Recognizing the Warning Signs of Pornography Addiction in Yourself or Others

It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about this, and I always worry that some of the more important, educational articles get buried by ones that might be more entertaining, so I think it’s probably once again time to talk about the signs of pornography addiction.

As always, I want to mention that I am not a doctor, and this should only be considered a guide. If you see these behaviors in yourself, I urge you to do more research and schedule an appointment with a professional addiction therapist to establish your current condition and plot a recovery path.

If you see these behaviors in loved ones, remind them that they can always talk to you, that you are not there to judge them, nor shame them, but you’re concerned they may have a problem and if they ask, you’re there to assist them getting help.

These symptoms were taken from Addiction.com:

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

Just because these are the early signs, it doesn’t mean that they ever go away. I was confronted by two women in I my life long before my addiction reached a critical point. One was a girlfriend when I was 20 who happen to see I had a pornographic video tape among my collection of non-porn tapes. She was very anti-porn, so I threw it away in front of her. She didn’t know about the box full of porn I had hidden elsewhere.

I gave that box of porn away before I met my wife. She discovered I looked at porn when I accidentally left it up on my computer. Because we didn’t have problems in the bedroom, she let it go, but I greatly underreported my use of porn to her and passed it off as a “boys will be boys” thing.

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 shame and isolation I felt was because I knew I had to keep my dependence on pornography a secret. Unlike my alcoholism, porn wasn’t something I engaged in around friends, so the feeling of isolation was certainly there. I never lost days to porn, but before I entered the critical phase, just as my life was starting to take a turn, my usage certainly increased. Instead of just looking at it late at night for 20-30 minutes, I was also starting to view it during the day, and I might look up at the clock and realize 2-3 hours had elapsed.

For as long as I can remember, I was never able to just sit and be with myself. Deep down I knew who I was – a scared little kid not built for the adult world who was faking his way through. As my world started to crash, I withdrew from so many people and activities, but porn was always there for me. Even if it was bad for me, which I knew on certain levels, it was always there and I could count on it.

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)

And this is where it all went bad. Thankfully, I believe I was only in this phase for 6-8 months before the police intervention served as a major wake-up call and was the impetus to turn my life around. I made that move to webcams because I needed to escalate the addiction to the point of interacting with somebody else. Could that have eventually led to meeting someone in real life? I’ll never know, and for that I’m glad.

My business was falling apart, my finances were crashing and in the end, the legal issues hit me like a ton of bricks. All because I didn’t get help in time. I wasn’t aware of porn addiction and it’s a big reason I talk about it now. The more people know, the more likely they are to get help. I implore you, if you think you may have a problem, or even if this blog entry just raises a few red flags, seek help. A place to start can be the RESOURCES page on this site.

You Can’t Let A Loved One’s Addiction Become Your Obsession

I was fantastic at hiding my porn addiction. My wife knew that I looked at it on the computer “form time-to-time” and she never had an Amish approach to it. When it came to my drinking, though, that was not something that I was nearly as good at hiding.

In 2011 and 2012, when my drinking increased because I used it as a crutch for the increased stress in my life from my various professional pursuits, my wife became very concerned. Being the kind of person who believed he was invincible, I never saw drunk driving as a problem. It makes me sick to write this, but I believe between 2010 and when I was arrest in early 2014, I probably drove drunk twice a week at least, meaning well over 300 times.

“Josh, you know that if you’re caught driving drunk, you’re going to be on the front page of the newspaper,” she’d say, trying to find something that would get through to me. “You’ll lose advertisers for your magazine and people will ask you to leave the City Council.”

It was a well-reasoned attempt, but fell on deaf ears. I tried to rationalize my drinking to her. I was never the guy who could have one or two. It seemed like a waste of time and money if you’re doing that. If you’re drinking for the flavor, there are plenty of other non-alcoholic beverages that taste fine at half the price. I was the guy who drank either as a social lubricant to calm my imposter syndrome and anxiety in crowds, or I drank at home to simply dull all my nerve endings. But that took at least 5 drinks.

She started begging me to call her when I was out and had a few too many, which was every time I was out. When I wouldn’t do this, she started calling me when I was out. I learned fast not to ignore her call or it would just keep ringing. Most of the time, she let me drive myself home because I guess I put on a good enough act, but after coming home slurring a few too many times, her strategy changed again.

She just started coming to the professional and social events. I know that attending art gallery openings or fundraisers for various local causes were not her thing, but she wanted to make sure that there somebody sober to drive me home since I wouldn’t seek anybody out.

