Q&A Time: What if I Refuse to Say I’m An Addict at a 12-Step Meeting?

QUESTION: I’m 19 years old. I feel like I’m too young to call myself a porn addict and I don’t want to go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings because they make you say it there. I’m not sure 12-step groups are even for me. What should I do instead?

ANSWER:  I had an AA sponsor in the brief time I was in Palm Springs at rehab who I expressed some of the same qualms about labeling. I also had a problem with the notion that we were to define a higher power however we wanted, yet it was specifically Christian prayers said to open and close the meeting.

He gave me some great advice that I think many of the hardcore AA’ers would have got on his case for saying: “Take what you want, leave the rest at the door. As long as you’re not drinking, you’re in recovery.” I never thought I was powerless over alcohol (or pornography). I made very bad choices for a handful of reasons, but I was always the one steering the ship even if I wanted to pretend otherwise. I had the power to become an addict and I was the one who had the power to pull myself out of it. Claiming to be powerless was the opposite of what I needed to be doing.

I felt similar with Sex Addicts Anonymous. There is just too much putting words in my mouth and telling me how I feel in 12-step groups. I appreciate their structure, understanding many people need precisely that structure to succeed in recovery, but from the opening moments when I’m forced to identify as an addict publicly, there’s a dogma that – probably for the same reasons I’ve never been a fan of organized religion – I had trouble blindly subscribing to, addicted or not. It’s just not my personality. Maybe it’s not yours either.

So, I get where you’re coming from. That said, I’m guessing there is an untold amount of lies, cajoling, manipulating and deceit based in your consumption of pornography in the past. If you’re trying to turn over a new leaf, that’s fantastic, but if you’re going to skip Sex Addicts Anonymous – which may be the exact thing that will help you – you’re losing out on a lot over a word.

Despite the fact I stopped going to 12-step groups, I can see the value in them and think that everybody should try them to see if they are a fit for their recovery. If you think SAA is the answer and identifying yourself as an addict is what’s holding you back, no offense, but a label is a silly reason to not seek help.

Yes, it’s powerful the first time you say the phrase, “I am an addict.” Truth is, I still shudder a little when I think of it. It’s not a label anyone wants to wear.

Whether you have a bad habit, and addiction, a compulsion, an obsession or whatever else you want to call it is far secondary to getting help to fix the issue. By virtue of writing this question to me, you are indicating there is some kind of problem happening.

A big piece of me just wants to say, “Say the word addict, and see what they have to offer.” But if you can’t say the word addict, that’s fine. I don’t think it has anything to do with age, so I’d stop using that as an excuse and figure out the real reason behind your hesitancy to use the word “addict.”

If you can’t get yourself into an SAA room, I urge you to check out the Resources here. I also urge you to consider one-on-one counseling. It is the thing that I credit to ultimately bringing me into a successful recovery.

If SAA isn’t your thing, that’s OK and all hope is not lost. Just keep pursuing recovery. You can have it if you’re committed.


 

If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q&A Time: Did He Come into Our Relationship as a Porn Addict?

QUESTION: My husband says that he became a porn addict only in the last couple of years. I have a hard time believing that. I think he was a porn addict long before I ever met him. What do you think?

ANSWER: Depending on how long you’ve been together, he either was already there or the pieces were in place and it just hadn’t blossomed into something terrible yet. I maintained my addiction for over 20 years without recognizing I had an addiction and once it was brought to my attention it still took six months and hundreds of hours of therapy before I was willing to truly accept it.

Reading between the lines, you could be asking the question “Is this my fault?” and that answer, even if he’d never seen porn before meeting you (which is unlikely in 99.99999% of cases) is that none of this is your fault. This isn’t a blame situation for you…or him.

If he’s an addict, it means he’s sick and he doesn’t have to come to terms with it to actually be sick. Just because I came to accept my porn addiction as a mental illness did not mean it began in that moment of revelation. It means I saw it was there with clear understanding for the first time. Denial or acceptance has little to do with his condition.

I’ve seen statistics that say 90 to 95 percent of people with sexually focused addiction issues had some kind of trauma from abuse that took place early in life. It doesn’t have to be sexual in nature, but it often is.

I was not in the critical stage of pornography addiction when I first met my wife in 2002. I had long been in the ongoing stage where usage would cyclically spike and wane for at least a decade by that point. I don’t think I reached the critical phase, when things started to go off the rails until 2013.

Were the pieces all there when I met her? Probably, but like a stew, they needed to be mixed and boiled to the proper temperature. I think we’re all capable of a lot of negative things, but never reach that breaking point.

