Help Me Figure This Out: Am I Overreacting to this Situation?

Maybe this is just me venting, or maybe I’m looking for validation that I’ve been treated poorly or maybe I need to hear that I should just shut up and accept things, but I’ve been dealing with a situation over the last day involving a library where I was going to be giving a presentation about pornography addiction. They decided to back out and I just need somebody to let me know what they think from an independent perspective.

I don’t want this to come off as sour grapes on my part, so I’m not going to talk specifically about where the library is or the names of the people I’m dealing with. I understand that they are legally entitled to do whatever they want. I just want to know if I’m correct in thinking that I’ve been treated unfairly. Sometimes I have a complex about these things.

Some background:

In early March, after donating a copy to this library in a nearby state, I was taken up on my offer to give the presentation “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” which while it shares a title with my book, it is more an educational lecture about pornography addiction, looking at statistics and what the signs of addiction are, while also sharing pieces of my story. The whole “porn addiction expert” thing comes from having the experience of being one, plus being well-studied on the subject. This presentation is the best of both worlds.

About three weeks after we set a date for May, I was sent an email suggesting the appearance be moved to September, for fear that a nice Sunday in May might keep potential attendees at home. I figured they knew their stuff and agreed. I haven’t spoke to them directly in almost three months.

However, as the book has caught the interest of libraries across the country (and New Zealand…no idea why 4 libraries have it there, yet I still can’t get one into a state ending in the word “Dakota”) I have periodically updated a list kept on this site. I’ve always noticed that library never appears. It was never entered into their electronic catalog.

So, anyway, we move into the last 24 hours. Yesterday I got an email that says:

Hi Joshua
Some sad news – there has been a change in directors since we last talked and they do not want this program. One of her concerns is that people would think attending indicates they have this problem too and they don’t want to have that reputation. She is the boss now so we won’t be able to work with you.
BUT
I was thinking if you set up a discussion panel with you and a therapist or some professional counselor who deals with this – that would make libraries feel more comfortable.  All the podcasts on your website lend a lot of credibility. In your letters to libraries you could mention the website with all your radio and podcast work. And maybe a library would feel better having this as part of a series on addiction:  not just including substance abuse but work addiction and adrenaline addiction – those are not talked about very much either.
I’m disappointed since I know you are doing a good work for the community. But good luck in the future.

This absolutely floored me, but I’m smart enough now to think before I speak…or write. I did want to know one thing though. What happened to the book I sent them? Much like my presentation, was it deemed too controversial? Here is the response I got:

No – I am embarrassed to say it is still on my coffee table for me to read. It definitely has not been removed. For items that could be challenged by a community member I like to read first so I can have the arguments ready as to its inclusion. In all my years of library work I have not personally had a book challenge – but you never know. Take Care

If I was floored yesterday evening at seeing the first email, this one left me looking around to see who was playing a prank on me. Maybe there was some Candid Camera/Punk’d for a new generation involving addicts or authors. It seemed more likely than somebody being serious about worrying their patrons would be seen as porn addicts or that the book would be so offensive that it needs to be examined, even if nothing in the history of the library has ever been deemed offensive. So, I decided to give myself a little bit more time and went out to lunch with my parents and my son to celebrate his last day of school a couple days ago. When I returned, I wrote this:

