First Guest Blog: Google Trends Data Gives Insight Into US Addictions By State

Note from Josh: This is the first time I’m presenting a guest blogger. Aeden Smith-Ahearn approached me with some research he was working on and wondered if I’d like to share it. Upon looking at the map he’s created, I think he shows just how prevalent sex and porn addiction is in the US. I also think it’s important to point out all of the other addictions. This is really some fantastic work on his part and I hope you’ll enjoy it and be educated as much as I was.

 

By Aeden Smith-Ahearn

Addiction is on the rise, and with it comes a slew of problems that we seem unequipped to deal with. With the opioid epidemic being declared a public emergencyalcoholism on the rise, and pornography addiction still not being considered a “medical issue”,  it seems we have an overall problem that is being seriously overlooked.

In order to better understand this issue, and how it has permeated our society, we analyzed the data inside Google Trends to see just what addictions were concerning to modern Americans. We looked at this data on a state-by-state basis to find out which states were worried and educating themselves about which specific addictions.

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Here are some of our findings:

Pornography and Sex Addiction

By far the most prevalent and most searched for addictions fell in the pornography and sex addiction category. This is a growing problem, yet still not listed as an actual “disorder” by psychologists and medical professionals today.

(Note from Josh: This was written before the World Health Organization began listing sexual compulsivity disorder).

Sex addiction was more prevalent in the east, with pornography addiction trending more prevalently in the west. On the full scale, clearly American’s are worried about these addictions—given the massive search volume and popularity. Given this trend, is it only a matter of time before this problem gets too out of hand—if it hasn’t already?

Drug, Alcohol, and Opiate Addictions

With opiate and heroin related overdoses becoming a daily occurrence. News stories about drugs and alcohol are more prevalent than ever. Some states even showed trends regarding specific opiate medications, like Tramadol in Florida, or Vicodin in Michigan. Such specific trends get at the heart of the problem, with certain states having their own specific issues that are unique to them.

Nicotine and alcohol remain at large in the US as well, and work to further fuel other addictions. Rarely does one addiction come alone, but, often, one addiction leads to another in a cycle of behavior that is hard to eliminate.

Social Media and Internet Addictions

Apparently more prevalent in eastern states, the use of smartphones, addictions to social media, Facebook, and other Internet platforms are on the rise nationwide.

And because of the piggyback nature of addiction, we wonder if these simple, easy to access addictions are providing a basic neurological route that leads individuals down a path to much stronger addictions like drugs and pornography.

Food and Sugar Addictions

Overall health continues to get worse, and declining life expectancy in America is just one major signal of this bigger problem. Obesity and other issues continue to be a massive setback for the country. Food addictions are not making things easier, and many American’s are searching for education related to these addictions.

Are We Doing Enough?

The problem of addiction is very real. There is a conversation happening, and many are hoping this conversation leads to real change. However, many of these issues are new, and they come with very little real scientific understanding.

Change is happening, but is it happening fast enough? Are we doing enough? Are we creating the future for our children that will empower them?

Maybe time will tell. But let’s hope we are not leaving this problem up to chance. That seems like a poor approach to the significant problems at hand.

 

Aeden Smith-Ahearn is the content coordinator for Experience Ibogaine treatment centers. Aeden was a massive heroin addict for seven years and, ultimately, found sobriety through Ibogaine. He now spends his time writing, educating, and helping others find freedom from addiction through alternative treatment methods. 

Hate pornography? Hate the porn industry? Work on education, not eradication

I wrote something about this last year, but in the last few radio/podcast interviews I’ve done, more from a “pornography addiction expert” angle than a “here’s my story of porn addiction” this subject has been coming up. Despite my experiences with it and the obvious effect it can have on people, I’m not really all that wrapped up in hating the pornography industry.

Let me preface this. I do hate illegal pornography. I hate that people are forced into porn for fear of their life with no choice. I hate children and animals being involved. I hate when porn crosses a line from “adult entertainment” to illegal activity. That’s not a sketchy industry though, it’s just sexual assault.

I know I’m supposed to hate all porn. My addiction to the stuff led me to a place where I crossed over into the illegal territory. Had I not looked at traditional porn for two decades, I probably never could have reached a place where I was live-chatting with someone who was underage. I completely recognize this.

