Dialetical Behavior Therapy fun with Pink Floyd

I never talk much about dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), but it is the modality that probably best help me learn how to face what I don’t want to acknowledge, deal with injustice I can’t fix and ultimately learn the practice of radical acceptance. I only had a half-dozen sessions learning the technique at inpatient rehab and will admit that I only read half the workbook and barely filled anything in, but I learn by doing.

If you want to learn everything about it, I urge you to go read THIS article. It gives the basic outline, but I’ll tell you what it did for me. In moments of heightened emotion, good or bad, it gave me skills to bring myself down and not go off the deep end for a prolonged period of time.

It taught me how to pause, look introspectively, and let my mind be present in the moment, wherever that took me.

I drank alcohol and I used pornography as coping tools to handle the rest of my day. Now, DBT is not only a great coping tool for the rest of my day, but helps me to center myself in the closest way I’ll ever get to meditating.

But enough about me babbling how it helps me keep my shit together, let’s try an exercise…

 

This is going to take about 7-8 minutes. If you don’t have the time, don’t start. If you do have the time, I promise you that you’ll be in a different mindset by the end of it. Come back and try later if you can’t do this now.

 

I want you to play the following Pink Floyd song, High Hopes. It was off  of their final studio album, 1994’s The Division Bell.

When the music starts, close your eyes and begin to listen to the lyrics. Try figuring out what the song is about. If you feel like a fool closing your eyes, you can just read the lyrics as I’ve included them. Again, start by trying to figure out what the song is about.

When your mind starts to wonder, let it. Let it go wherever it’s going to take you. Don’t fight it, don’t manipulate it, don’t avoid where your thoughts take you.

By the time the guitar solo kicks in at the end of the song, almost exactly the 5-minute mark, I want you to go to the comments section and write what you were thinking about at that moment. Where did 5 minutes of your thoughts take you? It’s not about deciphering the meaning of the song. It doesn’t matter what somebody commented before or after, or if you’re the first. After 5 minutes, what were you thinking about? Stop writing when the song finishes, at exactly the 7-minute mark. I’ll do this as well, after at least one person shares their thoughts.

 

Here are the lyrics if you prefer to read them instead of closing your eyes:

High Hopes by Pink Floyd

Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young
In a world of magnets and miracles
Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary
The ringing of the division bell had begun

Along the Long Road and on down the Causeway
Do they still meet there by the Cut

There was a ragged band that followed in our footsteps
Running before time took our dreams away
Leaving the myriad small creatures trying to tie us to the ground
To a life consumed by slow decay

The grass was greener
The light was brighter
With friends surrounded
The nights of wonder

Looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us
To a glimpse of how green it was on the other side
Steps taken forwards but sleepwalking back again
Dragged by the force of some inner tide

At a higher altitude with flag unfurled
We reached the dizzy heights of that dreamed of world

Encumbered forever by desire and ambition
There’s a hunger still unsatisfied
Our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
Though down this road we’ve been so many times

The grass was greener
The light was brighter
The taste was sweeter

The nights of wonder
With friends surrounded
The dawn mist glowing
The water flowing
The endless river
Forever and ever

 

Trying to Figure Out Why Local Election Results Tweaked My PTSD

Sometimes I wonder when I’m having a legitimate PTSD moment and when it’s just a combination of anxiety and borderline nausea. Last night, I think I had a PTSD episode looking at local election results.

I didn’t feel off because of any specific results. I, more than anyone, know how insignificant one person is in the vast machine known as our government. I’m not sure exactly why I had a physical and mental reaction, but I’m a writer, so I’ll work it out on the page.

In 2011, when I made the decision to run for the city council in Auburn, Maine, I thought that I could try to move the city in a more forward-thinking direction. Between my city and the one next door, we are the second-highest population density in Maine. The first, Portland, is a progressive city where things like art, culture and a view toward the future is a good thing. Here, not so much. I think most believe our best days are long behind us. The magazine I launched two years earlier was trying to change that mindset and I thought being on the City Council would also help.

I’m not going to deny that I knew being on the City Council would also raise my name recognition if I won. I really didn’t aspire to any higher office, but then again, I’d never made many plans in life, just going with the flow and seizing opportunity where I saw it. If nothing else, running would give me a good gauge of how popular I currently was.

I won, defeating the other four candidates with only one, a long-serving incumbent, coming close. It was needed validation that I was as awesome as I tried to convince myself.

