Guest Blog: What’s Porn Viewing Doing to Your Brain?

By Joseph F. Price

Are you habitually thinking or fantasizing about sex? Are you always trying to find ways to satisfy your urges and frustrations? Do you get an adrenaline rush from watching pornography? Pornography creates a multitude of chemicals in the brain that are as harmful as doing drugs, and is highly addictive.

Experts indicate phone addiction, internet addiction, and porn addiction combined are going to represent the next health crisis. When, you make the decision to experiment with pornography for sexual pleasure it will have a lasting impact on your brain chemicals, relationships, and mental health.

In the 1980s, a commercial used the analogy of two frying pans and two eggs to explain how a person’s brain looks on drugs. The pan on the left with the raw egg in it represented the natural state of a brain, and the pan on the right showed a fried egg. The caption read: “This is your brain on drugs.” The same analogy can be applied to a person who is using a lot of pornography to stimulate their mind. Except in this case, the egg would be snapping, crackling, and popping on the stove until it is burnt, and the pan is in flames. Porn viewing does this to a person’s brain, spirit, and soul.

Essentially, your brain works like a car engine. There are many mechanisms operating together. Different chemical synapses send signals throughout your body. There is a space, or small gap in our brains where information is transferred between cells. This space is commonly called the synaptic cleft. In order for information to flow, chemical messengers called neurotransmitters are shot across this gap. Think of this like a spark- plug in a car. The neurotransmitter has to make it through this gap in order to spark a thought, or to get your information highway up and running.

There are six major brain chemicals discharged while a person watches porn. Add the additional hormones that are released, and you come up with a highly toxic “neuro-cocktail.”

The first chemical is Dopamine. It is the chemical in charge of your emotions and your thoughts. It is a “feel good” neurotransmitter that “snaps” to attention, when you have a powerful longing for something you have already experienced before. For instance, you have to eat chocolate because it tastes good. Therefore, your brain keeps telling you to eat more of it. The same thing happens when a person watches porn over and over. Dopamine keeps rushing into that area of the brain, and this makes a person addicted because the neurotransmitter indicates that you need more of it. Interestingly, Dopamine plays a major role in memory.  The chemical remembers that the hot, little number in a G-string is just a click away.

The second chemical is Norepinephrine. This chemical sends a “crackling” sensation through the body because it elevates adrenaline. Maybe a couple is having trouble with their sex life, and they want to spice up things in the bedroom. One of them starts watching sex videos to get new ideas. The first time it doesn’t seem to be a problem, but then their mind starts fantasizing about more and more stimulation. Then, people begin to hide their behaviors. They start chatting with girls over the internet, sneaking off to the bathroom to masturbate, and lying to their wives. Of course, it’s their dirty secret, after all. Unfortunately, the individual gets an adrenaline rush from hiding the secret, and this is where the vicious cycle begins.

Oxytocin and Vasopressin work together to cement a person’s “long-term memories to the object that gave him or her sexual pleasure.” Oxytocin is often referred to as the “cuddle hormone.” It is the hormone released when a mother and father first hold their new baby. The hormone connects them to that memory. If this chemical is released during climax it can have a negative impact on a pornography user. The chemical spreads messages to the spectator’s brain that makes him or her become attached or connected to the video, and it prevents them from forming real relationships with one another.

Let’s talk about Endorphins, which are chemicals that make people feel high. Drugs aren’t required to feel on top of the world. It just happens, naturally! You don’t have to go out and buy opiates. They are already available in your head. People, who run and exercise know how awesome these chemicals make them feel. Endorphins are like an aphrodisiac that brings on the desire for sex, and the chemicals start “popping” around in the brain like a drug boosting your libido.

A normal, loving couple should experience a feeling of excitement and happiness during sex, and they usually form a loving connection. When a person constantly stimulates their brain with porn, they are changing the chemistry of these natural endorphins. It is like disconnecting a spark-plug from a reliable source of energy. If you put that plug into the wrong socket, it won’t fire correctly.

