Yes, Recovery Does Get Easier

While porn addiction isn’t exactly a happy topic, I feel like I sometimes tend to be about doom-and-gloom, often specifically looking for negative statistics to show what a problem the addiction is, and will become in our society.

I rarely talk about what it’s like for me today, nearly five years into recovery. For those wondering the big question “Does it ever get easier?” I’m here to tell you that yes, it does, but you have to find the way to make it easier.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about cognitive behavioral therapy. If you have a behavior, even one that reaches an addictive level, I urge you to seek out a therapist who specializes in CBT.

When I was at both of my rehabs, there were the naysayers and people who didn’t want to be there. I remember one time, there was an especially mouth drug addict. He was young and it was clear his parents forced him to be there or he’d get cut off. There are always a few those at every rehab.

“You’re just here to brainwash us!” he once blurted out to a clinician who was running one of our group activities.

He stopped, walked over to the guy, looked him straight in the eye and said one of the most truthful things I’ve ever heard.

“If you’re not here to get your brain washed, you’re in the wrong place. Don’t you think you all need a little bit of brainwashing?” he asked the addict.

A few days later, the anti-brainwasher was kicked out for hooking up with one of the young women he shared his drug of choice with at the facility. It’s funny how it’s never the sex or porn addicts that hook up at these places.

In a nutshell, CBT is self-brainwashing.

The other idea this clinician introduced me to was the concept of the “pre-lapse.” His contention was that once you’re at the stage of relapse, you’re going to engage in your addiction, but if you can nip it in the bud in advance, you’ll never reach relapse stage. There are a series of almost ritualistic thoughts and behaviors most addicts, regardless of the specific addiction, go through prior to using. Once that chain of events begins, it’s hard to derail it.

I learned how to derail the pre-lapse with cognitive behavioral therapy. I used it to tackle both my alcohol and porn problems and although muscle memory has made coping with the addictions easier, I still have CBT in back pocket.

As long as I live and I see an ad for beer on television, I’m going to have the Pavlovian response of thinking it looks tasty. That’s because the first beer or two is tasty. It’s when I feel this way that I pause and remind myself that I’ve never stopped at one or two and can’t stop at one or two, so I can’t have any. That works now. When the pull was harder years ago, I’d start thinking about all of the horrible things I’d done or said when I was drunk and how I never wanted to go down that route again. Eventually, maybe the commercials won’t trigger any response.

With porn, if I see a beautiful woman on TV or in the movies, I’ll sometimes have the immediate thought, “I wonder if she’s done a nude scene.” In years past, that would lead me to one of those celebrity porn websites. Today though, I’m able to pause and ask myself, “What does it matter if she’s done a nude scene? What will I see that I’ve never seen before?” I find that when I boil porn down to its essence, naked people being objectified, I want nothing to do with it.

And whether it’s alcohol or porn, I’m able to look back at the last six years: First, my worst year of addiction, then getting in legal trouble, attending two rehabs and hundreds of hours of therapy, a six-month jail sentence, hurting so many people close to me, almost bankrupting myself all leading to what is today a very isolated, often lonely life. My choices with alcohol and porn led me here and having spent time with addicts, I know I’m actually one of the lucky ones. Reflecting back on these last six years is a quick trick to put any porn or alcohol triggers to rest.

Yes, it’s easier now going into Year 5 of recovery than it was Year 3 and certainly Year 1. For those of you who are in the early stages, don’t fret. Just stick with it. You have control over your actions, even if you need someone to teach you how. Seek out a CBT therapist and make the recovery journey a successful one.

Getting Trivial Things Off My Chest – January Edition

I haven’t written a trivial thoughts entry yet for January and since we’re both at the end and I have no thoughts worthy of a long-form entry, it’s the perfect intersection of deadline and laziness.

