I’m Still Stereotyping Addicts…Are You?

I had a terrific discussion last night with a mental health professional and we talked about the stigmatizing stereotypes around not just pornography addiction, but addiction in general. I recognized that for some addictions, I probably still have a bit of “smartening up” to do.

One of the things I preach whenever I talk to a group or do an interview is that there is no stereotypical porn addict. I was a white-collar, married, father-of-two who was seen as a pillar of the community. Heck, when you think “porn addict,” you probably don’t think of a guy who was awarded the Key to the City. But I know people also don’t think 50-year-old female nurse, or high school art teacher or well-respected dentist, but I met these people and dozens if not hundreds more during my journey.

Do you know who I didn’t meet? The pimply-faced, 19-year-old who is living in mother’s basement who is socially awkward and has never kissed a girl in real life, but I think this is most people’s image of who a porn addict is. I’m sure he’s out there, but I’ve never met him.

We talked about my belief that this kind of stereotyping helped contribute to the opiate/opioid crisis. The drug problem we face today shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are episodes of Dragnet from the late 1970s where they are talking about the dangers of heroin. You can go back to rap music from the late 1980s and early 1990s where they are talking about abusing Vicodin. It’s not like we didn’t see it coming. Opiates/opioids were not invented in 2009, yet it only seems like we’ve cared about it for 10 years or so.

Why? I think it’s because we put such a stigma on drug users in the 1980s through many of the anti-drug campaigns. “Just Say No to Drugs” is a good message, but I think my 8-year-old mind also heard, “…because those who say yes to drugs are dangerous and/or bad people.” I believe as a society, we looked down on drug users as being from the wrong side of the tracks. We may have had a distant cousin or a friend-of-a-friend who had a cocaine issue, never imaging how close to home the opiate/opioid epidemic would eventually hit for most people only a couple decades later.

That same decade, we gave a lot of attention to AIDS. It was really the cause of the 1980s, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Thankfully, a ton of money went into research to create drugs like AZT and societal standards, like how donated blood is handled or needle exchanges for IV drug users, changed. Earlier this month, it was the anniversary of Magic Johnson announcing he was HIV positive. Remember when that happened? Many of you are probably too young because it took place November 1991. Everyone thought he’d be dead in a year because up until that point, people died that quickly. Twenty-eight years later, he’s still here. I bring up AIDS because it shows what we can do as a society when we heap attention, money and research on a problem: We can solve it.

It wasn’t until I went to my first inpatient rehab that I actually met heroin users. I met meth users and pill poppers and people whose alcohol addiction made mine seem like a walk in the park. Essentially, I met people who I would have crossed the street to avoid before I got there.

What I recognized was that these were some of the most real people in the world. They didn’t judge me and they helped create a safe space where I could be myself and share my truth. Unlike the people who I dealt with every day in my professional life, they were open and honest and made me feel OK for being who I really was. Luckily, I adapted quickly and changed my attitude about who drug users really were. I needed to meet these people before I could change my mind.

The same is true about those with eating disorders. At the second rehab I was at there were probably 8 women and 1 man in their eating disorder program. Sex/porn addicts have a lot in common with people who suffer with eating disorders. I’ve only had this proven further to me in the fact that this blog about it is the most read entry in the history of this site.

In getting to know several of these women very well, I can tell you that not all of them were stick thin. I don’t think anything they ever saw on TV or in a fashion magazine led them to become the way they were. Some of them could be quite complimentary toward certain parts of their appearance. Getting to know them one-on-one blew apart 95% of the stereotypes I had about women with eating disorders.

I’ve not met any people who need a 12-step group like Codependents Anonymous, but I don’t have the greatest stereotype of codependent people in my head, nor do I about people who end up with video game addiction or a few other maladies out there. The conversation I had last night made me recognize that I still classify certain people a certain way because I just haven’t had the personal interaction with them, yet I’ve had enough interaction with other kinds of people that I should know better by now.

I’m not going to wait until January 1 to start. My November 22 resolution is to stop stereotyping people who suffer from any addiction or behavioral disorder.

The Horrible Truth of How I Ended Up Here

There’s been a lot of positive comments thrown in my direction lately, both here and on the podcasts I share my story. I know a bunch will come when my book comes out. I appreciate all of them and treat them not as fertilizer for my ego, but as an indicator that I’m doing the right thing now. I also realize they come from people who don’t actually know me in my everyday life, despite the fact I may share more here than anywhere else, and that helps keep things in perspective.

I’m going to share a story today that is honest, but may get your scorn instead of sympathy or admiration. I think that people forget just how I ended up here sometimes. It’s not a pleasant story, but it’s one that I have to retell myself every so often.

I shared a more graphic version of this in my first book. I’m going to tone it down quite a bit here and not talk about any specific incident in detail, but I thought it was time to come clean with my readers about what was going on in the weeks and months leading up to my arrest. Trigger warning, I guess. Scummy person warning, I’m sure of.