I have done four library presentations to this point, with (OTHER LIBRRARY) being the only other in (STATE), and I’ve not been met with any of the resistance that either you or your director seems to fear. The idea that people who attend the event are going to be labeled as porn addicts is only true if either of you are doing the labeling. Would you invite an author to present a book on the Holocaust, but assume the attendees are Nazi sympathizers? Would you not allow a book by somebody who was an Army sniper for fear attendees would be the kind of people who like to shoot others?
In (OTHER LIBRARY), I think we drew 8 or 9 people. It was mostly middle-aged women who worked in health care who wanted more education. I don’t think anybody jumped to any conclusions about them, and if they did, so what? Shouldn’t those people get the chance to hear a presentation that is about the healthcare crisis of pornography addiction? After the event, a woman, probably about 35, came up to me and admitted she had a problem and wanted help. After a couple of days of exchanging messages, she found a therapist and began attending a 12-step group for women in (NEARBY MAJOR CITY). So you’re right, you may get an addict there. In this case, it was one who finally got help. She finally met someone in real life who experienced addiction years ago, doesn’t judge and was able to be a resource.
The book is in almost 200 libraries in four countries at last count. I get email daily from some of the people who read the book. Most thank me for trying to start a discussion. To date, I’ve done over 50 radio shows and podcasts not to just promote the book, but to educate about the addiction. A recent study by Canadian researchers said that in the last 6 months, 98% of married men and 70% of married women under 35 looked at pornography. 48% of households say porn has a negative effect on their home. 24% of people have looked at porn at work in the last 6 months. If your fear is that people in (LIBRARY’S TOWN) may end up with the assumption porn addiction is a problem for many of its residents…it is. I can guarantee that, no matter how much people wish it wasn’t so. And the library should be a place that residents can find resources. If this were 1982, would books on heroin and other opiates be ignored because back then, most wanted to believe the people who used those drugs were just the kind of people society looked down upon. Now it’s hard to find a family not somehow affected. Why? Because our society was reactive to the opiod crisis, not proactive.
If this is just a matter of “porn is gross” I don’t disagree with you. There are lots of gross things in this world we wish weren’t here and it’s every individual’s right to make the decision to stay away from it. It’s just a bigger deal when that person is the gatekeeper of information in a community, much like your role and the director’s role in the library. Prior to entering recovery and learning as much as I could about this addiction, I would have fought you hard about the library’s actions because it seems so unjust to me. Somebody standing in the way of someone else delivering information because the first person doesn’t like it just smacks of censorship. I would have taken to social media and contacted the newspaper and try to stir things up, but I’m just not that guy anymore. It wouldn’t really matter anyway because it wouldn’t spread the message that porn addiction is going to be a healthcare crisis of a new variety for the 21st century. I didn’t expect a large audience, nor did I expect the book to have holds on it for the first six months in was on the shelf, but it is nice to think that, like those libraries who didn’t cancel me and who haven’t hesitated putting it on a shelf, their patrons can make that decision for themselves. I hope the irony of the title “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” isn’t lost on anybody on your end. 
If you choose not to put the book on the shelf because it will introduce dangerous ideas to your community, I’d just ask you donate it to a Goodwill, Salvation Army or local church fair. Thank you for hearing me out.

 

I half-expected that to be the end of it. I figured the only response could be one that either doubles-down on her vague position, or admits to being wrong upon further analysis. Instead, I got a strange blow-off about an hour later earlier today:

Thank you for writing this – it is very informative.  Your book will 99.99% end up in the collection – the only delay has been that it got stuck in my reading queue but I will put it at the top now.  From the bit I have scanned through I don’t see any problems – but for due diligence I need to go through the whole thing.
It is most excellent your experience at other libraries and hearing of the kind of audiences.  Can I recommend you mentioning this in your website – the well received library visits – and the exact libraries?  If they could give you a blurb to put on your website too – that would be great. After you’ve added the library stuff to your website you can ask one of the libraries to recommend you on a listserv that most all librarians in (STATE NAME) read. Ask one of the libraries where your program was really successful to put a recommendation on the list and contact info on that list. This gives you a lot of credibility and will definitely increase your bookings.
So can I ask you to contact me in 6 months? If you’ve gotten libraries on your website and even a rec on the list – it will be an easier sell for me.

A big piece of me wants to send a response asking if they had to spend time going through all of the pro- and anti-Trump books coming out now on their shelves. A bigger piece of me wants to prod them into telling me point blank what the REAL problem is. I think I know what it is – it’s the “porn addicts are gross, we don’t want one here and would rather pretend they aren’t in our community” stance. The biggest piece wants to write back and say, “Don’t tell me how to become all prim and proper so I can possibly book your library down the road. I don’t want to step foot in your library…ever.”

