Author: Joshua Shea

Question for the Ladies with Sex or Porn Addicted Partners…

As many of you were the early inspiration for my new book that will be coming out soon, I have a question that I was asked on a podcast that I recorded yesterday. I’ve got a lot of other podcasts coming up to promote the book and I’m guessing I’ll get this question again, so if you want to lend any expertise or opinions, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to share the question with any ladies who may not subscribe to my site but are in similar circumstances.

We talked about how the addiction is never the woman’s fault and how the husband/boyfriend usually comes to the relationship with the addiction, even if it’s dormant at the time. We also talked about how many women want to give it a go and see if he can get help because they don’t believe on quitting a marriage, don’t want to see their family pulled apart or want to reconnect with the man they fell in love with.

This led to a really good question:

“If the guy came to the relationship with these problems, whether they were dormant or he was just gaslighting from the beginning, how can the woman say she wants to reconnect with the man she fell in love with if that guy already was an addict and potentially already a liar?”

I had no answer. And if you know me at all, you know I like to have all the answers 🙂

Help?

 

 

I’m finally trying to be a good person

I’ve worked on a lot of things about myself during my 5½ year journey of addiction recovery. Early on, it was mostly just about understanding how I got to be the way I did, while also working on becoming addiction-free. Eventually, once that stuff takes hold, you start to gain clarity on other life issues, understanding how they all connect and hopefully learn able to tweak them if necessary. Sure, it’s been half a decade, but I’ve recently made the decision to consciously become a nicer, more accommodating person.

Yeah, it sounds ridiculous and most of you good people probably don’t have to work at it, but for somebody who has focused on both his lack of empathy and one-upsmanship as a major part of recovery, being a “nice guy” has never come naturally. I need cognitive behavior therapy to change.

I remember as a kid when I watched pro wrestling, I found the villains so much more compelling, especially the ones who portrayed characters that honestly didn’t believe they were the bad guy. I was never able to put this phenomenon into words until I read a line in Chuck Klosterman’s book I Wear the Black Hat that described villains as people who “…knew the most, but cared the least.”

Fake Altruism

I never saw myself as a typical villain. I just recognized that I had a certain moral flexibility and lack of empathy that many around me didn’t have. I didn’t care if you liked me because there were always plenty of people who did and I worked in the media for 20 years, where people are constantly kissing your ass for coverage. It skews the need to actually be a good person.

Even worse, I think I had a lot of people convinced I was a good person. I think that’s really what the shunning of me post-arrest was mainly about. Yeah, I committed a disgusting, heinous crime, but I think people were pissed off this “good guy” actually turned out to not be so nice.

And it’s hard to say they were wrong about this discovery. I had the act of seeming to be altruistic nailed.

There was an annual dinner for the local abused woman’s shelter where they would get 10-12 well-known people in Maine to be celebrity waiters and waitresses. Along with serving people their food, throughout the event, the “celebrities” were asked to either display a talent (one of the anchors from the NBC affiliate played the flute, for example) or just come up with their own crazy, humorous plans to raise money.

I was asked back year after year because I made them the most money. I re-enacted the water drop scene from Flashdance for $200, wouldn’t stop singing Johnny Cash until enough money was raised and arm wrestled a bunch of women, with each of us putting up $25 and the loser paying the charity. I know that I was irritating to the organization running the thing, because like half the celebrities, I was drunk an hour into the dinner, but hey, money talks.

The event was held in May, a time when it starts getting sticky and humid in Maine. By that point, my hair was always long because I didn’t cut it in the winter. I usually got sick of it and just buzzed the whole thing down to about a half-inch. I always wanted to go completely bald but never had the guts.

The day of the event in 2013, I was having drinks with the mayor of my town. We both liked to drink a lot, he was also a repeat celebrity and we knew showing up half-in-the-bag made it easier to be the dancing monkeys the crowd wanted. We somehow started talking about our mutual love of pro wrestling. He and I hatched a plan.

To end the night, the mayor and I told the audience that we were going to have a beer drinking contest and they could wager with each other, but the loser had to give the money to charity. We also created another stipulation. If the audience could raise $500 in two minutes, we’d up the stakes and the loser would get their head shaved. When the two minutes was up, we’d raised over $700.

In the “contest” I just poured the beer all over my face with my mouth open and let it dribble down the sides. I emptied my can first, claiming victory while the mayor cried foul. I grabbed the clippers and plugged them in, getting ready to cut the mayor’s hair, but the emcee interjected, saying he thought what went down wasn’t fair, and the audience agreed. He said they should take a vote who gets their head shaved.