The experience serving was not good. As you have probably surmised about me, I like to be the one in control. It’s why I started companies and didn’t work for other people. It’s why I now work from home. Being an equal part of a team, especially one as divided as that City Council, wasn’t fun. I had very little respect for a couple of the members as I was going into office and that number only grew during my tenure.

With my socially liberal, fiscally conservative bent, I usually ended up being the tie-breaker on a lot of 3-3 votes. Ironically, in the voting order, I came last, so everybody saw it as me making the decision, and since I was the only one there who knew how to give a good soundbite to the media, it was always me that was quoted. I liked that power at first, but grew to hate it.

Despite the fact I showed up to most of the meetings in the second half of my two-year term borderline drunk (or full-on drunk), I didn’t like making decisions that either way, hurt people. I didn’t like making decisions that would leave one group of people angry at me and the other feeling like I was on their side. My wife knew that I’d come back from most meetings angry and sad.

With about six months left in my term in early 2013, ironically just as I was seriously descending into the worst of my porn and alcohol addictions, I made the announcement I was not running again on my Facebook page.

I didn’t regret stepping away as I secretly knew just how much my life was spinning out of control. There hasn’t been a day that I wished I was back there and with the exception of seeing the results last night, I don’t follow a damn thing they do in the news.

I’m so thankful I left the City Council before my arrest. I don’t know if it would have been any bigger a deal if I was actively serving, but amidst the clouded judgment I was showing at that time in my life, walking away after only one term was probably the smartest thing I did.

Maybe reading those results was a flashback to the night I won and was so smugly full of myself. I didn’t like that guy. I don’t attribute the City Council to my downfall, but maybe subconsciously I do think those long Monday nights contributed to my trip toward rock bottom. Maybe it reminds me that despite winning the seat, I felt like the time I served was a failure or it could be that it just shows this community marches on without me, never missing a beat, as if I never mattered at all. And while the magazine, film festival, co-workers, award ceremonies, friends, etc., are all gone, the City Council always remains.

I’m still processing why I had such a visceral reaction, but at least I’ll have something to talk about at therapy this week.

Q&A Time: Did My Porn Addiction Cause My Daughter to Become a Cam Girl?

Warning: This Q&A could possibly cause a trigger to a recovering addict, especially if they enjoyed cam sites. 

QUESTION I’m a porn addict, I admit it. I’m trying to control it but after 30 years, I’ve kind of just come to live with it. Some days are better than others. This is a strange question, but I have no idea where else to ask. I discovered that my 23-year-old daughter is doing webcam shows, and yes I discovered it the worst way possible by stumbling upon it. She has a lot of followers so I think she has been doing it for a long time. Do I tell her I know she’s doing this? Do you think she’s doing this because of my porn addiction?

ANSWER This is by far the most out-of-the-box question I’ve ever had. I’m not even sure it really has to do with porn addiction, but it stuck with me since it came as part of a longer email. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take it a step at a time.

If nothing else ever changes about this situation, the first thing to do is NEVER to go back to that website. Obviously, try to quit porn. If you know this site, you know I’m going to tell you to see a therapist. You may want to see a therapist because of this situation anyway. If you need cam sites, you can find webcams elsewhere. I’m hoping you saw her and quickly clicked away. Do not go back to that site. If you feel a pull to that site and to God forbid, watch your daughter, you need to get help immediately, regardless of whatever she’s doing. Something beyond porn addiction is happening at that point, but hopefully that’s not the case.

Jumping to your last question, it’s impossible for me to say if she’s doing this because of anything that happened in your home. You don’t mention if she still lives with you and is doing these broadcasts from your home, nor do you mention anything about her upbringing. Anecdotally, I’ve heard first-person stories of a lot of women who became porn stars, or even just Playboy centerfolds, talk about those kinds of magazines being around the house when they were young and finding the women beautiful. I wonder if they really found them beautiful or they were reacting to their fathers finding those women beautiful. Either way, we now know that exposure to pornography sexualizes a child at a young age and for a brain that is still in the formative years of development, it can certainly create sexual attitudes unlike their peers.

As for telling her, what’s the goal? Shame her into stopping? As the father of a 20-year-old woman/little girl, I certainly wouldn’t want her getting naked and performing for people on camera, but I would fear that telling her that I know she’s doing it would cause a rift that may never be fixed. I know after telling her the next question would be, “And how do you know?” Do you want to answer that question?