But I won’t. I won’t send any of those things. I’m going to let it go as far as they are concerned.

I’m just left sitting here trying to think if I’ve been treated poorly, if I’ve been essentially discriminated against, if anybody with a porn addiction is being discriminated against and if the poor people in that town don’t have unfettered access to information at their library. It’s like Footloose, but actually important.

If nothing, it’s at least bad form to book somebody and cancel, right? I know you’re only getting my analysis of the story, although I gave you as much as I have to go on. Am I right to feel slighted and hurt or am I making too much of this? I’d love to know what you think.

Oh, and if you’re new here and don’t know the book I wrote that I’m talking about, you can get the details of it on Amazon HERE. Buy several. Send them to the residents of that New England town.

 

Another Story From Jail: The Bathroom Situation

My first entry a month ago about what is what like to go to jail got more hits and likes in the first day than anything I’d ever written about before. I thought it would be a one-off, but I think it’s good to remind people where pornography addiction can lead you if you don’t learn to deal with it. I never thought I’d have to face the reality of a jail bathroom, but that’s one of the many consequences of not taking care of myself the way I should have.

Sure, there was the overarching theme of “Just Survive” as I entered my first day of jail, but if I were to delve into the specifics of the anxiety I wrestled with in the nearly two years my case played out in the legal system, I think more than half of it came from not knowing what the bathroom situation was going to be like.

I’m not a super modest person. I can shower in a room with others. I’d rather not go to the bathroom while others are watching, but I came to peace with knowing I might have to do that. My biggest fear centered on people messing with me when I was in either of those vulnerable positions.

When I got to jail on my first day, despite it being nearly 10:30 a.m., everyone was fast asleep in the “pod” I was in. The room was probably 60 feet long and about 10 feet wide through most of it. I was the 14th man in a room with 7 bunk beds that could comfortably fit half that. At one end, it opened a little where a table and chairs were and at the other end, I noticed that there was a door, presumably to the bathroom. On the handle was a cardboard hanger somebody made that said “Vacant” much like a “Do Not Disturb” hanger you’d see at a hotel better than the one the county was providing me. I quietly hopped off the bed and went to the door. The other side of the hanger said: “In Use”.

I pushed the door open into the bathroom. It was a little bigger than the bathroom in most people’s homes and had a dull gray cement floor. There was one shiny metal toilet attached to a shiny metal sink. In the corner of the room was a single shower stall, separated from the rest of the room with those big plastic/rubber flaps that come over your car at the end of the car wash.

“So, there isn’t any group showering situation,” I said to myself, able to dismiss myriads of prison movie fight scenes from my head, recognizing a huge fear had evaporated.

Later in the day, when one of the inmates wanted to take a shower, he announced loudly he was doing it and asked if anybody needed to use the bathroom. When nobody did, he just flipped the hanger over and went inside. It became the standard protocol for my time there.

Once in a while, we’d get somebody new into our pod who wanted to establish some kind of dominance in the pod. A regular way of doing this was entering the bathroom to pee when someone else was taking a shower. I guess the idea is that they don’t have to respect the wishes of someone who wants to be left alone to shower.

Just a quick aside: Years ago, I sold DVDs and CDs at a call center for parents with defiant children. In training, we learned about Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Basically, it is a condition where If I tell you to do A, you’ll do B. If I think say, “OK, fine, do B” you’ll do A. It doesn’t make any sense, but I saw a lot of people who clearly struggled with this in jail. It’s a real thing. It’s fascinating, but frustrating to be around.

While I kind of sat back and watched things going on around me for two months, after that point, a group of three or four of us who were older (I’d guess the median age was about 29 and I was a decade beyond that) and doing extended stays would put that kind of behavior to an end quickly. While I wasn’t physically imposing compared to these others, I learned quickly to represent that I could, and would have no problem fighting if necessary. I knew they’d have my back if anybody tried anything. In my almost six months there, the worst I saw were two guys take defensive postures with each other.

Most would try to diffuse the situation by just going up to someone and saying, “We don’t do that here. Stay the f out of the bathroom when someone is in there,” and if that didn’t work, I’d usually try to convince them using the kind of manipulation that partially landed me in jail.

