Six Years After Starting Recovery, I Make One of My Biggest Advances Toward Normalcy

I did something I’m actually going to brag about, that I never would have thought I would have done in a million years, but it felt like such a step forward, I’ve been meaning to come here and write about it to show people just how far you move away from mistakes you made and how you don’t need to hide from who you are, no matter what has happened.

As many of you know, my uncle died about a week ago. He was one of those guys who was the glue in any group he was a part of, be it our family, his friends or his professional life. I won’t say the world revolved around him, but if his life was the show Seinfeld, he was the Jerry Seinfeld upon which everything was held together.

He was also an administrator in the school district I attended. Since I’m 43 and he died at 63, most of the teachers I had while he served are still alive and I knew many would attend his wake. I also know he was one of those guys who knew everybody and could theoretically foresee anybody walking through the doors of the funeral parlor, so when it came to his wake I was very nervous.

The people I have around me in life have pretty much all uniformly moved on from my arrest six years and the attention it drew. They’ve seen the new guy I’ve evolved into and life is pretty routine these days. For the first time since my arrest in early 2014, I was looking at seeing people I hadn’t seen since before that all went down.

I’ll be honest with everyone. I took an Ativan. It doesn’t escape me that 10 years ago, I would have had a couple drinks before going to something like this. I took a bunch of Ativan immediately after I was arrested and in the week leading up to going to jail. I also took it for about a month last year when I was going through debilitating anxiety attacks. I have been very cognizant to not take any more than I need. I took one about 30 minutes before leaving and haven’t needed another. I expressed hesitation to my wife, but as she said, “The medicine specifically exists to help you in a moment like this.”

At first I was sheepish. I saw my third-grade teacher, a cousin who had given me the cold shoulder for a while and a guy who was a freelancer at the magazine I owned. They were all friendly exchanges.

I don’t know why I chose them, but about an hour into things, my junior high school principal, who’s got to be 80, give or take (he was my mother’s 9th grade math teacher…and she’s 71) and his wife, who I worked with at the local newspaper for about five years before she retired approached me to express their condolences.

When they asked what I was up to, I explained that I ghostwrite books for people who are usually CEOs, working on self-help programs or simply want an autobiography. And then it hit me. I’m proud of my work with porn addiction. I’m not ashamed of it. It was nothing I set out to do, but it’s a problem and if my mission is to educate the world, I should let the world know what I’m doing.

“If you remember all that stuff that happened to me six years ago, I got my head on straight and now I write books about pornography addiction and try to help people and their families who are struggling with it,” I told them. “There was nothing for me when I wasn’t doing well, so I thought maybe I could make things better for other people. It’s a huge problem out there.”

They told me that they knew I did one book but were glad to hear I just released a second one. They said it seems like pornography is everywhere these days and they were proud of me. Then they each gave me a hug.

In my wildest dreams, since first meeting the man 31 years ago, I never thought that I’d hug my junior high school principal. I also don’t remember him being that short. I’ve grown.

Telling them what I do now was such a feeling of relief and moment of empowerment. I went on to tell probably four more people in the last two hours. I didn’t make it about me, I didn’t quote stats or do my podcast-style preaching. I just mentioned in matter-of-factly. The results were positive across the board.

Six years ago, when this all went down and it was headline news, I was scared to death. I barely left the house. If I went to a restaurant, it was 30 miles away. Over time, I’ve become comfortable being out in public locally and have been surprised just how few interactions I’ve had with people from my former life. I think that my uncle’s wake may have been a huge final step toward whatever level I end up at in being comfortable owning what I did and being open with what I do now, no matter who I’m talking to or where I am.

The last step is going to be the people who I work with. It never comes up, but most of them don’t know my real name. I intentionally hide it from them whenever possible, and when it has to be revealed for payment or tax purposes, I tell them I professionally just go by my first and middle name.

Anyway, my message is really just if you have something that you don’t think you can face, or something you feel shame an embarrassment about, try being open about it. Try with someone who you think will be safe. I mean, realistically, unless my mother dies very soon, I don’t think I’ll ever see my junior high school principal or his wife again. They were safe people, and it felt damn good. Damn good.

Christians Need a New Strategy to Battle Pornography Addiction

One of the areas that I’ve been starting to focus on with my porn addiction education is podcasts and radio shows that have a spiritual or religious audience. Most of them are Christian, which is perfect, because the statistics around Christians who use pornography far outpace that of the secular world.

I was a leery to enter this space for a long time. I was raised Catholic, but don’t really subscribe to a lot of the doctrine and dogma. Watching from the sidelines for a couple of years though, most of the religious people who write about porn addiction are still using shame and God’s judgment as motivation to quit. That just doesn’t work. You can pray away addiction as effectively as you pray away cancer.

