Stringing Sentences Together When You Don’t Know What Else To Do

I’ve tried to write this multiple times. In fact, I’ve written the phrase “I’ve tried to write this multiple times” multiple times. I’ve created lists of what I’ve wanted to say and tried small chunks. This is the first paragraph you’re reading but it’s probably the 30th paragraph I’ve written.

I don’t get writer’s block, and this doesn’t feel like writer’s block. It’s not apathy. It’s not melancholy.

I’ve gone back to the TV news and most print/online news blackout I put myself in immediately after recovery began. I don’t find myself getting overwhelmed, nor do I want to share all of my opinions like I once did on every subject.

Objectively, I understand that people get through things by talking about them, and the kind of people who feel the need to become pundits, columnists or online forum commentators use their opinion as a shield to get through things. I was that person. Still am, but to a much lesser degree. Unlike them, I realize now sharing my opinion has never been about changing your opinion…it’s about processing my own thoughts and looking for a feeling of control over a situation.

I once had 4,000 Facebook “friends.” I wrote the editorial for a newspaper that reached almost 20,000 people. I was regularly quoted and on television for things I did in my community reaching who knows how many. Now? Since I stopped posting every day on the blog part of my website, hits are way down. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of only 200 people who will read this in 2020…or even fewer in future years. That’s OK. I’m not writing it for you. I’m writing it for me. Most people who share their opinion don’t recognize it.

I would bet less than 1 in 1000 people will have their opinion of Donald Trump altered to the point it changes their vote in November over how he’s handled the COVID-19 crisis. It’s only going to strengthen what people already think. I’ve heard people carefully defend and brazenly attack that think line between being prepared and hoarding – and it has nothing to do with their politics. And of course, this has helped everybody recognize what’s really important… as long as it was already really important to them (and hopefully this is a wakeup call that it should be important to you and it turns out, I was right all along).

I guess what I’m noticing more than anything else is that I’m at a stage of irritability with people where normal isolation usually works. What happens when the extroverts are forced to become introverts? The introverts really have to go to their secret happy place.

My problem in trying to write this has been that I can’t tie everything together in a nice bow and give a great line of summation. As a journalist, I always prided myself on the endings of my stories. I thought they were more important than the beginning. Sure, 100% of your readers start the story and only 30% ever reach the end, but I think you have a duty to leave that 30% with a feeling of satisfaction and my ability to bring it all together and end on some kind of takeaway was honed over years of writing thousands of articles.

Just not today.

I Won the Invisible Blogger Award!!!

I have no idea who sent it because the message was blank, nor do I know the rules. In fact, I’m not really sure it was the Invisible Blogger Award. I just had a sense I won something. I’ve just nominated 12 of you for it! You won’t find the message in your inbox.

Yesterday, I was in an academic mood, so Iwrote a half-decently researched article about the COVID-19 (You have to add the 19 or people are going to be confused which COVID you’re talking about) virus and how the pornography industry was taking advantage of situation of being forced to live Thoreau’s “Walden” in real time. Since then, I’ve had a contest with my 17-year-old son and 40-year-old brother to find obscure, strange and ultimately really funny if you’re way-too-tired videos on the Internet.

We all did this for way too long and the videos are still being exchanged. I won’t give you the complete rundown, but my favorites are involving music, so I’ll tackle just that genre today. If I get a good response, I’ll provide more. I’d also love recommendations to throw back and my brother and son.

So, if you’ve got a few minutes and want to laugh, shake your head, be confused, smile, etc., I offer these music videos for your Sunday.

 

Dead Giveaway — This news story is around seven or eight years old, but it was one of those creepy guys keeps a family in his basement stories. When one of the kids escaped, they ran to the neighbor’s house, where she met Charles Ramsey. He was a hero, and gave the same hilarious interview to four or five national news stations following the capture of his neighbor. For those people who are fans of the Netflix show, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” this is the video upon which its open credits was inspired by. Whoever auto-tuned this had great material as this guy should have done into standup after this because he was a naturally funny storyteller.

 

Shia LaBeouf I don’t know much about the creation of this video as it was just introduced to me yesterday. Since it has 66 million hits, I’m clearly late to the party. Once I’m done trying to avoid my real work for the day (end-of-the-month freelancer mad dash to finish stuff you promised for the first of the month) I’ll find the origin story that must be out there somewhere. I found myself singing this one this morning.