As I started to scream that wasn’t fair and act like a crybaby, the audience voted. I lost. The emcee and another waiter held me in a chair while my head was shaved. The audience went wild. I whined the whole time. The audience ate it up.

After the dinner as the hosts were thanking the mayor and I for making such a huge potential sacrifice for a good cause, the NBC anchor came over to us.

“I can’t believe the two of you came up with that bet,” she said.

He and I looked at each other and smiled.

“Wait…” she said, putting it together. “Was this….?”

“Danielle,” I said, “Do you think it was just a coincidence there were hair clippers here?”

“Pro Wrestling 101,” said the mayor.

“Oh my God,” she said. “You guys are evil.”

She said it with a laugh, but as I was driving home, my phone and Facebook feed were already blowing up with pictures and people from the community talking about it. I’d love to say it was a surprise, but it wasn’t. It was exactly the reaction I wanted and expected. People were talking.

I didn’t care if we raised any money for the abused women’s shelter. I just wanted to run a huge con on the audience – and not let them in on it. I wanted people to tell me how awesome and selfless I was for a good cause. It would be another con, because only I knew I was planning on shaving my head that weekend. I just figured out how to make a giant spectacle of it with me looking like the altruistic good guy when all was said and done.

It was how I operated for years. I made myself out to look like a genuinely caring, community-oriented guy. I was neither of those things.

Trying it For Real This Time

While I’ve been ostracized from my community to the point I’ll never be able to be an active participant again, there’s nothing that says I can’t be a decent guy.

On the recent month-long road trip I went on with my daughter, I was in a genuinely good, caring mood the entire time. I was done probation, which meant I could roam out of state as I wanted and I’d saved enough money over a long time so I didn’t have to pinch pennies.

My wife said our 20-year-old princess and I would butt heads, but we never did. I let her listen to the music she wanted and learned that she’d get tired of it after a couple hours, or she’d take a nap. Except for the rap, it actually wasn’t that bad.

I started letting people cut in front of me at highway construction sites when lanes would go from three-to-two-to-one, even those miscreants who ride to the front in the breakdown lane. I began making small talk with waitresses, front desk clerks and people around us when we’d be waiting in line for stuff. I started tipping 25% if the waiter or waitress did a really good job, leaving nice notes on the receipt. I held doors much longer than usual and helped an elderly lady down some stairs. When a customer berated a counter worker at a fast food place, I told the girl she was working hard, doing a good job, and the customer was wrong.

It turns out, it feels good to genuinely do things for the right reasons and not expect anything in return.

I found myself actually looking for opportunities to be nice on the trip and it’s carried over to real life. Much like the cognitive behavioral training (CBT) that I used to change my patterns, beliefs and other aspects of my life during early recovery, I’m using those skills now, searching for ways to not only do the right thing, but hopefully make someone else’s life better. I’m not talking about kidney donating levels, just little things like giving the toll booth attendant $5 to pay for me and the four people behind me.

Yeah, I know this stuff should come naturally, and does to most people, but thank god I’ve got my CBT training.

I see this second half of my life as a bit of a do-over for the mistakes and problems (some my fault, some not) of the first half. Now, it’s a nicer do-over.

 

 

Q&A Time: How do you live with yourself?

QUESTION: How do you live with yourself with what you did? How do you look at yourself in the mirror and who made you the voice of every porn addict out there?

ANSWER: Your autographed 8X10 is in the mail.

Two questions in two days…wow. For anybody who wonders why I’m posting this question, you should have read the rest of the email this came from. I believe it was from somebody who discovered me during my ill-fated sojourn onto Facebook last week. Yeah, the email was full of bile, but when you strip it away, as I have, I think those are actually legit, rational questions.

I don’t think those questions are really the ones that person wants answered. I doubt they even wanted answers. They just wanted me to know they thought I was a bad person. At this point, all I can say is, “Noted.”

If I read between the lines, I think this person is first asking why I don’t spend every waking minute groveling and repenting. I think the follow-up question is about why I don’t just disappear into the darkness.

I am absolutely embarrassed and ashamed of what I did. The fact that I was able to let my mental health (and rest of my life) slip to a point that I encouraged women to perform sexual acts on their webcam is, in a word, gross. The fact I didn’t have the sense to somehow make sure no female under 18 ended up on cam is negligent at best and sinister at worst.

