One of the interesting things that has come out of promoting my book is finding out what people have the most questions about when it comes to pornography addiction in general. Aside from what the signs of porn addiction are, which you can read about HERE, the number one question I get is “What should I do if I think a friend or family member is addicted?”
There are a lot of ways to answer this. I can go brutally honest or optimistically hopeful. I can go hardcore treatment based or I can go more holistic. I’m not a doctor and have no certificates on my wall, so I feel a little under-qualified to suggest anything, but what I can do is flip the question to one I have more expertise: “What could people have done to help me?” This is also one of the biggest questions I get in interviews.
At The Critical Stage
In the last six-to-eight months of my addiction, prior to being arrested for encouraging a teenager to perform a sex act on a webcam, I had reached a critical point and I don’t think anything short of death or a massive non-traditional, life-shaking disruption was going to save me. Thankfully, the latter came at the hands of the Maine State Police.
Odds are, you’re not dealing with somebody who is healthy in many aspects of their life, as I was not. My drinking was at an all-time high, I was sleeping less than four hours most nights and I had abandoned the medicine I take to help control my bipolar disorder.
Most of my poor decision making at the end was as a result of the stress and anxiety caused by my professional endeavors collapsing. Despite my world collapsing on the day I was arrested, when I was contacted by one of my company’s co-owners (I only owned about a quarter but ran day-to-day operations) and told I was fired, it felt like a weight off my shoulders. I wonder if I would have had the same outcome had I left the company a year earlier.
If you think you’ve got somebody who is at the critical stage, where lives are going to be altered if they continue on the path they are, I would urge you to speak to other people close to the addict. Find out if they support your theory that they are in the end-stages before something horrible happens. If so, seek out professional help to learn what role you can, or should, play. Odds are, the addict is not at a place they are going to be receptive.
Just simply be there for them. Encourage and arrange healthier activities away from porn without preaching. Let them know that you are there for them. If, and when, they either seek help or hit rock bottom, they’re going to need someone there. Assure them you’re always there for them.
When I crashed, I knew who was there for me because they’d always made it known. That was probably the biggest thing that has kept me going during recovery.
In The Ongoing Stages
If you’re using heroin or meth, there’s not much of a question if you have a problem. But for something like porn, you’re not causing the kind of obvious physical havoc on your body that occurs with drugs, alcohol or eating disorders. It’s more like gambling or video game addiction. It doesn’t rot your teeth, cause you to lose (or gain) a ton of weight and is fairly easy to hide, but the addiction process is still rotting the mind.
I’m not going to get into it because it’s not that dramatic, but I had a couple of close calls with both myself and others when it came to reckless behavior between the ages of 15 and 25. Witnessing or participating in close calls largely scared me straight. I stopped driving recklessly, putting chemicals into my body and made a few other behavioral and lifestyle changes because I saw what happened. I experienced consequences.
When I nursed my porn addiction over two decades, there was never consequences aside from a stray girlfriend here or there upset that I had a Playboy magazine. In this world of “Clear Browser History” it’s not hard to hide how much porn is consumed.
During this stage, when I didn’t know I had a problem because I didn’t know porn addiction was a thing, I think that some kind of a scare, or at least the recognition of consequences would have gone a long way.
I wrote my book for the person who was like me during the ongoing phase. It’s not preachy, it’s not full of statistics. It’s designed to be a story like any other and you can draw from it what you need when it comes to your situation. Just knowing that there were other white collar, up-and-coming professionals like me who struggled with watching too much porn…and that they suffered grave consequences from their actions may have had some effect on me.
I think in this phase, there is the possibility of having an honest discussion about pornography and its use. I wouldn’t point fingers, accuse anybody of being an addict or suggest they get professional help early in that conversation, though. This is just a chance to plant seeds of knowledge.
Recovery is largely about acceptance on the addict’s part. Acceptance they have an addiction, acceptance there is pain that needs to be addressed behind that addiction and acceptance that they need to seek help to deal with both the addiction and the pain (and at this point, that may be the exact same treatment strategy). You can’t accept any of it for them, but you can create an environment of support where they know they have someone in their corner while they (hopefully) accept those things.
In the early stages
Odds are, if your friend or family member is in the early stages of pornography addiction, you have no idea. You can look for little signs, but are you really going to be hyper-vigilant with everyone you know? It’s like trying to figure out when someone who drinks is developing a problem. Once it’s a problem, you can identify it, but it’s hard to get there until there are signs.
I’m going to address this in a future blog, but I believe that the only thing we can do as a society is try to have people avoid the early stages by trying to understand the overall problem of pornography addiction. It needs to be part of every parent’s “don’t do this stuff” speech and should be addressed in health classes in schools.
There’s a reason I called my book “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About”. I’ll be talking more about the role I think we need to play with our youth in the near future, but suffice to say, it begins with talking about the problem. I never knew pornography addiction could be a problem. Might just knowing at 12 years old have made a difference?