“Dr. Judith Reisman called porn an ‘erotoxin,’ theorizing that the brain itself might be damaged while watching porn. She speculated that future brain studies would reveal that the surge of neurochemicals and hormones released when someone watches porn has measurably negative effects on the brain,” (Gilkerson, 2019).

Once sexual participants finish making love there is a calming chemical called Serotonin released into the bloodstream. Humans were never designed to have sex with machines, videos, or other abstract images. People were created for interaction and relationships with living beings. You’re just cheating yourself, if you “short-circuit” the natural process of things by using an inanimate object to fulfill your lusts. All these chemicals work well together, if the user doesn’t rewire his or her brain by doing something unnatural to knock it off balance.

In the long run, Pornography changes your brain chemistry, ruins relationships, and harms your mental health. All the chemicals that work together in your brain snap, crackle, and pop until there is an explosion that causes permanent damage to your life. Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Endorphins interact together and become like hot wires in the brain with repeated use of erotica. Prolonged exposure hardens people’s minds and “desensitizes” their brains to the point that just a little bit of pornography is no longer satisfying. They need to watch harder porn with more violence and cruelty to satiate the chemical Dopamine. The domino effect is that it destroys relationships with their friends and family. Once this takes place, they have to seek help from a mental health provider to straighten out the chemical destruction of their brain and repair relationships.

 

Gilkerson, L. (2019). Your Brain on Porn. Covenant Eyes. Retrieved from www.covenanteys.com/science-of-pornaddiction-ebook

 

Joseph F. Price has been a life/recovery coach for over 12 years and a study of the human condition for over 40. You may contact him at Pornrecovery.coach

Note: Victoria Sayhi contributed to this post

Think Addiction and Bipolar Disorder aren’t Connected? Think Again.

Quite often when I’m doing interviews, I’m asked about the connection between my bipolar disorder and my alcoholism and pornography addiction. I’ve always felt like there was some link between the two, but I finally did a little research to confirm it. As it turns out, there’s a huge link.

Bipolar disorder, which has made it onto the list of most self-diagnosed conditions (migraines continues to top that chart), actually only occurs in between 1.5 and 2.5 percent of the population according to one 2018 study. Another said that it was 4.4%, so I guess you have to believe the one you want.

I was diagnosed at age 26, although I can recognize episodes of mania and depression going back to my mid-teens, not-so-coincidentally when my addictions first began to surface. Ironically, the average age for onset of bipolar disorder is 25, but I know I had it long before that.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research yet on the likelihood of someone with behavioral addictions like sex/porn addiction, gambling addiction or video game addiction also suffering from bipolar disorder, but based on what we know with substance addictions, I think it’s safe to say there’s a link.

To the unaware, bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) is essentially a psychiatric disorder characterized by unstable moods, depression or mixed manic and depressive episodes that are accompanied by drastic changes in sleep patterns and energy levels. Erratic, irrational decision-making can also be a sign of untreated bipolar disorder.

Back when I went untreated, manic was my norm. It was the bouts of depression that indicated to me something was wrong. I’m not going to give my entire history here, but if you’d like to see an article I wrote for my magazine way back in the day where I essentially confessed to the community I had bipolar disorder, click here. It’s a long read, but a good one.

I’m going to try not to turn this into an academic paper, so if you want sources for my statistics, just let me know and I’ll provide them, but I’d rather these be an easier read.

In the US population, roughly 15% of the population are tobacco smokers. Among those with bipolar disorder, anywhere from 60% to 80% either were or are currently tobacco smokers. I was among those in early 20s, but I quit a two-pack-a-week habit in my mid-20s. I took it up again shortly after I was arrested (ironically in rehab) in 2014 and kept it up for about 9 months before quitting again.

In the US, about 1-in-8 people, or 12.5% or the population can be classified as alcoholics. Among those who have bipolar disorder, it’s closer to 42% to 44%, depending on which study you use. I was firmly in this group as well.

As for drugs, someone with bipolar is 14 times more likely to have a substance use disorder than a person without. In fact, over half the people with bipolar disorder (56%) have a history of illegal drug use. One study I saw said that number could be as high as 70%. Although I experimented a little bit, I never embraced illegal drugs the way I did alcohol or pornography.

