Q&A Time: How do you live with yourself?

QUESTION: How do you live with yourself with what you did? How do you look at yourself in the mirror and who made you the voice of every porn addict out there?

ANSWER: Your autographed 8X10 is in the mail.

Two questions in two days…wow. For anybody who wonders why I’m posting this question, you should have read the rest of the email this came from. I believe it was from somebody who discovered me during my ill-fated sojourn onto Facebook last week. Yeah, the email was full of bile, but when you strip it away, as I have, I think those are actually legit, rational questions.

I don’t think those questions are really the ones that person wants answered. I doubt they even wanted answers. They just wanted me to know they thought I was a bad person. At this point, all I can say is, “Noted.”

If I read between the lines, I think this person is first asking why I don’t spend every waking minute groveling and repenting. I think the follow-up question is about why I don’t just disappear into the darkness.

I am absolutely embarrassed and ashamed of what I did. The fact that I was able to let my mental health (and rest of my life) slip to a point that I encouraged women to perform sexual acts on their webcam is, in a word, gross. The fact I didn’t have the sense to somehow make sure no female under 18 ended up on cam is negligent at best and sinister at worst.

I don’t think that I’ll ever not feel embarrassment and shame for what I did. I don’t know if it had a lasting negative effect on that girl, or any of the other women I got involved. I do know it had a negative effect on my family and they never asked for that.

But here’s the thing, I’m not a disciple of Brene Brown, the shame guru. Perhaps this is narcissistic or means I’m denial, but while I did an embarrassing and shameful thing, I don’t think that makes me a person who has to define himself as ashamed or embarrassed. I did a horrible thing, but I haven’t let it affect my self-worth. I actually feel better about myself now, 5½ years into recovery than I ever have. There’s no defense for what I did, but I’m not ashamed of who I am. Those are two different things.

I think that there is a segment of the populace who, when they first hear my story, or are reintroduced to me for the first time since my arrest in 2014, they are shocked that I’m not on my hands and knees, begging for forgiveness from them and the world in general.

I went through that period. You just weren’t there. I believe at some point, you have to stand up, dust yourself off, and move on because, really, what else can you do? I think it’s like a lot of traumas that way. You deal with it and you move on or you let it totally consume you. I’ve seen people who get consumed and I didn’t want to be like that.

I had a deep emotional reaction to what I did that was on display for all early on. The amount of times I cried to my wife, or in therapy, were plentiful. If you need a show from me to believe that I will forever be deeply, deeply aware of what happened and what it means, the show’s over.

Finally, I’ve never claimed to be the voice of all porn addicts. Many never understand they are addicted. Even more never confront it or try to do anything about it. Very few have the law involved as I did. I’m critical of some of the online communities of men based on their methodology in trying to tackle the issue. I’m not trying to be anybody’s voice but my own.

I tell my story because I didn’t hear anybody’s story when I was in the same situation. There were few resources when I was going through this. I felt completely alone. I hope that telling my story makes a few other people feel less alone. I might not only help some addicts, but help prevent some victims this way.

I also want to raise the idea with people who don’t think of it, or don’t believe it, that porn addiction is a real thing and can have real consequences. If they can walk away understanding it’s not a moral failure, but an illness, that’s one more person in the world who might move us toward a place we can accept a national dialogue on the matter.

Finally, I tell my story because I don’t think I’m the stereotype people conjure when they think of a porn addict. If I can break the mold, and explain there is no “typical” addict, perhaps we can dump the stigma that a porn addict is a specific kind of a person.

I’m not trying to win fans, I’m just trying to make the best of what was a bad situation. I understand most people slink away and don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine, it’s just not the cloth from which I was cut. Much like my advice if you stumble across a TV show you don’t like, just turn me off if I bother you that much.

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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: 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 Bipolar Disorder Cause My Alcoholism and Porn Addiction

QUESTION: I read your blog on bipolar disorder the other day. Do you think your bipolar disorder caused your porn and alcohol addictions?

ANSWER: I think it certainly played a role. It doesn’t dismiss the fact that I got myself lost in the addictions, but to deny that there wasn’t some influence is ludicrous.

When you’re an addict and have mental health issues, it’s called having co-occurring disorders. It’s not rare. More than half of drug addicts and around 40% of alcoholics have co-occurring disorders. I have not found statistics on porn/sex, gambling or video game addiction.

