Q&A Time: Reader asks question about husband’s pornography addiction

Note: I was asked to post about this question based on something else I wrote. If you’d like to have a question answered, contact information is at the end of the answer.

QUESTION: Could you please post about how a wife should focus and respond when her husband is addicted to pornography and will not admit it is an issue at all but blames her? I would love to know what to do. He apparently has been addicted since a quite young age but now prefers that to me. I fight to keep forgiving but do because God forgives me for things I do wrong. This just affects us and I want to hear your thoughts and maybe advice. His long-held denial is way too deep to see a counselor.

ANSWER: First, the sad fact about addiction you need to internalize is that it’s totally up to him at the end of the day if recovery is possible. You can threaten to leave, and you can even go ahead and leave, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. It’s up to him, and I know what a powerless feeling that can be. The power you have in this situation is the ability to gather knowledge and the ability to understand he can’t MAKE you feel any certain way. You choose to feel that way.

You’ve got a lot going on here, so let’s break it down:

His addiction is NOT YOUR FAULT! In fact, IT HAS NOTHING DO WITH YOU. You could invite two sexy cheerleaders into the bedroom with you and it’s not going to cure him. He has the brain disease of addiction and it’s simply manifesting itself with pornography instead of alcohol, gambling, food, etc. You did not create his addiction, you’re not the reason he continues to be addicted, but you’re also not going to be able to do anything but be supportive if he tries to tame the beast. His addiction is a medical condition.

There may be other marital issues at play here that you didn’t delve into. It sounds like he’s blaming you for something he says he doesn’t have. It’s important for you to be able to put your marital issues into one column and his addiction issues into another. Some may indeed overlap, but these are two different problems.

Your husband may claim to prefer pornography to you, but what he prefers is having a proven no-maintenance outlet for stress and anxiety release. It’s easy to confuse the no-strings-attached release one gets when utilizing pornography as a surrogate for the intimacy one has with a partner. They are actually very different things that meet very different needs and I think both the addict and the partner confuse them because both scenarios usually end in orgasm. The porn doesn’t nag, the porn doesn’t say no, the porn doesn’t judge. Real-life partners do all of those things. Real life partners cause stress. His coping mechanism to deal with stress is porn, but that’s only one of the surface reasons he uses. His real issues probably run deeper than he even he can understand at this point. I made some of my biggest breakthroughs years into counseling, so if he says that there’s nothing wrong or thinks he understands why he’s addicted, he probably doesn’t have anything close to the full story.

You say that his denial is too deep to see a counselor. It sounds like he’d refuse, and you can’t legally make him go, but I caution you of jumping to that conclusion. Unless you’ve been to medical school or have been in counseling your entire life, you’ve reached a conclusion here that I don’t think you’re qualified to reach. How did you reach this conclusion? That may reveal a lot about how you view this situation, and perhaps life…but that’s another discussion for another time.

What can you do? First, take care of yourself. If that means church, great. But you need to release guilt and a sense that you have anything to do with his addiction. You don’t. You could be a horrible wife or a great wife…but the addiction isn’t your fault or responsibility.

Second, figure out your limits. How much are you willing to live with, really? I’m guessing you’ll fall back on the God thing as to why you should stay with him, and that’s fine, and a point I can’t argue, because debating God or religion is pointless since real debate comes from a point of logic and God/religion doesn’t. If you HAVE to stay because of your beliefs, try to take care of yourself and find a comfortable chair because you’re in for a bumpy ride. He will do what he wants because there will be no consequences coming from you. There’s not much more to say.

Third, if you’re not 100% tied to staying, it gives you a little leverage. You need to create some non-negotiables and boundaries…inform him about them and then follow them. If you say “I will X if you Y” but then you don’t Y, you’ve just lost all of your control. He will do what he wants because again, no consequences. Are you willing to leave if he doesn’t go to counseling or rehab? Are you ready to give some ultimatums? It doesn’t have to be that severe. Can you refuse to participate in any more fights about whose fault the porn is? Tell him you will walk away the next time he wants to engage in an argument about it. This may also be the opportunity to work on your other marriage issues.

It’s hard to tell you what the boundaries and ultimatums or the consequences should be in your case because I’m not living it, but you must be willing to follow through. Don’t make idle threats. Make promises.

The best thing you can do is to live the healthy, fulfilling life you deserve. He is not preventing you from doing that. YOU are preventing YOU from doing that. He is just causing a problem. You need to try to solve the problem, and if it’s unsolvable, you need to know you gave it your best shot and move forward. That could mean going. That could mean staying. You need to mentally move forward either way.