There is information out there that also links bipolar disorder to populations who report much higher than average anxiety, ADHD and eating disorders.

It’s important to note that it’s just not higher rates of addiction among people with bipolar disorder. You’ll find higher rates of homelessness, violence (both committed by and against), crime and suicide in this population.

There is no known cause for bipolar disorder, addiction, or co-occurrence. It’s just as important to highlight that addiction does not cause bipolar disorder and while the numbers clearly indicate those with bipolar disorder have a much, much higher likelihood of a co-occurring disorder, it is not guaranteed. Researchers believe a combination of factors, such as environment, genetics, biology, etc., are believed to play a role in both bipolar disorder and addiction. Reading between the lines, that seems code for, “We still have no idea.”

When I was at rehab, it felt like two-out-of-three people claimed they had bipolar disorder. I thought they were way overstating it, but as it turns out, maybe those numbers were right on the money.

I hope that the scientists who conduct the kinds of studies and surveys that I referenced above are studying behavioral addictions look to establish a connection between them and bipolar disorder as they’ve done with substance addictions. Anecdotally, based on the sex and porn addicts I’ve known, I think you’ll see very big numbers.

Sorry, But There Was No Thrill In My Addiction

I’ve found LinkedIn to be a great resource for pornography addiction information. However, much like statistics that peg the porn industry worth anywhere between $2 billion and $200 billion (just a slight discrepancy there), I’m starting to bump into information provided from professionals that I think is just flat-out wrong.

This morning, I was scrolling through the feed and there was a short video from an Australian health professional. The video’s thesis was that “the thrill” that comes with looking at porn and masturbating makes the addiction even worse.

The thrill?

At first I thought it may be an Australian colloquialism for the physical pleasure that comes with an orgasm, but that’s not it. This person believes that there is a genuine thrill associated with succumbing to the addiction on a regular basis. Aside from the slight rush of adrenaline that came with porn viewing when I was afraid of getting caught by my parents more than 25 years ago, I don’t recall watching porn ever being a fun, exciting experience. It was a necessity. Despite trying to stimulate my dopamine receptors, there wasn’t a lot of pleasure in it.

The thrill?

Try the shame.

I didn’t want anybody to know about my addiction and in all truth, I never really faced up to my addiction or called it such while I was locked in the battle between my brain and the computer screen. There was nothing thrilling about that. It made me feel bad. I didn’t feel like I was getting away with anything. I felt like I had a dirty little secret.

Here’s my guess: This person has probably never been addicted to anything. I’ve met plenty of ex-alcoholics and ex-drug users at the rehabs I’ve been to who work in the field, but there was also plenty of people who weren’t. Usually these people love to tell you they’re in recovery and this person didn’t do that in the video.

I’m guessing they associates caving to your addiction, even though you don’t want to, as something “naughty.” There’s a big chasm between naughty and shameful. Having a piece of cake at the restaurant with dinner when you’re on a diet is naughty. Going home and binging on the cake in the fridge because you can’t stop yourself is shameful. Promising yourself you’d only lose $100 when you visit the casino, but you lose $120 is naughty. Losing $1,000 and only stopping because you’re broke is shameful. Sneaking a 5-second peek of a pornographic website at work or when other people are in the room is naughty. Waiting for everybody to go to sleep because you NEED hours to look at porn is shameful.

I know if this person was my therapist, we would not click. I also know that I would leave this person after probably only one or two sessions. Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who stick with their therapists because they feel like it’s a relationship where the client doesn’t have the control. A therapist you can’t work well with is not a therapist worth keeping.

I’m sure this person probably gets through to some of their clients and I’m sure they’ve helped a lot of people, but hearing that there was a thrill to my addiction made me shake my head.

That’s not a thrill. That’s shame.

Five Things for a Sex or Porn Addict’s Partner to Realize Upon Discovery

Despite the fact that I’ve got a book coming out about the subject the first week of December and I spend a lot of time talking about it on the radio show and podcast appearances I do, I really don’t write enough about the women who are left to deal with their partner’s pornography or sex addiction on this site.