As my drinking (and porn use, and problems at work, and lack of self-care) increased, my relationship with my wife became fractured. I wasn’t helping around the house at all, except to provide money to keep things rolling. I rarely spent time with my kids if it wasn’t in concert with something that served me professionally.

She never officially sat me down and said this at the time, although it was quite obvious. At some point, to protect herself and make sure the kids had one functioning parent, she basically let me go. She stopped nagging me on the phone and going to events she hated just to make sure I got home OK. She knew that I was bringing her down with me and she made the decision to detach and watch out for herself and the kids. She has confirmed this to me in the years since I’ve entered recovery.

I think looking out for herself was one of the smartest moves she ever made. It allowed her to be the mother the kids needed and keep herself in a safe place. She had tried with me, and knew me well enough to recognize an intervention was not a good idea and I would have laughed her off had she suggested AA. She busted her ass for a long time to make sure I was safe, but at some point, she had to make sure she was safe.

__________________________________

Ten days after I was arrested – 10 days of dealing with the police, my lawyer, the media, CPS, my PCP, and a new therapist all while still trying to keep my shit together in front of my wife, kids and parents – I went off to rehab for the drinking in California.

I thought I’d be there for four weeks. It was 10. When I returned, I still had so, so far to go in my recovery, but I noticed things had started changing around the house. The kids were on schedules that they weren’t before. The house was in order and everybody seemed happier than I remembered. My wife even went to individual therapy for several months.

Eventually, I went back to rehab for sex/porn addiction after understanding that was just as much a problem as the drinking in my life, perhaps even more. When I returned from there seven weeks later, everybody at home seemed so healthy and my wife had begun the process that would result in her getting lap-band surgery and losing over 100 pounds.

After years of caring for me and the kids, she finally made the decision to care for herself. She got a new job and was happier than I ever recalled. Today, I think we’re all in the best place we’ve been. My daughter is thriving in college after two aborted attempts, my son is doing well as a high school junior and is uttering things like “Do you think I could get into an Ivy League school?” and my marriage is stronger than it ever has been.

My wife asks about my recovery, makes sure everything continues to be on track, and is always there for me to talk to her when it’s needed, but she also understands that she’s not my accountability buddy nor my keeper. She’s an active observer in my recovery, but doesn’t mistake it for anything but my journey. She had to do her weight loss journey alone, with my support from the sidelines, and my recovery is the same.

I’ve seen many ways partners, parents, friends, etc., handle a loved one’s addiction. You must remember that it’s not your problem to solve because it’s not your problem, not matter how much you try to make it out to be. You will never be the one who has the final say on fixing things or descending further into addiction, regardless of any ultimatums. Unfortunately, in recognizing they have no control, many people try to exert more control. Zero + Zero = Zero.

I’m not suggesting you don’t support the person, let them know you’re always there for them and check-up to make sure that they are taken care of, but you can’t do that at the expense of your own health. Had my wife not detached and if I hadn’t entered recovery, I can’t imagine where we’d be today. If still both alive and together, I can’t paint a healthy picture.

You need to be there for the addict, but more importantly, you need to be there for yourself.

Discovering the concept of Imposter Syndrome

I don’t often share links to other blogs here, but I somehow found a blog a couple of weeks back called Coaching Skills International that has been a breath of fresh air. From what I can tell it’s produced by an online counseling college out of Canada. If I’m wrong, I hope they’ll correct me. I urge you to check it out and see the kind of advice and knowledge they offer.

This past weekend, they posted an article about imposter syndrome. They define it as:

“Impostor syndrome is a psychological condition where people are unable to believe in their successes. Thus, despite the evidence that points to the fact that they are skilled, capable and competent they write this off as temporary – or timing and good luck. Thus, they constantly struggle with feeling like a fraud.”

This absolutely describes the first 37 years of my life, especially the last few years before I lost almost everything and entered recovery. I always had this voice in the back of my head going back to my days as a child that said, “You can’t let them know who you really are. Nobody will approve of, nor like who you really are, so be somebody else.”

I have suspicions that this developed first from somehow getting the message from my environment that I wasn’t enough. I think there’s a fine line between correcting and teaching a small child the right way to do things and making them feel inferior and as if they don’t have the instinct to do things correctly the first time, leading them to constantly doubt themselves.