“You know, I don’t think anybody in here has a problem with you being gay…” I would start.

“I’m not f’n gay!” the person would always respond.

“Oh, sorry. Well I don’t think that anybody would be upset if you explained that you had some kind of bladder control problem…” I would continue. “They sell adult diapers in the commissary.”

“I don’t have an f’n bladder problem,” they’d shoot back. I knew the other guys had my back as I did this and were enjoying listening from a few feet away.

“Well, I think you need to explain to everyone why you like to bust in when men are naked or going to the bathroom. If you can explain it, it’ll make it easier to deal with, because right now, everybody just thinks you’re gay or need diapers. If you don’t want them to think that, maybe you should stop barging in.”

I had to give this little talk about three times in the six months I was there.

I look back and feel a little bad that I played on their fears and insecurities, but I also try to tell myself that I was not living in a democratic society full of open-minded, kind people who wanted the greater good for all.

While the water in the shower was either drippy and freezing or turbo-charged and scalding, the overall bathroom situation was not as bad as I anticipated. I know that’s not the case at all jails or prisons, and in a way, I think part of my punishment was the anxiety I had to live with in advance of getting to jail.

Looking back, I don’t think that was such a bad thing. There was no pornography and no reason for not taking care of myself that made jail worthwhile. Lesson learned.

 

I’m now officially offering peer support counseling for pornography addiction

I’ve decided to leap in with both feet and begin formally providing peer support counseling to people who are dealing with pornography addiction or those who have porn addicts in their lives who are directly affected. I appreciate the encouragement from the people who have urged me to direct my energy in this direction. It will be interesting to see what happens.

You can view the site for the new venture at PornAddictCounseling.org

Almost nobody knows just how many people I have been providing support and advice to in the last three or four months. Once my book came out and I started doing podcasts and interviews, I started getting a lot of email. That only increased when I was introduced to a handful of online forums.

Before I recognized it, my morning routine involved answering email for 90 minutes to 2 hours every morning after dropping my son off at school. There was usually another hour after lunch and sometimes another hour in the early evening. When people are writing to you from all over the world, stuff comes in around the clock.

I really like helping. I feel like it gives me purpose. I have a lot of knowledge about pornography addiction and I’m a former addict who is successful in recovery who doesn’t mind talking about it. It makes me rare and makes sense for someone to seek me out for advice, suggestions or support. I’ve enjoyed helping and it gives me such a sense of happiness when something I’ve said has helped someone.

In early March, it became very clear to me that the time I was devoting to helping people was eating into the time I use to make money as a freelance writer. Thankfully, I have a couple of steady clients who pay well, but that “extra time” I used to pick up odd jobs here and there was gone. Those odd jobs can mean 20%-40% of my income many months and without it, things were getting tight.

A close friend suggested a fee for my peer support and counseling in late March. I did a bit of research and it’s far more common than I realized. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so crazy and there was now a way I could both help people and replace the money I’m not taking in from writing anymore.

After talking it over in early April with my wife and therapist who both thought it was a good idea, I enrolled in a life coaching course (which frankly, I’m not sure was worth the money or my life has just provided ample training) and finished in early May. I built the website last week.

So today, I officially launch this side affair. I’m not going to push it like I’ve pushed my book. (Have you still not bought one? What’s wrong with you? Cool people buy it and you want to be cool, right? Super cool people buy two.) I’m going to treat this organically. Maybe putting a price on this scares people away. Maybe it’s the start of a second career. Time will tell.

I hope you’ll check the site out and let me know if there’s anything that’s missing or if there’s something you’d like to see there. It’s not meant to be an active blog like this site, so I want to get it right in the beginning. And nothing should change about this site. I’ll still post something original on Monday and then either do a Q&A, statistic of the month or “Getting Trivial Things Off My Chest” on Thursdays.

Finally, I want to thank people for their support leading to the start of this endeavor, especially those who provided name-changed testimonials.