I include sex addiction, or intercourse addiction, as I like to call it because it seems women who are faced with finding their partner is either type of addict have a similar reaction and it’s a reaction unlike any other addiction’s reaction. When you find out your gambling addicted partner lost your child’s college fund at the casino, you don’t question if you were the problem. When your partner turns to heroin, you don’t wonder if you weren’t enough in the bedroom. When your partner develops a video game addiction, there isn’t the sense of intimate betrayal.

I’m not suggesting being the partner of any addict is easy, it certainly is not. But when it comes to the core of sex and porn addiction, which is unhealthy sexuality, it leaves the person who you are supposed to be the only one to intimately share that sexuality with crushed in most cases.

I think loving, intimate relations between partners is a sacred thing. It’s almost as if it is a secret kept between people who have a bond that goes beyond being best friends. When the partner is discovered to have a sex or porn addiction, the sacred becomes soiled, the secret becomes a lie and the bond is severed.

* * *

Once discovery happens, the story can go one of a million different ways, and the female partner is left with a lot of questions, which the new book examines. I do, however want to drive five points home:

  • What you’re feeling is called betrayal trauma and it is absolutely appropriate. You have been dealt a giant emotional and mental blow that is difficult to process. Have your reaction. Do not repress it as that will only make things worse. This may last months or years. I wish there was a quick fix to get through it, but in my personal experience and learning the stories of dozens of women, it lingers for a long time.
  • His addiction is not your fault. If he is the kind of man who is denying an addiction or telling you that you have in some way contributed to his illness, you have not. I was addicted more than 10 years before I met my wife and she didn’t learn of the addiction until we’d been married another 10. It had nothing to do with her and it has nothing to do with you.
  • It’s up to him if he wants to get help, either individual or couple’s counseling. You can create boundaries that encourage him to seek help or face consequences, but ultimately, it’s on him to get better. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t seek therapy. You 100% absolutely should. Talking with somebody and finding other women who have been through what you have (and are further along in the journey) will help you immensely.
  • You’re not a weak person if you decide to stay. You loved him and admitting you still do is not failure as a wife, girlfriend or woman. It doesn’t give him all the power and is not you admitting defeat. My wife, thankfully, recognized amid her trauma that I was a sick person. Yes, I did the hard work of recovery, but her support was my foundation and I couldn’t have done it without her. I don’t see her as weak for staying. I see her as strong for getting through this shitstorm that was not her doing.
  • You’re not a bad person if you decide to leave. While most experts will urge you not to act quickly and take some time assessing the situation, if you find that you simply cannot move forward with the addict as your partner, that’s your right and you should not feel guilty about exercising that right. Your mental health is most important and if it’s going to get wrecked staying, you should go. If my wife had left, I would have been said, but appreciated the need to take care of herself apart from me.

* * *

Gee, I hope I didn’t give away the book there. You should still buy copies for all your friends. They’ll make great Christmas gifts if you want the party to get really awkward in a hurry. Seriously though, if you’re a woman (or even a man) and find that your partner has this other part of themselves that you never knew about, a strong reaction and even stronger lingering feelings are normal.

Sadly, it may get worse before it gets better. But it can get better and that was one of the big reasons I participated in the the book. I think not being with a woman physically helped my relationship’s healing a lot, but almost six years later, we still sometimes have conversations that are uncomfortable. I know they may happen forever, but that’s OK. I’m just thankful we’ve reached this point.

When my book is available in early December (or if you are reading this long after) the homepage of RecoveringPornAddict.com will have links to purchase.

Hey, Non-Addicts: Want To Better Understand What Addiction and Recovery Feels Like? Try This!

Just about every addict will inevitably be asked what it feels like to be an addict. For the non-addict, understanding the pull of a substance or behavior is mystifying. Further, the idea of stopping something seems easy to them, but in addiction it’s not. Recovery is tough. While I can’t make you feel exactly what it’s like to be addicted to pornography, or what the recovery has been like for me, I think I have a two-day model that can help get some kind of a handle on addiction and recovery for the non-addict.

