We Need to Re-Examine the Sexual Offender Registry

Tomorrow is passport picture day. For most people, that’s only once every 10 years, but for me, it’s twice a year. As a registered sex offender, every time I have my quarterly check-in with the police, I have to bring a passport photo that is sent to the state capital to be posted online with my crime. Thankfully, CVS provides two passport photos, so there is only need to visit twice a year.

I’m not suggesting by this entry that I did not deserve to get punished for what I did. On the contrary, I took my sentencing like a man and do not get into the argument of if I received too much or too little time. The government decreed that six months and six days in county jail was appropriate for the crime of engaging a teenage girl in a sexual manager in an online chatroom, and I did the time.

I have no problem with the probation I was given, three years, despite the fact that both my lawyer and the state suggested I only have two years. I think the judge gave me a lighter jail sentence and longer probation as a trade-off. Whatever, that’s fine. I’ve got about eight months left and aside from signing a piece of paper and having a 30-second conversation once a month, it’s not that bad. I can certainly understand why it’s useful for drug criminals who need to submit to a urine test.

At the end of probation, though, those drug criminals aren’t tested anymore. They have served their time and they are free to live their life. Hopefully, they stay away from the substances that got them there, but as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, they’re free to move along.

Sex crimes are not treated the same. I’m not a law scholar by any means and I know the validity of the sexual offender registry has been tested in several states and always upheld, but I have a problem with serving my sentence, doing my probation time, yet still being on the hook for the rest of my life.

For me, there are two arguments against this.

First, is the fact that I’m not treated like any other criminal. I literally could have been convicted for manslaughter, done my time, and nobody follows me after probation. I could have been nailed selling drugs to teenage girls, but I’m not put on a list for the rest of my life of people who need to be watched. I could beat my wife and kids, do my time, and the law isn’t going to follow me once probation is over.

Something seems askew to me when people can commit crimes with tangible results that are just as bad, or worse, than mine, yet there is no criminal registry for what they have done. Once they are finished with probation, they are left alone.

Second, is the fact that I’m on the same list with violent sexual predators. I’m not suggesting my crime wasn’t heinous and severe. It absolutely was. I took advantage of a young person and who knows if my behavior scarred her for life. What I did was disgusting and wrong.

That said, I never put my hands on a child. I never forced a child to commit a sexual act on me, nor did I commit one on them. No violence, nor threat of violence came with my offense. There were also no threats made against her family, property or anything like that.

I have taken four risk assessment tests and questionnaires designed to determine if I am at a risk of reoffending. On three I ranked the lowest score possible. On the other, I didn’t even rank on the scale. I have taken two polygraphs about my sexual history and have passed both with flying colors.

Yet there I am, on a list next to a guy who repeatedly raped a four-year-old boy. On the other side of me in the list is a guy who raped a 9-year-old girl, did his time, got out of jail and promptly returned to the girl, now 14 and raped her again. I think I have the right to say that compared to me, on a spectrum of sexual offenses, these are violent and depraved criminals who committed acts that are nothing like mine if you’re looking for an even playing field.

In my opinion, I think my being on the same list as these violent predators is like being someone who once bought a bag of pot being next to an international drug smuggler on the same list or someone who stole a lady’s purse being put next to an armed bank robber. Yes, the offenses may officially fall under the same umbrella, but there is a world of difference between the two.

I know there are people out there who probably couldn’t get beyond the third paragraph of this and who think that I should have been put in jail for life. Sexual offenses illicit a strong response in people and its one area where both Democrat and Republican law makers are more than happy to add new laws to the books, even if they make no scientific or historical sense. It feels good to castigate sex offenders.

I’m not looking for pity, I’m looking for equal and appropriate treatment. I’m hoping that you can take whatever opinions you have of sexual offenders and somehow parse them, not putting all of us into the same box. Unfortunately, the registry doesn’t do this yet.

I did a rotten thing, but under our current way of punishing people, I think that I’m being held to a different, higher standard, and I don’t think that’s fair.