But is that really the porn’s fault? Aren’t I the one who has to shoulder the blame for convincing a teenager to do sexual things on her computer screen, not the industry itself? Of course.

Do I wish there was no porn industry? Sure, why not. I also wish there were no weapons of mass destruction, 24-hour news stations, racist people and fish didn’t spoil so fast. Could I fight to change any of those things? Yes. Would I win? Not a chance.

I tend to be a socially liberal person and I think even a lot of “conservative” people are secretly socially liberal. They don’t want you to dictate what they can do with their life – they just haven’t quite worked out not telling you what to do with yours. I think for the most part, people want to be able to make their own choices and live with the consequences.

My mission has been to inform people about the potential consequences of looking at too much pornography. Porn addiction isn’t fun, but neither is my alcoholism. I’m not pushing for a new wave of prohibition. It wouldn’t work anyway, we’ve proven that.

I knew drinking could be harmful. I have alcoholics in my family generations before mine. I saw what happened. Teachers made it clear in school and my parents let me know that alcohol could be bad for me. I knew the potential outcome and I did it anyway. I find it hard to believe anybody I see with a cigarette dangling out of their mouth isn’t aware that ingesting toxic smoke isn’t good for your body.

I think it sucks that the porn industry has so many unhappy people working in it, but if you’ve ever walked into a call center or big box retail store, you’ll find plenty of people just as unhappy. You’ll find those employees getting high behind the building, repressing abusive memories and wondering what the point of life is while hoping things get better. Porn stars don’t have the market on workplace unhappiness. They just do it without their clothes.

I also think that we’ve proven working conditions of employees in any industry doesn’t matter to most people. People don’t want to know about the migrant workers who harvested their food or children who made their clothing in less-than-human conditions and when they find out, how many really change? I appreciate illumination of the plight of the porn star, but that’s not a tactic that’s going to change anything, otherwise it already would have.

Is porn unrealistic? Of course. But that’s like telling people professional wrestling is fake. It’s not a revelation, even to the most ardent fan. I’ve yet to meet a porn addict who strove for that lifestyle as a realistic alternative. It’s a place of escape. Sure, you’re get the fanatics, but that exists with everything. One man’s Comic-Con is another man’s Adult Video Expo.  I don’t think most people care about the secrets of the porn industry as if what they are watching is supposed to be a documentary but they’re being conned.

The anti-porn activists who advocate for a more accurate portrayal of human sexuality don’t seem to understand nobody wants to watch people who look like themselves having realistic sex. That’s like watching the unhappy big box retail store employee fumble through explaining the differences between LCD and Plasma big-screen TVs. It’s just awkward and you’re more confused when it’s finished than when you got there.

I could do nothing but sit in front of this computer churning out blogs all day about what I wish was different in the world. Some of those things may be affected if I put effort into it and some couldn’t, even if I devoted my life to the cause. People have been fighting the porn industry for a century. They’re not gaining any ground. Much like the war on drugs, maybe we need to take a different tactic. When your message and method falls on deaf ears, it’s time to evolve.

I think a free society is one that allows people to make their own decisions when it comes to their behavior, especially in situations where potential harm could exist. I think a healthy society is one that arms people with as much information as possible to make the best decisions. Now if we can only work on having a healthy and free society.

If people armed with the knowledge of consequences still wish to engage in behavior that can lead to negative consequences – and it’s not illegal – they’ve been warned. I think if I treated porn any different than cigarettes, greasy food, not using sunscreen or 100 other potentially harmful behaviors, I’d just be a hypocrite. The world already has enough of those.

My battle is against pornography addiction ignorance. That’s a fight I still believe I can impact. Will I win them all? Nope. But a baseball player who fails 7 out of 10 times is still a Hall of Fame candidate. I’ll just keep trying to make a difference and let free will guide others with the information I provide.

Bipolar Disorder + Alcoholism & Porn Addiction = Recipe for Disaster

I feel like I often gloss over the role that bipolar disorder played in my life as I contended with my addictions. I know being the guy who’s open about his porn addiction is what makes me more unique than most addicts in the public’s eyes, but I often feel like I’m leaving out a big factor in my story when I don’t explain the nuances of bipolar disorder.

