Is It Ethical to Attempt to Make Money Off Of My Porn Addiction Educating?

One of the nicer things about this past weekend when I met with a half-dozen people individually to discuss porn addiction at a Massachusetts library was the feedback that my time educating people and being a source of support is not being wasted. I need to hear that now and then, but I need to begin to figure out the next step.

On an average day, I probably devote 2-3 hours to my blog: writing, editing (though some days you’d never know it) posting, responding to comments and that doesn’t include the time I look at other people’s blogs and comment on their entries.

I’m at a place in advance of the new book coming out soon where I’m devoting 2-3 hours per week on a bunch of the last-minute edits and other things that need to be done before its printed. I’m also doing 2-4 podcasts/interviews per week that usually take 3-5 hours total.

Adding that all up, on a slow week I’m devoting a minimum of 20 hours and on a busy week it’s closer to 30. That’s a busy part-time job. Throw in something like Saturday when I was gone from the house for 13 hours and spent around $75 and it’s a full-time job where I lose money.

I still feel a mighty pull to educate and help wherever I can. It feels like one of the most natural things I’ve ever done. I have felt like I’m supposed to be a writer. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a traveler. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a father and I’ve felt like I’m supposed to educate and help others about porn addiction. That’s really it…four things.

Last year, I tried to monetize this a little bit by starting pornaddictcounseling.org. I’ve helped several people through that site and made a few dollars doing it, but not enough to really make a difference in the bottom line of my life. I’ll admit I didn’t promote or push it, but I don’t know if that would have made a difference. I’ve been debating shutting it down before another year of charges is applied to the site.

I’m not going to make a lot of money on the next book unless something very unexpected happens. I have to split royalties with my co-author and don’t think I’ll actually see a dime of them until early 2021 if I read my contract correctly.

I know that I need to spend more time looking for ghostwriting and freelance writing work to get a bit more income through the door, but that’s on me, and isn’t really the point here.

One part of me sees this really going to the next level. Writing more books that make some money. Getting guest speaking gigs where I’m actually paid to appear and a bump in visibility that gets me on higher-profile podcasts and radio shows, in turn leading to more money-making opportunities. If I can pull back on the freelance writing time because I’m making money with this, I can do even more with the education and speaking, but I need money to replace that money I don’t make writing. Isn’t making a living and helping people the best of both worlds? Hell, doctors do it every day.

The other side of me says that if I start doing any more than covering expenses, I’m going to enter a world of exploiting the situation. Why are you reading this right now? Because I did a horrible thing. Why did I get to participate at the library this past weekend? Because there’s a girl who (at the time) was underage and I encouraged her to show me her body. Why do I have a second book coming out? Because my story is unique and special for all the wrong reasons. Isn’t there an argument to be made I’m exploiting myself, the girl, the crime, the whole situation by trying to make anything resembling a profit? Isn’t there an argument that any money I make is almost dirty? These are arguments that plague me.

Porn addiction is starting to gain some traction in the mainstream. People are just starting to talk about it. With two books behind me, my personal experience with addiction and the wealth of knowledge I have about the subject puts me in a position where I may be able to capitalize on opportunities in the near future as this becomes even more mainstream. But should I be talking about this is terms of entrepreneurialism?

I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer. I’m going to keep doing what I do as long as I can afford it. Maybe the rest will work itself out.

Human Library Participation Really Put the Emphasis on ‘Human’ For Me

I drove nearly 9,000 miles on my vacation last summer through places like Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Indianapolis and more, yet I will testify in any court of law that Boston has the worst traffic in the United States. It took me nearly an hour to drive four miles on a Saturday afternoon, without construction! So much for the Big Dig.

I shared a photo yesterday from the Osterville Village Library in Barnstable, Mass., where I took part in my second Human Library. The Human Library sprang out of Europe and is an event where people (dubbed “books”) who have a unique personal story to share gather at a traditional library and patrons take turns “checking out” these books, which really just means they spend 30 minutes in conversation with the person.

My book is unironically called “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” and either goes in the direction of my personal story or how I believe porn addiction will be a national healthcare crisis by 2050 unless we take certain steps; I let the patron decide where to take the conversation. Other books included an African-American police officer, a rabbi in the U.S. military, an atheist, a person recovering from drug addiction, somebody who has been through the U.S. Immigration process, etc. It’s stated purpose is a chance for people to understand someone else who is nothing like them.

img_2619This event was far more successful than the first one I participated in at a New Hampshire library last year. I was only booked for two of the six sessions then as attendance was sparse. This time around, I was booked for five of the six and spent the spare session doing a long interview with a local radio station.