How to Get 13-Year-Old Boys to Stop Looking at So Much Porn

Whether during an interview or presentation, I’ve been asked dozens of times how we stop kids from getting hooked on porn. I’ve offered a rehearsed answer that sounded good, but in the back of my mind probably wouldn’t work. I didn’t know the answer. It wasn’t until I went back to being a kid in my mind that the solution became clear.

A Young Porn Addict in the Late ’80s

When I was 13 years old, about 30 years ago, the term “Internet” had not been coined yet, or if it had, it was only known by hardcore computer geeks who were inspired by Matthew Broderick in War Games. The Apple II computer in our house was useful for typing papers for my junior high school projects and playing games that didn’t quite measure up to our Atari.

The computer wasn’t an issue with my porn addiction, because there was no way to get it with a computer at that point.  It had been a few years since my first exposure to explicit pornographic magazines and I took every chance I could to watch late-night HBO if something looked especially “adult”. You could spot those movies when not only did it have an R rating and an N for nudity, but also had SSC for Strong Sexual Content. That was like a beacon for what I wanted and I don’t hesitate to say at 13, I was already a pornography addict.

The world of porn opened up to me that year because for the first time, I was able to get a video rental card at the local independent video store. This was long before Blockbuster wiped everyone else out. You either rented videos at the Mom and Pop places, like this one, or your local supermarket.

I’d been going to this video store with my parents for a couple years and saw the sign that said you had to be 16 to rent videos. One day that year, I wanted to see a WWF wrestling video, so I took it off the new release shelf and brought it over. I said I didn’t have a card to rent videos there. They gave me one without even asking my age. I still remember my member number: 3660.

It didn’t take long before a wrestling video became a PG-13 movie, then R, then a softcore porn video. Then I got brave, and went to the back of the store where they had a small room cordoned off with a couple of saloon-style swinging doors. I actually went underneath so nobody would hear the creaking of the doors opening.

They had binders with pages of cut-out box covers. You’d find a box cover you liked, then find the correspondingly numbered video on a nearby shelf. I picked one out, mixed it in with the other non-porn video or two I was renting and walked to the check-out counter like I owned the place.

“3-6-6-0,” I told the lady standing there. Like one of the Stepford Wives, she mindlessly punched in the number, picked up each video and punched in their corresponding number.

“Due back Wednesday,” she said for the hundredth time that day.

I always wondered if they were actually breaking any laws doing that. The movie theater wouldn’t let me see an R-rated movie under 17, and most convenience stores wouldn’t sell porn to people under 18, but were those in-house rules or were they laws, like the state had over liquor or cigarette purchases?

This was a massive day in my life because it was the first day I had an endless supply of pornography. No more waiting for HBO movies. No more hoping to catch the Playboy Channel unscramble briefly. No more buying magazines. I could have as much porn as my wallet would allow.

Introduction of the Internet

It was another five or six years before the Internet made it into my house. The World Wide Web, “browsing” or “surfing the ‘Net” were still a couple years away from American lexicon. After writing an article about local online Bulletin Board Services for the local newspaper, I decided to take the plunge and buy a modem. They were faster than ever before and everything I read said that we’d all be talking to each other soon enough.

Sure, you could spend two days downloading a video clip, or 20 minutes downloading a single picture, but the Internet of that day was not conducive to porn.

It took a couple of years and getting a few million more people online, but the technology caught up. For whatever reason, pornography and pro wrestling are always on the cutting edge of what’s available. I’m sure there’s a heck of a college thesis in that. If you want to know the latest in technology, just see what the smut peddlers and the fake fighters are doing.

Very early on, it became quickly clear to me that the Internet would replace VHS tapes (or maybe it was DVDs by that point). Five or six years after I first heard the siren’s song of the modem going online, Google arrived, ready to deliver anything my mind could conjure.