Looking at it objectively, I can’t point a finger at her for any of it. These were my issues and she is to be commended for keeping the family together not just during the first 11 years of my marriage before I entered recovery, but even today deserves a medal for shepherding her flock through those years when I was at inpatient rehab or doing my jail time. Life is probably as easy for us as it ever has been now, but through it all, none of my addiction issues had to do with her.

He probably was that way when you got together and it’s just that other influences have let it get out of hand. You didn’t cause any of this, even if he claims the exact opposite.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q&A Time: Doubts Over Partner’s Intention to Seek Help for Porn Addiction

QUESTION: I finally confronted my husband about his porn addition, and thankfully he didn’t deny everything. He says he wants help, but I think he just wants to stay together. What do I do?

ANSWER: Sorry you’re not one of the lucky ones. There are a percentage of men who, when confronted about their addiction, are suddenly relieved and ready to seek help. The one person who they didn’t want to find out – you – did and now they can do something about it. They want to get healthy and they want to be part of a solid team.

Then there are the guys who say they want to get help, but who simply don’t want to upset the apple cart. “OK, you found out, but I like our life and I’ll quit because I like our life.” These are the men who will attempt to quit, have the best intentions, and may even be successful for a while…but ultimately have no real plan to stop their behavior.

I saw a lot of these men as newcomers at Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings. They’d attend for a month or two and then disappear. I didn’t follow-up with any of them, but I had a feeling that they heard stories much worse than theirs, evaluated their situation and came to the conclusion that their biggest fault was that they got caught.

If he’s not looking to actually work on his problem and he’s just more concerned with maintaining the status quo, you’re going to find yourself exactly where you are right now at some point in the not-too-distant future.

He’s really just gaslighting you. Instead of denying there’s anything wrong, he’s going to admit there’s a problem and talk about how well is taking care of it. Now that his secret is out and confirmed, he can’t try to act like it’s not happening. For appearance’s sake, it makes more sense to him to say he has a problem and say he’s taking care of it.

What most addicts are looking for — and I know I was for years — is the path of least resistance. I can’t count the number of times that I have told people my motto for life was, “Don’t ask permission, just say you’re sorry after the fact.” It was easier for me to shrug and act charming having done the wrong thing than to do the right thing in the first place. If he’s not serious about his recovery, this is probably the head-space your partner is in right now.

He could be gaslighting his therapist, if he’s even showing up for the sessions. He could be just looking at the clock at his Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings, paying no attention to what the others are saying. He could also be sitting in an Arby’s parking lot enjoying curly fries and playing on his phone while you think he’s at the meeting.

This goes back to the fact that you may need to create boundaries, issue ultimatums and enforce penalties for not respecting your requests or ignoring your non-negotiables.

If your partner shows no interest in truly getting better, you may have to be the conduit for change.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q&A Time: Should I Go to Inpatient Rehab for My Addiction?

QUESTION: I have been told by my girlfriend that she thinks I should go to rehab for my porn addiction. I don’t think I need to leave for a month because it’s not that bad. What should I do?

ANSWER: This is probably worth a conversation with a professional so they can weigh-in. Assuming they don’t see losing you for a month or two as lost revenue, they’ll probably guide you in the right direction.

I probably urge people to go to inpatient rehab quicker than most, but that’s because my two stints, first for alcohol and a year later for porn, were the most transformative experiences of my life. Both times I walked into the facility as one person and walked out somebody else.

It’s easy to make excuses why you shouldn’t go. You have a job, help with the kids, have other responsibilities. I would counter that needing a break to take care of one’s health is just as important as all of those things.

My wife ran the house when I did my 10-week and 7-week stints at inpatient rehab, respectively. Thankfully, we were in a financial position where that was possible, but even if we didn’t have savings, I would have found a way. I would have asked for help from family and friends. People don’t want to do that, but people generally like to help people who are helping themselves. Insurance can help and many of these places will consider payment plans. If finances preclude you from one rehab, keep shopping around. I had horrible insurance for my alcohol rehab. I just flat-out couldn’t go to most, but eventually, I found one and I can’t imagine it being a more positive experience if the amenities had been better. I haven’t had a drink since I went there. Isn’t that the point?

I’ve encountered so many people who make excuses why they can’t go to rehab, and while they are almost always valid, I also bring up the point that my wife ran the household for six months while I served my jail sentence. In that case, I did have to ask my parents for help, and it wasn’t a surprise when they were there for us.