 

Sexy Sax Man – This guy actually became a bit of a minor celebrity when he pulled this viral prank repeatedly in the LA area, ultimately landing one of the joke spots on America’s Got Talent auditions show. The premise is simple. This guy shows up and plays the opening sax solo of Wham’s “Careless Whisper” that we all know. If you want the longer version of any of the clips in this, you can find them online.

 

WTF Are We Doing Out Here – Warning, Adult Language. If you have kids, turn it up loud enough so they can hear it, too. This is a parody video of a parody video by the brilliant MelodySheep, who I’ll talk about more in the next entry. As a former new reporter, this is a question that we all asked ourselves many, many times. Sometimes you don’t report because it’s news. You report because you can’t have dead air, or a blank page in the newspaper. But, some people isolated the funniest part of the video, and put a killer track behind it. I think if you let it repeat and just lean back and close your eyes, it becomes more of a philosophical question. I’m glad I was long done smoking weed when I found this or I would have been mesmerized. And for those who like this, there is a 10-hour version out there.

Garden of Your Mind – This isn’t at all funny, but I love it and wanted to include it. Neither my parents, nor my children, can really understand the power of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. For a little kid hiding the secret he was being abused at the babysitter’s during the day, getting 30 minutes of this calming, reassuring figure after returning home to the safety of my house with my parents, was a helpful transition to my two worlds. This was done by the brilliant digital artist MelodySheep. I urge you to check out his stuff on YouTube. It is absolutely brilliant. I could have filled this post with just his stuff, from remixing Carl Sagan to Willy Wonka, his output is true art. Between documentaries and movies, Mister Rogers been getting a lot of attention lately. If you don’t understand the big deal, it’s OK…but it’s not hype. More than any other media personality, he helped shape who I am today.

Look, a Wagon Wheel – I like cheese, sometimes to my digestive system’s detriment. But how did I get this way? I blame this public service announcement, which played at least 5 times an hour during children’s programming of the early 1980s. Warning, if you were a child of this time period, this may cause flashbacks…and a desire for a grilled cheese sandwich.

Captain Lou Albano – So, to end this mess, we look to a song originally recorded by cult favorite NRBQ in the early 80s. In 1985, the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) released a version covered by Albano with a lot of additional talking between him and George “The Animal” Steele. More novel than the song is the video. If it look rudimentary, it’s because it is. Before memes, before YouTube, before everybody and their brother were slick filmmakers, you had to have some skills. I first saw this video in probably 2000 and it was cutting edge technology for the time.

The Grateful Eight…on the Right Date!

I haven’t managed to get one of these posted on the eighth for a couple of months, but dang it, I’m going to get it right this month. It’s time for the Grateful Eight…eight things I’m grateful for in my everyday life. They can be super important – like being grateful for oxygen or your family – or they can be rather mundane and silly. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts in the comments or steal the entire concept.

Balance – While I am clumsy and will roll an ankle with no warning, I’ve noticed I’m continually getting better managing the balance of professional and personal life and devoting the proper amount of time and energy to each. I feel like I’m learning when to pull back if I’m tired and need a break, but almost as importantly, not feeling guilty for it. I spent decades not being able to do this, so I know it’ll always be a work in progress, but I feel good about my ability to balance things better than in the past and I think it’s important to recognize when we’re getting better at a skill that has alluded us.

The EZ Pass – I know it’s called other things in different parts of the country, but the ability to just glide by those other drivers who don’t have the electronic toll payer is priceless. On my recent roadtrip, I probably saved 20 minutes at the George Washington Bridge not having to stop and pay whatever the ridiculous toll is for the pleasure (?) of going from New York to New Jersey and vice versa. I bet on the entire trip, I saved 45 minutes not having to stop to pay tolls.

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Pre-Cut Cheese – Maybe I’m just too young to understand the concept of something being “the greatest thing since sliced bread” but I’ve noticed in the last few years they now sell pre-cut blocks of cheese, the perfect size for putting on a Ritz cracker. While it pains me to write this entry without a single “cutting the cheese” joke, those of us who love cheese and have wasted too much of our life cutting slices too thin, too thick, or at a weird angle were given a gift when the fine people at Cracker Barrel started packaging it pre-cut.