The rates of use among Christians is fairly staggering. Here are a few numbers from the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes:

  • 68% of men who attend church on a regular basis and 50% of pastors report viewing pornography on a regular basis. Among the 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s 76%
  • 87% of Christian women said they have watched pornography at least once.
  • 70% of youth pastors say they have had a teen tell them that they have a pornography issue in the last month.
  • 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issues to their congregation, while only 7% say their church has a program to help people struggling with pornography.

These are numbers that reflect a population that needs help. Both the clergy and the followers have been raised in an institution that preaches sexual sin is among the worst. Despite various forms of repentance is different denominations, it’s human nature not to admit the problem in the first place for fear of the fallout, embarrassment and shame.

For the Christian people out there struggling with pornography, if your church is unwilling or unequipped to help you, seek assistance outside. Simply because somebody doesn’t worship the same way that you do, or doesn’t worship at all, does not mean that they can’t help you overcome your personal demons.

Porn addiction does not make you a bad person. It makes you an ill person who can take the proper steps to get better. Having a strong faith and belief system will only be a plus in the process, but you can’t let that belief system be a hurdle to getting healthy.

If there is anything I can do to help any Christian or clergy member out there, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

After ‘Growing Up’ You Then ‘Get Older’

My uncle died last night. He was 63, which is quite young to die in our family and he’s the first of my parents’ generation to go on either side. He battled cancer off and on for five years and after a rough couple of months and real rough last week, he’s moved on to whatever is next, if anything.

I’m not going to tell a lot of stories about him, because while cathartic, you didn’t know him and that’s what wakes are for. His death, though, is just kind of reminding me of the entire aging process, getting older, things changing and sometimes it’s only in moments like this that you find the time to reflect.

My uncle had a great beard. It was full and thick, but he kept it well trimmed unlike how a lot of men prefer the scraggly look. In the winter, I usually grow a beard, shave once because it gets too long, regrow it and lose it for good in the spring. With the latest incarnation of my beard, I’ve noticed there is gray sneaking into it.

Yes, I have friends younger than me with heads full of gray hair, but based on that spot on the top of my head and the V shape that starts to subtly form in the front, I always thought that I’d be bald and not gray. Most people with reddish hair usually don’t go gray. I’m not sure if I like gray hair better than being bald. I guess it’s just part of aging.

On February 8, I’ll turn 44. Do I think that’s old? Not really, although I certainly used to. I also used to think college students looked a lot older than they do and people who were 65 or 70 were ancient. A lot changes about your perception as you move into middle age. The idea that statistics suggest I’m now well past the halfway point in my life (76 is average as of last year for a male in the US) kind of blows my mind. I feel like I only finally pulled my stuff together in the last few years and really would like to reset things to my late 20s.

I haven’t started watching a new TV show in years. Since radio is so dull and formatted these days, I have no idea where people are getting their new music. Tik Tok and Snapchat seem pointless to me and I don’t think I’ll ever have a Twitter or Instagram.  I’ve mostly stopped using streaming services and I’m completely content to watch two hours of Everybody Loves Raymond at night and play games on my phone. I could fight to stay connected to youth culture, or even mainstream culture, but why?

I’m not going to say that older people are irrelevant, but when it comes to pop culture and entertainment trends we really are. Take for instance TV ratings. On Friday, January 24, 2020 the most watched TV shows were Hawaii 5-0, Magnum PI and Blue Bloods on CBS – and they were all repeats. Between 4.9 million and 5.3 million tuned in to watch those shows. Yet despite nearly doubling the closest competition, ABC’s family sitcoms and 20/20, the network that made the most money was Fox, showing WWE Friday Night Smackdown.

Why was the network that came in third in overall viewers the one that profited the most? Because more people in the 18-49 age group watched wrestling than watched the other shows. A 30-year-old watching wrestling is a more attractive viewer than three 60-year-olds. They historically have higher disposable income than the older viewer and are not set in their purchasing ways like people twice their age are loyal to brands.

I understand it. When I go to a place like Applebee’s or Olive Garden, I get the same thing I’ve been ordering the last 7-10 years. It’s more important to me to know I’ll like something than try something new. Clearly my personal taste with TV is the same, even if I’m still technically a target viewer for a few more years.

For the first time ever, I’ve made some phone calls involving a family member’s death, helping to coordinate things. I’ve been more involved in planning and have been let in on other’s plans, including stuff like DNR orders, wills, last wishes, etc., than ever before. In some ways it makes me feel like a grown-up, but in other ways it makes me feel a burden of responsibility that is fresh. I have no time for silly new phone apps if I have to step-up and be the mature one, or at least that’s kind of how it feels.

Over the next few days, leading up to his wake, I’ll have to practice my fake nodding and ability to hear things like, “He’s in a better place” or “He looks peaceful” without throwing up all over whatever shirt I buy at TJ Maxx for the event. A great thing of working at home is you only need a lot of pajamas, but the side effect is when you have to be in public, your wardrobe dwindles over the years.