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I had a fascinating conversation with a friend the other day. I have been engaging in a little more anti-porn talk on the podcasts I appear on and presentations I make lately. I’ve tried not to come off as anti-porn because I believe the people who need the most help are pro-porn. Being anti-porn is passing judgment and addicts generally don’t respond well to being judged. That said, I also fully subscribe to the idea that all porn is objectification. There is no other reason to look at pornography than to objectify the person in the images being looked at or watched. Pornhub doesn’t exist to play “Guess this person’s IQ!”

I mentioned that porn is never a good thing because of the objectification, my friend asked the question if all objectification is wrong. I said that I thought it was, even when it’s a simple as seeing a pretty girl on the street. I’m not saying it can be helped necessarily, but I did say it was wrong. He brought up the idea of people making themselves look good, especially for a blind date. Aren’t those people specifically trying to appeal to the other person on nothing more than a visual level? He also brought up the fact that most people don’t want to be in a relationship with somebody unless they find their partner physically attractive. He said that’s just part of how evolution works.

I thought it was a fascinating point to make and one that I’m still wrestling with. I’d be curious to hear your opinions if there is such a thing as acceptable, or perhaps even necessary, self-objectification.

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I was going through the list of bloggers that I follow and saw the number had exceeded 100. It doesn’t feel that way when I look through the Reader section of WordPress, so I checked into the blogs I follow and it was amazing how many people haven’t kept up with their blogs. I went through and deleted every blog that hadn’t updated in at least four months. By the time I was done, I only had 56 blogs left. Some of them were amazing and I wonder what happened to those people. Others, often about addiction, just abruptly stopped and I worry what happened to those people.

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When I first went to rehab for alcoholism in 2014, I was told by a recovered heroin user that people who are heavy addicts will often dream for years about their addiction, and using. I have to admit, that’s never happened with me and pornography. I have never had a dream about it. I did however, go through a long stretch of having dreams about alcohol and over the last few weeks, they have returned.

Almost all of the dreams are the same. I am usually at a bar or a party and somebody offers me a pint of beer. I say no. Then, the dream jumps forward and I’m sitting with a couple of empty pint glasses in front of me and I immediately recoil in disgust. I can’t understand how I could have drank those beers since I haven’t had alcohol going back to April 1, 2014. I am thoroughly disturbed in the dream at the idea that I “just forgot” I had years of sobriety.

There was a wrinkle in the latest dream. I was faced with drinking and I said to myself, “Well, since I already slipped up, I guess I could” and for the first time in years, I recall drinking beer in one of my dreams. I think it’s fascinating that in my dream world, I relapsed in one dream and used it as an excuse to continue drinking in another dream. This is just another reminder that for all the energy I put toward pornography addiction awareness, I personally have to keep just as strong a watch over the alcohol.

Reflecting on the Third Anniversary of My Time in Jail

It feels a little strange to recognize the anniversary of something that was so life-altering, but tomorrow, January 22, 2019, marks the three-year anniversary of the day I went to jail. I ended up serving 27 weeks which were among the most definitive of my life.

I ended up there because in late 2013, I made the heinous, reprehensible mistake of engaging a teenage girl online in a chat room. It doesn’t matter that I was an alcoholic, off my bipolar meds and generally watching my professional and personal worlds crumble. I made an error in judgment that I would never have made for 99.8% of my life.

The irony is that by the time I was sentenced, I’d spent the better part of two years in intense rehabilitation including two inpatient rehab stints, participation in 12-step groups and frequent one-on-one therapy sessions. The version of me that was sentenced by that judge in 2016 was the healthiest version I’d ever been.

I’m glad that I was healthy when I went to jail. If I had gone before my recovery truly had time to take root, I’m not sure I could have been so reflective with my time there. For me, jail was not hard time because I learned how to keep myself continually occupied. It was however, long time…and I think that’s the point. You get plenty of time to think.