I don’t think that I’ll ever not feel embarrassment and shame for what I did. I don’t know if it had a lasting negative effect on that girl, or any of the other women I got involved. I do know it had a negative effect on my family and they never asked for that.

But here’s the thing, I’m not a disciple of Brene Brown, the shame guru. Perhaps this is narcissistic or means I’m denial, but while I did an embarrassing and shameful thing, I don’t think that makes me a person who has to define himself as ashamed or embarrassed. I did a horrible thing, but I haven’t let it affect my self-worth. I actually feel better about myself now, 5½ years into recovery than I ever have. There’s no defense for what I did, but I’m not ashamed of who I am. Those are two different things.

I think that there is a segment of the populace who, when they first hear my story, or are reintroduced to me for the first time since my arrest in 2014, they are shocked that I’m not on my hands and knees, begging for forgiveness from them and the world in general.

I went through that period. You just weren’t there. I believe at some point, you have to stand up, dust yourself off, and move on because, really, what else can you do? I think it’s like a lot of traumas that way. You deal with it and you move on or you let it totally consume you. I’ve seen people who get consumed and I didn’t want to be like that.

I had a deep emotional reaction to what I did that was on display for all early on. The amount of times I cried to my wife, or in therapy, were plentiful. If you need a show from me to believe that I will forever be deeply, deeply aware of what happened and what it means, the show’s over.

Finally, I’ve never claimed to be the voice of all porn addicts. Many never understand they are addicted. Even more never confront it or try to do anything about it. Very few have the law involved as I did. I’m critical of some of the online communities of men based on their methodology in trying to tackle the issue. I’m not trying to be anybody’s voice but my own.

I tell my story because I didn’t hear anybody’s story when I was in the same situation. There were few resources when I was going through this. I felt completely alone. I hope that telling my story makes a few other people feel less alone. I might not only help some addicts, but help prevent some victims this way.

I also want to raise the idea with people who don’t think of it, or don’t believe it, that porn addiction is a real thing and can have real consequences. If they can walk away understanding it’s not a moral failure, but an illness, that’s one more person in the world who might move us toward a place we can accept a national dialogue on the matter.

Finally, I tell my story because I don’t think I’m the stereotype people conjure when they think of a porn addict. If I can break the mold, and explain there is no “typical” addict, perhaps we can dump the stigma that a porn addict is a specific kind of a person.

I’m not trying to win fans, I’m just trying to make the best of what was a bad situation. I understand most people slink away and don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine, it’s just not the cloth from which I was cut. Much like my advice if you stumble across a TV show you don’t like, just turn me off if I bother you that much.

———————————————————————————————-

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.

Q&A Time: Did Bipolar Disorder Cause My Alcoholism and Porn Addiction

QUESTION: I read your blog on bipolar disorder the other day. Do you think your bipolar disorder caused your porn and alcohol addictions?

ANSWER: I think it certainly played a role. It doesn’t dismiss the fact that I got myself lost in the addictions, but to deny that there wasn’t some influence is ludicrous.

When you’re an addict and have mental health issues, it’s called having co-occurring disorders. It’s not rare. More than half of drug addicts and around 40% of alcoholics have co-occurring disorders. I have not found statistics on porn/sex, gambling or video game addiction.

An important revelation I’ve come to accept during recovery is that everything is connected in our lives.

I became an addict because I had some childhood trauma, which stunted development of certain coping skills. I became an addict because of a rich history of addiction on both sides of my family. I became an addict because I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so different than my peers. I became an addict because despite being properly educated on the danger, I had a bit of a defiant, curious, pleasure-seeking personality that was open to trying anything.

But then again, maybe all those things happened because of the bipolar disorder, or both.

I have a chicken-and-egg debate with myself about whether I entered the critical phase of addiction because I stopped taking my bipolar medication or whether I stopped taking my bipolar medication because I entered the critical phase of addiction.

At that point, my sleep tumbled to 2-3 hours per night, my relationships with family and business partners grew distant and strained, my physical appearance became of little concern and I eventually stopped caring about almost everything. Was that because I was a critical addict or because I was mentally ill?

I think you’d need a pie chart to graphically represent what led to me being who I was. I don’t know what the biggest piece would have been. Some might have labeled me as an addict, some may have labeled me as mentally ill while others would have just labeled me as somebody they didn’t want to be around because of those other little parts of the pie chart put together. It doesn’t matter really. It was all connected.