Cheers – I’ve decided to binge watch my first streaming TV show. I literally haven’t used Netflix in years, and it just happened to be on the TV when I took over the living room the other night. Now I watch about 3-4 episodes of this NBC classic from the 80s and early 90s most nights. This was such a great show. It’s one of those I never see in reruns which is a shame because I think there would still be a huge audience for it.

Coronavirus – Because weren’t we all getting tired of the Australian Wildfires and ready for something else to worry about we can’t control? Remember to wash your hands. And when the scare is over, for God’s sake, keep washing your hands. We use Clorox wipes in our house, even pre-plague, but I had to go to four places to get them yesterday. In one sense I’m glad…people are finally not being disgusting, but I have a sense they won’t be tough to find in a few weeks.

People Still Buying My Book – The softcover version has been out 10 weeks as of today. It’s still regularly in the top 1% of all titles on Amazon and it’s now in the phase where libraries are buying it and they’re snapping it up much more than my first book. It won’t ever get to the point where I can even claim to make close to minimum wage for writing and promoting the book, but I’m not doing it for money at this point. I just feel validated people are interested. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s still like 20% off cover price on Amazon as I write this.

My immune system – Not only do I not have the Coronavirus, I don’t have the nasty sinus infection my wife has nor whatever my son seems to be fighting off. I’ve probably had two colds in five years and (knock on wood) don’t think I’ve been sick in about two years. As an aside about washing your hands and keeping your area clean…I was in jail for six months back in 2016. We kept that pod sparkling clean, mopping, washing tables, the bathroom, doorknobs, faucet handles, etc. every day. I didn’t see a single person come through their in my time and end up getting sick. There is something to battling germs, even if it’s just spraying Lysol a couple of times a day. I work from home and am not often around big groups. I should get sick more often, but because I maintain a clean environment, I generally don’t get sick very often.

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Time Healing Wounds/Making Things Seem Less Important – I’ve slowed down my interviews for the current book as I work on other things, and in not giving 5 a week, I’m noticing in those I do give far less attention being paid to my personal story, and the parts of it that I got in trouble for. As I approach the six-year anniversary of being arrested, I’m grateful that we reach a point where people’s pasts aren’t forgotten, but don’t need to be dredged up every moment. I did some horrible, stupid shit in 2013, was called on it in 2014, and finally paid the price in 2016. But I also turned everything around, became a porn addiction expert and am now doing good in the present. It’s reassuring that while I should never forget, nor should others, what happened, it’s possible to move past it and focus on what I’m doing today.

Like I ask every month, I’d love to hear some of the things you’re grateful for. Just take a minute and reflect on today or the last few days. What has made you stop and say, “I like this…This is convenient…This is important…I am grateful”? As I said, it’s important things and not-so-important things, but it’s a great exercise to be thankful for things.

The Grateful Eight, Only One Day Late!

I know that I’ve been providing less entries lately, but one that I enjoy writing and I think is a healthy exercise for me has been the Grateful Eight, even if it isn’t always coming out on the Eighth. So, here’s another example and I hope you’ll let me know of some things that you’re grateful for in the comments.

To refresh the concept, on the eighth day of the month, you’re supposed to write eight things that you’re grateful for and make several of the non-traditional. We’re all grateful for health, family, etc., and it’s important to acknowledge that, but it’s just as important to acknowledge the mundane and trivial that help to flesh out the quieter, less memorable moments.

Anyway, here are my Grateful Eight for February.