An important revelation I’ve come to accept during recovery is that everything is connected in our lives.

I became an addict because I had some childhood trauma, which stunted development of certain coping skills. I became an addict because of a rich history of addiction on both sides of my family. I became an addict because I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so different than my peers. I became an addict because despite being properly educated on the danger, I had a bit of a defiant, curious, pleasure-seeking personality that was open to trying anything.

But then again, maybe all those things happened because of the bipolar disorder, or both.

I have a chicken-and-egg debate with myself about whether I entered the critical phase of addiction because I stopped taking my bipolar medication or whether I stopped taking my bipolar medication because I entered the critical phase of addiction.

At that point, my sleep tumbled to 2-3 hours per night, my relationships with family and business partners grew distant and strained, my physical appearance became of little concern and I eventually stopped caring about almost everything. Was that because I was a critical addict or because I was mentally ill?

I think you’d need a pie chart to graphically represent what led to me being who I was. I don’t know what the biggest piece would have been. Some might have labeled me as an addict, some may have labeled me as mentally ill while others would have just labeled me as somebody they didn’t want to be around because of those other little parts of the pie chart put together. It doesn’t matter really. It was all connected.

As somebody who had already been in and out of therapy for several years prior to accepting my porn and alcohol addictions, I knew that not only would I have to get help for the addictions, but the therapy was going to have to not only continue at a higher frequency, but start exploring my life in a different direction. I needed to learn how to manage my mental health and addictions. I had to have co-occurring solutions to co-occurring disorders.

Sadly, only 7-10 percent of people suffering from co-occurring disorders get help for both simultaneously. Unfortunately, most therapists who deal with the kind of mental health issues that come with bipolar disorder are not schooled in addiction counseling or solutions, and vice versa. At the first rehab I went to for alcoholism, they’d basically start shutting you down if you talked about other facets of mental health.

This question was part of a much larger email from the person who wanted an answer. My final words to them are the final words I’ll write here: In the end, you have to take care of the entire person, but that means simultaneously taking care of a lot of little parts. You’ve got a doctor for your teeth, one for your eyes, one for your general physical health. You see a specialist for your heart, or another specialist if you need an operation. It’s OK to see one therapist for addictions and another for dealing with bipolar. We have a lot to take care of as humans because after all, it’s all connected.

 

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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: 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: Is it porn addiction if I’m not actually looking at pornography?

Question: I think I know the answer to this, but want to be sure. I spend a lot of time looking at non-pornographic video clips online that involve naked women, usually from movies, but they are not pornographic. If I’m not looking at pornography, can I really be a porn addict?

Answer: You seem to have decided you’re some kind of addict, and that’s more important than anything else. Whether what you watch rises to the level of pornography is less crucial than you getting help. If you’ve done your research and believe you are an addict, I would urge you to book an appointment with a therapist very soon, or visit my RESOURCES page for more information about getting help.

As far as the question about what rises to the level of pornography, I think it’s two-fold. First, we can agree that there is an industry that caters to the explicit visual sexual gratification of its customers. Whether it’s movies, magazines, strip clubs, etc., I think we can largely agree as society that this falls under the umbrella of pornography. Even this industry wears that label proudly.

The second kind of pornography, from a producer standpoint, I believe falls under the category of “unintentional pornography.” I’m guessing the kind of video clips you’re watching, if they’re from mainstream films, would fall in this column. Yes, I understand Hollywood can make things too sexy and there is almost never any nudity that is actually needed in a movie, but they are hardly making pornography. Unintentional pornography becomes pornography based on your manner of using it.

Another example would be women’s fashion/lifestyle magazines. They are created with the intent of selling advertising and sharing stories to a female audience. Can they be used for a cheap thrill by men? Absolutely. There are more sexual titillating photos in some of those magazines than things like Maxim, geared at men.

Yes, there are some materials out there that operate in a sort of gray space between intentional and unintentional pornography. You can’t tell me that Sports Illustrated is doing anything other than creating sexually visual material when their swimsuit issue comes out, especially when they just use body paint on some of the models. The same goes for some of the “independent” films made that show non-simulated intercourse or feature their actors naked through large sections of the movie. Let’s face it, sex sells. Always has, always will.

As I mentioned above, if you have to ask if you’re really a porn addict, that ship has probably sailed, even if you’re only watching National Geographic specials or looking at ESPN Magazine’s body issue.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to being labeled an addict, but you should start examining the behavior – and reasons behind the behavior – for why you need to ask in the first place.