I believe that all addiction stems from three areas: Your DNA, your environment/upbringing and your own faulty choices. I think most of us who are addicts have different percentages of each that make up our individual formulas, but few addicts – be it alcohol, porn, food, drugs, etc. – have told me it wasn’t some combination of the three.

I’m not going to go into long definitions or scientific explanations of bipolar disorder or even a “greatest hits” of my experiences. If you’d like to read a story I wrote for the magazine I once owned, you can find it HERE. It’s a long read, but it will get into my entire personal story. Ironically, it was also written in January 2013, just before my addictions got to the critical point that eventually took me down.

Many people who have to deal with bipolar disorder express similar side effects, with one of the most common being the desire to pull yourself off of your medication. It’s a hard thing to explain. I think it’s a combination of remembering through the lens of nostalgia what the mania felt like and reaching a conclusion that the medication did its trick and now you’re better.

I know one of the only reasons I was able to maneuver myself into a position as a publisher of a magazine at 34 was because of the hard work I did at 18 or 22 or 25. My willingness to get fully engulfed at whatever job in journalism or publishing I had at the time opened doors that led me to this high-ranking position 15-20 years earlier than most.

That hard work was fueled by the manic side of the bipolar disorder. I recall after quitting college (the first time) that there were many days I worked at the local daily newspaper office writing stories between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., then I’d have a break for an hour and come back at 5 p.m. to design pages until 1 a.m. I’d go home, fall asleep around 4 a.m., wake up at 7:30 a.m. and repeat the process without an ounce of fatigue.

For those of you who are addicts, but not manic, I think you may understand mania best in terms of your addiction. Take that great dopamine hit your addiction gave you and halve it. Then, replace the other half with the rush caffeine gives you after a couple strong cups of coffee.

I recall this as a never-ending supply of positive energy, but I know I’m romanticizing it. It was that way most of the time, but about 20% of the time, it was the opposite. It was crippling depression. It was like wearing a wet fur coat on a stiflingly hot day. It was about forcing myself to stay awake and do my job because I needed money to live, despite the fact I didn’t want to on most days. When I was flying high, I told myself the depressive episodes were the trade-off.

I know there is some controversy over the medications used to treat bipolar disorder and how and why they exactly work, not to mention the long-term side effects. The most effective drug I was on, nefazodone (marketed as Serzone in the US), was pulled when it was found to destroy a lot of users’ livers. The drugs worked for me. Once banned, it took a while to find the right cocktail and we still need to change things up every 3-4 years, but they worked.

In early 2013, the magazine started showing signs of weakness. We had been operating for four years at that point and while costs rose, revenue stalled, then slowly decreased. I think this was half my fault and half market conditions I couldn’t adapt to…maybe that means it’s all my fault.

I don’t remember the moment I decided to stop taking my meds. I don’t know if it was like a light switch, or if I realized I’d forgot for a few days and happened to be feeling good that day and drew a correlation. Somehow, the idea that if I stopped taking my meds I would increase the likelihood of saving the business seemed to make sense.

When I talk about taking responsibility for what I did, I think it starts here. While I couldn’t control many of my thoughts and actions while in the deepest throes of addiction, in deciding that avoiding medicating was a good move, I made the decision to live with the consequences. I just didn’t have the consequences I was hoping for. I think it’s like driving my car off a cliff. It’s not my fault gravity will pull it down and the impact will likely kill me…that’s just nature. It’s my fault for driving off the cliff in the first place.

I believe the bipolar diagnosis may have hid the addictions because it gave my sometimes erratic behavior a plausible explanation. I could be flat-out drunk, do something stupid, but explain it away as a bipolar episode…and everyone else bought it. Crazy behavior in Amsterdam or Japan had to do with the bipolar was the story I told people for years…and they agreed. I did for a long time, too.

I almost always end these articles by telling people to seek help for their addictions if they need it, but I also want to urge anybody who feels off a lot, or feels like their highs and lows are a little more pronounced than most people appear to be to please get yourself checked out. It’s a curse that has been just as important, just as debilitating and just as much in need of constant attention as my addictions.