In jail, nobody expects much out of you. You follow a few basic rules and that’s it. For some people, it drives them crazy. They literally pace the pod, taking 25 steps in one direction, turning around, taking 25 more and doing this for hours at a time. Others play cards, wagering their dinnertime desserts just to make things interesting. Meanwhile, others will veg out in front of the television, ironically watching marathons of Cops.

I did a lot of reading and wrote several books, including the one that a publisher picked up last year. I probably averaged 10 hours a day of reading or writing. While it was nice to have the time to get done two things I’d been neglecting for years, I felt a little like Burgess Meredith on that one episode of The Twilight Zone where all he ever wanted to do was be left alone to read, and when his end-of-the-world wish came true, he accidentally stepped on his glasses.

There were many occasions where I would just stop and look around at the other nine or ten men sharing this small space with me and say the words to myself, “I am currently in jail.” It remains as surreal now as it was then. The script my parents wrote for my life and tried to have me internalize at a young age did not include incarceration.

I said earlier I don’t make excuses and try not to minimize nor rationalize my crime. The one caveat I do make is that I know if I had been aware of pornography addiction or had someone called my growing use of pornography in those final years to my attention, I may not have ended up where I did. My addiction – one I never tried to control – led to my going to jail.

For those reading this who think to themselves, “There’s nothing wrong with looking at pornography a couple times a week or a few times a month,” just please recognize, I once held that belief as well. I couldn’t see the evolution from an ongoing addiction to a critical-phase addiction.

I got a lot of time to think about my poor choices and poor health management while I was in jail. You may think it’s impossible that you’ll ever end up there, but I am proof anything is possible when it comes to an insidious addiction. You’ve been warned.

Q&A Time: I’m A Porn Addict. Help.

QUESTION: I’m struggling with this addiction and I need help. What now?

ANSWER: That’s about as direct and to-the-point as you can get. It’s hard to get very specific because I don’t know if you’re looking once-a-week and feel bad about yourself or if this is a daily, multi-hour activity that is starting to stray into extreme or illegal territory. Either way there are some common pieces of advice I’d offer.

First is to find a professional to talk about this with. Depending on where you live there may be Certified Sex Addiction Therapists available. That would be your first choice. Here in Maine, where I live, that is an official licensure designation. If that’s the case where you live, you’ll want to find someone who has expertise with addictions. That can range from LCSWs (licensed clinical social worker) to LMFTs (licensed marriage and family therapist) to CACs (certified addiction counselors).

When you find that therapist, be 100% honest with them. You’re wasting everybody’s time and your money if you are anything less. The therapist will help guide you through you journey, but you’re going to have to do the heavy lifting and lying to them (or yourself) is going to largely render the therapeutic experience as worthless. Also understand you are probably going to bring up a lot more questions before you start with answers. This is all part of the process.

Next, find others who are also suffering from pornography addiction. Share your story with them and listen as they share their story with you. Recognizing you’re not alone, and coming to a sense of community with others like you will help you.

You can find these communities with 12-step groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. If these kinds of support groups are not local to your area, there are online meetings and hundreds of hours of recorded testimony available on YouTube of people talking about this exact subject. If you want to be more interactive, there are a handful of really good message boards out there. I’ve listed a few on the Resources page of this website and I’m sure a simple Google search may yield a few more I don’t know about. The point is, you are not alone in this struggle.

Finally, I’d urge you to learn as much about porn addiction, or addiction in general. There are literally thousands of books that you can find online and countless videos on YouTube that address addiction. I found learning about the scientific side of things helped me understand what I was experiencing at a deeper level.

As addicts, we tend to think that we’re a special snowflake and nobody could possibly understand what is happening with us. The reality is, in most cases, we’re just another statistic. Understanding those statistics, especially ones that had to do with success in recovery, was one of the key steps to me staying on the recovery path.

You must understand that your addiction will not go away overnight. Recovery is a long, hard road with triggers galore in the beginning. While I rarely feel triggers these days, even five years into recovery, they can still happen. You need to develop the tools to deal with them.

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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.

