Dr. Kevin McCauley.”

The concept of addiction as a brain disease factors into Desert Solace's therapy programs because the residential treatment center helps those addicted to pornography understand that recovery is only possible through healing the brain.

Residential Treatment Allows Time and Space for Healing the Mind, Body and Spirit

Mark and Jerri Jorgensen, founders of the Desert Solace residential treatment center for pornography addiction and sex addiction.“That's why we're such staunch proponents of residential treatment,” Jorgensen said. “By being in an environment that completely eliminates access to pornography, the brain has time to settle down and begin to heal. The addict can again learn to access the logical part of his brain to facilitate his actions and decision-making.

“Also, as the addict comes to understand that his addiction has indeed damaged his brain, he's able to let go of the belief that he just needs to try harder – along with (letting go of) the shame and frustration of repeated failure – and surrender to the therapeutic process,” he said. “That includes the spirituality inherent in the 12-Step program, which we believe is the foundation of true healing.”

Addiction is never the primary problem in the addict, Jorgensen noted.

“The addict is using addiction, whether it is to a substance or a behavior, to hide from some deeper pain,” he said.

In the Q&A that follows, Jorgensen candidly talks about his own pornography addiction and recovery, and how his experience led him to co-found Desert Solace to help others. He provides more details about how Desert Solace’s programs work, and how treatment there provides men addicted to pornography ways to deal with their deeper issues, and get back to a healthy, porn-free life.

* * * * *

What is Desert Solace?

Stephen K. Peeples: Let’s take it from the top. When people ask what Desert Solace is and does, how do you describe it?

Mark Jorgensen: Desert Solace is a residential treatment facility for men 18 and over who suffer from pornography addiction and sex addiction, exclusively. We are also licensed for drug addiction treatment, but we only treat that in the context of coexisting addiction, which is very common. Our primary focus is sex addiction treatment.

Peeples: How does Desert Solace carry out its mission?

Jorgensen: Our mission is to treat pornography addiction and sex addiction and to help those who suffer from it obtain complete recovery. We do that through a holistic approach of therapy, nutrition, physical activity, physical fitness and spiritual connection.

Jorgensen’s Battle with Pornography Addiction

Peeples: Tell us how Desert Solace came to be – how your personal experience prompted you to help others with the same issues you had.

Jorgensen: My personal recovery journey culminated in a residential sex addiction treatment facility, which I thought was a great experience. It really helped me a lot. But there were some pieces missing,

I felt, just in my situation, that I wanted something (closer to) my value system and specific to my needs and my issues, and something more geographically convenient.

I went to Mississippi, not the most convenient place for me, so I wanted something out west. I live in what I think is one of the most beautiful areas in the country, in the red hills of southern Utah, and I think that topography and scenery is very conducive to a healing environment, so I wanted to be able to set something up there.

RELATED: Helping a Husband Recover from Pornography Addiction

In her special guest commentrary for KHTS, Desert Solace cofounder Jerri Jorgensen provided a wife's perspective on her husband's pornography addiction and recovery, and details how they decided to go very public about it by opening the certified residential treatment center to help other porn-addicted men recover. Click the headline above for her side of the story.

Pornography Taboo in Mormon Culture

Peeples: You grew up in Utah, a conservative background, a Mormon background. Isn’t pornography a taboo?

Jorgensen: It is. It’s certainly something that’s not talked about, but very prevalent.

Certainly, Mormon men are men, first and foremost, and have the same biology, the same drives. But the nature of the culture is such that it’s not talked about much. I don’t mean to disparage any of my upbringing or my background, because in a lot of ways, it’s very healthy and a very, very enriching environment. But pornography or sex addiction is a subject that’s just not talked about openly.

So when someone’s involved in viewing pornography and sexually acting out in a way that is outside the parameters of what the upbringing has taught them, it does create a feeling of shame and a disconnect from what they have been taught and know to be the appropriate boundaries of behavior.

They’re caught in that paradox of acting outside of the guidelines they believe in, yet not having a forum to discuss it openly and candidly with someone to get help, and be able to actually address the underlying issues that really drive those behaviors in the first place.

Underlying Triggers of Pornography and Sex Addiction

Peeples: What are some of the underlying issues your clients discuss?