With jail, I didn’t have a choice to go or not. We had to adapt. What would happen if your partner was caught for drunk driving and sentenced to 30 days. Would your world implode? Probably not. You’d figure it out and you’d get through it. My wife is proof of that. You can adapt when you HAVE to, and since this is your health we’re talking about, it makes sense to adapt.

I actually think the time that I was away was like a rehab for my family. They needed time away from my energy and my illness. They needed to reconnect instead of hovering around me like satellites. I actually made the comment to my wife shortly thereafter that they all seemed to be far more functional and healthy when I returned both times because they didn’t have to deal with me.

I know people who have had successful recovery having never stepped foot into rehab and I know plenty of people who have never been able to get into a recovery groove despite having gone to rehab five or six times. Like anything, it’s the level of commitment one puts into their recovery. It’s hard, really hard some days, but rehab was the foundation upon which I built my recovery.

I truly believe I would not have had the strength to maintain recovery as well as I did had I not gone to recovery and begun the process of understanding how I became the person I did. Maybe I would have reached the same place over a longer time period with just one-on-one and group therapy at home, but I know just how much inpatient rehab did for me.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q&A Time: My husband has a porn addiction – Should I tell other people in his family and see if they can help?

QUESTION My husband has a pretty bad porn addiction and knows it, but doesn’t seem to want to do much about it. If this is a real addiction, would an intervention work? Should I at least tell other people in his family and see if they can help?

ANSWER This is another tough one there is no easy answer for. I want to immediately say no, but in my case, it was helpful.

When my story hit the media, everybody knew about my addiction overnight: family, friends, neighbors and even people who had no idea who I was.

I was in and out of therapy for years in my 20s and early 30s and never once mentioned my porn addiction. I was married for a dozen years and it never was addressed. Short of being publicly outed at age 37, I can’t fathom a scenario where I would have sought the help of anybody else, be it family, friends or professionals.

Why? Because it’s about sex. It’s about naked people. It’s about what turns you on, which may be kinkier than most. And let’s be honest…any conversation about sex is still socially frowned upon. Viewing pornography is a behavior most people pretend they don’t engage in. People won’t admit to looking at pornography despite statistics proving the vast majority do, so how can somebody openly admit to having a problem with it?

The day after I was arrested and my lawyer asked me (with my wife and father in the room) if I had any addictions, I immediately admitted to my alcoholism, which they both suspected. It took me another six months before I stopped blaming the alcohol for the mistake I made, finally recognizing I did have a porn addiction problem.

Looking back now, I don’t think I would have progressed to the point that I’m now at in recovery if not for my family. They have been a non-judgmental safe haven in a world where many either don’t view pornography addiction as a “real thing” or condemn those who suffer with it.

That said, if I was a part of many families I know, I would have been disowned, not helped. While my immediate family has been wonderful, there are pockets of my extended family who I have basically ceased to have relationships with. You’ve got to have a solid barometer on how the family will react before you bring them into the mix.

I believe this question can best be answered by looking at his relationship with his family, looking at the history of their values, opinions and behaviors and if they are likely open to being part of the process of recovery.

I know how helpful my family has been, but I have talked with so many people where their family’s intervention had a different outcome.

Support doesn’t mean his mother or sister sitting down and working out with him why he became the way it is. It can be as simple as just letting him know that they love him and have faith he can overcome his addiction. It’s about love and support.

If you make the decision to seek help from his family, I would start with the male relative he is closest to and allow them to have input on if, and how, the family should be involved. They may have insight about the family you don’t possess.

I don’t think a mass intervention is a good idea. People usually don’t do a good job of hiding being a drug addict or alcoholic. When an intervention happens, the family has known for a long time, and the target of the intervention is well aware the family knows about their addiction. Imagine your husband walking into a room of family members and learning they all know about his addiction. I would think that would just be too overwhelming. Even though my family was supportive, it was embarrassing when it all came out.

As for friends, I wouldn’t get them involved. Friends talk. If he wants help from a friend, leave that up to him.

In the end, I never would have asked my family for help unless it was forced upon me. Thank God it was, but don’t base my experience as what always happens.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q&A Time: He Promised He’d Stop Looking at Porn, But Didn’t. Now What?

QUESTION: I confronted him in the past about looking at pornography on the computer and he said he’d stop, but he didn’t. What now?

ANSWER: What incentive he had to change in the past and what incentive does he have now? If you don’t have boundaries, or don’t follow through on your ultimatums, there is no incentive for him to listen to you other than he knows it’s easier to just listen and nod, then go do what he wants.