I felt prepared, bringing a handful of copies of my first book and a sheet of statistics regarding pornography addiction. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional outpouring from the other chair.

The first gentleman who came in around 1 p.m. was probably in his late 50s or early 60s. I shared my personal story, largely uninterrupted for about 15 minutes. When finished, he called me brave and thanked me for being willing to talk openly about porn.

“After listening to you,” he said softly with a stutter, “I’m now left to wonder if I’m a pornography addict, although I guess if I’m asking myself that question I know the answer.”

I told him he was brave to admit that and started defining addiction, including some of the specifics of porn addiction. I could see tears well up in his eyes.

As our time reached an end, I told him that only he can determine if he’s an addict and if he should seek help, but I urged him to sit down with an addictions counselor at least once and get a baseline for where he is. I only know his side of the story, but if addiction is there, I think it’s more to the mild side of things, thankfully.

I didn’t expect such an emotional first session and it reminded me not to pre-judge anybody. I can’t tell people not to stereotype who is or isn’t a porn addict and then do it myself.

The second woman worked in health care and simply wanted to learn more about the addiction in general. She had fantastic questions, and frankly, getting a bit of an emotional break was nice.

My third session was the radio interview. The interviewer wasn’t intimidated by the subject, but you could tell she feared offending me with personal questions. I assured her that I’ve been asked everything, so she couldn’t offend me. I get this same reaction with some of the podcasts I appear on. People are more scared to ask questions than I am to answer them. I’d never really recognized this before until someone was sitting across from me.

The fourth session was another gut-churning one. The woman, who said she’d been married for 45 years, mentioned up front her husband has a great tolerance for things, specifically mentioning he needs to drink 10 beers to feel anything where the average person only needs two or three. She called it a “high tolerance for pain.”

I got through my story and she asked a few benign questions about how my wife handled the situation both before and after I entered recovery. In sharing the premise of my soon-to-be-released book geared toward the partners of porn addicts, she asked what advice is given when the man doesn’t want to attend therapy.

I told her that it’s best to not pretend the partner doesn’t have an addiction. I said that the partner needs to suggest couple’s counseling, but even if the addict doesn’t want to go, they should still find a counselor on their own, and to never forget that self-care is the most important thing, because you can never make an addict do something they don’t want to do. I finished by saying ultimately the non-addict has to decide what they can live with and if they need to create boundaries or ultimatums. I told her that the key is to enforce those boundaries and ultimatums or they mean nothing.

She began crying and said while she and her husband didn’t have this problem with pornography addiction, they were going through it with something else and she was doing everything I suggested. I didn’t know if it was alcoholism as she didn’t say and I didn’t pry. I just assured her that she had to do the right thing for her, not her husband or adult kids or anybody else. As our time came to an end she tried to dry her tears and thanked me for being a shoulder to cry on.

The next woman came in and after listening to my little introductory speech told me that she has a problem with chat rooms that tend to lean toward the kinky side of things. In her situation, her husband wasn’t against it as he had fetishes and she believed a touch of sex addiction. She, too, began crying and telling me that she just wanted a normal life and not one where she found herself with strange people in basement sex clubs in Boston at 3 a.m. on a Saturday. I urged her to see a therapist, but told her that she can’t look at it as an on/off switch, whether it’s recovery or transitioning to a new life, it happens slowly, with clear, deliberate steps.

It was a bit of a relief that the last woman to stop by was just looking for information. She said she had an extended family member dealing with this and she wanted to learn more about it. I shared my details, which would have been hard two years ago, but was easy, especially since she wasn’t crying.

After wrapping up and talking with the head librarian and volunteer who coordinated the event, letting them know I thought it went well based on comparing it to my first experience, I got in the car and made the trek north to Maine and through the heart of Boston.

At least the traffic gave me time to reflect on the emotional outpouring I received from many of the people who sat with me. Even those who didn’t have an issue were gracious and I could tell appreciated what I was doing. It’s good for me to see that face-to-face because despite the comments section in these blogs and the fact I know people listen to the podcasts I appear on, getting that one-on-one interaction reminds me what I’m doing is not just a selfish activity to keep my own recovery on track.

I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. last night and didn’t get up until 11:30 this morning. Clearly this took a lot more out of me than I realized, but in a good way. Actually, a great way.

If there’s a Human Library event taking place near you (this Facebook page for the organization is constantly updated), I urge you to go check it out and learn the stories of people who are not like you, or maybe even more importantly, those who are exactly like you.