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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: 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.

Figuring Out if You’re A Casual or Problem User of Pornography

For this article, I’m going to suspend the discussion of whether pornography use in moderation is not unhealthy or if there is any moral component to the decision to utilize pornography. I’ll tackle those issues later on. For now, I simply want to provide a list of questions that people who are wondering if they have an issue with pornography can ask themselves to better understand their situation.

I think words like addiction, habit, obsession, compulsion and problem are more subjective than objective. Their definitions can be fluid and feature a lot of crossover from one term to the other. Ultimately, it’s up to you to honestly decide whether you have an issue or not with pornography and more importantly, what you’re going to do about it should you conclude there may be something there.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that much like there are people who can drink, play video games, gamble or eat in moderation – yet are not addicted, nor have a problem – that there are also people who can view and utilize pornography in moderation. At what point does “recreational” use start to bleed into being a problem? Asking yourself these questions may help point you in the right direction:

Is there any sort of trauma in your past? This doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual abuse, either. It can be physical or emotional. Roughly 90% of full-blown addicts of anything can trace their past to find some kind of meaningful trauma. With porn addicts, the number is 94%. That still leaves an opening to be an addict with no pre-existing trauma, but the two often go hand-in-hand. If your parent killed themselves in front of you, a sibling molested you, or any number of other major negative events in your life happened as a young person, addiction may be a symptom of how you deal with that trauma.

Is there any co-occurring disorder or previous addiction existing? While not at the numbers of trauma and addiction, more full-blown addicts have some kind of mental health issue than those who don’t.  These mental health problems may include bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety and a number of other diagnoses. Also, it is very easy for someone who is addicted to one substance or behavior to become addicted to another. Addictive behavior is not limited to one addiction at a time, although there are people who trade addictions, successfully battling one obsession only to take on another.

Are you addicted to pornography or masturbation? In my case, it didn’t take long to recognize once the porn was removed from my life, masturbation dropped to almost nothing. I masturbated more as an indicator to end a porn-viewing session than anything else. There are many people who have the opposite story. They were able to easily stop watching porn because it turned out pleasuring themselves was their actual vice. There’s a fairly easy way to determine which you’re addicted to, or if it’s both. For the next week or two, allow yourself to look at porn, but don’t utilize it to masturbate. Conversely, masturbate all you want, but do it without visual aids. You should be able to determine a trend among obsessive thoughts where your addictions truly lay.

Are there rituals around your use? Addicts generally use in the same way almost all the time. My alcohol use, which was certainly an addiction, came with rituals. I never drank cans of beer. It was either a bottle or in a pint glass when I was away from home. Corona, specifically, couldn’t touch my lips without a lemon or lime wedge. At home, I didn’t drink beer, just tequila and Red Bull. I’d only drink at night at home, and it always had to be in one of the three large plastic tumblers we had. I always poured the tequila and Red Bull the same way, almost parfait-style. First a dash of Red Bull, then tequila, then Red Bull, then tequila, and so on until the tumbler was full. That’s routine, or ritual and is common with addicts.

Do you lie to others, or yourself, about your usage? OK, it’s pornography, I get it. We all want to pretend that we’ve never looked at it, despite statistics saying those that don’t are in the massive minority. When the topic of pornography comes up in mixed company, do you stay quiet? Do you try to hide the role pornography plays in your life, especially the amount of time spent looking? Would you like about the time you spend if asked point-blank? When you’re finished looking at it, do you make deals with yourself that you won’t spend as much time engaged in the activity, yet you can’t keep the promises to yourself? Are you spending any money on pornography outside of typical Internet fees? Do you find yourself sometimes picking isolating to look at porn over other activities? Do you rationalize that the time you spend or material you look at is not as extreme as others with addiction, so if they have a problem, you have less than a problem? The answers are all small red flags that add up.

I am by no means a doctor, but do know how I answered these questions when I was in the throes of my addiction. I’ve also done more research and met more pornography addicts than most professionals, not to mention I’ve been through plenty of group and one-on-one therapy for my formerly rampant addictions. I understand if you don’t like your answers and want to discredit my opinion…but that may also be a sign you want to avoid the truth about your addiction.