I recall having conversations about the sudden influx of unfettered access to pornography into people’s lives. Just 10 years earlier, you had to make the walk-of-shame from the magazine rack or the back room of the video store, and that was if you could pass for being old enough, or in my case, find an establishment that valued the dollar over the moral purity of a 13-year-old boy.

Even then it was clear that I was going to be part of the last generation to have to do any actual work to look at pornography. I had to ride my bike to the video store, about two miles each way, play the whole cat-and-mouse game of trying to act older (though they never denied me) and mixing in a mainstream movie or two. I had to hide the porn from my parents and make sure they wouldn’t catch me watching it.

Even in 1998, it was clear the way people viewed porn would be forever changed and it didn’t take a genius to understand the Clear Browser History button would be a 13-year-old’s best friend. You could look at anything your heart desired and nobody would ever find out.

I couldn’t imagine having been a 13-year-old boy in the age of the Internet.

I wrongly hypothesized that viewing porn was going to become a mundane activity. I saw the danger of getting my hands on porn and the potential of being caught as part of the intrigue. I was wrong. Take away the danger and intrigue and you’ve still got naked people doing naked things. I now know that will always be enough to draw people in.

A Pathetic History of Porn Education

Nobody talked about porn as a bad (or good) thing when I was a kid. Nobody talked about it except far right-wing politicians or religious zealots who always seemed detached from reality. Stories of going blind or hairy palms were ludicrous, yet preached by these groups. It was almost cartoon-like with its idiocy.

There was a blip in the late 80s and early 90s with groups like the Parents Television Council or the Parents Music Resource Council gaining a little bit of ground – that’s back when explicit lyric advisories were placed on CDs and TV shows started being rated. But they also talked about the dangers of violence in video games and Satanic lyrics in music, so again, their zealotry eliminated any actual common sense they occasional brought to the table.

These days, I don’t see porn as being the taboo subject it was when I was growing up, but I also don’t think it’s seen in a negative light nearly like it was. I’m not sure this is a good thing.

I’m guessing these days (where the average kid first sees porn at 11) there is no sense of danger or doing the wrong thing that there was back in my day. There are no more gatekeepers beyond a parent trying to put a filter on a computer – but those are easily skirted by anybody over 9, either in age or IQ. There is an unending supply of porn flowing to children through the Internet on their computers, tablets and telephones.

I don’t think we can stop it. I think it’s a fool’s errand to try. Our government’s war on drugs has proven they don’t have the resources and on a First Amendment basis, as a journalist, I don’t like barring people’s right to freedom of speech or expression. Even if I find it reprehensible, I’ll still defend the right to say it or do it.

I don’t think pornography will ever end. It just evolves. If you look at the history of Penthouse Magazine over the last 20 years, you’ll see most have turned their back on the pornographic magazine industry. Playboy even ran an experiment through much of 2016 with eliminating nudity from the magazine. They went back to it after few people bought the magazine sans skin.

Eventually, in our lifetime, there will be no Playboy or Penthouse magazines. This is no more a victory for anti-porn groups than when early man stopped drawing dirty pictures on the walls of the cave. It’s an evolution, not an extinction.

Let’s Teach the Boys About PIED

These days, there’s a fairly new medical diagnosis affecting young men: Porn-Induced Erectile Dysfunction (PIED). I’ve spoken to several professionals who have explained it to me. Basically, these men can get erections and reach orgasm if they are looking at porn. However, if they are in a real life situation, they simply can’t finish, if they can get erect at all.

If you suffer from PIED, you could have a Victoria’s Secret model as a girlfriend, but unless you’ve got pornography playing in the background, you’re not going to be able to perform to completion. It doesn’t matter how sexy or how crazy she gets.

I may sound insane, but I think this is the way to get to the 12- or 14-year-old boys who are starting to look at porn on a regular basis – aren’t yet addicts – and haven’t started having sex with partners yet, to pay attention.

We can decry porn as immoral, we can cast the actors as victims or we can pretend none of this is happening – those techniques haven’t helped one bit.