Most of those negative messages came from a babysitter I had while my parents worked prior to me entering school. I’ve already written about the abuse while I was there, so I’ll skip it, but I also think my imposter syndrome was borne out of a fear of my safety. I internally learned at an early age how to say and do what I needed to avoid her wrath (most of the time) and that involved putting on a show, not being my genuine self. It’s the survival skill I leaned upon too heavily as I grew up.

Finally, I think my imperfect mental health likely played a role in exacerbating my imposter syndrome. Anxiety pushes you to avoid negative things like conflict with others. Depression forces you to put on a happy face for the world. Mania attempts to convince you that you’re something special and the life of the party, despite knowing you’re faking it.

Example #1

I remember in late 2012 when, as the co-founder of a large film festival in Maine, we held a press conference to announce our plans. It was in the space adjacent to our office we also rented and turned into an art gallery.

We had purchased a couple of those large backdrops (called step-and-repeats) you see celebrities pose in front of on the red carpet that usually has small logos for the event and a sponsor. A friend from a local college brought over a very cool looking podium and sound system so there was one of those small microphones you see on awards show to speak into.

As a surprise, I arranged to have Les Stroud of the Survivorman television show come to the festival that year and teased the announcement. I also arranged to have him speak to us via Skype at the press conference. The whole visual set-up was very professional.

As a city councilor (a whole other imposter story), I was good friends with the mayor and he agreed to attend the press conference to speak about the economic impact to the city.

So, we sent invitations to a few VIPs, our sponsors and the media to come to the press conference to hear what we had to say – and they all did. When the emcee (the magazine’s managing editor) introduced me to make the surprise announcement of Survivorman, I came up to the podium and looked out. There were probably 40 invited guests, including four TV stations with cameras and two newspaper reporters there.

I was standing on a stage and they were all waiting to hear me. In that moment, a wave of thoughts sprouted: “How did I pull this all together? How is every media source within 50 miles here? How can none of them recognize that I’m a hustler, a liar and a fraud? I am putting on a totally fake press conference – except it’s not fake. Or is it? It’s for a real event. I shouldn’t be in this position. It should be reserved for talented people who know what they’re doing. This song and dance is going to result in sponsors giving me tens of thousands of dollars I don’t deserve. How do I make sure these people don’t see the REAL me?”

Example #2

In my high school senior yearbook, I won the “Most Opinionated” superlative. I knew what that meant. It was the “Biggest loudmouth asshole who we still somehow like award.”

Even then I felt like I was an imposter. I excelled at things I found simple, like history and creative writing, and figured out how to cheat my way through math and science. I don’t think I was part of any specific clique, finding it easy to bounce around because as a chameleon, I could adapt to whomever I was hanging out with. If I was with the jocks, I’d turn my brain off. If I was with the brains, I’d hide the fact I loved sports.

Fast-forward 19 years and I’m nearing my demise. About six months after Example #1 took place, I was asked if I would give the commencement address for the latest graduating class. It took less than two decades for the loudmouth asshole who had to sit silently at his graduation in 1994 to get the headlining spot for the Class of 2013. This was a new high-water mark in fooling the world.

By this point, I was well into the deepest part of my addictions. I knew I’d need to have a few drinks in me to give the speech, but knew in that condition I couldn’t work from notecards behind a podium on a stage. So, I started the speech with a lame comment and walked off the stage and gave the speech from the auditorium floor, pacing the entire time. I didn’t use notecards and just made some bullet points and wrote a few jokes. I’ve always had the ability to just wing it when public speaking.

After the speech, one person complimented me, saying: “I liked how you came down to talk to the kids and walked around. And the fact you memorized that speech! Very impressive!”

Was it impressive or was it a con? My mind at the time told me I was conning the world and the only way I got away with it was with the numbing effects of alcohol and porn. Otherwise, I might have slipped up and screamed, “I’m completely full of shit everybody! Stop enabling me!”

I tracked down that speech online when writing this. Ironically, in the first five or six minutes, there is a lot of subtext to what I’m saying which sounds to me like I’m wrestling with imposter syndrome. There are so many references to it if you know what to look for. You can also count the number of times I drunkenly stumble over my words. I guess most people never caught on.

But I have to confess, even today, I find that pajama pants joke pretty funny.

If you’d like to see me fake my way through giving an “inspirational” speech, but knowing what was really going on, check this out:

 

 

A post-script to this example is that while I was giving this speech, my daughter was one town away, winning her middle school talent show. She was a bit of a wallflower, not participating in many activities and I have so much regret not being there to see it. My injured mind told me it was easier to fake being a successful professional in front of 3,000 than being a good father, blended into a small audience.