I guess placating others in an environment that makes my skin crawl, around people who make stuff up instead of saying, “I have no idea what to say. This sucks” is all part of growing up. Maybe at nearly 44, it’s time.

The Grateful Eight, Just a Little Late

As I chill out on writing this blog every day, there are still certain things I want to do and based on feedback, it seemed like people were liking the Grateful Eight feature I introduced a few months back where I mention eight things I’m grateful for on the eighth of the month, except I didn’t do it this month. Despite January 8 still not being a national holiday in celebration of Elvis Presley’s birthday (he would have been 85), or at least Great Musicians’ Day (it was also David Bowie’s birthday), I totally forgot to write an entry.

Anyway, here are the 8 things I’m grateful for this month:

  1. Everybody Who Said They’d Buy My Book on Kindle. Guess what, folks – it’s here! Several of you told me that you’d pick it up if it came to Kindle. Kindle HypeYou either need a new excuse of be true to your word. Here’s the LINK
  2. My Lack of Guilt Over Keeping This Page Updated. I guess I just need some more time to slack than I thought. I have a feeling there will be times of great output and times of almost no output. I’ve actually been trying to write this post for several days but other things have come up and I haven’t killed myself to get to it. This guilt-free feeling wouldn’t have happened in my previous life.
  3. Reddit’s RoastMe page. I know it’s not right to make fun of people, but I’ve always been one of those people who laughed his butt off when people made fun of me. I figure if you’re going to dish it, you should be able to take it. This is a community of people who love to take teasing and it’s a great outlet for creative writing. Yeah, some of the people go for the easy sex or race jokes, but there is some genuinely funny stuff there. If people want to be made fun of, they are my kind of people.
  4. The last Star Wars movie. The first movie I can really recall seeing at the theater, I think, is the Empire Strikes Back. I think that this most recent trilogy was for fans of the first trilogy, who grew up on it. I’ve read a lot of criticism of the film, and it’s certainly not one of those you should pick apart too much (I still wonder how they can have landing bay doors open in the vacuum of space) but if you loved the first trilogy and thought this last one has been OK, it’s worth watching.
  5. When Stuff is So Status Quo, You Don’t Notice. You know how when you’re at your sickest you tell yourself, “I’m never going to take being well for granted. I’m going to recognize it as awesome when it’s happening”? In the past month, 3 of my 3 cars have died, my daughter’s laptop has died, my dishwasher has died and my washing machine has died. There will be a day when everything is working again and I will take it for granted. I hope that day comes soon.
  6. My Son Being Naturally Smart. He just got his report card and in seven classes, not one was below 80. But the kid is lazy and procrastinates so much more than I ever did. I can’t quite break him of it and if he didn’t absorb everything he heard, we’d be in more trouble. I know he’s going to be fine in this world. He’ll probably do quite well, but jeez, he sometimes makes sloths look hyperactive.Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 12.07.58 PM
  7. The Christmas Present My Daughter Gave Me. I’ve included a picture. It’s a map of the United States that’s covered in that weird stuff that you find on scratch-off lottery tickets. The idea is you scratch off where you’ve been in the country. I could have scratched the full states, but I wanted to scratch where I’d actually been or it would have been hugely uncovered except for three states. Until I visit Yellowstone, I can’t honestly say I’ve done that part of the country. And if you think that dust from the lottery tickets is annoying, imagine it in gold and 500x the amount on your kitchen table.
  8. Alex Trebek. I don’t watch Jeopardy faithfully anymore, but I did watch that Greatest of All-Time tournament a couple weeks ago. With Stage 4 cancer, he’s more likely not going to make it and it was touching to see the amount to tributes people gave him. It was also nice he got to show his stuff in prime time. While I obviously didn’t see the 1960s version, Trebek’s has been on since 1984, when I was 8 years old. There are few things that have remained as consistent as that show and the host through the changes of my life and knowing it’s probably coming to an end soon is minor in the grand scheme of things, but worth a pause.

 

Here’s Your Chance to Redeem Yourself…

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 12.54.52 PMYou really wanted to buy my new book and support me when it came out in softcover in December, but either the $19.99 (plus tax and shipping) cost or the fact you’d have a book laying around the house that said “Porn Addict” on the cover was too much for you. That’s OK, I understand. And now, both of those excus….err….reasons have been taken care of as I am proud to announce He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions is available in Kindle!

Now, with a low price of $9.99 and no shipping costs, you can show you support, learn a few things, and prove that reading isn’t dead. With Amazon’s gifting and lending program, if you know somebody who should have the book but isn’t going to pick it up for whatever reason,  you can share with them in a much more subtle way than giving them an actual book.

Hope you’ll pick up, or download, your copy today!

Link to the Kindle:  https://amzn.to/2NyIWAT

For those who purchase the Kindle (and those who don’t, but whatever) my first book is available on Kindle for $3.99 for a short time for only HERE