Jorgensen: The underlying issues are like any other addiction. Addiction, in one sense, is the same – addiction is never the primary problem in the addict. The addict is using addiction, whether it is to a substance or behavior, to hide from deeper pain.

Often it’s a singular, traumatic event in his past that he just cannot face and doesn’t want to deal with, like sexual child abuse as a child. Or there could just be normal, everyday stresses that are hard to handle. So they turn to something to help them escape that pain, whether it be checking out or escaping through chemical means or through sexual fantasy. The goal is the same: to escape from the stresses of life.

I think no one’s without problems, and a healthy person has healthy ways of dealing with them, or they’ll reach out to their personal connections, to family and friends. They’ll each have their spiritual connections, they’ll exercise, they’ll do something to deal with stress and challenges in life. An unhealthy person, an addict, goes to the addiction and deals with their stresses in an unhealthy way.

First Exposure to Porn at Age 11-12

Peeples: Back to your journey. At what point did you first encounter pornography and what effect did it have on you?

Jorgensen: I was very young, like probably 11, 12, which is very common. The effect – well, it was obviously very, “Wow, look at this!” and very tantalizing and seductive in the sense that this is a taboo thing. So (it had) that adrenaline rush, the illicit nature of it, based on my value system and my natural curiosities. I was immediately hooked and wanted to see more.

And of course, this was done very clandestinely. Pornography was not openly available and certainly not something that I viewed openly. It was done secretly and very behind-the-scenes, as occasions would permit.

And I think when it really took off was with the advent of the Internet, and the instant availability. I think that’s really why this has become such a rampant addiction – it’s because it is so accessible and so easily available, and so anonymously and so affordably available. That wasn’t the case when I was first exposed to it.

Leading a Double Life through Two Marriages

Peeples: You went on to graduate from Brigham Young, built a booming retail music business, got married, had eight kids, but behind the scenes all this time you were leading a double life, right?

Jorgensen: Well, there’s a little more to that story. I did graduate from Brigham Young and was married, and part of that (time was leading a) double life – I think that’s well put. The eight kids are actually from two marriages. My first marriage produced three kids, and that marriage dissolved because of the addiction, though not directly. That goes back to what we talked about earlier, that shame and not being able to talk about it.

I tried to talk about it with my first wife, just brought up the subject in a very roundabout way. And I said, “Do you know what I’m talking about here?” She goes, “Yeah, I think so,” and quickly changed the subject. That’s really the only conversation we ever had, because she didn’t want to talk about it.

But the same symptoms were there, and those symptoms of being disconnected from myself and disconnected from my family and my wife, certainly ultimately proved the demise of the marriage. So even though they weren’t the direct cause, the behaviors and attitudes I held contributed to the breakup of the marriage.

Then I subsequently remarried, and the other five kids are actually step-kids who I claim as my own. In this marriage, Jerri and I did face this addiction squarely and we did talk about it. That’s where my recovery journey took place, in the context of this marriage, with my wife’s support.

The Double Life Exposed, and Getting Help

Peeples: You and Jerri married in fall 1999. At what point did you and she first either realize or discuss the legacy problem you had?

Jorgensen: First time I mentioned it was maybe five years into the marriage. I said, “Hey, once in a while I’ll look at this,” and she said, “Well, okay. I don’t like that, so just stop it.”

In her mind, that settled the issue. She told me to stop it and she expected me to do it. Of course, by then, as an addiction, it’s not that simple, so that drove it even deeper into secrecy.

Three or four years later my life came crashing down, statistically, financially.

The mask I’d been holding to the world, that I was okay and not suffering from this, was that I was a successful businessman, with things and toys and prestige and status in various circles. That enabled me to push back the addiction and think, “Hey, I’m okay because look at me, everything else is going okay.”

But when all that dissolved and fell away, and I was left with nothing but myself, I had to face my addiction.

And I did that with the help of a friend who had worked in a lay-clergy capacity within the Mormon Church with many other men suffering from this. He guessed what was going on with me and correctly assumed what was happening. So he asked me directly, “Hey, what’s going on?” and strongly recommended I do something about it. That’s when I was willing to face it squarely and realized I had to do something.

Peeples: After Jerri found out you were still viewing pornography, she could have left, but she made the decision to stick with you. What does that mean to you?