One of the only thing these young guys want more than porn is an actual girlfriend. Despite spending a fair amount of time looking at porn, I always wanted a girlfriend more than I wanted a magazine or video. When I was in my mid-to-late teens and finally engaging in sexual behavior, I realized I was right…it was always better than porn. Like most addicts, I didn’t turn to porn as a surrogate for sex as an adult. When it came to crossing the finish line, I always preferred my wife to a video on the computer.

At the same time that we’re teaching kids about the evils of drugs, or teaching them the birds and the bees, it might be a good time to talk about pornography addiction. Understanding the harm of drug addiction is easy. Understanding the potential harm of gambling or food is a little tougher for a young mind, but not a huge leap. Understanding there is any harm in looking at pictures or videos of naked people probably doesn’t register because it doesn’t seem like there are consequences.

While it will likely feel awkward for the educators and everybody is going to laugh when it’s brought up, I think the best defense we have to slowing the ever-growing numbers of porn addicts (1-in-3 men under 30 believes they may be addicted according to 2016 stats) is to teach the cause-and-effect nature of pornography with the effect being PIED.

If you tell a bunch of 13-year-old boys that in the next several years, when they’re finally able to convince real-life girls to engage in sexual behavior with them that they’ll look like a fool because they won’t be able to function normally, I think we may be surprised just how effective that information can be.

We can back it up with plenty of science and there are no shortage of first-person stories out there. Let these 13-year-old boys know that if they watch too much porn they are likely to not be able to have sex and you’ll see a lot of 13-year-old boys take a different approach to porn.

Right now, our warnings are too abstract, too easy to ignore, or simply meritless. Show them that they may be stuck with porn, alone, for the rest of their life and I have a feeling the Clear Browser History button is used less.

I never tried hard drugs because of what they could do to me. People scared me into staying away with the facts. I think we can use the facts and make a dent in these ridiculous numbers of young porn addicts we face today.

Feeling human again, if only for a moment

Lately, I feel like I’ve been in a place where I recognize just how few people, especially where I live, are ever going to be ongoing parts of my life again. As time marches forward, and the reality of the situation sinks in, it’s made me a bit depressed. That negative feeling was broken, if only momentarily, last night and it felt wonderful.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m a loner who doesn’t like to be lonely, but since I was arrested back in March 2014, I’ve been living in exile – just as much in my head as in my home.

I know people have short memories, but I also know how prominent I was in my community, publishing the regional magazine and serving on the City Council. It’s been 4.5 years since my arrest, but there are still the moments I’m out in public, see somebody I recognize, make eye contact, and watch them hurry away as quickly as a roach when the lights are turned on.

Because of this, I don’t approach people. I don’t know what people’s true opinions of me are and I don’t want to nurture an awkward situation. I also stay away from places that I know are well-populated. I go out to dinner with my family on Wednesday or Thursday nights, leaving Friday and Saturday for the non-convict crowd.

Last night, I was at one of the two decent independent Italian restaurants in town with my family.

When I was given my seat, I recognized a couple who were sitting with a larger party about 15 feet away. They were the parents of my high school girlfriend. We were together for about a year-and-a-half if I recall, maybe a little longer. I became much closer to her parents than she came to mind.

Family was priority at her house, and while my nuclear bunch were good, these folks had the market cornered on what family meant and they welcomed me into their arms back then. I haven’t had a set of parents as cool since, including my wife’s. When we eventually broke up our junior year of high school, I remember telling people I’d miss her family more than her.

I knew I wasn’t going to get up and go say hi, and part of me hoped that my features changed enough in the last 25 years and they wouldn’t recognize me.

At one point, when my wife and daughter went to the restroom, my ex-girlfriend’s mother came over to say hello.

“Josh, do you remember me?” she said.

“Yes, Mrs. L, I do. How are you? I responded, although I used her real last name.

“How have you been doing?”

“Very well. I’m healthy and keeping everything in balance. This is my son, Kaden,” I said.