The one thing I don’t have yet is a clever name for the whole thing. Any ideas?

Once again, you can check it out at PornAddictCounseling.org

If what I’m offering is not the kind of professional help you need, but you’re anxious to meet a psychiatrist face-to-face, I urge you to check out this site and learn more about finding help online. Click HERE for more information.

 

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

In Overcoming Addiction, Long-Held Dreams Can Still Come True

It’s fascinating how things work out. Andy Dufresne just wanted to work on a boat project and the younger version of Joshua Shea just wanted to walk into a library and see one of his books on a shelf. Life got in Andy’s way. He was falsely accused of killing his wife, ran a sweet embezzling scheme while behind bars and escaped prison. Of course, he was also a fictional character in The Shawshank Redemption. I, on the other hand, am as real as my mind allows me to be.

Life got in my way, too. When I was 17-year-old high school senior, I saw an ad in my local newspaper’s sports section advertising the position of “sports clerk”. The clerk’s job was to take calls from coaches whose games we didn’t cover either because they were too far away or because we didn’t have the staff and it was deemed unessential for real coverage.

One day, about six weeks after starting, the first round of fall playoff games were rained out. Since the department was down two people, the “real” adult writers were overworked and instead of giving them overtime, they gave them the day off. The editor thought we’d just fill the section with national stories.

A few hours into our shift he came to me and said, “Hey, this is the first year in like a decade the Lewiston High School field hockey team made it to the playoffs. Why don’t you call the coach and have her give you a sense why she thinks they may go far in the playoffs?”

Since I went to Lewiston, I said to my editor, “I’m friends with the two captains, I can call them both, too.” He was impressed I went the extra mile. The next morning, my first bylined story was in the paper.

I almost never had to take another sports clerk call after that day. I was given a staff writer position and was still a high school student. A couple months later, I had proven myself enough that when a job opened in the regular news department, I took it. I fell in love with journalism and never looked back.

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m a magazine publisher, I’d started a film festival and was a local politician. None of this was young Josh’s bucket list stuff. It paid the bills and helped fuel my narcissist side while I hid my addictions, but this stuff was never part of the “dream” plan, they were just good gigs.

As you probably know if you’ve read this site in the past, my world ultimately imploded with my very public arrest for an inappropriate chat room session with a teenage girl. I lost everything I’d worked for professionally. After an intense recovery, I went to serve 6 months in jail. While there, I finally wrote a half-decent book about my addiction. That process revealed to me that I want to help people who are dealing with this issue and help educate those who know nothing and live in a world of stereotypes and assumptions.

When I got out of jail, I continued with recovery and spent the next year editing and polishing the manuscript down to a workable document. I finally found a publisher who would print it.

What’s interesting now, several months after it was officially released is that it’s popping up on the radar of libraries. They automatically get most best sellers or books from the “Big 5” publishers, but little books like mine often go unnoticed.

Thankfully, mine is starting to gain a little bit of traction in the library community. There really isn’t a book written from a male perspective using real names and real events that illustrates a descent into addiction like mine out there. Like the book or hate it, it still can be a resource unlike anything out there and I think that’s why it’s gaining traction.

Not too long ago, I walked into a library that I knew had the book. I went to the New Arrivals section and saw it sitting there, on a shelf with books by authors I recognized and books on subjects I’d want to read about.

Twelve-year-old Josh wouldn’t have believed the subject matter, nor would he have believed that he would write over 2,000 newspaper or magazine articles before his first book would come out, but he would have been psyched to see a book he wrote sitting on a library shelf.

It was a bumpy road on a route to hell and back I’d never advise anybody to take, but there it was…a dream come true.

Morgan Freeman has one of his best voiceover lines of all time at the end of The Shawshank Redemption: “Andy Dufresne crawled out through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Kennebunk

If you’d like to see a list of libraries my book is in, Click Here

If you’d like to buy the book, Click Here

A Tale of Two Interview Experiences

Call me crazy, but I have come to believe that one of the reasons I was put on this earth was to talk about pornography addiction. With every interview I give, it becomes a little clearer to me that I’m supposed to create awareness for those have none and be a voice of hope for those who are dealing with it. I know it sounds simultaneously spiritual, egotistical and insane, but it feels more genuine and authentic than few things I’ve done in my life prior.