I would urge you to also talk to other women in your position and get support from them. If you go to the Resources site on this page, check out the two discussion forums that are mentioned along with the link to the Betrayal Trauma Recovery site. You’ll find women in all stages of the situation you find yourself in and I’m sure they can offer perspective I don’t have.

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.

Spoiler Alert: Relapse is NOT a Part of Recovery

I hope this doesn’t upset too many people, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Relapse is not a part of recovery. You’ll get professionals and others who care telling you it is, but that’s only so you don’t give up and get back up on that horse and keep going. Relapse is actually the opposite of recovery. Relapse is a break from recovery.

Once the relapse has started, I think people will tell you anything to get it to stop. I understand that. If the behavior doesn’t stop, it’s no longer a relapse. It’s called “using again” and I think we rationalize the relapse to the addict as a minor slip to get them back on the right path. At that point, I get it. But is there more we can do to not reach that point?

I wonder how many relapses would actually be preventable if “Progress Not Perfection” and “Relapse is a Part of Recovery” were not mantras I heard throughout rehabs, group therapies and 12-step groups.

While it’s technically illegal if you’re using a scheduled drug like heroin, relapse isn’t the kind of thing that you’ll be thrown in jail for in 99.9% of the cases. Yes, you may do something stupid while you’re in the midst of your addiction if it alters your behavior to the point you are violent, miss work or make other bad choices, but let’s be honest…except for the guilt of failing and resetting the clock, most people get through a relapse unscathed.

I was reading a well-written entry on a recovery forum I frequent earlier and a guy was talking about his relapse. He had certain phrases that struck me as:

  • Part of every addict’s journey to a new life is trial and error, aka relapse.
  • If you do find yourself using again; don’t give up, rather give yourself a pat on the back, you are just like everybody else that has successfully beat their addiction.
  • Realize that in order to relapse you must have been trying to stop, and that honestly is the biggest step in this battle.
  • Learn from each relapse…as long as you take something away from it then you are moving forward towards recovery.

This all just sounds like rationalization to me, and if you’ve ever met an addict, you’ve met someone who is not only a master manipulator and liar to those close to them, they’re able to convince themselves of anything.

Recovery is about not indulging in your addiction. It is not about indulging in your addiction only a few more times. Rationalizing that it’s OK because everybody does it and as long as you learn something from it was OK is dangerous.

One of my favorite concepts taught at my second rehab was the idea of the “prelapse.” It asserts that long before you actually indulge in your addiction, you’ve set the wheels in motion. As most addicts can tell you, there is a way of thinking and there is a way of behaving leading up to the relapse. It can be minutes, hours or days. In most cases, it’s all three.

I’m not talking about massive red flag triggers. Those should be easy enough to spot. I’m talking about things like having a bad day, seeing something that causes a certain change in thinking or slacking off from your usual recovery diligence. It’s just as important that recovering addicts understand the little, subtle things that lead them toward relapse than the massive things. We see the massive things coming a mile away.

There are rituals involved with addiction, prior to the substance or behavior actually happening that many addicts never recognize. I had to pour the Red Bull and Tequila a certain way. The conditions for looking at online porn had to be exactly as I wanted. I hadn’t started drinking or looking yet, but had I relapsed when I began preparing? In many ways, yes. I never recognized any of these routines until I entered treatment. Identifying them is a great way to stop dead in your tracks.

Knowing what’s going to happen before the relapse is the best tool for stopping it before it happens. You don’t just blink your eyes and suddenly you’re on a porn website, or sitting in your favorite chair with a tumbler of vodka, or standing at the roulette table or looking at an empty pint of ice cream you’ve devoured. There was a series of thoughts and actions that led you there.

Relapse sucks, but it doesn’t happen to everybody (it actually doesn’t happen with about 40% of people) and it doesn’t have to happen multiple times. Giving ourselves permission to slip up is the surest way of reintroducing addiction back to our lives. Stay vigilant.

 

Your Path to Addiction Recovery Doesn’t Need to be Everyone Else’s

I don’t know if it has to do with the general political divisiveness that has been growing in America over the last two decades or just a natural tendency to need to be proven correct, but I really hope this trend I’m seeing of “The only path to successful recovery is the one that I took” rhetoric doesn’t continue. It’s not going to help anybody.

I’m two months away from being able to say I’m alcohol and porn free for four years. By all accounts, I’ve had a successful recovery.