What did it feel like to be a porn addict?

As I was reconfiguring my home page yesterday, feeling it was time to freshen things up by giving the book promotion a less prominent place, while still feeding my ego by listing all of the podcasts and radio shows I’ve done, I recognized that unlike Playboy magazine, people actually do come here for the articles and one I’ve never written about is what it felt like to be a pornography addict. Yes, that run-on sentence was 71 words.

It was shameful and lonely.

During most of my recovery, I’ve operated under the idea that I got some very mixed messages about sex and sexuality when I was a kid, and while that’s true, all of the messages were received in a negative way. Whether it was the conservative Catholic attitude of my parents or the inappropriate actions of my caregiver, I was left feeling like sexuality was a bad thing at about the age of 5.

Knowing that, on the surface it seems odd that I would have had such a visceral positive reaction to seeing pornography for the first time as a 10-year-old. You’d almost think I should recoil in disgust. Instead, for the first time, I found a “safe” outlet for my sexuality and although it would be many years before I regularly had my hands on the stuff, but I was an addict the first time I saw it.

Once I had the resources and ability to regularly consume porn, I knew it was an activity that you don’t talk about, pretend you’ve never heard of it, and talk down about the people who do use it or treat it all as a big joke. In essence, you’re denying who you really are.

Why? Because of the shame. Because you desperately don’t want to feel the humiliation or distress that comes from being judged not just by others, but by yourself. You know you’re doing something society has deemed as abnormal and wrong that’s rotting your soul, but you can’t stop. You can’t stop because you’re weak and that weakness is another reason to be ashamed.

It’s also a solitary addiction. My alcoholism was much more of a social addiction. It’s OK to drink. It’s even OK to drink too much from time to time. How many stories in this world have started with, “There was this one time that I was totally wasted…” I think a real argument can be made that my alcoholism was more critical for a longer time than the porn. I don’t feel nearly the shame about that. Maybe I should, or maybe the porn has vacuumed it all up, but I think it’s about how society views alcohol vs. porn.

While the very end result of indulging a porn addiction, a three-second orgasm, obviously feels good, there is nothing to enjoy about being a pornography addict. It’s a search for something that you can connect with because you can’t connect in usual ways to the outside world. It’s a search for intimacy and it’s a way to just block out all of those things that have happened to you that were out of your control when you were younger. It’s a lonely, lonely path.

I think one of the biggest reasons for writing my book, maintaining this website and offering advisement/support is simply because I wish somebody would have told me, “You’re not a freak. You’re not a bad person. You’re not the only one. It’s OK, you’re just ill and need to deal with some painful things and there are people who will help you in a safe, non-judgmental environment out there. It’s going to be OK.”

These days, I feel like a pornography addiction expert. I can quote stats all day long, have met dozens of people in real life and hundreds online with the issue, I read about it like there’s no tomorrow and of course, what porn addict expert isn’t complete without his own tale. But just because I may be a pornography addiction expert doesn’t mean I don’t still think about that dark place I was many years before I knew porn addiction was a thing or anybody else was dealing with the same thing.

You don’t have to live with the shame and the isolation of pornography addiction. Yes, it’s going to take society a long time to come around to treating pornography as an addiction, but you can do the research on alcohol and see how they treated alcoholics in the early 1900s. You’d rather be a porn addict now than an alcoholic then. It may not be in our lifetime, but society will come around. But you can’t wait for that.

You’re OK, and you can be much better. You’re not alone. Just reach out for help.

The Strangest Thing I Did in Jail

Note: The following is a 100% true story. I am transcribing directly out of one of the journals I kept while in jail in early 2016. Based on a reference early on, it was probably written in mid-April. I kid you not…this is completely legit. I have the journal to prove it.

Day 0:

First, my skeletons in case I ever sell this journal to a magazine. I am serving a jail term that will last 186 days or six months and one week in the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, Maine. I was convicted on charges stemming from encouraging a teenage girl to engage in a sex act on her webcam. She looked like a woman but wasn’t. I allowed my pornography addiction to drift from younger women to older girls. The alcoholism didn’t help. What I did was heinous, and I expect I’ll always have to live with the pain, shame and embarrassment. I have never tried to claim innocence and try never to rationalize nor minimize the crime.