The 2018 Pornhub Statistics Should Scare the Hell Out of Everybody

Normally, I do a monthly “Your Alarming Porn Statistics for the Month” entry, but I worry those sometimes get buried and I don’t want this to go unnoticed as Pornhub, the most visited pornography site in the world, often appearing in the Top 10 of all websites for traffic in the world has released its 2018 statistics. They give a chilling testimony to just how fast pornography is growing.

First, let me say that while I don’t like what Pornhub does, they do have one of the most excellent analytics teams in the world when it comes to producing data sets. The statistician in me is glad they do such a good job illustrating the problem we have in front of us.

Here are just a handful of highlights from their 2018 numbers:

  • Pornhub’s visitors in 2018 went up more than 5 billion from 2017 to 33.5 billion people. That means 92 million people are visiting daily and Pornhub expects that number to exceed 100 million visitors per day by early 2019.
  • Pornhub saw 4.79 million new videos uploaded in 2018, or over 1 million hours of new content. If you watched for 24 hours a day without duplicating a single video, it would still take you over 114 years to view just the new content. In a single minute, over two hours of new content is being added to the site.
  • The top seven countries remained exactly the same in user rank, with United States, United Kingdom and India ranking in the Top 3, respectively. Interestingly enough, these are the three countries, in that order, that visit my website.
  • Of the top 20 countries that utilize Pornhub, only one saw a decrease in duration, South Africa. The United States was up four seconds to 10 minutes and 37 seconds. The Philippines leads the list with 13 minutes and 50 seconds. Throughout the world, the average was up by 14 seconds. In the United States, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama were the states that used the site the longest. Kansas, Nebraska, Washington DC and Utah were the shortest.
  • Women now make up 29% of Pornhub’s viewership worldwide. That’s an increase of 3 percentage points over last year, or about 12% more overall. The Philippines has the most female viewers, at 38%, while the US number is 28%.
  • The average Pornhub user is 35.5 years old. Only 22% of users are older than 45. Viewers 18-to-24 are actually down 3% from 2017 and now represent 26% of the total viewership. Conversely, viewers 25-to-34 are up by 3% to 35%. This means that 61% of all traffic on the world’s busiest porn site is under 34 years old. It’s unknown if children who view are not tabulated or lumped into the 18-to-24 age group.
  • Considering its young users, it’s not hard to understand that 71.6% of users access Pornhub with their telephone. That number is up by 8% in 2018. Less than 20% used a traditional desktop or laptop computer, down 18% from 2017. Porn is mobile.

I’m going to stop here, but their statistics go on and on and on. I don’t think it really matters who the most popular porn star was this year or what the most popular browser to utilize porn on people’s tablets might be.

I’m not going to give my analysis on every statistic, other than to state these numbers should scare the hell out of people. Young people use the internet. Young people use their phones and young people are reporting higher rates of PIED (porn-induced erectile dysfunction) and pornography addiction than ever before.

This starts with the porn. No, not every viewer is going to end up critical, much like not everybody who tastes a beer or places a bet on a game ends up an addict. The difference is that the populace as a whole is still greatly uneducated about pornography addiction. I truly believe it’s one thing to start smoking cigarettes, knowing what the potential health risks are to viewing pornography, which the vast majority of people still believe (while morally questionable) is relatively harmless.

As always, if you have a pornography addiction, seek help. Here are a few RESOURCES where you can begin.

Spotting the Signs of Pornography Addiction, Updated

I’m putting a new introduction and conclusion on this blog entry, but the meat of it ran on December 11, 2017. It is the most frequently viewed article on this site and really speaks to the reason I put the site up in the first place.

Porn addiction is a very real thing. Since this blog first appeared, the World Health Organization finally included Sexual Impulse Disorder among its diagnosable conditions in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) guidebook used by mental health clinicians worldwide. Hopefully the American Psychiatric Association will update their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders (DSM), which tends to be favored by American clinicians (and insurance companies) when it comes to this disease.