Day One

You’ll probably want two days off in a row from school or work to run this experiment. Do not let anybody know you are doing this experiment as it could taint the experience.

The first thing that you’re going to do in the morning is to take your cell phone and turn the volume of the ringer and all of your alerts for texting, social media, etc. to the maximum level. Make it loud! Do not look through your phone. Just turn the volume all the way up.

Then, take a Post-It Note and put it on the face of your phone so you can’t see the screen. You could tape a piece of paper to it as well. The point is to not see the screen, but not make it difficult if you decide you want to see it.

Keep your phone next to you all day. Don’t put it in the other room. Don’t put it in a drawer.

Do not use the phone. The phone is the drug or the addictive behavior. You may not call or text or Tweet or Snapchat or whatever. You may not use the phone.

Every call…every chime…every bell…every whistle that comes from someone else; you must ignore them. No excuses. No “good reasons” to interrupt the experiment…NONE!

You may not borrow another person’s phone, nor try to skate your way around the rules. If you feel like you’re bending or going around the rules, you are. Do not participate in any activity that you would normally use your phone for.

That’s it. Sound easy? For some it may be, but I think for the vast majority willing to try it’s going to be much, much harder than you think.

If you use your phone during the day, you fail. You succumbed. Welcome to the world of the addict.

Day Two

Keep your phone in the same state as Day One. The rules to your phone apply exactly the same as they did yesterday.

Today, though, you can figure out a way to do the things you normally do on your phone…you just can’t use your phone.

If you’re going somewhere and don’t know the way, you can’t use Google Maps. You’ll have to use a real map, or get on another computer and print out a map or write down directions.

If you need to talk to somebody on the phone, find a landline. Find somebody else’s cell phone. Go to the gas station and see if they laugh and ask you “What’s a pay phone?” when you ask to use one.

Need to keep up with social media? Facebook started only for desktop computers. Use that, or a tablet. Like to read books on your phone? Pick up a real book. They’re not that heavy. Want your news? Watch TV like we did in the 1990s.

Today’s exercise is about doing everything you would on your phone, just finding out a different way to do it. Were you able to get through today or did you find it too frustrating and resorted to using your phone? That’s tantamount to a relapse.

Results

Day One should be difficult if you’re like most people who don’t realize just how tethered to their cell phone they really are. I think anyone under 30 or 35 will really have some issues as they’ve been raised in a world where the cell phone is almost an extension of the hand.

The reason I say not to tell people you’re embarking on this experiment is because you want completely normal conditions. You need to get the calls, texts, etc., that you’d normally get. After all, the addict lives in the normal, real world. They can’t tell people not to bother them for two days.

I think most will find it easy at first to leave their phone alone, but by that second phone call, or third text, or fifth snapchat chime, it’s going to feel really rough. You’ll wonder if it’s something important, even though you know it’s a 99.9% chance it’s not. You’re going to want to rip that Post-It Note off the phone to see what you’re missing. There’s a whole world living in that phone that you can’t touch.

That’s the feeling for the addict. There’s a whole world in our addiction that we feel like we have to get our hands on. For those of you who cave and look at your phone, which I think will be most, that relief you feel when you finally give in is the relief the addict feels when they give in to their addiction. You know it’s wrong, you know you lost the battle of wills, and sure there is some guilt and shame, but you just feel so much better.

Day Two is about developing the tools and problem-solving skills to still live your life as richly as possible, but without your cell phone. This is what the addict has to learn to do in recovery. We have to develop a set of tools and skills to cope with the real world without the crutch of our addiction. Some of us use to quell anxiety and stress. Some use to forget trauma. Some just want to escape everything. Now, we have to figure out how to get relief and live life on life’s terms in the real world without our addictive behavior.

Every time you pick up your phone on Day One, you’re active in your addiction. Every time you pick up your phone instead of figuring out another way to do things in Day Two, you’re relapsing.

If anybody reading this is bold enough to try this experiment, I’d love to hear about your results and find out if you better understand what addiction is all about come the morning of Day Three.

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.

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