  1. Tiramisu – My 44th birthday was yesterday, and I frankly just can’t take the frosting on any cake these days larger than a cupcake. Over the last 10 years I’ve been introduced to and fell in love with this dessert and for a guy whose sweet tooth is rapidly fading, it’s the perfect piece of birthday cake.
  2. Unexpected Plans – When you get married, have children, work from home and have to abide by a few rules because of something colossally stupid you’ve done, spontaneity isn’t a great presence in your life, which makes when it happens all the more special. I sat down at my computer on Friday around noon and by 2 p.m., the opportunity to road-trip with my daughter to North Carolina at the end of this month and fly to Los Angeles with my son in April presented themselves. No, I don’t get to scratch any new ground covered off my map, but in two hours, two experiences I know I’ll remember forever materialized. Funny the way things work.
  3. The Sun – When I was struggling with the Higher Power concept in my first few days of AA at my first rehab, one of the people suggested I just make the sun my Higher Power since it was literally high in the air and provided all the power for life on earth. I’ve never forgot this idea. All life on Earth, would essentially be dead with 90 minutes if the sun flamed out. Most of us would be dead with 20. Glad it’s there, aren’t you?
  4. Bell Telephone systems – Yeah, it’s a rant about being an old person, but remember when you’d get pissed off when your phone bill was over $50 because somebody spent too many minutes on long distance? We’re now paying nearly $400 for a family of four on our cell phones per month and after shopping around, can maybe save only $50 with another carrier. We survived before Smart Phones – we just had to look stuff up in the encyclopedia and telephone book.
  5. Not Being a Hoarder – My parents aren’t hoarders and with the spate of people in my family who have died over the last 5 years, they’ve been serving as executors on a lot of estates and all of these people had giant houses and wouldn’t be called hoarders technically, but that’s only because of the space they had. I like the fact I live in a very small house. It forces me to prioritize stuff. I just got a bunch of clothes from my uncle’s estate and instead of just adding them to my closet, I made sure to try and donate or throw away one old piece for every new piece I added. My parents aren’t hoarders either, which when I’m forced to clean out their home…hopefully not for another 20+ years…I won’t be faced with what they’re dealing with.
  6. Sugar-filled Kool-Aid – Going hand-in-hand with my rant about phones, I tried Kool-Aid for the first time in 35 years the other day. They don’t make it with real sugar anymore like when I was kid. It tasted like nothing. That stuff back in the day? That was the shit.
  7. Glasses – I’m not nearly as visually impaired as most people who wear glasses. It’s mostly because I’m in front a computer screen 12-15 hours per day and have been since I was 17, which was a pre-Internet, Smart phone world, so my eyes get tired quickly now. I’m thankful though because I think of those people who helped settle the West, or the Europeans in the 1500s and 1600s who led the world, or all of the people in poor, developing countries these days. How much must it suck to have blurry vision all the time? Really glad I have my glasses. Also glad I could find a picture of the Kool-Aid man in glasses to combine two things on this list for visual representation.
  8. Dog Shit – I’m just kidding. That’s not on my list. My ability to not take things like this too seriously and think outside the box is something I’m grateful for. Yeah, I don’t always know the right time and place and it often leaves people confused, but it always amuses me. There are people who didn’t think writing Dog Shit was funny. That’s OK. We can’t all be as hilarious as me. Be thankful I didn’t try and find a picture of this.

 

Like I mentioned at the top, I’d love to know what some of the random things you’re grateful for in your life are that aren’t obvious. Practicing gratitude has been one of the best ways to keep perspective on things in my post-recovery world, even the mundane things. It is with them that I often realized how truly lucky I am to lead the life I do.

Random Thoughts, Feb 2020: Super Bowl Halftime, Porn is Everywhere, Contact Your Local Library for Me

Being a New England Patriots fan, one of the few perks of living in the tundra known as Maine, this year’s Super Bowl was far less important than most in recent memory. I did watch the game, however, and while it was tremendous, I’m hearing a debate between those who enjoyed the dancing and pageantry of the halftime show and those who thought it was an oversexed, adults-only debacle.

For those who missed it, the halftime show featured Jennifer Lopez, who returned to acting last year as an aging stripper in the film Hustlers, taking certain inspiration from that role, including a brief pole dance and Shakira, known for her belly dancing-inspired moves, doing some kind of oral sex equivalent tongue wagging that has become the most popular meme this week.

Taking a cue from both women’s Latino roots, the music was fast-paced and they were usually surrounded by dancers who one may feel were gyrating in a sexual manner in too-revealing costumes while others might defend it as a normal piece of the Latin music culture.

Despite my strong desire to educate the world about pornography addiction, I’ve got to be honest, I find both sides a bit extreme. It was a Super Bowl halftime show. I’m not a fan of either woman’s music, so I was playing on my phone. I think the last one I watched was Lady Gaga a few years back when the Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit. Take that, Atlanta fans.