Porn addiction really is a disease, and like any disease, there are stages. Addiction.com came up with a list talking about the stages of porn addiction. Looking back, I can see my journey through all three stages clear as crystal.

Early Warning Signs

  • Lying about, keeping secrets about and covering up the nature and extent of porn use
  • Anger or irritability if confronted about the nature or extent of porn use
  • Sexual dysfunction with real-world partners, including erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation and an inability to reach orgasm

I had girlfriends who hated everything about porn and those who didn’t. It didn’t matter to me. I’d deny to both that I looked at the stuff. I had folders for my folders on my computer. As a young guy in my early 20s, when I was with a female sexually for the first time, I almost uniformly was never able to perform to completion, unless I did it myself. I was intimidated by the fact I didn’t have the full control of the situation as I did with pornography. It was scary to let myself go. I would have to think of porn and think of what we were doing in terms of porn to perform. By the second or third encounter, it was not like real-life porn anymore because with traditional porn, it’s one-and-done.

Ongoing Signs

  • Escalating amounts of time spent on porn use, with hours and sometimes even days lost to pornography
  • An inability to form lasting social and intimate romantic relationships
  • Intense feelings of depression, shame and isolation
  • Disintegration of relationships with family, friends and romantic partners
  • Loss of interest in non-porn activities such as work, school, socializing, family and exercise

The pattern for my intimate relationships that lasted longer than a couple of months featured a dramatic drop in physical intimacy after the initial rush was gone. With porn, everything was new every time. After the 100th intimate encounter with a girlfriend, you know how the movie ends. I never allowed my physical relationships to become emotionally or spiritually intimate. I equated intercourse with only physical pleasure, because that’s all porn was to me.

Other signs were that I would look forward to people being out of the house so I could look at porn, or planning to watch later when I wasn’t at home yet. Watching regular TV was a trigger if I saw an actress and wondered if she’d done any nude scenes in the past. I couldn’t wait to do the research online to find out.

Critical Signs

  • Viewing progressively more intense or bizarre sexual content
  • Escalation from two-dimensional porn viewing to use of technology for casual, anonymous or paid-for sexual encounters, whether in-person or via Webcams
  • Trouble at work or in school (including reprimands and/or dismissal) related to poor performance, misuse of company/school equipment and/or public use of porn
  • Physical injury caused by compulsive masturbation
  • Financial issues
  • Legal issues (usually related to illegal porn use)

This is my crash. Ignoring a crumbling business, ignoring my psych meds, not getting any sleep, allowing my alcoholism to rule me, being up at 3 a.m. so I can talk to women in chatrooms…eventually leading to convincing a teenage girl to expose herself. I lost my job, I went to jail for six months and I’ll be on the sex offender registry for life.

The critical signs and that type of behavior lasted only a couple of months in a 25-year stretch of looking at porn, back to me being a kid. But as with most diseases, when it gets critical, things go downhill fast.

I look back on this article 13 months after I initially posted it and can even more recognize my life during those stages. The further I get down the recovery road, the more surprising it is that I didn’t recognize a problem sooner. I guess my alcoholism, mainly because of the attention it gets from the mainstream, grabbed my attention.

Well over 1,000 people looked at the first version of this article. I hope that they walked away with the two points I’ve consistently tried to make about pornography addiction: First, it can happen to anyone. There is not stereotypical addict. I could line 10 people up and tell you to pick the five addicts and it would be an exercise in futility. Second, if you have a problem, get some help. It’s OK to admit that you can’t do this on your own. The most important thing is you get up before things get to that critical point. If they can get critical for me, they can get critical for everyone.

Since this article went up, I’ve appeared on around 60 podcasts, radio and TV shows talking about pornography addiction, sharing many of these warning signs. Hopefully it’s done some good. If you’d like to check any of them out, visit HERE. As for seeking help, or simply to learn more about the addiction, check out the RESOURCES page and if that doesn’t do it for you, just contact me directly HERE.