I needed to be punished, even if I sit here now a healthier version of myself than I’ve ever been. It’s been more than two years since I committed my crime and made getting better my full-time job (two rehabs, hundreds of hours of therapy) before coming here. I’m not bitter about being here. I have no right to be.

Once you get used to it, jail is fairly easy if you can keep your wits about you. Follow a few rules, take your meds without arguing and develop a tolerance for flatulence.

Nobody demands anything of me here. I’m now at the two-and-a-half-month point and I’ve settled into a regular routine of spending my days reading and writing. This place is a cross between the worst waiting room in the world and an all-male version of the TV show Big Brother.

For the last week, I’ve experience my first real bout of restlessness. I need something interesting to keep me motivated and to write about. Four days ago, I put in an order at the commissary for 50 two-cup packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Tomorrow at 6:30 a.m., I will begin an adventure. How long can I mentally and/or physically tolerate nothing but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? I’ll set the goal at one week.

When else in my life will I ever be able to conduct an experiment of this variety on myself? Take that, Morgan Spurlock.

 

Day 1: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 8
Total for the experiment: 8

I thought Day 1 would be a breeze and for the most part, it has been. I noticed after around 60 days in jail my body has hard-wired itself to know what we eat here. I skipped anything at breakfast and will probably continue through this experiment, trying to eat the bulk of the cups at normal meal times later in the day.

Many of my pod mates were enthusiastic about my experiment. I don’t think they’ve met someone like me before. I think their interest in a combination of curiosity and the fact I’ll be giving my trays away at meal time.

 

Day 2: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 8
Total for the experiment: 16

I’m hungry today, like I could eat 12 cups. I have budgeted for 10 per day, But I think 6-8 may be more accurate. I guess we’ll find out.

In jail, we are on a diet of 2,000 calories. I think it’s too much since we sit or lay down 23 hours per day. There’s just not much to do here. Each Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is 105 calories with 10% of daily fat, 11% of saturated fat, 3% sodium, 4% carbs, 2.5 grams of protein, 1% of calcium and 2% iron. That means I only took in 840 calories yesterday. I’m curious if this will become more mentally or physically difficult first.

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Day 3: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 25

I may be going about this the wrong way. Part of me is telling myself this is a diet, which it isn’t designed to be. If I want to lose way, I can do that during the second half of my sentence. This is only about living on peanut butter cups.

Today was fairly easy. I went the first 6 hours of the day without one but wasn’t hungry. My body still recognizes meal time physically and mentally, especially dinner. It just feels like when I did Atkins before. I have a small craving for carbs.

 

Day 4: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 34

I started today with three at lunch but stopped because my stomach was feeling sketchy. I rebounded and felt fine by mid-day.

I really like the taste of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I can’t see that changing, but they are starting to take a place mentally where they didn’t in my previous life. I’m also just starting to feel hungry for other food.

I’m considering trying to go longer than a week, but I’ll see what happens when I get there. I still can’t decide if it’s better to eat a bunch at one time or spread it out through the day.

 

Day 5: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 6
Total for the experiment: 40

Had my first two around 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon. I wasn’t hungry but felt like I should put something in my stomach. I have to remember I’m not trying to starve myself, just see how long I can eat only Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Within five minutes of eating that first pair, I wanted other food.  I don’t know if I can do this more than a week.

Today at lunch, for the first time ever, they had kiwi. I almost caved.

 

Day 6: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 49

I feel a little weak today. I actually took a late morning nap for the first time since I got here. Lunch was disgusting bologna which I would have passed up anyway. Eight days seems stupid. I feel like I’m counting hours to make it to one week.

I had a mid-day headache and took Tylenol for the first time since I got here and I’m drinking a lot of water. Dinner was hot dogs and beans, which I wouldn’t have wanted anyway.

A couple of people have told me they think today is the first day they can see the physical toll this experiment is taking. I just tell myself to reach my goal I only have to forego three more meals. I think tomorrow is going to suck.