“Hi Kaden. Your dad and my daughter were friends in high school,” she explained.

“I think she was my only girlfriend in high school,” I told them both. She was. No thinking needed.

We exchanged a couple pleasantries of a memory she carries about me and where both of us were living now, then she said the most important thing:

“We got your book and read it. It was good. How are things going?” she asked.

“I’m at four-and-a-half years sober from both addictions. I’m working on a new book for partners of porn addicts,” I said.

“We’re so proud of you. I’m glad you’re doing well, give me a hug.”

I hugged Mrs. L and she made her way back to her seat.

My wife and daughter returned and I told them about the exchange. I think my wife could tell it really stuck with me through dinner and into the night.

It’s the first time I’ve talked with anybody who I was once close with, read about my ordeal in the media, made the decision to read the book, and either as a result of the book or my confirmation of doing fine now, literally embraced me back into their life.

I’m not going over for dinner anytime soon. Hell, I may never see them again in my life. But that lifted my spirits in a way they haven’t been lifted in a long time. So much of my life is spent waiting for people to make me feel bad about myself that having someone come and provide a boost of confidence is unfortunately foreign.

I know Mrs. L doesn’t realize just how much that meant to me, but I hope that I can return the favor to someone else someday.

The manicotti was good, too.

Porn is 100% Objectification of the Human Body… 100%, I Say!

I’m sure there’s something cool to see in Amsterdam, but beyond a long street and it’s offshoots known as De Wallen, I can’t recall much.

You see, De Wallen is Amsterdam’s Red Light District and as a 19- 21- and 22-year old, I didn’t spend much time doing anything in Amsterdam except drink a lot of alcohol and stumble in and out of strip clubs, live sex shows and hash bars.

If you read my stuff before, you know I’m an alcoholic, and there was nary a night back then when I didn’t finish without being double the legal intoxication limit. Today, I have negative thoughts about the legalization of marijuana, and I’d be a massive hypocrite to espouse them too loudly considering I probably smoked even more than I drank back then. So we’ll just leave those aspects of my Amsterdam excursions alone for now.

I’ve mentioned before that I hold no ill will toward the pornography industry. Trying to fight the industry seems pointless, especially since so much of it comes to us digitally from overseas companies. There’s no reason to fight Penthouse or Playboy…they’re imploding on their own, just like your local newspaper.

I’ve been working on a book with a brilliant therapist out of California, Tony Overbay, over the last several months. I’m hoping we’ll have it ready to shop around sometime in October, and that you’ll buy at least 5 copies.

One of the themes that we’ve been exploring — that I never gave a lot of thought to during recovery — is how pornography exists for the sole purpose of objectifying another person. When you think about it, unless you’re a biology teacher using it for demonstration purposes, that’s completely accurate. Nobody looks at porn and wonders how smart that naked lady is or if that naked guy recycles.

I Think I’m Turning Japanese/Big in Japan

Twenty years ago, I lived in Tokyo, Japan, for about five months. I was working for a newspaper called Stars and Stripes that went to armed service members in the Pacific Theater. I won’t tell the long version of the story, but suffice to say, a white, English-speaking 22-year-old who was half decent looking and open to new experiences can be very popular in Japan.

I ended up befriending several American baseball players who were over there. They liked to spend a lot of money and party hard after their games. Most of them were in their late 20s, still hoping some American team would come calling, or in their early 30s, understanding their best days were behind them and this was the last stop of their professional career. I think I served as a mascot of sorts for them. I had the combination of naive, deer-in-the-headlights fanboy and…nope, I was just an amusement to them, but that’s cool. I played my role.

The guys I knew played on the Nippon Ham Fighters. I still don’t know what that means, but I prefer to believe it’s not about engaging pigs in battle. When these guys were in town, it meant three-to-five days of non-stop partying and they always started at a strip club. They’d buy me plenty of private dances and have me run the tips for the girls from the table to the stage. I was kind of like a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas, but since it involved pro ballplayers and beautiful naked women, I obliged with a smile.