As somebody who had already been in and out of therapy for several years prior to accepting my porn and alcohol addictions, I knew that not only would I have to get help for the addictions, but the therapy was going to have to not only continue at a higher frequency, but start exploring my life in a different direction. I needed to learn how to manage my mental health and addictions. I had to have co-occurring solutions to co-occurring disorders.

Sadly, only 7-10 percent of people suffering from co-occurring disorders get help for both simultaneously. Unfortunately, most therapists who deal with the kind of mental health issues that come with bipolar disorder are not schooled in addiction counseling or solutions, and vice versa. At the first rehab I went to for alcoholism, they’d basically start shutting you down if you talked about other facets of mental health.

This question was part of a much larger email from the person who wanted an answer. My final words to them are the final words I’ll write here: In the end, you have to take care of the entire person, but that means simultaneously taking care of a lot of little parts. You’ve got a doctor for your teeth, one for your eyes, one for your general physical health. You see a specialist for your heart, or another specialist if you need an operation. It’s OK to see one therapist for addictions and another for dealing with bipolar. We have a lot to take care of as humans because after all, it’s all connected.

 

———————————————————————————————-

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.

My Return, and Lightning-Fast Exit, from Facebook

I wasn’t on social media, specifically Facebook, for 5½ years. I returned earlier this week, and it took me less than 72 hours to leave again.

I wasn’t trying to re-launch my personal page. That ship has sailed. I can just imagine people who turned their back on me back in early 2014 getting a friend request now.

“Wait, that bastard’s still alive and living around here?” would probably be the typical response. Those who might be more willing to welcome me back would probably be hesitant for what those friends who still hold a grudge would say. It’s just not worth it.

It was, however, worth it to see if I could create some kind of presence that could serve as a conduit to get people over to my site and blog. The WordPress community is a wonderful, supportive place that in some ways has become a surrogate friendship circle for me. But, it reaches just so far.

I created a page titled, “Joshua Shea, Pornography Addiction Expert” because I thought it sounded professional. I put a few links to things I’d recently written on this site and a link to each of the two books I’ve written about pornography addiction.

After a day, I noticed nobody had been to the page. Facebook offered a $15 credit to run ads promoting the site, so I took them up on it. My hope was to generate enough likes to encourage other people to automatically visit the page, and hopefully harvest a few new regular readers for this site.

Listen, I know pornography addiction turns off a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Whether you’re a victim of abuse, simply squeamish when any sexuality topic is discussed, or hiding the fact you’ve got a problem, I understand that I’m not going to get the quantity nor diversity of traffic on my Facebook page that a pop culture page will. I expect that.

I also understand, based on first-hand experience, that there are people who will judge me without knowing anything about me. I came to terms with that a long time ago and it no longer bothers me…or at least I thought it didn’t.

This all said, I decided that I would target the Facebook ads to mental health professionals in the United States and Canada. I figure if there would be any group who was at least open to exploring what I had to offer, it would be those who have a professional interest or potential curiosity in what I was offering.

So, I turned on the ads and sat back.

The first 12 hours were as slow as I suspected. A nurse from Michigan liked the Facebook page and a couple dozen people clicked over to look at it.

Then, somebody put an emoji on one of the posts that I had to look up. Since I left Facebook, they added a laughing face. I didn’t understand why this person put a laughing face, and when I tried to look up his page, I was only met with far right-wing memes. Along with porn addicts, he didn’t seem to like anybody who wasn’t a gun-owning, meat-eating, Ford F150-driving, country-music listening, Islamophobic, homophobic, 40% of my clothing has a flag or an eagle on it, white male.

In the next couple of hours, I received five more of these laughing faces. In the limited amount I could see their pages, they were either the same kind of right-wing person as the first guy or far-left anti-porn zealots who gave me the vibe that since I once saw a woman naked, I should be castrated and sent off to an island. Given a few more hours, there actually started to be “Get the F off Facebook” messages under my posts.

Except for that first nurse, I could not confirm if any of these people worked in mental health. I hope not, but I’m also smart enough to know that who people present themselves as professionally is not always who they are behind closed doors. My optimistic belief is that there was one or two who got an ad, commented and that was passed on to their equally intolerant, but not mental health sector employed friends.

I could pretend that I’m worried those kinds of negative actions toward my Facebook page will hurt my “brand” or that I don’t want other porn addicts to view my site and see my being laughed at and fear they will be, too. The reality is, I just don’t have the time or space in my head to deal with small-minded people. I spent too much of my life worrying about what everybody thought of me or how I could win their attention and affection. It got me nowhere.