I don’t want addicts – and I don’t really think the substance or behavior matters for this discussion – to get clean the way I did. It involves police, jail, shaming in the media, embarrassing my family, spending tens of thousands of dollars, etc. I’m so grateful my recovery has taken root and I have a new, healthier life I never could have imagined, but one of the big reasons I wrote my book is so other people could learn from my story and figure out a different way.

The 12-Steps

I met some of the coolest people in my life at 12-step meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous. The Tuesday Night men’s meeting at a small church I attended while I was staying in Palm Springs, California, probably did as much to make me feel like I could conquer this thing as anything else has. I am grateful I found it. These men found a program, and fellowship, that works for them. Nobody is castigated if they stumble and the dogma plays a back seat to the peer support.

On the flip side, I met some of the most closeminded people who walk this earth at 12-step meetings as well. I’ve seen people get yelled at for whispering something to the person next to them. I’ve seen people who fell off the wagon and stumbled into a meeting to sober up tossed out and I’ve heard people say the words “You are going to fail” to another in recovery because they are not hardcore in following the 12-step doctrine.

There are certain familiar passages in the AA Big Book that bother me a little bit, like the message, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program…”

Some in 12-step rooms take that to mean their program is the only way. It may have been the only way for them, but taking a look at the real world shows there are other paths.

The Religion Road

I rediscovered, or better yet, finally defined my spirituality in the recovery process. My self-labeling as an atheist was more about running from the church my parents raised me in than it was about turning my back on a higher power. They forced me to worship a concept I couldn’t get on board with called “God” so I just started believing in the power of “The Universe.”

As my buddy Kevin, who gave me the wake-up call to this fact just before SAA one day said, “Isn’t this really just a matter of semantics?”

In running over the events of my life, I recognized that I’m one of the most faith-filled people who exists. When you’re able to push things to the edge and take calculated risks – both good and bad – and believe you’re going to always end up OK because something is watching out for you…that’s faith.

I know that my faith and my belief in God (and I’m cool calling it God again) is different than other people. My God is a balancing force of energy in the universe that comes from a place of love. In other words, my God makes sure what is supposed to happen, does. When our free will goes awry, God puts its finger on the scale to even things out.

That concept is present in one form or another in most religions and I’m cool with however people want to interpret their spiritual beliefs. I have no problem with them being different than mine. Most people’s preferences toward music, interior design and politics are different than mine, so why shouldn’t their spirituality be? I actually think it’s our differences that make us stronger as a society than our commonalities.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who practice a religion, or have developed beliefs that shun other points of view. If you’re not on board with them, you’re going down the wrong path. I can even tolerate that narrow view, but what makes my heart ache is when their belief system is passive aggressively used to demean other people’s experiences and situations, especially with recovery.

I’m seeing this with a segment of the religious recovery community and it’s making me a little concerned. There is a TON of “religion = recovery” material out there. Some days it feels harder to find secular recovery stories and support than spiritual-based.

That’s OK, because I know many people lean on their religion for support in their recovery and it’s OK if somebody is particularly rigid with their religious doctrine. My fear becomes when their doctrine, often in the realm of “This is the only way to be” is transferred over to “This is the only way to recover.” I have actually seen some who have gone as far as to say without their specific religious doctrine, recovery is impossible.

What’s really important

That person, much like the militant one in the 12-step group, is confusing their recovery with everybody’s recovery. And I don’t mean to cast shade on 12-step groups or religion. There are people who have tried neither who also believe whatever method their recovery took is the only successful one that exists.

Recovery shouldn’t be looked at through those eyes. If one person got sober because of a 24/7 plant diet, yoga three times a day and reading nothing but nature poetry, fantastic. If another person got sober attending three 12-step meetings and a church service every day and only reads The Bible, fantastic.

Statistically, most people don’t get recovery right the first time. They also try a variety of methods. Take smoking cigarettes… you can chew gum, get the patch, try hypnosis, go cold turkey, move to vaping, use medicine, attempt to wean, listen to motivational tapes, and so on. The reason that there are so many ways to quit smoking is because they don’t all work for the same person.

I worry about the person who tries the 12-step meeting or follows the religious doctrine and fails at recovery. I’m not talking about falling down once and trying again. I’m talking about that method of recovery just not being the right fit. What happens when they are told – and believe – that their only way to recover doesn’t work for them? Why stop being an addict at that point?

Isn’t it better, and more important to that person’s survival, for them to try another method of recovery? Or is it that their failure with that method confirms what a fragile thing recovery actually is? Does it show that you were lucky – not guaranteed – to get it right with what worked for you? Is it confirmation that YOUR WAY is not THE WAY…it’s just ANOTHER WAY?