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Day 7: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 4
Total for the experiment: 53

I woke up today knowing I can soon quit this stupid experiment and will meet my goal in just a matter of hours. Knowing it’s almost done has boosted my spirit higher than it’s been in a few days. Officer Freeman told me it looked like I was losing weight. I came in here at 209. Guessing I’ll be under 200 when I leave. I can’t imagine I’m there yet, but I’ve got three months to go. If I could come out of here at 190, that would be great considering the lack of opportunity to exercise.

At 4, I had my second pack of the day. I only have to last 6 hours until I can have other food. I’ll be glad when this is over. I don’t know what I expected to happen. I think I may have broken in two or three days and given up if I really planned to keep going.

 

Day 8: Peanut Butter cups eaten today: 0

Had I gone to the store to attempt this experiment, I would have had to buy 27 of the traditional two-packs. I don’t think I’m going to eat any the rest of my time here and we’ll have to see what my relationship is like with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups after jail. Maybe this is the kind of immersion therapy people who are overweight could try if they are particularly addicted to a specific food.

When I hit the 10 p.m. mark last night, which made exactly 7 days, a pod mate made me a jailhouse burrito. It’s a burrito shell stuffed with pink sausage, crushed Doritos and jalapeno cheese – all purchased from the commissary. I’ve avoided these disgusting concoctions for almost three months but broken down when it was offered as my celebratory meal.

So, what did I learn? Aside from the fact I need projects to keep my mind occupied, not much. Jail time isn’t hard, but it’s long. It’s boring. It dulls all of the senses and makes measuring time difficult.

I know I’ll read this journal one day and think that this experiment was crazy, but I hope I have the perspective to realize that I did what I did because I needed to. This is probably the healthiest thing for my mental health. Staying healthy mentally won’t be hard on the outside after this experience.

I don’t know if jail is supposed to break your will. If it is, I won’t be broken, but I won’t ever, ever break a law that would get me here again. The only thing I had going for me this week was to live on 53 peanut butter cups. The incarceration system is not about rehabilitation.

This place sucks, and now, so do Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Note: Having read this for the first time in two years, I’m struck not as much by the experiment, but the recognition of needing to keep my mind occupied. I pulled my disconnection trick and have blocked most of what happened in jail and this reminds me of the monotony. I hope it doesn’t come off as not caring about my crime…the rest of this site should show you that I take my porn addiction very seriously and have maintained sobriety for over four years now. 

It’s interesting how I told myself that I’d one day think this experiment was crazy, and in a way, it was. It makes me wonder, though, if I could have been made to be more useful to society as part of my punishment instead of presenting this less-than-compelling data years later. Our system is broken. I don’t think you need more than this experiment to prove that.

Addict or Not, Therapy is Something All People Should Consider

I’m starting this about an hour before I head to my biweekly therapy session and it occurred to me that I’ve never really written at any length about the role it has played in my life during my addictive phase or the major piece it has been on my journey in recovery.

I first went to a therapist when I was 20. In late August that year, my close friend Mark was killed by a drunk driver and it sent me into a tail spin I had never experienced. After two months of barely being able to get off the couch, I finally went to therapy. While the therapist and I didn’t click, the five or six sessions I had helped me get things back on track.

A couple of years later, when I was (I think) 24, the first long-term relationship of my life ended with my live-in girlfriend. I was not mature enough to be in the kind of grown-up relationship she wanted, but her leaving was much like a death and I spiraled again.

I sought help again and finally clicked with a therapist, but it was when I created my first major misconception about therapy. I was waiting for a magic bullet statement that would put life into perspective. I was waiting for the one directive, the one instruction that would suddenly make sense of everything.

After about 18 months, we stopped with the sessions. I felt like I’d evolved to a good point mentally. Over the next 12 years or so, as I got married, built a family and career, I’d periodically check back in with him and eventually saw a couple of other therapists for small 4-6 week chunks for a tune-up, but never clicked with any of them.

The reality was that I was never 100% honest with them. I downplayed my alcoholism and never mentioned my porn addiction. I was just waiting for the secret and thought it was taking a very long time and an awful lot of therapists and I still had nothing. Talking to someone always helped, but they weren’t FIXING me.

 

Going into therapy for real

Then, the police showed up at my door and life as I knew it came to a grinding halt. I hadn’t seen a therapist in probably five years at that point. I was riding too high on my own BS to notice what was happening and dearly paid the price.