It was years of rehab, therapy, research, introspection, writing and very intentionally making different behavioral decisions that helped me move away from imposter syndrome. If you’d like to learn some practical techniques for overcoming it, check out the article that inspired this post at: Imposter Syndrome I wrote several more thoughts in their comments I haven’t shared here.

 

Is Porn Viewing Becoming a Problem? Six Questions to Ask Yourself

As a generation of people who never knew a world without the Internet become firmly entrenched in their 21st century jobs, we’re just starting to see fallout from the first couple of decades of having the world at the end of our fingertips.

Sure, we no longer need to visit a library, video store or travel agent since these services are now just a click, instead of a car ride, away. But, to obtain and view pornography, the days of sketchy XXX theaters, scuzzy adult bookstores and mail order are now just a click away.

This is not a good development. Statistics regarding the use of pornography have not only exploded in recent years, but so have the documented cases of pornography addiction.

I was lucky in that I had the resources to seek treatment at an inpatient rehabilitation facility and that was where I learned that women can also be porn addicts. Despite reading similar statistics that suggest the ratio of female-to-male porn addicts is 1-to-5, Of the 15 people in my program, only one was a woman. She told me in conversation that while it’s shameful and embarrassing for a man to seek help, it is downright unacceptable for most women to even admit to viewing porn where she came from. How can you get help if you can’t tell anybody you’ve got a problem?

Most people who view pornography neither develop an addiction nor break the law, but for many who end up with a problem, like I did, it often isn’t recognizable until it’s too late.

Have you been wondering if your porn consumption is starting to become an addiction? Here are several questions worth considering as you reach your conclusion:

 

How much time am I spending with porn? There’s nothing inherently wrong with using visual aids to enhance masturbation, but when you’re watching three, four or more hours of porn daily, it’s gone beyond a simple self-pleasuring tool. How many photos, film clips or websites must you visit to be satisfied? Has this number grown over time? Do you find that you’d rather watch porn than do other things you once found pleasurable? When your duration of use continues to escalate and that time is replacing experiences that once brought you pleasure, it should be a red flag. Porn is quickly climbing the list of priorities in your life.

Is what I’m watching different than in the past? Most people who become drug addicts don’t start with the hardest stuff possible, but end up there. The need to escalate comes from the brain’s desire for the same dopamine hit that once came easier. It explains why those with gambling addictions make increasingly larger wagers and how the marijuana user evolves to heroin. There are plenty of people into roleplaying, S&M and exploring their sexuality in extreme ways in photos and on film. Have you found that the content of the porn you watch is becoming more extreme? Does what you once watch not do it for you anymore?

Where am I viewing porn? Most people view pornography in the privacy of their own homes on their computer screen, television or in the pages of a magazine, end of story. A study that’s almost 10 years old suggest that nearly a quarter of US workers view porn at work. Do you think that number has gone down or up in the last decade? Even more than that watch it on their phone, in the bathroom at work, or while driving in the car. Are the places that you’re watching porn not considered traditional? If so, when did this begin? Why can’t you wait until you get home?

Who am I lying to about my viewing? Statistics suggest that the majority of the people who have access to a computer are watching pornography with some kind of regularity. Since self-pleasuring is usually accompanied, the entire topic is one many shy away from. But, if your use is starting to enter problem territory, the odds are good someone may have broached it with you. Did you lie? How big was the lie? Were you flustered and irritated they asked in the first place? Would you lie about your porn use to the people absolutely closest to you – those who you could otherwise tell everything?

How are my intimate relationships? If you’re in a relationship, has the frequency of physical intimacy dropped, but the use of porn increased? Many people being using porn within a relationship to enhance the experience, but if your partner is not into it, this can leave one wanting more. If you’re not in a relationship, do you find yourself paying for sex or frequenting strip clubs more than before where emotional intimacy is not a subject to be bothered with? Does the viewing of porn make you want to seek out casual sexual encounters? The idea of being intimate with only one person for the rest of their lives freaks out a lot of people. That’s natural if you’re one of them, but what is your long-term plan in lieu of lifetime commitment?

How do I feel about yourself? Addiction of any kind often brings an increase in depression, stress and anxiety. Immediately after you use porn, does a sadness wash over you that is hard to explain? Most addicts feel isolated and alone, even if they’re constantly around people and unlike some addictions, porn is the kind of addition one generally engages in privately. Are there feelings of shame when you think around your use of pornography? Do you wish you could slow down or stop, but find it impossible? Do you worry about where this is heading?