When I returned from Japan, I had a hankering for strip clubs. I’d never visited them in the northeast before, but after being treated like a VIP in Japan, it seemed like the kind of thing that would be cool to have a few miles from my home.

Born in the USA/Proud to Be An American

In Japan, I’d come in with the ballplayers, be immediately ushered to a VIP area and be doted on all night. It totally played to my need to feel special. I think the Dutch called it narcissism. Not sure what we call it here. I realized quickly that I had nothing to do with any of that special treatment when I got back to the US. Whereas the strip club in Japan was a 2-3 hour start to a night of fun, here it was the only destination, and I didn’t go with anybody else, much less millionaires who could play flipsies with their own baseball cards.

I only went to the strip club in Maine a couple of times. It was so pathetic. Instead of beautiful women from around the world in a well-kept place with a $50 cover charge, it had a $3 cover charge, looked like it had last been remodeled in 1978 and featured a bunch of average looking women wearing too much black eye makeup and sporting plenty of stretch marks and cellulite. Nothing against mothers or chunky gals, but the Japan club wouldn’t have employed any of them.

There was no VIP section and looking at the clientele, it wasn’t famous people and high rollers. At the Japanese club, I met members of the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs (who were in for an exhibition game), and members of the group Bon Jovi. I wasn’t even going to run into members of a Bon Jovi cover band at my local strip club.

The guys there were probably an average of 45 or 50 and just seemed beaten by life. The girls seemed beaten by life. The DJ was beaten by life, as were the bartenders, waitresses and guy who watched the front door. Seeing the women who would drag their feet across the stage under the guise of dancing, the whole thing was just sad. I didn’t want to objectify anyone here, but it still wasn’t for the right reasons.

I Can See Clearly Now/Redemption Song

I can see how someone would get addicted to going to strip clubs if the experience was always like mine was in Japan, but with the depressing scene in the Maine club, I would rather stay home and find porn on the computer. I think it’s been 18 or 19 years since I went to that strip club the last time.

It never occured to me that those were a form of pornography, but now that I think about it, I went there with the sole purpose of seeing good looking women naked. It’s also made me realize that aside from the chemicals I could put in my body, Amsterdam was little more than an exercise in extreme objectification with an in-flight movie. Watching people perform sex acts in front of me wasn’t about anything other than flicking the dopamine receptors in my brain.

I’m now starting to recognize just how much I objectified women (and men) in the past. Just because they are wearing bras and panties doesn’t mean the Victoria’s Secret catalog isn’t porn. If you’re not shopping for underwear, and barely notice the clothes, it’s porn. If you’re at a Hawaiian Tropic bikini contest, let’s be honest, you’re not there as an aficionado of low-SPF results.

If you’re watching a movie mostly because you’ve heard it’s sexy and had scenes that may appeal to your more prurient interests, how is that not porn? Why do you REALLY watch female (or male) Olympic beach volleyball? I highly doubt it’s your American pride, especially in those Brazil vs. Sweden matches.

I know that nature has built us to notice the attractive people. It’s part of the whole mating/furthering the species thing, but we’ve taken it to levels far beyond nature needs. We’ve always lived in a world where sex sells, and that’s not going to change, but how you personally analyze and view the world can evolve.

If you’re driving down the street and see a good looking person walking by, what thoughts go through your head? How long do you look at them? What body parts of theirs do you pay special attention to as you pass them? Do you slow down for a longer look?

I had a therapist at a rehab who once said that you’re allowed to think anything for three seconds because it’s involuntary, but beyond that, you’re making a cognitive decision to continue with the thought. That fourth second is conscious objectifying.

Where are you come the fourth second?

Proof of a Soul and What I Think Happens After We Die

In almost every support group or group therapy I’ve been a part of on my road to recovery, there always seems to be a few people who are preoccupied with dying. Despite the fact we’re there to talk about pornography addiction, they can’t stop quoting the Bible or babbling on about the afterlife. I guess that’s good, because it encouraged me to address what I think happens when we die, and if we really have souls at all.

The day after you die, the sun is going to rise, just as it did the day before you were born. People will go to their jobs, have their lunch, watch TV and go to bed. Somewhere around 99.9999% percent of the humans on the earth had no idea you were here when you were alive. Of those who did know you, very few will be significantly impacted over a long span of time by your demise, much like very few people’s death have significantly impacted you – despite what you may want others to believe and they want you to believe about them. People’s deaths are sad for a while, but few are truly impactful.

On that happy note, I think my lack of aversion to dying is a big part of the reason I never grasped onto the religion presented by parents as a child, nor a lot of the spirituality others found in alternatives when I was a young adult. I would have like a detailed breakdown of how the Universe operates, but I wasn’t going to go to church every Sunday nor harness the power of crystals to get me there.

When I looked around at church, I just saw a lot of people who were afraid of dying. I’m guessing it’s because they worried they’d go to Hell, but something in me never was willing to believe in Hell. I don’t think I ever really believed in Heaven. I just believed in “After”.

I never believed “After” was the place where all your friends are waiting for you and every pet you ever had is there to greet you. Even from a young age, it seemed like a story designed to make people feel better about dying.

I do believe in a spirit, and probably unsurprisingly to you, I was able to come to that acceptance having it explained to me scientifically. I was told that all of the body’s cells regenerate every 7-to-10 years. This isn’t exactly accurate, but the moral of the story is that we physically change and evolve constantly. There isn’t anything about your body that is the exact same as it was 10 years ago, and again 10 years ago before that. In the case of most cells, it’s a much shorter time span.

So, if somebody who is 50 years old has every cell in their body die and replaced many times in their life, how are they still essentially the same person? You can’t tear down a house, rebuild it with new supplies and say it’s the same house. It’s because houses don’t have souls or a spirit. I think that there is something in us that can’t currently be measured by science happening much deeper than a cellular level. How else are you the same person? There’s some sort of glue, some body energy, something that binds us through our changes.

Forensic scientists can tell you that we’re clinically dead when certain organs cease to function, but that things like skin cells and blood cells can remain alive long after your heart stopped beating. Your physical body does not die all at once. I think believing your soul or spiritual body dies in an instant is probably also wrong.

I don’t think our soul goes anywhere otherworldly. I think it stays here and dissipates over time like a dimming lightbulb…and that’s OK with me.

I also think that part of your spirit while you are alive is your influence. It’s your legacy. It’s the impact you’ve made on others. If not for my parents, I wouldn’t be here. If not for being raised by those two specific people, I wouldn’t be the specific person I am today. When they die, I’m still here with all of the traits, both inherited and learned, they provided. Their influence is slightly less in my children, and will be slightly less in my grandchildren. I don’t know what influence my great-great-great grandfather has in me, because he long dead before I got here, but I’m sure there’s a little something there. His spirit…his essence…lives on that way.

And yes, eventually, like the dimming lightbulb, after more generations arrive, his spirit will probably not be a part of family members any longer…and that’s OK with me.

For people who are afraid of dying, I guess the fear is that Hell will just suck forever. For those that don’t believe in Hell, I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe it’s the fear of the process of dying, like it will hurt, or a narcissistic belief their absence on earth will be felt much harder and deeper than it actually will. The people you know, even those close to you, will be able to go on without you.

I think part of the problem is that people associate some sort of consciousness to the state of being dead when it is the exact opposite. The total lack of consciousness is too scary, so we say things like “Doesn’t he look peaceful?” or “He would have liked this” to make ourselves feel better at a wake. Saying “He looks like he’s in agony” is just as accurate as the peaceful statement, but won’t play as well to the crowd around you. They need to believe that the transition into whatever is next isn’t fraught with peril, because they still have to make the journey. The only evidence they have to draw upon is the body in front of them at a wake. Interpreting it as peaceful is more for them than the person in the pine box.

I would love to believe that there is a state of conscious bliss after we leave this world. I really would. I think, like the family gathered around the casket, it would make me appear more peaceful. But I just can’t believe that. There has never been a shred of scientific support that we “go somewhere” when we die. Until there is, I’ll assume our soul stays here…and that’s OK with me.

I have a feeling the day after you die is a lot like the day before you were born. Find peace in knowing the sun will rise, people will eat their lunch, watch TV and go to bed. Be OK with that.

First Guest Blog: Google Trends Data Gives Insight Into US Addictions By State

Note from Josh: This is the first time I’m presenting a guest blogger. Aeden Smith-Ahearn approached me with some research he was working on and wondered if I’d like to share it. Upon looking at the map he’s created, I think he shows just how prevalent sex and porn addiction is in the US. I also think it’s important to point out all of the other addictions. This is really some fantastic work on his part and I hope you’ll enjoy it and be educated as much as I was.

 

By Aeden Smith-Ahearn

Addiction is on the rise, and with it comes a slew of problems that we seem unequipped to deal with. With the opioid epidemic being declared a public emergencyalcoholism on the rise, and pornography addiction still not being considered a “medical issue”,  it seems we have an overall problem that is being seriously overlooked.

In order to better understand this issue, and how it has permeated our society, we analyzed the data inside Google Trends to see just what addictions were concerning to modern Americans. We looked at this data on a state-by-state basis to find out which states were worried and educating themselves about which specific addictions.

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Here are some of our findings:

Pornography and Sex Addiction

By far the most prevalent and most searched for addictions fell in the pornography and sex addiction category. This is a growing problem, yet still not listed as an actual “disorder” by psychologists and medical professionals today.

(Note from Josh: This was written before the World Health Organization began listing sexual compulsivity disorder).

Sex addiction was more prevalent in the east, with pornography addiction trending more prevalently in the west. On the full scale, clearly American’s are worried about these addictions—given the massive search volume and popularity. Given this trend, is it only a matter of time before this problem gets too out of hand—if it hasn’t already?

Drug, Alcohol, and Opiate Addictions

With opiate and heroin related overdoses becoming a daily occurrence. News stories about drugs and alcohol are more prevalent than ever. Some states even showed trends regarding specific opiate medications, like Tramadol in Florida, or Vicodin in Michigan. Such specific trends get at the heart of the problem, with certain states having their own specific issues that are unique to them.

Nicotine and alcohol remain at large in the US as well, and work to further fuel other addictions. Rarely does one addiction come alone, but, often, one addiction leads to another in a cycle of behavior that is hard to eliminate.

Social Media and Internet Addictions

Apparently more prevalent in eastern states, the use of smartphones, addictions to social media, Facebook, and other Internet platforms are on the rise nationwide.

And because of the piggyback nature of addiction, we wonder if these simple, easy to access addictions are providing a basic neurological route that leads individuals down a path to much stronger addictions like drugs and pornography.

Food and Sugar Addictions

Overall health continues to get worse, and declining life expectancy in America is just one major signal of this bigger problem. Obesity and other issues continue to be a massive setback for the country. Food addictions are not making things easier, and many American’s are searching for education related to these addictions.

Are We Doing Enough?

The problem of addiction is very real. There is a conversation happening, and many are hoping this conversation leads to real change. However, many of these issues are new, and they come with very little real scientific understanding.

Change is happening, but is it happening fast enough? Are we doing enough? Are we creating the future for our children that will empower them?

Maybe time will tell. But let’s hope we are not leaving this problem up to chance. That seems like a poor approach to the significant problems at hand.

 

Aeden Smith-Ahearn is the content coordinator for Experience Ibogaine treatment centers. Aeden was a massive heroin addict for seven years and, ultimately, found sobriety through Ibogaine. He now spends his time writing, educating, and helping others find freedom from addiction through alternative treatment methods.