One of the first things I did was to go see my doctor and get a referral to a new therapist. This was within 48 hours of being arrested and while I was a little uncomfortable with the fact I was being referred to a woman for the first time, beggars couldn’t be choosers at that point.

I don’t remember much of our first two sessions prior to leaving for 10 weeks for alcohol rehab on the other side of the country. The one thing I do remember she said was, “Don’t just play along. Give it a chance and see if you can get something out of it.”

Thankfully, after about a week, I heeded her advice and came to accept I was as textbook alcoholic as they make them.

When I returned, I continued our sessions, usually twice a week, for about nine months. We talked a lot about my anxiety concerning the legal situation swirling around me, but we also about things I had begun uncovering at rehab including abuse from a babysitter, how I viewed sexuality, what drove me to drink, and how someone like me who defined himself based on his professional endeavors was going to exist in a world where I’d never have another white-collar job.

Maybe the rehab helped jumpstart the process, maybe I was just sick and tired of the life I led for so long or maybe it was the fact that it was a woman in my age bracket, but therapy was different this time around. She understood my strange sense of humor. She actually gave me advice. She helped me understand I wasn’t a monster, a pedophile, a scourge on society…but that I did have issues when it came to pornography. If not for her, I never would have attended my second rehab for porn addiction.

I also came to recognize that a therapist is not there the way a doctor who prescribes medication is there. She can’t tell me some magic statement to change everything. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for a reason. I had to train myself to stop my thought processes dead in their tracks and analyze why I made certain decisions or held certain beliefs. It’s a bit grueling, but it provided more insight into who I was than anything else in the recovery process.

Once you understand who you are, that’s when you can start making changes. Too many people – including me for years – just wanted to skip to the changes part. Therapy doesn’t work that way.

 

A lifelong journey in therapy

I continued to see her after the second rehab and she testified at my sentencing, which I think helped give me reduced time. She visited me in jail and I resumed seeing her regular when I got out six months later and continue to see her to this day, more than four years after I first met her.

We got through the porn and alcohol stuff a while ago, although we do revisit it. Those are really symptoms and we talk about causes.

Now, we’re getting into some of the primordial ooze that is at my deep, deep core. It’s the stuff that is the building blocks of my mind and wired into my DNA. It’s why we’ve gone from weekly one-hour appointments to biweekly two-hour ones. Sometimes I just need to babble for 75 minutes before making some massive breakthrough that I needed four years and (when including the other therapy and rehabs) thousands of hours to get at. Some days, it’s absolutely exhausting and takes so much out of me, but it’s a necessary thing to evolve as a person.

I spend a lot of time on message boards and answering email from addicts and their loved ones. As many of you know, I actually started my own little advising side gig because of the time I spend doing this. While it’s far from professional therapy, I can at least ask a few new questions and raise a couple of issues that the person I’m working with hasn’t considered before. Then, I try to steer them toward professional therapy.

I don’t think it really matters who you are or what your story is. Having somebody who is rooting for you and on your side, yet detached from the ongoing saga of your life, is extremely helpful. I’ve learned that you have to click with the person and they aren’t going to reveal the secret to life to you, but they can guide you to the far reaches of your mind.

That’s a scary place for some people. It was for me and if you told me in the beginning how much work it would be, I wouldn’t be able to fathom the mountain I was going to have to climb. At some point, we may go to monthly one-hour sessions for check-in purposes, but I know therapy will always have a role in my life.

Even if you think you’re the healthiest person in the world, I urge, urge, urge you to consider seeing a therapist. I’m proof that they work and can exponentially make your life a better experience.

 

Ask Me Anything… And They Are

So Monday is my usual day for an entry on my site but I have been absolutely slammed with questions for the Ask Me Anything I’m doing over at AMAHost.com  I didn’t know anything about this site until I was asked to do it last week, but I’ve now got over 30 questions answered and have actually tackled a bunch of topics that I’ve never talked about on this site beyond my porn addiction, in more depth, like my alcoholism and process for writing my book. If you have enjoyed my writing in the past, I hope you’ll click over to this site and check it out.

Click Here for my Ask Me Anything event