As I mentioned earlier, anybody can diagnose you as an addict, but what matters is that you believe you have a problem. More importantly is deciding what you’re going to do about it. Next time, we’ll talk about what to do next when you’ve reached the conclusion you need to do something about your problem.

 

Q&A Time: I failed to get better. How do I live with porn addiction?

 

QUESTION: I’ve read your site for a while, I’ve tried to follow your advice. I saw a therapist until I couldn’t afford it anymore, but porn is just part of my life and I don’t think I’m ever going to get better. What’s the best way to just live with the addiction?

ANSWER: If that’s your reality, I’d say don’t do anything illegal, but it’s impossible for me to accept giving up and succumbing to your addiction.

Here’s a truth that is sometimes hard for people like me who are trying to help others to face: There is nothing that rehab, a therapist, your partner, or I can do to change your addiction. We can offer help, encouragement, tips, support, punishment, boundaries, motivation, etc., but we can’t get you to stop. That’s on your shoulders.

You can do it. I’m proof of it and I’ve seen it happen with others. Some still struggle staying sober after 10 years, some lick this in a couple of months and never go back, but in every single case, they decided the most important thing in their life was doing what they needed to do to kick their habit. I believe you simply haven’t reached the point that defeating this addiction is your No. 1 priority.

I only reached that point after intervention from the law. It’s not how I would have wanted it to be, but more than five years later, I’m grateful it happened.

Back then, I was a magazine publisher and city councilor who worked 90 hours every week and ignored my family. I snuck a couple hours of porn watching and chat room trolling in the middle of the night. I was sick and didn’t see how to get out of it.

I now work about 30 hours per week and spend all my time with my family. I would have said my current lifestyle was impossible, but when forced into certain situations, you figure things out. Nothing is impossible, but excuses make it seem that way.

If you can quit, and do it on your terms, it will make your future much easier and you’ll have more control. I fear based on the brevity and tone of your question that you are in a critical phase of addiction and whether it be in 2 months or 2 years, it’s going to lead somewhere you don’t want it to go. Make it a priority — THE priority — to take care of it before that happens. I wish I would have.

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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: 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: I’m A Porn Addict. Help.

QUESTION: I’m struggling with this addiction and I need help. What now?

ANSWER: That’s about as direct and to-the-point as you can get. It’s hard to get very specific because I don’t know if you’re looking once-a-week and feel bad about yourself or if this is a daily, multi-hour activity that is starting to stray into extreme or illegal territory. Either way there are some common pieces of advice I’d offer.

First is to find a professional to talk about this with. Depending on where you live there may be Certified Sex Addiction Therapists available. That would be your first choice. Here in Maine, where I live, that is an official licensure designation. If that’s the case where you live, you’ll want to find someone who has expertise with addictions. That can range from LCSWs (licensed clinical social worker) to LMFTs (licensed marriage and family therapist) to CACs (certified addiction counselors).

When you find that therapist, be 100% honest with them. You’re wasting everybody’s time and your money if you are anything less. The therapist will help guide you through you journey, but you’re going to have to do the heavy lifting and lying to them (or yourself) is going to largely render the therapeutic experience as worthless. Also understand you are probably going to bring up a lot more questions before you start with answers. This is all part of the process.

Next, find others who are also suffering from pornography addiction. Share your story with them and listen as they share their story with you. Recognizing you’re not alone, and coming to a sense of community with others like you will help you.

You can find these communities with 12-step groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. If these kinds of support groups are not local to your area, there are online meetings and hundreds of hours of recorded testimony available on YouTube of people talking about this exact subject. If you want to be more interactive, there are a handful of really good message boards out there. I’ve listed a few on the Resources page of this website and I’m sure a simple Google search may yield a few more I don’t know about. The point is, you are not alone in this struggle.

Finally, I’d urge you to learn as much about porn addiction, or addiction in general. There are literally thousands of books that you can find online and countless videos on YouTube that address addiction. I found learning about the scientific side of things helped me understand what I was experiencing at a deeper level.

As addicts, we tend to think that we’re a special snowflake and nobody could possibly understand what is happening with us. The reality is, in most cases, we’re just another statistic. Understanding those statistics, especially ones that had to do with success in recovery, was one of the key steps to me staying on the recovery path.

You must understand that your addiction will not go away overnight. Recovery is a long, hard road with triggers galore in the beginning. While I rarely feel triggers these days, even five years into recovery, they can still happen. You need to develop the tools to deal with them.

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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: 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: 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.