It’s fantastic that your way worked. My way worked, too. We’re both lucky, but what we need to do is encourage others to continue in recovery. Picking a different route to recovery does not mean they are wrong. It doesn’t mean there isn’t value in your experiences and opinions. It just means that there is space in this world to reach the same place in many different ways, and nobody should be discouraged from finding THEIR WAY.

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

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.

 

I Can NEVER Forget Alcohol Was Just as Big a Part of The Problem

When I was a young teenager, crafting intricate plots in my head to get my hands onto pornography, I didn’t think a lot about drinking. My schemes – really just variations on “bring it up to the counter and pay for it” – never extended as far as alcohol, yet it played just as big a role in my eventual downfall.

I mentioned in my book that the first time I saw legit pornography, I knew I had discovered something special. The reaction to alcohol was almost exactly the same. It wasn’t until I went to rehab that I was able to realize my drinking was never of a recreational, “normal” manner.

While I had taken a sip here or there, the first time I was able to enjoy any real volume was at a cousin’s wedding. They way overestimated the head count, leaving plenty of empty seats at the reception…seats that had plastic glasses of champagne ready to go.

I was about 14 and I don’t remember how much I had to drink that night, but it was the first time I ever felt tipsy…and it felt good. I had that clichéd sense that I was funnier, smarter and an all-around better person with the liquor in me. It also had that sense of danger I craved and often felt when I looked at porn, too.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I drank with any regularity. During my junior year of high school, I was able to land a radio show at Bates College, which quickly gained a lot of notoriety. I had plenty of college students and guests on the show who would bring me beer whenever I wanted. I also learned about the one place in town that would always sell it to me.

By my senior year of high school, I was drinking weekly, but it was never in an environment with kids my own age. It was either at the college or with adults I worked with at the local newspaper. Truth be told, I never went to a single party in high school. Drinking with my peers sounded painful. I drank to be accepted by older people because I didn’t like who I was.

I think the people I drank with weren’t the kind who drank with kids their age in high school either. It was social, but it almost always felt medicinal and not recreational. Newsrooms, at least in the mid-1990s, were full of unhealthy people still pissed off they were recently forced outside to smoke cigarettes. They didn’t drink for fun. They drank so they could do it all again tomorrow. I understood that even then.

Once I was properly diagnosed and medicated for mental illness issues in my mid-20s, the drinking slowed quite a bit as I built a family and real career.

It wasn’t until I launched a magazine at the publishing company where I was a part-owner that I returned to the medicinal nature of alcohol. I suddenly found myself in situations where networking was necessary…and I’m a painfully shy person in real life. Thankfully, those situations almost always had cash bars.

At the end of the day of work, instead of leaving to go to a nearby Happy Hour, we kept the fridge stocked at work. It’s kind of fucked up now that I think about the fact we bought as much beer and wine as we did pods for the Keurig machine. We wanted to have that young, hip vibe, so a well-stocked fridge with a glass front told everyone we were different and didn’t mind alcohol in the workplace.

There were lots of meetings and dinners with clients where a buzz was almost unavoidable. At the end of long days, I’d drink at home to come down from the hustle and bustle of my day, and when things started going south, the alcohol helped ease my nerves and quell the stress.

Whether I needed liquid courage, a social lubricant, an anxiety-reducer or a sedative, alcohol always knew just how to take care of me. It could read my moods better than any human.

The problem with this belief is that it’s not true. Alcohol just deadened my nerve endings. I was seeking a disassociated numbness that made coping with difficult situations easier. It worked, but like the athlete who fills their body with steroids for short-term gain but who ruin their long-term health, I couldn’t see where things were heading.

My rock bottom was a stew of alcoholism, porn addiction, neglected mental health, failing familial relationships and a crumbling business. I’ve stopped trying to parse out percentages of blame. I don’t know what the formula exactly was, so I avoid all of those things.

Yes, this blog is about porn addiction, but I need to stay just as vigilant toward my alcoholism. At my first rehab, we did an exercise about poor choices. I realized I probably drove drunk 400-600 times in my life. I obtained illegal porn less than 1% of that number. Just because the porn arrest was the catalyst for the needed changes in my life four years ago, it doesn’t make the other aspects that brought me down less important.

There are very people who have one addiction. It’s just easy to point to the one that seems like it’s the biggest problem. I didn’t really wrap my arms around the idea of porn addiction prior to my arrest. But I knew I was drinking too much. I can’t forget or lose sight of that.

Legally, I can’t drink again until August 2019. My probation will be up at that point. I won’t be celebrating with champagne.