The other reality is that if she’s living on her own, supporting herself, there’s probably almost no leverage you have to make her stop. Legally, she’s an adult. She can make her own choices. It sounds like you don’t know exactly why she’s doing this. Realistically, there are women who strip to put themselves through med school and there are women who strip because they are hypersexual and have legitimate issues. I can’t tell you which side of that pendulum she swings toward.

I think I’d casually offer to pay for her to get therapy by saying something like, “I was reading that a lot of parents are paying for their kids to be in therapy in their early 20s because making the transition to adulthood is tougher than ever. I wish I would have had a therapist when I was young. I’d be happy to pay for you to have someone to talk to if that ever interests you.”

And, then, you hope that they talk about the cam stuff, because I really don’t think you’re in a position to say anything.

I’ve got to admit, this is the one of the toughest questions I’ve ever had to answer…does anybody else have good ideas for this guy?

———————————————————————————————-

If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Goodbye, Carla

Last night I needed to find an old photo, so I briefly reactivated my personal Facebook account to track it down. I only have about 15 people as “friends” and they are all from my rehab days. I haven’t talked to any of them in at least three years. One, a young woman who was in the eating disorder program, wrote that another (who I’ll call Carla), died late last week of a heart attack. While the odds seem to have favored someone going sooner, this is the first person I knew from rehab who has been confirmed dead.

Carla wasn’t well when I knew her. Probably around 30, she mostly kept to herself and in the morning meeting where everybody at the rehab has to say a couple of things, she never seemed comfortable. Even those who don’t like public speaking eventually got comfortable around the group of 30. She arrived sometime before I got there, was there for the entire 7 weeks I attended, and remained after I left. I have no idea how long her stay was, but based on talking to some of the other women in the eating disorder program, it sounded like Carla had among the most severe trauma and her mental health was not solid.

The place where Carla and I bonded was before breakfast. She and her only friend (who wrote the Facebook entry) were the first two up in the morning, along with me. The dining room didn’t open until 6:30, so it would usually be the three of us sitting around in a common room adjacent from around 6:15 to 6:30. The two of them would sneak out and go for a walk at 5:45 a.m. to burn calories. Apparently it was a no-no, but I didn’t subscribe to the “rat out your peers” theory until jail.

The women in the eating disorder program had to wait until 6:45 to eat breakfast, when they could be coached on what they chose to eat and then made sure to eat by a monitor. I’m not a big breakfast guy, so some days I’d remain sitting there and in those 15-30 minutes, I got to know Carla probably better than any other person, except her one other friend, and I still feel like I didn’t really know her.

She wore the same ratty, oversized sweater every day. One of the first mornings I was there when she came in from her walk, she sat down and said, “You probably wonder why I wear this every day.”

“It means something special to you, reminds you of someone, makes you feel safe, hides your body or some combination I’d guess,” I said. “Whatever makes you feel good is good with me. You don’t have to explain anything.”

I think that was the initial bonding moment. Later that morning, she told the entire group she didn’t want anyone asking her why she wore that sweater every day because if they didn’t get it, she didn’t want to explain. And then she smiled at me.

We also found that we shared a mutual disdain for the phrase, “How are you?” as a greeting. Sure, it’s just something we say, but it’s not something an unhealthy person wants to hear. We know the person asking doesn’t care and doesn’t want the truth if it’s not “good” so they can move onto the next thing.

Carla and I decided to stop saying that to each other. We thought a more appropriate greeting was, “I see you there” because that’s all “How are you?” means to most people.

I think I was the only male, and certainly the only one in the sex/porn program that she spoke to with any regularity. My guess would be that there was some kind of sexual assault in her past that made her scared of men and sex, but as she slowly heard my story she asked a few questions. Nothing too prying, but I think it was part of her trying to process her own demons.

While we both had alcoholism issues in the past, neither of us were there for that kind of treatment. We often talked about how that was a more clear-cut disease to fight. The goal is to stop drinking. With both porn/sex addiction and eating disorders, the goal is to find a healthy balance. Yes, I needed to stop looking at porn, but I also needed to develop the healthy sexuality that eluded me in life to that point. She needed to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with food.

You can’t stop having a sexual identity and you can’t stop eating if you’re going to be in recovery. These kinds of recovery are very individualized because what is one person’s demon doesn’t bother the person next to them. Healthy eating, or sexuality, can look very different to two people who have the same problem.

I never had any illusion we’d stay in touch after rehab. I talked to her friend a couple times after we were both out and she told me Carla wasn’t doing well, but I even lost track of that woman pretty quickly. It surprised me when I read her announcement of Carla’s death on Facebook, but it didn’t shock me that Carla didn’t make it to old age. It still shocks me more when an addict does. Goodbye, Carla.