I’ve learned to turn off political news and not watch movies or TV shows that upset me. I don’t get involved in causes that I used to work myself up about; I had to let the polar bears and voter registration go. My loud aversion to religion is now barely a murmur and I’m actually open to hearing another’s point of view without attacking it. I look for opportunities to laugh and smile, or engage in discourse with people who – even if they disagree with me – do it in an intellectual and civil way.

Recognizing this, I should have known Facebook was the wrong move from the get-go.

 

Hello manic phase of my bipolar disorder, I remember you

For those people who don’t have bipolar disorder or simply aren’t familiar enough with it, there is a misconception that medication completely takes care of your highs and lows. It doesn’t. It can mask it for a while, but I’ve recognized I’m currently experiencing a manic phase.

The role of the medication is to not make the highs too high or the lows too low. What used to be a minor manic episode, like the one I’m going through now, is about as bad as it gets these days. While it may rank a 7 on my 1-to-10 scale now, it would have been a 2 or 3 back when my bipolar disorder went untreated. Earlier this year, I had my worst depressive/anxiety episode I’ve had in over a decade. It was an easy 10 by today’s standards, but would have been average when I was in my early 20s.

The one drawback I find to the medicine is that years ago, I could see the manic or depressive episode coming on. It was like a freight train at night in that there was no stopping it, but I could see it from a mile away. Now, I don’t realize if I’m up or down until I’m well into it.

There are a few things that indicate to me I’m in a manic cycle:

I’m writing/journaling/blogging at all hours of the day – There are weeks where I find it challenging to put up one post a week here. The past 10 days, I’m finding it challenging not to post twice every day. I started writing this around 7 a.m. and I never blog that early. The piece I posted last night about intimacy and jail was written in the early evening, and I never write for this blog that late.

The upside is that I think it’s healthier than a lot of things I could be doing. I’ve got a powder keg of thoughts and feelings going off in my head right now and the way I’ve learned to deal with them is to get them down on paper. Of course, me being me, I need an audience and this blog serves that beast.

Lack of sleep – I should qualify the word lack more by saying “Lack of a need.” Back in the day, during a manic phase, I could go 60 hours without sleeping, or I could go a week catching a daily three-hour nap. I’m not at those staggering levels anymore, but I can get by on five hours of sleep during a manic phase.

Fortunately, lack of sleep now means just watching a lot more TV, reading or playing games on my phone. Instead of drinking or looking at porn, it seems like you can find Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men somewhere on television 24 hours a day. Who would have ever thought that Charlie Sheen would be my answer to not watching porn?

Trouble working – While it’s ironic that I can sit here and write my thoughts on a continual loop, when it comes to getting my actual freelance writing done, it’s like tredging through molasses. Lately, my main source of income has been ghostwriting professional or empowerment blogs for clients. Those usually run 500 to 700 words and take 90-to-120 minutes to write, depending on what kind of research is needed. Now it’s taking me 3-4 hours.

A lot of that is because I’m distracted. I can pound out 1,000 words for a blog in 15 minutes, but I can’t put three sentences together with my work without going and checking e-mail or reading news sites or playing with my dogs. I still mostly ignore politics and bad news, but during manic phases I suddenly seem to care about celebrity and science news.

Trying something new – I left social media the day I was arrested and haven’t been back. It wasn’t exactly my choice. I was banned from social media while out on bail and while on probation. That was more than five years. Then, a few days ago, I started a Facebook page for the porn addiction education component to my life. I figured with my new book on pre-order and coming out soon, it would be a good idea to utilize it for promotion purposes. I’m going to write more about this experience later today or tomorrow, but let’s just say it didn’t go well and the page is now gone.

I’ve also launched a LinkedIn page. Why? Good question. I’m not sure, but it can’t end as badly as the Facebook thing did. But I’m sure it can end badly. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. My hope is that I can play both the professional writer and porn addiction educator at the same time and connect with people who might want my services for both. I haven’t tried LinkedIn to this point. It may not be a good idea – and that’s the thought I have when I know I’m in a manic phase but try things anyway. Thankfully the things I try now (like rejoining social media, or learning to cook, or getting another dog without telling anyone) pale compared to the dumb shit I did when I drank or looked at porn and was riding a manic phase.

If this goes on for too many more days or gets worse, I’ll call the doctor, like I did when I was going through my depressive episode earlier this year and see if the meds need tweaking. The nice thing is that I can manage everything now because I’m vigilant about my mental health. The combination of addiction with my mental health issues was often too much to handle in the past. But now, I know it’s a cycle and that things will change. I also know that I won’t do the kind of damage to myself I did in the past when I was unmedicated, in active addiction, unwilling to talk to people about it and frankly, not doing anything about it.