 

Getting Trivial Things Off Of My Chest – December Edition

I have a feeling the next week-and-a-half is going to be busy and with a packed schedule comes a lack of maintaining this blog. I can directly trace my busiest times of the year with how many (or how few) blog postings I’ve made. So, this might be it for 2018 unless I toss up a Q&A.

At one point earlier this year, I would have made sure to have at least two more entries. I followed my statistics much closer then. I don’t think that’s the best reason for writing a blog. As I’ve mentioned before, I know a blog with the term “porn” in the title will scare away some people and many computer filters don’t let people get to my site because of the topic of the content. It’s ironic the very people who could use this site are the ones being denied by clunky content filters.

It reminds me of back in like 1996, when the newspaper I was working at just got the Internet. The IT guy (yeah, I’m looking at you Ray) who had your typical Napoleon Complex that comes with a lot of these guys who were picked last in gym, installed a hardcore filtering system. I once did a story on a woman who survived breast cancer and tried to get some statistics, but couldn’t look it up because the word “breast” was in the search.

Anyway, earlier this year I justified that following stats was important because the higher the numbers I had, the more people I was helping. In reality, I think it also gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush to see such high numbers. I mentioned this to my therapist once and she is often of the opinion, “If you’re not hurting anyone or yourself, does it matter?” I understand this philosophy, but think part of my illness through most of my life was the constant attention I was seeking from strangers. While a much lesser example, I still think checking my stats three times a day was more indicative of a popularity contest than a completely altruistic mission to help people.

I’m sure that when the new book comes out sometime next year (my guess is late spring at this point, but these things seem to have a way of getting delayed) I’ll be on here shilling it almost daily, but I’ve decided to not live by a posting schedule in 2019. There’s a lot of good material I’ve written and I hope people search it out if they need help. I’m just not going to be a slave to posting in hopes it pays off in ego points.

 

Speaking of ego points, if any of you have ever thought of publishing a book, be wary of those “publishers” who try to play to your ego and are in it to make money off of you. Now, we can argue the word “legitimate” when I say “legitimate publishers” but to me, that means a publisher who tries to make money off the book, not the book’s author.

Despite a recent spat, the publisher of my first book NEVER asked how many copies I was going to buy, nor made that contingent upon publishing.

The new book is getting interest from a handful of publishers. One of them asked if they could send a contract. I said OK because I want to see as many potential deals as possible. I won’t mention the name of the company here, but after an exchange of several emails and a nice telephone conversation, their deal came in the mail the other day.

While I had a couple problems with the deal, the real red flags went off when I got to the section of the contract that stated we had to purchase 500 books as part of the initial deal at right around $9 each.

No legitimate publisher is ever going to ask you to purchase your book. In fact, much like the other offer we’re currently considering, they should offer you at least 10 free copies of your book.

For the $4,500 that new publisher wants us to spend, we could self-publish and get far more than 500 copies. We said thank you, but no thank you.

I understand the urge to not self-publish – I don’t want to do it – but if the only publishers interested in your work want a large paycheck with it, that’s not somebody you want to do business with. If your book is that good, they’ll get behind it and have some skin in the game to make it a success.

 

Before I wrap this up, I just want to take the opportunity to thank those of you who rode with me the entire year and those who just jumped on board in recent weeks. While I try to keep this kind of stuff in perspective, I appreciate when you hit the like button, share a blog I’ve written on Facebook or share your comments. The reality is, we need to talk about pornography use and pornography addiction before we can, as a society, tackle the problem. I share statistics all the time that indicate the problem is getting worse, not better. Those of us willing to face it (even by just passively reading what I present shows you’re interested in the conversation, which is far more engaged than the vast majority of society) are still in the minority, but hopefully if we can continue to not judge, and maintain a safe space for addicts to come forward, we can begin to put some small dents in the problem.

Once again, thank you. I value each and every one of you.