Jorgensen: It means a lot, obviously. I’m very moved by it. She became educated about it and understood that an addiction is not as simple as just stopping it or summoning more willpower to stop it. We took some sex addiction classes, became educated on the subject, and she set some boundaries with me: “Yes, I will stay here, but under the condition that you get help, get treatment, and are in recovery.” Of course, I agreed to that, and she held to her word on her end.

Creating Desert Solace to Help Other Men Addicted to Pornography

Desert Solace residential treatment center for pornography addiction and sex addictionPeeples: So as a couple you decided opening your own residential recovery/treatment center was the way to go, and opened in summer 2012.

Jorgensen: We started putting the pieces into place about a year before that. It took about a year to get licensing, a facility, staff, (physicians) and all that we needed. Our first clients entered the facility in July 2012. We just had the anniversary of our first client.

Peeples: How many clients did you work with in the first year, and what do you figure your success rate is?

Jorgensen: Our facility is only licensed for 10 beds, so we’re small. We started out with just two (clients). We said we would start when we had three, we had three lined up, and one actually dropped out, but the other two were on their way and committed, so I said, “Well, let’s go ahead and start with two.” So we went to work and they got good treatment.

In the first year, we treated dozens of men, ranging in age from 18 to 62. They have come from California, Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Minnesota, Washington, Idaho and Utah.

As far as I know, everyone who has been through it has been successful in his recovery to one degree or another. Some still have setbacks once in a while, but as much as I am able to stay in touch with them, as much as they’re involved in our aftercare program, they seem to be doing well, certainly pointed in the right direction.

How it Works: Desert Solace Programs and Therapists

Peeples: Let’s say someone who has a pornography addiction or sex addiction problem wants to reach out to you. What’s his first step? How does he ask you for help? How does it work?

Jorgensen: There’s no master plan or anything, they just come when they’re ready. It’s a rolling enrollment. We have an intake procedure. We have a lot of forms they fill out. We take a complete history – their medical, psychological, and sexual history ­– and try to get as much background information as we can.

Then they’re set up with a primary therapist who they’ll work with one-on-one, and they’re involved in daily group therapy. We also have other experiential therapy. We’re on five acres with horse corrals, so we do equine therapy once a week. That’s always very effective, and it’s very fascinating to watch that process work.

Peeples: Tell us about Desert Solace’s team of therapists.

Jorgensen: We have two licensed therapists, led by Stan Sullivan, a CSAT, or certified sex addiction therapist. He has specialized training in that particular addiction.

One of our therapists has had a lot of training in art therapy and music therapy.

They’re involved with more traditional methods, too, like 12-Step programs. Our clients go to a 12-Step meeting every day, and we believe that’s an important foundation to long-term recovery. The 12-Step program is based on the one developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, which is a spiritually based program. We think that’s really important.

The majority of our clients are LDS, because (Utah) is where we are, and that’s who is aware of us, but we’re certainly not limited. We’re open to all. But we do advise that there be a spiritual connection in recovery, whatever that means to them.

As far as an after-care program, we make sure they’re set up with a local therapist and seeing that therapist as often as practical and needed, and continue on their regular 12-Step meetings.

We also provide them with materials we use as part of the curriculum in the program. The materials are designed to give the (recovering) clients daily tasks, to take them four months into the future and establish good patterns of behavior, and healthy personal and sexual habits.

Pornography Addiction is Not the Problem — It’s a Symptom

As I said earlier, the addiction is not the problem, it’s a symptom. We help our clients sort that out and address that. We try to teach them: “Okay, stop doing it. Life’s still going to happen to you, and you need to learn to deal with it in a healthy way rather than the unhealthy way which has developed in your life.”

And by getting away to our facility at Desert Solace for 45 days or three months, being in an environment where they’re away from the stresses of life, away from the world, so to speak, our clients are able to focus on themselves and develop some of those healthy habits.

By learning these tools and methods to handle life in a more healthy way, they’ll hopefully be able to use them as they return to normal life, and maintain them the rest of their lives.

* * * * *

For more information about Desert Solace, call Jorgensen at 435-817-1351 or visit www.desertsolace.com.


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Mark Jorgensen Q&A: How Desert Solace Center Treats Sex Addiction


Article: Mark Jorgensen Q&A: How Desert Solace Center Treats Sex Addiction
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Stephen Peeples