Author: Joshua Shea

I Think Somebody Close to Me is Addicted to Pornography… What Now?

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?

Statistics on & The Definition of Pornography Addiction I Often Cite

One of the things I’ve been doing a lot of in my interviews lately is throwing statistics around because I believe the data shows we’re going to have a national, if not international epidemic on our hands in the next generation. I wanted to share with everybody some of the statistics that has made me reach this conclusion.

I’m not including them here for now, but the world’s most popular pornography site, Pornhub.com does an amazing job releasing its statistics of use on an annual basis. It feels weird to compliment a site that likely contributes to millions of people becoming porn addicts, but as far as their statistics go, they are meticulous and thorough, and I’ll be putting something together on the kind of information they provide in the near future.

As for now, here are some of the facts I’ve been throwing around and where I got the information.

Just How Many People View Pornography or May Be Addicts?

  • Eight in ten (79%) men between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography monthly
  • Two-thirds (67%) of men between the ages of 31 and 49 view pornography monthly
  • One-third (33%) of men between the ages of 18 and 30 either think that they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to pornography
  • Combined, 18% of all men either think that they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to pornography, which equates to 21 million men. [i]
  • 42.7% of all internet users view pornography[ii]
  • More than 80% of women who have porn addiction take it offline. Women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs[iii]
  • According to National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 2010, 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography is a problem in their home[iv]
  • The number of U.S. employees reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 30th, 2012 was 132 million. If we divide this to represent 28% of employees using a work computer to visit pornographic sites up to 37 million employees viewing pornography.[v]

So what is “Sex Addiction” according to the experts?

Pornography addiction, much like sex addiction, is still not classified as official diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the DSM.

Certified Sex Addiction Therapist Definition of Sex Addiction:[vi]

  • Sexual preoccupation to the point of obsession
  • Loss of control over urges, fantasies, and behaviors (typically evidenced by failed attempts to quit or cut back)
  • Negative life consequences related to compulsive sexual behaviors, such as ruined relationships, trouble at work or school, loss of interest in nonsexual activities, financial problems, loss of community standing, shame, depression, anxiety, legal issues, and more

Statistics That Show More Professional and Peer Help is Needed

There were 900 certified sex addiction therapists in the US in 2010. The number was at 2500 in 2017. [vii]

There are over 92,000 drug and alcohol counselors in the US in 2017. [viii]

There are 1,500 meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous happening in the US every week.[ix]

There are 62,671 AA groups in the US, many of which meet more than one time per week.[x]

 

Sources

[i] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/elwood-d-watson/pornography-addiction-amo_b_5963460.html

[ii] http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html

[iii] Today’s Christian Woman, September/October 2003

[iv] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_pornography_statistics#cite_note-Internet_Usage_bsecure-4

[v]  The Nielsen Company, 2010 via https://www.webroot.com/us/en/home/resources/tips/digital-family-life/internet-pornography-by-the-numbers

[vi] https://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2016/07/%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8%E2%80%A8can-therapists-officially-diagnose-sexual-addiction/

[vii] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sexual-addiction-treatment-clinics-often-take-advantage/

[viii] https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211011.htm

[ix] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sexual-addiction-treatment-clinics-often-take-advantage/

[x] https://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-53_en.pdf

This is Not How I Thought It Would Feel

Most of you are probably sick to death of me mentioning my book, but I wanted to comment on the conflicting feelings, both emotional and physical, its release is causing me. On a completely objective level, as someone fascinated by human behavior, it’s been interesting to experience. On a personal level, it’s a roller coaster I can’t say I’m enjoying.

For those who are new to my story, my book, The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About: How I Let My Pornography Addiction Hurt People and Destroy Relationships was released January 10. Buy a copy for every day of the week!

So, I’ve been told 95% of the books produced today are self-published. It’s great that this is possible as it gets so much more knowledge and experience into the world. It also keeps the book alive in the age of the Internet. But, there are many writers, editors and executives in the publishing industry who believe self-publishing comes with a certain stigma. This stigma is why I looked for 4 months before I found a publisher who would tell my story the way I wanted. I could have self-published much earlier.

Of the 5% of books that are actually published, only about 10% of those ever see a shelf in a bookstore. Unfortunately, the book store – like encyclopedias, travel agents, newspapers and stationery stores – are dying in our increasingly digital world. This means only about 1 out of 200 books ever sees a shelf in any bookstore.

Today, I found out my book is going to be in at least one store. By the end of the week, I’ll likely have more. It’s surreal…and utterly nauseating.

Yesterday, I finally received my author’s copies of the books. I won’t explain why there was a mix-up, but there are people who ordered the book on Amazon who got it before I ever had an actual copy of my book. Now, I sit here, with several copies next to me. The thing that I poured 18 months of my life into is here…and it’s real. It’s not just on a screen. I’m vulnerable in a way I’ve never known. The closest feeling is when you wake up from that dream where you’re naked walking around high school.

Over the last 10 days, I’ve been doing a lot of media for the book, much of which hasn’t yet been released, and that’s going to continue for a while. It feels like there are two people being interviewed. There’s the guy who has the story in the book about his descent to rock bottom and implosion of his life with porn addiction being the central theme and then there’s the guy who can rattle off statistics and provide factual information and resources about the addiction. That first guy wants to vomit when people are asking hard questions about what he went through. The second guy is cool, calm and collected.

There’s also the proximity to where I’m doing interviews. Yesterday morning, I did a call-in interview with a radio show in Napa Valley, California. I think that’s roughly 3,000 miles away. When it was over, I moved on with my day. When my hometown newspaper did a short article and the largest TV news station in Maine did a story, my stomach was in knots, especially immediately before the stories were released. Thankfully, I was happy with the way both turned out.

I follow the Amazon Best Seller Rank listings like it’s the stock market. Am I up? Am I down. One hour I’m listed worldwide at 73,492 and the next it’s 240,314. Oh, no! I’m dropping. Then the next hour it’s up to 111,845…we’re gaining again! Then there are all the sub-categories. For the last week, I’ve consistently been the third best-selling new sexual recovery book. That’s a very specific audience…but can I officially say it’s a “best seller”?

I don’t know how to regulate my feelings, be it emotional or physical, with this. I have a feeling my bipolar meds are like, “Dude, chill…we can only work so hard.”

I know I don’t have an international best-seller on my hands. I’ll be lucky to sell a couple thousand. It’s a taboo topic with a limited audience. I know in a year I’ll probably be shopping my next book around to publishers and not thinking a lot about this one.

For now though, it’s an awesome experience…and makes me want to puke.

Salvation is Great

I didn’t read much news yesterday, so I didn’t learn of the death of Dolores O’Riordan, who was the lead singer of The Cranberries, one of my favorite bands of the mid-1990s, until today. My favorite song of theirs was always Salvation. It was a fast, almost punk song that seemed inspired by The Ramones in execution. Like most music in my life, I moved on and this was one song I kind of forgot about. Radio still plays Linger and Zombie, but much of the rest of The Cranberries catalog is ignored. A few years back, just as I was starting with recovery, I somehow rediscovered the song. Twenty years later it was amazing how it was more pertinent than ever. While heroin wasn’t my addiction, this was the most direct song about addiction I’ve heard and I still listen to it when I need a little boost of energy and affirmation.

Is Porn Addiction a “Real” Addiction? Duh.

Since I’ve started doing media for my book, I’ve been faced with the same question a few times: “What do you say to people who claim sex and/or porn addiction is not an addiction?” So, just to clear things up…porn addiction is an addiction. I promise. You don’t need to learn for yourself.

I have a couple of schools of thought on this question and its answer. First, is the part of it being an addiction. In all truth, I have no idea if it meets the standards of the mental health powers in the world. I believe I heard recently that despite a big debate, sexual addiction was not included in the latest DSM (it’s the like the Bible of the psychiatric ward in describing, diagnosing and treating mental health conditions) and is still considered an impulse disorder.

When I went to rehab for porn addiction, they had to diagnose me with an impulse disorder to get insurance to cover part of my stay. Despite the fact the vast majority of therapists and counselors I’ve talk to believe sex/porn addiction is a thing, people who suffer and can only get help if their insurance aids them will still be unable. That’s just a shame.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, to me, an addiction is a pattern of repeated behavior that has negative consequences on one’s health and life that despite great pain, shame and despair cannot be stopped by willpower alone.

My introduction to porn and the feelings it gave me were similar to that of my introduction to alcohol. I felt a sense of excitement and danger, since I knew I could get in trouble for utilizing either. It felt like I discovered something special and could use to help me through life. My ongoing use patterns were similar when it came to anxiety reducing and self-soothing and when it got to a critical point, I was making dangerous decisions with both vices. If my alcoholism is an addiction, I don’t understand how my porn use isn’t because they largely served the same purpose and caused the same internal reactions in my body.

 

Porn addiction can be bad for business

When somebody suggests that pornography addiction is not a “real” addiction, take a step back and view their situation and how pornography addiction becoming a thing could hurt their narrative.