Is It a Good Thing I’m Writing So Many Blog Entries Lately? I’m Not So Sure…

This will be my 15th day of posting in a row, and 25th post in 29 days. That’s not much for some, but considering I posted 25 times between January and August this year, it is very much out of the norm for me. My priority in the morning when I wake up is to write something and post it by 1 p.m. EST. It feels like something I have to do, and I’m trying to figure out exactly why.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I believe I’m dealing with a bout of mania. It’s nothing like my “I think I’d like to go to Europe tonight so I’ll pack a bag and drive to the airport” mania of my early 20s, but I can recognize when the usual 6 hours of sleep I need dips down to 4 or 5. Trying to sleep is also rough as I feel like I’ve got three endless loops of thoughts cascading through my head. You know when you get a song stuck in your head? It’s like having several playing at the same time.

Some days – heck, some weeks – I struggle to come up with a topic to write about. Not lately. It’s more about debating which topic is the one for the day. I think this is from the increased speed of my thinking.

I also think I’m avoiding my real work to a degree. I’m in a very slow time of year, so I don’t have to work at break-neck speed to get things done. I like break-neck speed, or at least I like to know that I can fill 4-5 hours a day. In the 10 weeks before I left on my trip in August, I wrote three 25,000-word books and nineteen 500- to 700-word blogs for my clients. I was writing six or seven hours a day, which is a lot. Now, I’m adding about 5,000 words to one of those books and have 4 blogs to write before the end of October. I feel no sense of urgency and the current projects aren’t exactly engrossing. By the way, if anybody has ever wanted to write a book, needs a book edited, wants a book ghostwritten for them, let me know. I’ve written books for a lot of professionals who don’t have the time, like self-help gurus, psychologists, CEOs, etc. Also, short (15,000-25,000 words) biographies are great records of your life to leave behind with your family after you’re gone, and it’s important to get them on paper before your mind starts to slow down. Contact me if you’re interested.

I tell myself that because I have a new book coming out, I’m trying to build my following on here, but really, I think I’ve added 30 new people in the last 6 weeks, and I’ll be lucky if one buys the book. I get a respectable amount of hits based on what I’ve heard from a few bloggers, but people are still hesitant to follow, like and comment on a pornography addiction website. I get it. I probably would have been that way 10 years ago.

My final theory is that I’m just going through a phase where I want a lot of attention. I’ve been wrestling with this idea lately, especially with the new book coming out soon. I struggle to make sense of the crossroads where ego, education, commerce and exploitation meet.

I genuinely have an inner feeling that I’m supposed to not only be sharing my story with people, but also educating them with real data about pornography addiction and lately, I feel a need to spread the message that you can turn your life around. This feels natural to me and feels like a real purpose.

This is why I wrote the first book and why I’ve co-written the second. I didn’t make very much money on the first book. It probably took 200-250 hours to write and edit, then another 50-100 hours to promote it. We are talking about half of minimum wage when it’s all figured out, and because of a dispute I won’t get into here, I didn’t get the bulk of that money. Logically, I know if I wanted money I should drop this porn addiction education thing and focus on finding more freelance work. In fact, the other day, my mother said to me, “You’ve never done anything for the money.” I don’t think it was a compliment, just more of an observation, but it made me feel like even when I make bad choices, I’m not doing it for the almighty dollar.

But, I know enough about this direction I’m heading in to know that the real money isn’t usually made in books, it’s made other ways, like giving speeches and creating betterment programs. Let’s be honest for a second: I’ve got a unique story, I’m willing to share it, I’m good at sharing it and thus far, there has been a willing, if not yet paying, audience to hear it. If I continue to do what I’m doing and if the second book leads to a third and fourth, I continually improve my chances of being able to segue this part of my life into a more professional endeavor. Would I like to do this full-time and make some real money? Of course.

It’s that “of course” answer that then leads me to question myself if I’m approaching the line, or could possibly approach the line of exploiting myself. The reality is, I made poor choices, got very ill, made some horrendous choices, got in serious trouble, then turned my life around and started to try doing good. Just because I’m trying to do good, does that negate the illness, choices and trouble? I have a unique story to share because I did something uniquely horrible. I’m not sure if turning it around makes it uniquely wonderful. And, as an extension of potentially exploiting myself, am I exploiting my victims, or the family and friends who stood by me, or even those who abandoned me?

Buy my new book. Buy my old book. Hire me to write a book, or to give a speech. I just won’t wear a silly hat. That would just be exploitive. I think I’ve covered my bases. See you tomorrow.