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After a 20+ year addiction to pornography, I made the fateful leap to the world of online chatrooms in mid-2013. My illness reached a critical point. Cross-addicted with alcohol, suffering the consequences of an ill-timed abandonment of my bipolar disorder medication, growing estranged from my family and watching my professional life begin to crumble, I let myself slide into a place of emotional, mental and physical disrepair unlike I’d experienced.

I told myself I was a victim of the world around me – a world conspiring on all fronts to take me down. As with so many other addictions, when what you’re doing isn’t meeting your self-soothing needs, you up the ante. I abandoned traditional online pornography sites for peer-to-peer webcam sites. This was when rock bottom started to get in sight.

These were not the traditional adult sites where one pays to talk to a stripper or “model.” The one I found was fairly simple: two random users connect via their webcams. If either doesn’t like what they see on their screen, they click “NEXT”.

Men outnumbered women 20-to-1. If you were going to get a woman to stop and talk to you, you’d better be handsome and have something fast to say, or in my case, type. I’ve never had a problem with a quick comment, but I wasn’t going to make the cut in the looks department. I looked as much the haggard late-30s failure as I felt.

Despite the site claiming to have over 40,000 people online at any given time, I noticed several of the same attractive men – the kind I bet women stopped for – popping up on my screen repeatedly. They were always in the same spot, wearing the same clothes, day-after-day. Something wasn’t right.

When the same buff guy bathed in orange light sitting against his couch appeared, I was able to get him to stop and tell me what was going on.

Whoever was actually on the other end of the computer explained I was watching a video. He couldn’t get women to stop to talk to him, so he found a video of a “hot dude” who appeared to be typing on his computer. He said women wouldn’t stop to talk to the real him, but he could probably get one out of five to stop now, and a quarter of those could be convinced to take their clothes off and/or perform a sexual act.

I found a video at a site containing these kinds of catfishing clips he directed me toward. A handsome guy in a white T-shirt and basketball shorts was laying on his bed, typing away. During the 14-minute video, he smiled, waved, made a peace symbol, laughed, pulled his shirt up to show his abs and took his shirt off completely. I isolated all of those moments into individual clips, including the main video, nine minutes of him typing into his laptop. I could play it on a loop for an hour without raising suspicion.

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I’m a project guy. I like to figure out how to get an idea off the ground, fine-tune it, and move on. My life at that point was more about being a fix-it guy, and I don’t play that role well. I was trying to save a business I’d long lost interest in. I was watching relationships with my family fall apart and had no idea how to salvage them. I was over-indulging in pornography and alcohol addictions I’d mostly been able to keep under control for two decades and it was taking a physical and mental toll. Instead of living a life where I was creating things, I was putting Band-Aids all over a balloon that was about to pop.

Then I found that website, learned how to manipulate a video and my warped, decaying mind found a new project. I’m a methodical worker. I experiment, analyze, experiment more, analyze again. I’d already cracked the hard part learning the technical end of being an online groomer. As somebody who interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of people in my years as a journalist, I had an above-average ability to read people and get them to talk. As a charismatic business owner, I had plenty of techniques to convince people to do what I needed. These are not good skills for a sick person with no sense of boundaries or consequences to possess.

I’d seen how the average guy on one of these sites operates. If they could get a woman to stop, within 30 seconds of talking to them, they’d tell the female to flash their breasts. I could never see how the low success rate of that strategy reaffirmed it as the go-to technique.

I think these are the guys who frequent strip clubs and don’t understand it’s a show. They believe all women are nymphomaniacs just waiting to be commanded to remove their clothes in everyday life. I wasn’t interested in stripper types, who put on a show for money or nymphos, who made things easy for the simpler guys.

I wanted to talk to average, everyday women (or at least as close as I could find on a peer-to-peer cam site) who would hit “NEXT” the moment a guy like that demanded nudity. I wanted to find a woman who believed she’d never do that kind of thing and then figure out the path to push her to get there.

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I still got the NEXT treatment from most women and of those who stopped, if they looked underage, couldn’t hold a conversation for more than three seconds, or immediately steered the conversation toward sex – an indicator that it was probably a video – I’d hit the NEXT button.

The women I wanted to manipulate were never going to comply with a direct request. Much like a sales call when I sold advertising at my magazine, I had to build rapport and trust before I could close. Treating these scenarios like business transactions and not viewing the females on the other end of the computer as people would have been a red flag for me at so many other points in my life. Short of a professional intervention, I don’t know what could have stopped my increasingly poor judgment. I just saw “right” and “wrong” as concepts others lived by, not me.

I claimed to be a struggling model, surviving only by working as a personal trainer. I said I didn’t like training buff guys because they intimidated me. I preferred average women because they were more “real.” Ironic, I guess. Instead of taking a scholarship for college, I wanted to see if I could be a model, which broke my parents’ hearts when I left high school since I graduated second in my class. I said I wasn’t making it as a model and was considering quitting and heading back home.

So, I’ve created a smart, good-looking guy who prefers average girls and is trying to follow his dream, but is getting discouraged…and hasn’t yet said a sexual word. For the kind of women in need of attention on a site like this, you couldn’t build a better guy. At least, I couldn’t.