Could the halftime show possibly trigger someone who is new to recovery or send a person in their addiction off to the computer for a round of watching pornography? Sure, but as with my alcoholism, I don’t think the world should stop because I had a problem. I had to get over the fact people drink around me, not that they needed to stop drinking because of me.

I just looked it up and the highest-rated halftime show ever was Katy Perry’s, so apparently they keep track of things like that. If you’re offended by what you’re watching on the halftime show, turn it off. Sports and television are entertainment mediums that depend on audience engagement. The less eyes on the product, the less money they make.

Ironically, the Super Bowl is great for anti-porn advocates as PornHub always reports a sharp decrease in consumption on Super Bowl Sunday. And seriously, do you really want them to bring back Up With People?


I did a podcast recording a week or so ago and somebody asked a question that I have never been posed. Aside from simply being refreshing, it was a terrific question and I thought I’d share the answer here.

I was asked: “You say that you are nearly six years sober with no relapses. Are you saying in those six years, you’ve never seen pornography?”

I gave my typical response to the question “What is pornography?” in that it’s two-fold. First, anything can be pornography if you use it in a certain way. One person’s Victoria’s Secret catalog is a junk mail nuisance while it’s another’s main source of visual stimulation. More pertinent to that question is the second definition, which is what we can all agree is pornography. That’s the XXX stuff that is shown on the pay-per-view channels with names like Spice and Xtacy, in magazines like Hustler and Penthouse, and on websites like PornHub.

Have I seen any of this second classification of pornography in the last six years?

Of course. I have no idea how I could have avoided it.

In jail, there was a guy who had a couple of small hardcore sex photos taken from a magazine. I’ve seen street vendors in NYC selling the stuff. As a guy who writes regularly about pornography and includes pictures with his blogs, sometimes the Google search terms bring up pictures that go well beyond an R rating. And there’s been more than one movie I’ve seen in the last six years that while not technically pornographic, sure pushed the boundaries in the name of “art.”

So, do I feel like I relapsed? Not at all.

I’ve seen alcohol plenty of times since I got sober. Hell, we have some here in my house. Have I drank it? No. Am I still sober? Yes. When I saw any of that pornography, did it give me urges to engage in self-pleasure using visual aids? Nope. Did I engage in self-pleasure using visual aids? Nope. Do I reasonably try to avoid seeing such pornography? Absolutely.


My book He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions has been performing decently. It was the publisher’s best performing new title over the last two months and ranked in the top of its “new release” category in three categories on Amazon during that time. You’re still invited to buy a copy.

The rollout of an “evergreen” book (meaning that there is no huge element of time involved) is a slower process than many books. First, the softcover comes out, then the Kindle and in this case, we’ve been lucky enough to also have a hardcover run. It is very cool seeing my book in hardcover. It makes me feel like a real book writer for the first time.

Marketing has involved blanketing just about anybody who would listen to me, as I started doing multiple podcasts every week dating back to November. That schedule is finally slowing down as I now am more selectively targeting audiences.

One area that my first book did well and I’m hoping this one also will also is with libraries. A lot of people don’t realize it, but libraries purchase their books like anyone else. Sure, there are certain titles that are gimmies like Stephen King or the next political tell-all, but for most of us, we are competing for limited shelf space.

How does a library decide what’s important? From its patrons.

I’m going to ask you, especially if you didn’t purchase a copy of my book, to do me a solid favor right now. Go to the website of your local library. Usually the site will have a search function that lets you search their catalog or the site. Search the site with the phrase “suggest a title for purchase.” Most of you will find a link to the form you need. If you can’t find this, and the link isn’t in one of the drop-down menus, just simply go to the “contact us” or “ask a librarian” form they all have.

Then, fill in the blanks. By you simply saying you want He’s a Porn Addict, Now What? and listing my co-author Tony Overbay in the author field (he’s listed first, so it’s easier for them to find if you use his name), you’re doing a lot to increase the chances of getting the book into your local library. You may not need it, but there are probably people who do, and your library may never get the book if you don’t suggest it. You’re doing a good thing for me, and for those who may benefit.

So, go do that right now. I’ll wait. Seriously. It takes 2 minutes. Please.

Thank you.