 

My Podcast Appearances Are Best When They Are Like Public Therapy Sessions

Since I have a new book coming out in a couple of months, now is the time for me to be booking and appearing on podcasts, since many of them tape up to two months in advance. Whether it’s because I already have one book on the shelves, or because I’ve been beating this porn addiction education drum for a couple of extra years, I’m being booked on overall higher quality shows that when I did the circuit after my first book came out.

Let me make it clear I don’t think any of these shows are bad. I think somebody who wants to express themselves through the medium is great, and allowing me to come on their show to talk about the issue, whether 34 or 3,400 people are listening, is going to be a step forward in normalizing the need to talk about pornography addiction. I appreciate every show I’ve been a part of and have only turned down two requests to appear because I could tell I’d be the butt of jokes, or porn addiction would be, and that doesn’t help anything.

I recorded a show four days ago on Friday afternoon, and a show earlier today, that were among the most grueling I’ve done because the hosts really knew their stuff, came prepared and had no problem challenging things I said. A great thing that came out of these podcasts is that I was asked questions I’ve never been asked, even by my therapist or any of the professionals I’ve worked with in the past.

Instead of focusing on my crime, which was the topic for most of the early podcasts, there’s now more philosophical questions about addiction origins and solutions to the problems we face. It’s less about my story and more bigger picture issues. Personal questions focus on my overall addiction, not just the crime.

The podcast taped on Friday was with Dr. Mark Goulston. He’s written what many consider the greatest book about listening in history. That one, and his other books, total nearly a half-million sales over the last 25 years. After our interview, he was jetting off to Russia to co-present a lecture with Daniel Kahneman who wrote “Thinking Fast and Slow” which won Kahneman a Pulitzer Prize and is among the greatest, yet most difficult, books I’ve ever read.

It was an honor to be on his show and his questioning, both in content and methodology, was unlike any interview I’ve had. Do you know when you’re in the presence of greatness? That’s how I felt here.

Dr. Goulston asked me a question I wrestled with all weekend that I’d never heard before. Once I was arrested, why did I almost instantly decide to turn things around and make the best in both the short- and long-term out of my situation when the vast majority of others run from similar situations or try to fly under the radar? Since there’s almost nobody else out there talking about this stuff like I am, what is different about me than the others?

I talked about how I am a “project person” who is at his best when he’s working on something and I simply decided that becoming mentally and emotionally healthy was the project. And once that project was mostly finished (it never is completely) I began the writing, website and interviews because education became my project.

I think this is part of it, but I’ve been turning this over in my head again and again. If they default position taken by 99% of the population in my situation is to shut their mouths, sit down and never raise their hand, why am I doing the opposite? Does that say more about something being wrong with me than them? Why am I the outlier?

The interview was full of questions like this and I really look forward to hearing the edited final result. When I was finished, I felt like I’d had a grueling, yet productive, therapy session. I’m hoping that comes through in the audio.

With the other show, I wasn’t interviewed by anybody famous, but it was a two-hour discussion that really went deep into what addiction is and how much the addict can be held responsible for the condition they end up in.

My opinion on this has changed over time, but it’s still a bit murky. I know it’s not the same for everyone, but it forced me to confront what role I consciously played in my downfall. How much can I claim is brain disease and how much can I say was poor decision making?

I had to interject a few times to say things like we need to create a safe space and not judge addicts, as I felt the host reflected certain ideas about addiction that are held in mainstream society, but many people are afraid to say. I didn’t take anything personally, and he forced me to really think about things, even if I believe he doesn’t have a great true handle on what the critical phase of addiction is like. As with Friday’s interview, I was exhausted when it was over.

I don’t necessarily have the right answer for any of these questions because it’s not like an objective math equation. There is no across-the-board correct answer that covers every alcoholic or porn addict, but these two podcasts made me recognize that I may not even have the answers yet for questions I’ve never considered.

It feels good to be challenged and process these questions further. I think that’s the only way we evolve and it doesn’t matter if it’s a clinical therapy setting on a podcast. Growth is the goal.

When these two appearances make their debut, I’ll not only link them here, but also on the main page and Interviews page on the website.

 

 

Recovery Today did a Story About My New Book!

Seeing this got published this morning was a nice way to start the day. I also saw Dunkin Donuts is doing their Halloween-themed donuts again, so all is good with the world. If you’re interested in pre-ordering the book, and getting 25% off, visit here. I think the deal only lasts until Nov. 1. The publishers makes those calls not me.

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