 

You probably had a good idea if you were addicted to pornography before answering these questions. A more important question is if you’re going to do anything about it. The disease of addiction is something that can be fought, and it’s easier to do the sooner an addict faces their problem.

If you can’t quit cold turkey, there are 12-step resources like Sex Addicts Anonymous available. Most private therapists can speak to the issues of addiction, if not porn addiction specifically. For the critical, there are inpatient rehab options available.

Suffering alone, in shame, is not necessary any longer. If you believe you may have a pornography addiction, or are developing one, seek help.

Figuring Out if You’re A Casual or Problem User of Pornography

For this article, I’m going to suspend the discussion of whether pornography use in moderation is not unhealthy or if there is any moral component to the decision to utilize pornography. I’ll tackle those issues later on. For now, I simply want to provide a list of questions that people who are wondering if they have an issue with pornography can ask themselves to better understand their situation.

I think words like addiction, habit, obsession, compulsion and problem are more subjective than objective. Their definitions can be fluid and feature a lot of crossover from one term to the other. Ultimately, it’s up to you to honestly decide whether you have an issue or not with pornography and more importantly, what you’re going to do about it should you conclude there may be something there.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that much like there are people who can drink, play video games, gamble or eat in moderation – yet are not addicted, nor have a problem – that there are also people who can view and utilize pornography in moderation. At what point does “recreational” use start to bleed into being a problem? Asking yourself these questions may help point you in the right direction:

Is there any sort of trauma in your past? This doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual abuse, either. It can be physical or emotional. Roughly 90% of full-blown addicts of anything can trace their past to find some kind of meaningful trauma. With porn addicts, the number is 94%. That still leaves an opening to be an addict with no pre-existing trauma, but the two often go hand-in-hand. If your parent killed themselves in front of you, a sibling molested you, or any number of other major negative events in your life happened as a young person, addiction may be a symptom of how you deal with that trauma.

Is there any co-occurring disorder or previous addiction existing? While not at the numbers of trauma and addiction, more full-blown addicts have some kind of mental health issue than those who don’t.  These mental health problems may include bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety and a number of other diagnoses. Also, it is very easy for someone who is addicted to one substance or behavior to become addicted to another. Addictive behavior is not limited to one addiction at a time, although there are people who trade addictions, successfully battling one obsession only to take on another.

Are you addicted to pornography or masturbation? In my case, it didn’t take long to recognize once the porn was removed from my life, masturbation dropped to almost nothing. I masturbated more as an indicator to end a porn-viewing session than anything else. There are many people who have the opposite story. They were able to easily stop watching porn because it turned out pleasuring themselves was their actual vice. There’s a fairly easy way to determine which you’re addicted to, or if it’s both. For the next week or two, allow yourself to look at porn, but don’t utilize it to masturbate. Conversely, masturbate all you want, but do it without visual aids. You should be able to determine a trend among obsessive thoughts where your addictions truly lay.

Are there rituals around your use? Addicts generally use in the same way almost all the time. My alcohol use, which was certainly an addiction, came with rituals. I never drank cans of beer. It was either a bottle or in a pint glass when I was away from home. Corona, specifically, couldn’t touch my lips without a lemon or lime wedge. At home, I didn’t drink beer, just tequila and Red Bull. I’d only drink at night at home, and it always had to be in one of the three large plastic tumblers we had. I always poured the tequila and Red Bull the same way, almost parfait-style. First a dash of Red Bull, then tequila, then Red Bull, then tequila, and so on until the tumbler was full. That’s routine, or ritual and is common with addicts.

Do you lie to others, or yourself, about your usage? OK, it’s pornography, I get it. We all want to pretend that we’ve never looked at it, despite statistics saying those that don’t are in the massive minority. When the topic of pornography comes up in mixed company, do you stay quiet? Do you try to hide the role pornography plays in your life, especially the amount of time spent looking? Would you like about the time you spend if asked point-blank? When you’re finished looking at it, do you make deals with yourself that you won’t spend as much time engaged in the activity, yet you can’t keep the promises to yourself? Are you spending any money on pornography outside of typical Internet fees? Do you find yourself sometimes picking isolating to look at porn over other activities? Do you rationalize that the time you spend or material you look at is not as extreme as others with addiction, so if they have a problem, you have less than a problem? The answers are all small red flags that add up.