I rarely say no to interviews because my feeling is I should be flattered and honored if somebody wants to give me a few moments on their radio show or podcast. They have worked to cultivate an audience that neither my book nor message may reach if I don’t take the opportunity.

Sometimes this leads to what the Ancient Egyptians called clusterf*cks. And sometimes it leads to a great exchange that I walk away re-energized from, ready to continue spreading the message. I had both happen to me over the last week.

About a month ago, someone sent an email identifying himself from a radio show and asked if I’d appear a few weeks down the road. I did a Google search to confirm it was a real show and a real radio station, then said OK.

I followed the call-in instructions. Aside from guest booker, I have no idea what role he plays in the show. I was put on the air with a very religious evangelical preacher lady.

The first couple minutes went OK as she “mmm-hmmm”ed and “Amen”ed her way through my story. I started to push the conversation toward the public health part of my message, sharing statistics and she started making up her own truths. I tried to be polite, while saying I couldn’t confirm her information. She then launched into a judgmental piece on pornography itself…how the content is disgusting.

Internally, I don’t disagree, but I also know my battle isn’t against pornography itself. It’s not against the industry and it’s not against what material specifically “does it” for you. My message is it doesn’t matter what the pornography specifically is, it’s all about the addiction and I think judging people on what they like is part of the problem of secrecy. When you condemn someone’s tastes, they’re not going to confide when they decide to look for help.

We moved on from this and she started asking me to quote Scripture. Those of you who read my site regularly know I’m spiritual, but have many issues with the religion I was raised in. I tried to be polite and decline for fear of misquoting, but by this point, I felt backed into a corner. I said I think spirituality plays a role in recovery for most, but the few verses I can quote have more to do with reading prayer cards and signs at sports events.

She ended the interview casting out the demons of addiction in all of her listeners. Suffice to say, we’re all cured now.

I thanked her and went on my way, but for most of the day, I wondered if it was my fault for not doing a deeper due diligence about the show and I should have known what I was getting myself into, or if this guy was intentionally vague about the show, both being the host and the subject matter.

Maybe it helped somebody. Maybe it was the most effective interview I’ve done. But, geez, it left me feeling like something just didn’t click and it’s not like on live radio I can say stop and have a discussion.

On the flip side of the coin, there are those that I do and feel like I want the world to listen because we hit every beat and delivered the message in an easy-to-understand and hopefully entertaining format.

I recorded a video podcast with a pair of doctors last week that was posted over the weekend and while I rarely listen to the podcasts I appear on except to hear the quality, I was actually sucked into this one and listened.

The show was called The Mental Breakdown and unlike many interviewers (probably 95%), they had read the book, so they could ask questions about my story that were interesting. I’ll answer the prompt, “Tell me about your book…” all day long, but when the host can tell me about my book, it’s a much better interview for the listeners. The host should be a guide for the audience, who knows nothing about me, not just another member of the audience learning everything for the first time. That’s part of the reason I try to send materials in advance. Even if they don’t read the book, they can know some information.

I guess it felt more like a conversation than a question-and-answer session. I’m including the links below, both the video and the audio. If you have any time, or you’ve been looking for one thing I’ve done to listen to, this is it.

The book has seen an uptick in sales over the last two weeks. Thank you to anybody who purchased it. As of writing this, Amazon is offering it at 11% off. Random, huh? Click HERE to buy.

Audio Only from ITunes

 

Check out my feature story in ‘Recovery Today’ magazine

I was honored and excited to write a story for this month’s issue of Recovery Today magazine that dropped on March 1. Whether you have alcoholism, drug issues, an eating disorder, sex addiction, gambling addiction, etc., this magazine is a great read. I highly urge you to visit the App Store or Google Play to get it.

If you’d like to see the entire issue, click Recovery Today Latest Isssue for a PDF.

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