I did a quick plug for my book on a podcast that boasts it’s about healthy sexuality. It’s just really about celebrating one’s sexuality and taking shame away from the subject. I agree with that and think it’s good. Whatever two consenting adults want to do is fine with me, even if that’s looking at porn….although I don’t advise it.

If sex and porn addiction are real conditions, then suddenly this host now has to tip-toe around these negative consequences of what may start from completely healthy behavior. Suddenly, it’s like a craft brew beer show having to deal with the pink elephant in the room of alcoholism.

I’m on a mailing list for people who may be good “professional” guests for radio shows or to provide comments for journalists’ articles. I got one this morning that said:

Statistics suggest our porn tastes are getting less kinky. According to this xHamster trend report, interest in some of the kinkier stuff is dissipating. There’s been a real cultural shaming around porn this past year with legislatures across the country declaring porn a public health crisis. This has been echoed by conservative groups and religious groups. I’m looking for sex experts to weigh in on this topic. If you have insights to share, please send them my way.

A year ago, I would have written to the reporter who submitted this query and tried to chew them out, but my initial rage is now tempered with an understanding of why the reality of porn addiction would scare someone…especially someone writing for a website or magazine called “Kinkly” where this request came from.

I’m probably more liberal than 90% of you reading this. I’m neither conservative and while I have a spiritual side, I’m not at all religious. Has there been a real cultural “shaming” or has there been a real cultural awareness? Is attaching the labels of “conservative” and “religious” supposed to turn all progressive liberals away from the truth? Porn tastes getting less kinky could be good news in addiction circles. Since the use of bizarre, non-mainstream and illegal pornography often arises in the critical phase of addiction, less people requesting this stuff could suggest that the skyrocketing numbers of people self-reporting porn addiction could be leveling. That’s a good thing, unless you’re making money off of it.

Any curtailing of pornography, even if it is an overall positive for public health is never going to be seen as a positive for a company producing a product called Kinkly. By their very name, less kink is bad for business.

I doubt that the podcaster who interviewed me or that Kinkly journalist wants anybody to have an addiction, but I think that they are looking at this through the eyes of their bank account. A narrative where porn addiction is a real thing does not help their bottom line so it’s better to argue against it. There’s good money to be made in enabling addiction. Socially, the problem with that stance is that it encourages people who may need help to believe their behavior is not outside the norm and that it is healthy. By telling people who may have a problem that they don’t, they’re doing far more harm than good.

 

A final perspective

Finally, I reach my bottom line with this…who cares what it’s labeled? I know it’s important for insurance companies and people who need to put others into little boxes, but it is just a label. If a person goes to two psychologists and one diagnoses the person with addiction and the other professional doesn’t…does the person have an addiction? It actually doesn’t matter what those two psychologists said. That person is leaving the office in the same condition that they arrived, addict or not.

Call it a compulsion. Call it an obsession. It’s a habit. It’s an addiction. These are all just labels that don’t change the fact that I have a problem. What does splitting hairs actually do except waste time on a debate where the answer isn’t important?

When that podcast host gave her dissertation about porn addiction not being real, she then asked what I thought. I told her that it didn’t matter to me what she called it. I’m the same person after she finished her thought as when she started it. I told her to walk a mile in my shoes and tell me it’s not an addiction. And I told her that I didn’t actually care what her stance was on the concept of the addiction because I live with it and it was all the proof I need to know that pornography addiction is an actual addiction.

She ended the interview at that point.

 

My First Television Interview Is Now Available to Watch

They say the camera ads 10 pounds, so just subtract that from what you see. They also say it’s all about the editing. While it’s always really hard to hear other people tell my story, I don’t think I could have asked them to do a better job with this interview. It was scary waiting to see how a 40-minute interview would be boiled down to 2 minutes, but I’m pleased with the outcome… Click Here to Watch

Check Out My Appearance on ‘The Virtual Couch’ Podcast from January 11

I had a terrific time recording an episode of The Virtual Couch with Tony Overbay. A video version will be available in upcoming days that I’ll add here, but for now, I’d encourage you to give it a listen through one of these links:

170x170bbITunes or SoundCloud

If you prefer your podcasts with video, there is this version from Vimeo:

Virtual Couch Podcast Ep 27 Joshua Shea “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk about: How I Let My Pornography Addiction Hurt People” from Path Back Recovery on Vimeo.

 

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If you’re struggling with porn addiction and would like a free ebook from Tony, you can pick one up at his website, The Path Back

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