I am by no means a doctor, but do know how I answered these questions when I was in the throes of my addiction. I’ve also done more research and met more pornography addicts than most professionals, not to mention I’ve been through plenty of group and one-on-one therapy for my formerly rampant addictions. I understand if you don’t like your answers and want to discredit my opinion…but that may also be a sign you want to avoid the truth about your addiction.

As I mentioned earlier, anybody can diagnose you as an addict, but what matters is that you believe you have a problem. More importantly is deciding what you’re going to do about it. Next time, we’ll talk about what to do next when you’ve reached the conclusion you need to do something about your problem.

 

Is it Possible for an Addict to Go From “Recovering” to “Recovered?”

If you’re reading this on the day I wrote it, April 2, 2019, today marks five years of sobriety from alcohol. I also count this as my sobriety date from pornography, although it technically was a few days earlier. If you would have ever told me I’d go five years without either of my nearly life-long addictions, I’d have said it could only happen once I was put in the ground.

I won’t be attending AA to pick up my five-year chip. I believe I took from the program what I could in about six months of attending meetings. One of the things that I questioned at the time, and question even further now with so much sober time behind me, is if their belief that alcoholism is an ongoing disease and people never truly “heal” or completely “recover” is accurate for every addict.

I have no question in my mind that I was addicted to pornography and alcohol. They were my go-to vices when I needed to curb anxiety and stress for two decades. Despite negative consequences and a desire to stop, I didn’t until the law intervened. For me, being told I’d be thrown in jail (first on bail, then on probation) was the incentive I needed to quit.

I’ll admit, the cravings for porn were strong that first year and the cravings for alcohol were just as strong for around three years. Today though, unless I’m writing for this blog or giving an interview on a podcast, thoughts about using are not there. It’s just not a part of my everyday thinking anymore.

I think it’s healthier for me not to attend multiple meetings per week where discussions of alcohol and pornography are the focus. I appreciate the newcomers who are on the verge of falling back into that world of addiction, but I’ve met so many people with long-term sobriety who didn’t take the 12-Step route to know it can be another road to success.

I spent years (and continue to attend) in therapy, learning what happened in my life to contribute to the addictions starting. I have also spent years carefully crafting a new life where my routines are different, my motivations are different and I dutifully pay attention to my mental health.

So, am I still a recovering addict? According to most of the messaging, yes. I’ll never actually “recover”. Can one be an addict yet not actively participate in their addiction, nor having cravings? I’m not sure. Someone who played professional baseball from 1970 to 1984 is not still a baseball player. Someone who stopped smoking in 1997 is not still a smoker. Someone who spent their single life as a womanizer, but remains devoted in marriage is not still a philanderer. So why am I still an alcoholic and a porn addict?

I think the answer for most is, “It’s safer to consider my addiction as an active, living thing instead of a behavior of the past. I’m just one bad choice away from being back there.”

I understand that line of thinking, but aren’t I just one bad choice away from being a heroin user or starting a gambling addiction? We’re all just one bad choice away from ruining our lives, addict or not.

I believe addiction is a disease. It’s been proven by science. But science has also proven there are many diseases that people recover fully from. Is it possible addiction is one of those diseases?

I’m not completely there yet, but I have a feeling at some point, there is going to be an evolution in my mindset from “recovering” to “recovered” and I’m not worried about it being the slippery slope that returns me to the addictions. While I hopefully will always educate and inform about the dangers of addiction, I think the personal danger can dissipate to nearly nothing over time for many people.

Maybe this is just a matter of semantics. We love to label things in our society and we also tend to catastrophize for the worst-case scenario. When I was in rehab, the program was geared the same toward me, who needed only one trip each for alcohol and porn, as it was the person who had been 12 times and never been successful. I realistically probably didn’t need the same level of care that they did.

If constant self-monitoring and keeping your addiction top-of-mind, even after a decade, is what you need to stay sober, then please, fight the daily fight. I don’t want anything I say to dissuade you from continuing on with a program that works for you. I’ll never say that I wasn’t “really” addicted because I don’t need to white-knuckle it day-to-day anymore.

I also think it’s OK if you’re not struggling day-to-day. I don’t think it minimizes your battle and I don’t think you have to apologize for a recovery that the mainstream doesn’t acknowledge. I think it’s actually the place that most addicts strive to arrive at. I’m here, and I’m grateful.

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.