 

It’s Time to Admit the Reasons We Tell People to Stay Away From Porn Aren’t Working

I use Einstein’s definition of insanity too many times on this blog because it explain the frustration I feel with a lot of people’s attitudes and actions toward pornography and pornography addiction. I’ve never made my fight against pornography itself because I think it diverts attention from education, but it seems a correlation could be made if people were effectively dissuaded from using pornography, there would be less pornography addicts.

The problem is that our current list of reasons for urging people to stay away from pornography are ineffective. I’m not saying that they aren’t valid reasons – they almost always are. They aren’t scare tactics, which don’t play well with most, but well-reasoned rationalizations for putting down the porn. And none of them work.

I recall about 15 years ago, fast food restaurants were forced to put the calorie content on all of their menus by the FDA, with the belief if we only knew how bad it was for us, we’d stop. Yeah, that didn’t work. People knew fast food wasn’t quality food. In fact, fast food revenues exploded with the invention of the value menus with popular items for $1 or $2. People didn’t want healthy, they wanted cheap. It’s the same story with porn. If you’re paying money for porn these days, you’re doing it wrong. I think most people see it as junk food for the brain. It’s not healthy, but it’s not going to create lasting damage. Our standards reasons to stay away don’t combat that attitude effectively.

Why don’t our go-to reasons for staying away from porn work? I think I’ve figured most of them out:

The actors and actresses are exploited, don’t want to be there and had bad childhoods – All of this may be true, but has it stopped a single person from watching pornography? I think on some level everybody who watches porn understands its very essence is about the exploitation of the human body. As for not wanting to be there, I recently wrote a blog for a freelance client where I had to dig up statistics on job dissatisfaction in white-collar corporate America. Depending on the study, it ranged from 70% to 85%, so nobody likes their job.  As for having bad childhoods and still needing to seek out work, that isn’t a porn-exclusive thing either. I think when most people look at porn, they’re just not thinking about the poor professional conditions because they have to live with those conditions themselves and most would rather be having sex with beautiful people in pretty places than washing dishes at Buffalo Wild Wings.

It’s not realistic and doesn’t depict love – There have been a million and one studies on why people look at porn and one of the top two or three reasons, usually the top reason, is that it is an escape. People understand it’s not realistic because they only have to look to their own lives to reach that conclusion. I don’t think pizza guys and tennis instructors get into those vocations because they see a lot of sex in porno movies for guys in those industries. How many people would want to watch porn if it was people who looked like them doing things that they do? When it comes to love, I don’t think people turn to porn. If they want to see love, there’s a whole Hallmark Channel showing a slightly different version of the same Christmas movie for the next two months.

It’s going to rot your brain – For addicts, it actually does change the brain chemistry, but by that point, any standard reason to not use doesn’t work. I think that we’re told that so many things in this world are going to rot our brains and it simply doesn’t, and most people know that. First, you had people claiming rock music would make us all miscreants and Satanists. Didn’t happen. Then, kids raised on video games would all be prone to violent outbursts. Proven untrue. Porn certainly isn’t good for your brain, but enough people walk away without permanent scarring – or we’re still not talking about that scarring – that this argument falls on deaf ears for lack of proof.

Looking at porn brings you further away from God – I’m guessing this might work on some very devout people, but data would suggest otherwise. Two of the four fastest growing consumer groups of porn are members of the Roman Catholic Church and LDS Church and those who work in service of god (rabbis, priests, reverends) all report higher-than-average porn usage rates. This doesn’t even take into account that there are a lot of people who don’t believe in God or that he doesn’t play an active role in the consequences of their decision making. I have no hard statistics other than my own experience, but I bet 75% of the blogs I find on WordPress that talk about recovery from porn addiction give a lot of credit to God, but threats of the almighty fall on deaf ears prior.

I wish I had some great new techniques and solutions. I think most of the solutions are going to come from talking to our kids while they are young and informing them about the potential physical and mental dangers of taking porn use too far. We can argue whether that has or hasn’t worked with drugs and alcohol, but I think everybody who has a kid that is clean is thankful they said something.

We can keep repeating the standard “evils of pornography” list and while they certainly are valid, they are also ineffective. It’s tough to admit that, but the sooner we do, the sooner people far smarter than I can work to develop the new techniques and solutions we so desperately need.