Bipolar disorder can be a burden, but we’ve all got crosses to bear, so I’m not looking for any sympathy. I just want the non-affected folks out there to understand that kicking your addictions or being on a usually very effective cocktail of medications doesn’t make it go away.

 

 

Stories from Jail: Realizing the Role Intimacy Plays in Sex and Porn Addiction

As a man of above-average means and intelligence, I was thrust into a world very unfamiliar to me with men I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to engage with when I served six months in the local county jail in early 2016.

There was the occasional outlier (I was in minimum security and in jail, not prison, so I admit I didn’t see the worst of the worst), but I would guess that 60% were there tied to drug/alcohol abuse, 25% for domestic violence and 15% for sex crimes. Maybe some were awaiting trial, while others were serving their sentence, or temporary locked up because of a probation violation, but in my non-ethnically diverse area, this is how it broke down with the 60-80 guys I got to know during my time there.

For someone on the outside who enjoys buzzwords of the day, they would have seen this group of men and immediately said, “This is the very definition of toxic masculinity.”

As somebody who, at the time of my sentencing, had just done nearly four months of inpatient rehab for alcoholism and sex/porn addiction, along with hundreds of hours of one-on-one and group therapy, I think I served as a bit of a de facto life coach/advisor for many of the men.

One of the reasons so many of these men trusted me with their stories was because they knew I sought help for my porn addiction. Despite being locked up for other reasons, the vast majority of these men had clear issues with both sex and pornography.

I recall one man (a domestic violence offender) who came to me off to the side one day and told me that he’d heard me talking to other guys. In his early 30s, he said if he did the math, he probably had slept with 1,500 women. When you break it down as two or three one-night stands per week over a little more than a decade, the number isn’t so unrealistic.

I remember his saying to me, “It sounds like a lot of these have only been with three or four women in their life. It makes me think I may have a problem.”

Another man, there for a probation violation because he was belligerently drunk in public (again), confided in me that he watched 5-6 hours of porn every day and even when he was holding down one of his rare jobs, he’d go to his car during his lunch break and watch porn on his telephone. It had never occurred to him that this could be an issue.

“Sometimes I watch with buddies, sometimes by myself and I don’t *Insert your favorite euphemism for masturbation* a lot of the time. When I’ve had girlfriends we’ve watched it together,” he said.

“Why do you watch it with other people?” I asked.

“I dunno. Cause it’s funny. Or sexy. It’s like a bonding thing I guess,” he responded.

“How else do you bond with people?” I followed up.

“It’s not like I only look porn. I meet a lot of people in bars,” he said.

“Isn’t that the reason you’re here?” I asked, motioning to nothing in particular in the room, about the same size as a doctor’s office waiting room we shared with 6 to 10 other guys.

“I’m gonna think on that,” he said.

Later that night, he came to me, asked to sit on my bunk (standard jail protocol) and said, “I feel good when I drink and I feel good when I watch porn. I don’t feel good too many other times. So maybe like you, my porn watching is just as bad as my drinking and I never knew it.”

“At least it’s not too late for you,” I thought to myself, yearning for the day in the near future I’d be released, hoping he’d get help before his porn problem ever become as critical, or depraved, as mine.

It was in that moment that I recognized while I thought I had real intimacy in my life, I wasn’t unlike many of those men.

I was surrounded by plenty of people in my real life, just like my fellow inmates were. It didn’t matter mine had better jobs, higher educations and could afford nicer things. It didn’t matter that I had two loving parents, a supportive wife and kids who thought the sun rose and set with me while they may not have been that lucky. None of us were willing to stick our neck out and create relationships that went deeper that what was on the surface.

They never felt unconditionally loved, trusted and cared for by any parent or guardian early on, or by any partner as they grew and entered into the world of adult relationships because they were unable to give what they were getting…and when I thought about it…it was my story, too.

Isn’t the physical act of sex and the visual stimulus of porn completely just on the surface? We all intuitively understand the difference between “having sex” and “making love.”

Intimacy is vulnerability, and it’s not just about being physically intimate. When those men came to me with their issues, they were being vulnerable. They shared things with me I never would have shared with anybody.

Despite being more than two years sober at that point, it dawned on me that my recovery had miles left to go and it had nothing to do with porn or sex.

%d bloggers like this: