Your alarming new pornography statistic of the week

In order to sound like I know what I’m talking about, I have to read a lot, and it’s only in the last 5-6 years that anybody in the science community has been studying pornography addiction, so information is always changing, especially among younger adults who make the Internet a constant part of their lives.

Psychology Today recently reported about a study conducted regarding the use of pornography within a relationship conducted by several Canadian and American college professors.

Just over 1,000 people, mostly between 18 and 35, evenly split among men and women were interviewed.  About 70% were either married or living together for more than a year with their partner.

Get these stats:

In the last six months, 98% of men and 73% of women used the Internet for pornography. Taking it down to just the last month, it was 80% of men and 26% of women. The margin of error could have brought the male use number over 100%! Think about that.

If you have 100 men and 100 women aged 18-35, in a relationship in a room together…only 29 haven’t looked at porn online in the last six months.

Still don’t think this might be a big problem on the horizon?

There is meaning to life…no matter how bad it may get

When one is an addict, porn or otherwise, and hits rock bottom, some dark questions about mortality can emerge. Is there meaning to life? Yes, there is. But don’t try too hard to figure out the finer details. Like the concepts of infinity, the universe and God, I don’t believe the human mind is evolutionally equipped to understand the concept.

If there wasn’t a meaning to life, why wouldn’t more people try to kill themselves?

The suicide rates for the five-year periods between 1910-1915 and 1929-1934 were just over 16 people per 100,000. These are the highs of American history. Since 1945, it’s never gone much above 13 per 100,000…nor has it dipped below 10 according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Based on that, it’s pretty safe to say that when you’re only talking about 10-16 people out of 100,000, you’re talking a tiny, tiny minority. Clearly, it’s not hard-wired into our DNA to kill ourselves. It doesn’t rise significantly during times of war, bad economies or poor leadership. Conversely, the rate doesn’t drop much during times of prosperity and great peace. It is what it is.

For those people who say there is a difference between a meaning to life and a survival instinct of a life, I think you’re wrong. If there was no meaning, there would be no survival instinct. Things will get better, things will get worse…yet only 10-16 people out of 100,000 will choose to end their life in a given year.

 

Why? Because life has meaning. Even if you’re an alcoholic who ran over a child or a drug addict with no job. You could have gambled away your life savings or eaten your way to 600 pounds. You’re still here. There’s a reason.

But it’s not exactly survival instinct. Our bodies know when to give up and stop working.  You can witness that in a hospital every day. Sure, we have so many cries for help, but so few actual cases of suicide. You’ve got to really, really be out on that ledge to make the jump. I like to believe that those people who do kill themselves were just as terminal as a cancer patient and knew there was no coming back.

I think people are actually asking a series of questions when they ask if there is meaning to life. I think it is more about wanting reassurance they are not a mistake, that they have value and a genuine concern how to make a difference in the time they are given.

While not all of us were part of our biological parents’ plans, you are not a mistake. Your female parent had many eggs over the years. Yours was a strong one. Your male parent had billions of sperm through the years. The one that made you was a fighter. The odds of that particular egg in that particular person meeting with that particular sperm in that particular person are not calculable…especially if one of your parents was a giant whore. Isn’t there meaning in simply beating those kinds of odds? It’s like winning a lottery of lotteries of lotteries. The math behind you simply being here is astonishing.

I don’t know if life is supposed to be about helping others or advancing humanity. For some it’s about wealth acquisition and the conquering of power. In a vacuum, neither is right or wrong.

I believe I’m here for some reason, but I don’t think I necessarily ever need to get the fortune cookie that tells me what it is. For a long time, I looked for definite answers, but I don’t think the meaning of my life needs one. Just the fact there is meaning…is meaning enough.

Creating an environment to address concerns you have with someone else’s pornography use

Over the last few months I’ve talked to a lot of people about pornography addiction and I get a lot of the same questions over and over. That’s OK, it shows they are the most important. Ironically, the two most popular questions have the same answer. They are: “How do I approach someone about the fact I think they have a porn addiction?” and “How do I talk to my kids about pornography?”

I think the words you use are secondary to the conditions you create. You know the person that you’re talking to better than me, so you probably can figure out how to actually say the words. It’s like firing somebody. Theoretically, we can all do it, but no matter how much you prepare, you don’t always know what’s going to come out of your mouth and how the other person will react.

The two conditions that will allow the most favorable outcome are:

  1. Create a judgment-free zone: We all have our opinions, biases, likes, dislikes, stereotypes, fears, political views, etc. None of these are important as part of this conversation. Telling a child they are naughty if they look at “dirty” pictures or your brother that you “don’t understand how they can look at that smut” may be two things you absolutely believe, but all they will hear is, “I don’t approve of your actions.” It’s OK to not approve of their actions, but if you’re trying to have a conversation, removing your condemnation in the moment is important.
  2. Create a safe space for dialogue: Kids want advice and guidance. Addicts want to know you care. If either feels threatened, you’ll be giving a soliloquy, not having a conversation. A good rule for any conversation that may be stressful or you may worry will become combative is to first establish common ground. When the other person feels like you’re on their side, it becomes safer to share information.

The sooner we start working pornography into the “beware of drugs, strangers and look both ways before crossing the street” speech that parents should give their kids, the sooner we’ll be raising a generation who understands the negative power of pornography. The sooner we’re able to address those who have pornography addiction as concerned onlookers, the sooner we’ll be removing the stigma from what is an illness, not an act of moral repugnance.

We need to start talking about pornography addiction as a society, but we also need to do it the right way.

Are people inherently good or bad?

Neither. People just are. Social norms, acceptable behavior, laws and regulations all change over time. The behavior of someone in Year 317 or 1317 may seem to stand in stark contrast to behavior labeled as acceptable today. Were those people bad and didn’t know better? If we’re so advanced, will people in 500 or 1000 years look at us as immoral cretins?

When I was arrested and charged with possession of underage pornography, I went from a “good” person to “bad” person in the blink of an eye for many people. Nothing else mattered. I wonder if in revising their opinion, they decided I was secretly bad prior or was it just that now they knew a piece of information about me, it eliminated everything I’d accumulated in the good column?

One of the more interesting evolutionary traits of humans (and I’m talking over millions of years, not hundreds) is the increasing need for order, averages and the status quo. We crave to know where to set the bar when it comes to every product, behavior or thought we produce or consume.

People are neither inherently good or inherently bad. People are inherently fearful. They are scared that they will fall outside of their desired norm – and that’s even true of the most alternative anarchist. We go with the crowd, even if that crowd is a minority.

When people are looking through their black and white lenses because shades of gray are scary, I’m reminded of the oft-used phrase, “Hitler loved his dogs.” Can somebody be pure evil if they still love dogs? If the person who is the gold standard of evil has a soft spot for puppies is anybody 100% bad?

Well, no and nobody is 100% good, because again, those are labels that I’m using with my own unique definition. You have your own definition. Hitler existed. His behavior has never been accepted as OK. But what if the Nazis won? There’s a good chance we’d be living in a world that looked back on Hitler through very different eyes and reached a very different conclusion about his place in history.

When I was arrested and convicted for my crime, I know that many people took an eraser to all of the things I had ever done that were seen as good. I raised tens of thousands of dollars for and brought awareness to plenty of local causes. I regularly volunteered my time or donated advertising space in my magazine. I made dozens of filmmakers’ dreams come true with the film festival I ran for three years. I’m not going to run through a list, but I went from being a “good” person in many people’s eyes to a “bad” person because the one act of convincing a teenage girl to masturbate online trumps everything else I’ve ever done.

Should it? It’s not up for me to decide. I accept and live with the punishment I was given. I’ve come to understand what happened and for me, it takes place beyond good and bad. It was more an issue of sick vs. healthy. But I can’t stop people from viewing me as bad.

People are not one-dimensional enough at their core to be inherently anything. Labeling and stereotyping makes things easy. I think it was George Carlin who said something like, “There’s no reason for sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. If you just take a few minutes to get to know somebody, you’ll have legitimate reasons not to like them!”

I want people to like me and I want to feel like I’m contributing something to society. I think I achieved it in my life prior to my arrest. I want to be seen as good. With what I did, that may never happen for a vast majority, even if I find the cure for cancer.

What’s important for my recovery is that I know that I once had the capacity to do things that most people could not. I was very sick when I made the decision to talk to women in online chat rooms. Even most sick people don’t do that. Then I made the decision to urge several to take off their clothes. Even more sick people don’t do that. Then I ignored the fact that there were females who might not have yet reached the age of 18, but continued the behavior. We’re now getting into a small number of sick people…but it’s what I was capable of, sick or not.

Does the fact I have the capacity to sink this low make me inherently bad? I think statistics suggest it makes me inherently rare and someone society correctly punished and has determined tabs should be kept on for a while.

There is no one-word, conditional-for-the-world-we-live-in-at-this-moment label that can apply to anyone. If we are inherently anything, it’s complex.

God’s Confusing Role in My Recovery

I’m going to be totally up front here, and I really hope that I don’t unintentionally or ignorantly say something that offends, but I’ve got to say that since entering the world of blogging, I’m more confused than ever the role God plays in recovery and my life.

I was raised Catholic but left the church because of what I saw as a lot of hypocrisy. I found that too many people brought their politics into the church and twisted the Bible to fit their worldview. The “social justice and peace” group at church comprised of people I would never call fair nor kind. I was also discouraged by the number of people who carried an invisible moral superiority entitlement badge, yet were horrible people and by the number of people who refused to answer my questions, yet seemed like smart people outside of church.

I liked the ideas of Jesus, but felt like most people twisted what the meaning of what he said and what he did while on Earth to match their agenda. The Bible is open to interpretation and I don’t think they could see other angles than ones that already fed into their biases, stereotypes and superstitions. I think that someone with no ties to religion at all would look at the Bible and tell you that Jesus was the kind of liberal that is too liberal for most liberals. But that angle isn’t one that a lot of followers can accept.

So, I walked away. I even started calling myself an atheist for a decade or so. I actually called myself a “non-practicing atheist” because even most atheist people got on my nerves. Whether it’s an atheist, Christian, scientist, politician or my parents, I’ve never liked it when people tried to tell me they had the answers for me. Nobody has all the answers and I’ve always felt the best way you can try to have all the answers is to understand all sides of an issue. That’s not a position many in our society, regardless of socioeconomic or religious background, take. Social media and a 24-hour news cycle has fueled the fire of the need that every person is correct in their beliefs and everybody else is wrong.

It was while I was writing my book in jail (The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About – seriously, I need some sales this week – go buy it) that I realized in looking back over the last 20 years that I’m actually one of the most faith-filled people I know. I not only believe things are going to turn out the way they should, I believe things are going to turn out for the best. When they don’t, I’m disappointed, but can move on pretty fast because disappointment usually makes sense down the road, even if I can’t see it now.

What I also realized when I was writing the book (again, it’s call The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About – for some reason, Amazon is selling it for 6 cents off the cover price, act now!) is that I do believe in a higher power, but I’ve been calling it “The Universe” since I left the church. My higher power isn’t really an active, take-sides kind of ruler. Mine is just a stabilizing energy that makes sure things stay in order. There’s something maintaining the balance and providing me with what I need – or don’t need – in this world.

I don’t think the human mind is supposed to understand a lot of things and I think that forces us to take the dual tracks of science and religion. Both exist to codify our existence. I love quantum physics because I think it’s the closest marriage of science and religion, but again, feel like our mind doesn’t really have the capacity to comprehend ideas like eternity and infinity.

As I was writing the book (you know the title) I started to feel this calling to talk about my experience. This feeling came over me that now it was my turn to help others who were pornography addicts and perhaps even more importantly, to inform the world about pornography addiction. It doesn’t take a PhD in statistics to look at the numbers and recognize it’s going to be a major health crisis in this country.

So, I started this blog about four months before my book (the title escapes me at the moment) was released and was so wonderfully surprised how many people responded positively. There were those who had either porn addiction, other forms of addiction or mental health issues in their lives, or lives of their loved ones who could relate, but there was also a lot of people who just wanted to learn. It was invigorating, and made me want to share my story even more.

But then I started hitting the strong religious types. I have no problem with them and try not to judge them, but will admit I do have a problem not judging people who I feel are judging me. Maybe it’s a PTSD thing back to being a kid in the church, but certain things make me feel like I’m having a physical reaction. I get really worked up at some basic stuff and I don’t know exactly where it’s coming from. I could give examples but don’t want to offend anybody because I have nothing against you or your beliefs. I’ve actually enjoyed getting to know most through this site and share many of your beliefs, I just take a different path to the same solution.

When the book (the title is…no, never mind) came out in January, I started doing a lot of promotion, which I continue with today. This process of telling my story again and again has been amazing and absolutely drives home the point that I want to help. I want to be a source of information and support. I want to bring the concept to people that anybody can be a porn addict and that the addiction can lead to some horrible places.

When I step back, I recognize that I sound like someone who is joining the ministry. I know what the devout Christian would say. God has chosen me to deliver this message and is using me as his vessel. He put me through these trials because I have a greater purpose than the life porn addiction took away from me. The real hardcores would throw a Bible verse or two my way to drive their point home, and that’s where I’d start to curl into the fetal position.

I’m now at a place where I’m putting together two presentations – ironically both title “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About.” A version of one of the presentations is geared toward a Christian audience. Despite their telepathic link with God, Christians have higher rates of porn use and porn addiction than secular types. Let’s not debate why today.

I want to stand in front of church groups and talk about this issue. It’s important. But I can’t quote Scripture and I can’t tell them if their invisible friend is going to help the kick their porn habits or not, and that scares me, because I think that’s what religious people want to hear. I have an invisible friend, too. And I know he helped. I’m just not sure it’s the same invisible friend. I’m a big believer in doing what you need to quit any addiction, but I don’t know why God chose you to have it nor do I know if he’ll help solve the problem. If you think he will, that’s important. Faith is huge in recovery.

When I was a kid, nobody at church ever abused me, yet my religious upbringing has somehow traumatized me. Blogging about porn addiction, and now trying to spread my message, is bringing up a lot of hard-to-explain feelings. I don’t know if it’s God. I don’t know if it’s religion. I don’t know if it’s people who practice. I can’t put my finger on it yet, but I know it’s not just when I log-in. It’s bleeding into real life now.

I share what’s happening to me not to get any answers, be preached at or be given any kind of great advice, but just really to remind everyone that faith, belief and the role of God differs in many people’s lives. It doesn’t make any of us better or worse, chosen or cast away. Some of us feel like we have all of the answers and some of us know that we’ll never have any. Some absolutely need to believe in God to function and others don’t give it a second thought. It’s OK. It’s all OK.

Now go buy my stinkin’ book.

Mental Health Education, Not Gun Laws, Will Reduce Violence in Our Schools

Forgive me going off-topic, but this isn’t that far off-topic. Before you start screaming about gun control – and I certainly know why you’d want to today – it makes more sense to look at this in the sense of message vs. messenger. Guns are the messenger and the shooters are the message…and the message is that we need just as much energy, attention and resources devoted to mental health as we do gun control.

Years ago, before I went to jail, I was a firm believer is strict gun control laws. The math made sense. Less guns equals less gun violence, right? It’s a knee-jerk reaction when school shootings happen. You want to go after whoever did it. This was the rare case where the murderer didn’t kill himself. No murderer, you go after the murder weapon. It’s human nature. I did this for years.

Then I spent six months in jail. One of the rights I give up as somebody who has committed a felony is the right to bear arms. I’m OK with that as I’ve never owned a gun. I’m too clumsy, have no interest in hunting, and have a home security system my children can’t accidentally kill themselves with.

In jail, I got to meet a lot of criminals. If you’ve read my stuff before, you probably know I’m more of the figure-out-what-makes-you-tick vs. judge-you kind of guy. I found the people I lived with in jail absolutely fascinating because I’d not been around this socioeconomic group with any regularity in life. Talking to them changed my outlook on gun control.

Here’s the thing: Criminals know how to get guns. Many felons who aren’t supposed to have guns own several. By virtue of the fact that they have a proven track record of not following the law, it should come as no surprise to anybody that criminals don’t care about gun laws. If they want a gun, they’ll have a gun. There is no legislation about bump stocks, silencers, ammunition types, etc. that are going to stop them. I met too many inmates who don’t care about gun laws to believe that any legislation is going to keep them out of the hands of criminals.

Here’s the other thing I realized in jail: There is a huge amount of unchecked mental illness in this world. Most people I was locked up with were there for drug violations or domestic abuse. Those who were in for major drug violations were usually dealing to fund their habit, otherwise, they were caught for possession and from what I could tell, their use was medicinal, not recreational. Those who battered their girlfriend or wives did so because they didn’t have the tools to solve conflict in a non-violent manner.

Maybe I’ve been in therapy so long (over 20 years off and on now) that I have picked up a lot by osmosis, but unless they were intellectually deficient, there was almost always a mental health issue at play with the people I met in jail. When the medical cart came around in the evening, two-thirds of us took some kind of med and several of those who didn’t probably would have qualified.

I will never believe that somebody who is capable of killing almost 20 people in cold blood in such a public manner is not mentally ill. He should be locked up forever – mental illness doesn’t excuse crime in my opinion – but to suggest just because school shooters are able to carry out a plan shows that they are sane displays a lack of understanding of mental illness.

This country is still too conservative and puritanical when it comes to accepting mental illness. If you can’t put a Band-Aid on your boo-boo, it’s not a real boo-boo. Stop your crying and go be a man! Maybe that attitude is what got us to a place where you have to kill more than three or four kids in a school shooting for people to even notice anymore.

I’m not going to suggest for a moment I know what was going on in this Florida shooter’s life, but from the little I read today, it does sound like there were certainly warning signs, both in his outward behavior and threats he made. If we knew as much about mental health as we do about physical health, maybe something could have been done.

We’re going to make our greatest strides toward curbing gun violence – and not just in schools, but across the board – when we finally give mental health the attention it deserves. We’ll check sixth grade kids for scoliosis, but we won’t take five minutes to find out if they’re depressed. Something is wrong with this picture.