Probably about three years before the police ever got involved in my life, prior to entering the critical phase of my addiction, my wife stumbled upon my browser history after a particular session of looking at porn. She said something to the effect of, “Do you really spend this much time looking at porn?” I don’t remember the exact wording, but the message I got was that I shouldn’t be as involved with porn as I knew I was.

But that was the end of it. I don’t know if she was asking me to change, or just making an observation, but it went in one ear at out the other because there was no incentive for me to reduce my viewing.

By the time my viewing reached a critical point, there was nothing she could have said or done to stop me. You need to nip this in the bud before he ever gets to that place.

This question sounds a little bit like a cop-out or throwing up your hands, if I’m being honest. You seem to not think the situation can be fixed because of previous history, so why bother trying again? If you value your relationship and want it fixed, shouldn’t you try again and again until you reach the conclusion it’s hopeless? Once you deem it hopeless, you can either stay and brace yourself, or you can leave the relationship, but until then, you try, try, try.

If he says he’ll change again, hold him to it. Find out how he’s going to change. Is he going to see a therapist? Is he going to give you access to his computer? What are the ways that life will be different after you have this conversation? If he says “You can look at my email” then look at his email.

If he says he can’t change, offer to help find him the recovery tools he needs to begin. If he says he won’t change, then you’re back at bracing yourself or leaving.

The kind of change you’re looking for involves seeing a therapist to get at the root of the addiction and if you can be there to help him in a positive, constructive manner, this time you may see the change that you didn’t before.

 

If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Q&A Time: Even if Porn Addict Husband Doesn’t Go To Therapy, Should I?

QUESTION: My husband has told me that he looks at pornography, and he will stop. I’ve suggested couple’s counseling or even individual sessions and he has said no. I read an online board that says I should still go by myself. Can that really help anything?

ANSWER: I don’t think it will come as any shock to you that I answer this with a resounding “Yes!” It may not directly help with his pornography addiction since it sounds like he hasn’t actually accepted it as a problem. That may just take some time.

Get a therapist…and be honest with your therapist.

I believe that even though I wasn’t 100% honest with my therapists through my 20s and early 30s, they were still instrumental in helping me get through some of the challenges I faced that had nothing to do with my addictions. There is something powerful about somebody who is there to advocate for you, is rooting for you, but isn’t emotionally involved, nor plays an active role in your everyday real life.

The relationship between a therapist and patient is unique and unlike any other. I think most people fear going to a therapist because they think it will be a complete bearing of their deepest secrets and simply by the act of seeing a therapist, it must mean there is something wrong.

I wish that I could go back to the beginning when I was 20 years old when the therapist inevitably asked me if there was any sexual dysfunction, I could say, “I have been renting porno movies or buying Playboy every month since I was 14 years old.” I don’t know what I thought the blowback would be. They weren’t going to kick me out of their office.

But, like so many guys who believed porn was something to be ashamed of and that I was just walking around with this invisible black cloud of perversion over my head, I kept my mouth quiet when it came to the pornography. I didn’t talk about any of my sexual hang-ups, either. I just said everything was fine and complained about work or my parents.

Would I have ended up behind bars if I had been honest with my therapist in my 20s? Honestly, I don’t think so. Part of the reason my addiction festered into a nasty wound was because I never had the salve of a professional’s ear. That’s on me, not them.

A therapist is a great sounding board and somebody who isn’t going to take it personally when you get mad or start crying or blurting things that you can’t believe are coming out of your mouth because you’ve tried to suppress them for so long. A therapist is going to know the next thing to say to keep things moving in the right direction.

I will mention that not counting the pair of couple’s counselors that my wife and I saw, I’ve seen five therapists, but I say I’ve only had two. I probably saw the other three a combined eight times.

If you’re not clicking with a therapist, find someone else. In your case, it would help if you could talk to someone who has experience working with relationships and hopefully has some experience in dealing with addiction, even if it is drugs and alcohol. Your personalities must mesh and there needs to be the opportunity for a level of trust to develop. You’re wasting your time if you don’t have a bond, or at least I was.

Ironically, the therapist I have now who has seen me through all of my recovery is the first woman I’ve seen. I never would have guessed it, but it isn’t an older man who I clicked with, but a woman only a couple years older than me.

You’re going to learn a lot about yourself in therapy you never otherwise would have. I wholeheartedly endorse therapy for anyone with a pulse.


If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.