I was like many of the people I met in my in-patient rehab facilities in that I was essentially forced to attend. My lawyer made it clear that it would look good to the judge if I entered a facility on my own and worked on my alcohol addiction.
I was so scared – because of the charges against me – I would have agreed to just about anything, but believed I was doing it only for a resumé the judge could look at approvingly. I thought I would first go to alcohol rehab and do what many call “Fake it ‘til ya make it” which means you pretend you’ve accepted your addiction and are committed to change. Once out, you go back to living the life you had before.
The funny thing was, I dropped my guard after a week or so, mostly at the urging of my therapist back in Maine, and quickly realized I was exactly the alcoholic they were talking about. The litmus tests for being an alcoholic helped me eventually accept I had a pornography addiction and needed tools to cope. While I hadn’t participated in the kind of behavior that got me in trouble since before the arrest, I knew that legal pornography was just as much a problem, if not bigger, than the things that got me in trouble with police. Going to jail for three months or three years was not going to help fix those issues.
You likely passed dozens of alcoholics today and probably know a handful. There may be a few drug addicts in your life since those problems are only getting worse and more public. While gambling and food addicts are rarer, there’s probably somebody you suspect has issues with it. With pornography, though, people go to such lengths to hide their use – even if it is rare and with completely legal material. People who aren’t alcoholics or gamblers, but casually enjoy both don’t go to any lengths to hide it. Nobody is casual about their porn use. It’s always a secret, even with the healthiest people.
I firmly believe there are differences between sex addicts and porn addicts. It may fall under the same category, but aside from chatting with those addicted to risky intercourse, I don’t have experience with it. Some of the stories are harrowing involving multiple partners daily in dangerous situations. I never felt the pull in that direction, thank God.
I’ve seen addiction defined 100 different ways, but if you’re asking yourself if you’re an addict, the answer is that you probably, at the minimum, have a problem. I enjoy casinos and I don’t mind dropping $30 or $40 on slot machines in an evening, but then I leave and this happens less than once a month. I love dessert, but probably have a second piece of cake less than 2% of the time. I’m a few pounds overweight, but that’s because I’ve been sitting in front of a computer the last year writing a book and neglecting exercise. I’ve never asked myself if I have a gambling or food addiction because I know the answer is no.
My test to determine if you’re an addict of anything is simple. Are you engaging in a behavior that you desperately want to stop, but can’t? Have you promised yourself you would stop, but always return? Does this behavior cause you shame and make you feel worse about yourself? Do you feel like you sometimes rationalize what you’re doing to yourself just before or during that behavior, but know you’re telling yourself lies? Do you immediately feel terrible after indulging in the behavior?
Whether it was porn, gambling, food, video games or anything else and we were having a one-on-one conversation and you answered yes to my questions, even one of them, I’d suggest you knew you had a problem and whether or not you wanted to label it an “addiction” is up to you. Addiction is one of those words that stirs up feelings in people. Go ahead and call it a problem. The important thing is you recognize there is an issue.
More important than recognizing there is an issue is deciding you’re going to get help for it. Depending on your addiction, there may be a lot of resources, or next to none. Don’t let that stop you. When I searched for a rehab that could help me with the porn addiction, I found only about 10 in the United States. There are more than 10 places to help with alcoholism within 30 miles of my house. If you really want to start recovering, regardless the addiction, there are resources. Of those 10, several would not take me because of pending legal charges. Some addictions just force you to dig a little deeper.
Are you a porn addict? That’s for you to decide. I wish I could create a little quiz and give you a score, but that would be less accurate than me flipping a coin. Only you can decide if your porn usage has risen to the level that it’s a problem, but if you’ve read this far, that probably says something.
If you’d like further resources from people far more educated than I on the issue, there is a Resource page I urge you to investigate.