I made a show of not wanting to share my personal information. Most of them had never encountered a guy who accused them of wanting too much personal information. Many of them would start blurting facts about themselves just to prove I could trust them. I felt so powerful, never appreciating how my sense of good judgment was disappearing more every day.

I could take whatever information they gave me and while we held a conversation on one part of my screen, I’d be figuring everything out I could about them on the other side. If I discovered a lot of photos on Instagram of them as a competitive show jumper, I would somehow introduce a reference to my sister loving horses. If there was a Facebook entry about the third anniversary of their grandmother’s death, I’d casually mention mine died a few weeks earlier, but I couldn’t go home for the funeral. Most people simply don’t realize how much information they share about themselves and how that can lead to a world of other information. How do you think psychics are able to be so accurate?

Inevitably, they’d ask about my modeling and want to see examples. I found a model on the Abercrombie & Fitch website with a passing resemblance. There was another on a lifeguard supplies site who could pass. All I had to do to find these was take a screen capture of the video I was using and drop it into Google Images. When a woman would ask, “Is that really you?” I’d talk about lighting and makeup and how I always look so much worse in real life. They’d uniformly tell me I was wrong.

Along the way, I’d gauge just how much my story was getting them to have feelings. If none were developing, I’d cut my losses and let them go. If I wasn’t successfully manipulating them, my diseased mind saw no reason to continue and I was on to the next, or if it was past 3 a.m. at the point, I’d call it a night. I needed to get my 2-3 hours of sleep before I faced the world that hated me, I told myself.

In November of 2013, a female who popped up on my screen that I told myself looked old enough turned out to be underage. As I did with all of the other women, I took a couple screen shots of her at the end of our session. They were trophies of my accomplishments, not used for sexual gratification, but used to convince myself I had some semblance of control in my life and could reach goals I set. It’s still hard for me understand how I could rationalize that night after night, but I guess there wasn’t a lot of rationalization going on then.

I was informed about her age when the police came knocking at my door in March 2014. They found my folder of “trophies” and were able to establish she was the only one underage. With the way I was thinking then, I probably got lucky, as much as it hurts to recognize that.

I’m at the six-year anniversary of talking to that girl. She’s in her early 20s somewhere now. I hope my transgression didn’t cause any lasting permanent damage. Nobody deserves to be taken advantage of that way, at any age.

My poor choices led me there. It was nobody’s fault except mine. My poor choices also led me here, to create this blog, give the interviews and write my books. Hopefully, at some point in the far future, the good I do in my life now will cosmically, karmically and in-actual-fact, outweigh the harm I did.

Guest Post: 4 Things to Determine If You Can Trust Your Sex-Addicted Spouse

For this guest post, I welcome Eddie Capparucci. He’s an LPC, CSAS, CPCS, a licensed professional counselor, certified in sexual and pornography addiction. He is the author of the soon-to-be-released book “Going Deeper: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction.”
Pre-orders are now available at  https://www.blackrosewriting.com/nonfiction/goingdeeper  Use the promo code PREORDER2019 to save 15%. He can be reached at edcappa@gmail.com.

By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, CSAS, CPCS

It is one of the most common questions a spouse will ask during a couples’ first counseling session when a sex addiction has been discovered. “How will I know when I will be able to trust him again”?

It’s a great question because at the core of the couples’ issues is the broke bond of trust. Sex-addicted partners:

  • Violate their commitment, to be honest, and faithful.
  • Drive a wedge in the relationship that feels like the size of the Grand Canyon.
  • Create a sense of hopelessness that leaves the other feeling numbed and confused.

Ask any partner who has been betrayed sexually and they will tell you, while the infidelity is like a punch in the gut, the worst part is the dishonesty and lying. While they hate being cheated upon they detest the lack of integrity their partner displays in their attempts to cover their tracks. That is why at some point, the focus on re-building trust is as critical as helping the sex-addicted partner manage the addiction itself.

So how can a betrayed partner start to become comfortable and regain a sense of confidence that their sex-addicted spouse is safe? Let’s examine four key factors to look for to determine if your spouse is becoming trustworthy.

  1. He is committed to his recovery

Of course, this is the one number key to not only learning to manage a sexual addiction but to begin the process of rebuilding a tattered relationship. A sex addict must demonstrate dedication to the game plan that has been created to assist them in breaking the bondage of secrecy and betrayal. I have seen partners who dive in and go beyond what is asked of them in recovery. I also have witnessed spouses who barely scratch the surface in doing the work that is required of them. When this happens, it is incredibly disheartening to the wounded spouse.

If your spouse is following a treatment regimen and sharing with you his progress, then have hope better days await both of you.

  1. He doesn’t shut you down when you vent

One of the first things I will tell a husband who has abused sex is that his wife has a barrel of rocks and she will be throwing them your way for the next 12-24 months. The ability for a woman to properly grieve the betrayal of the relationship is critical in order for there to be a chance for the relationship to move ahead.

But some men struggle when their grieving wives are throwing rocks. They become defensive and attempt to shut down the conversation. However, this is a grave mistake. When a woman is not given an opportunity to grieve she will continue to sit on those emotions and learn how to express them in other ways including perhaps being passive aggressive. As I tell men, when she grieves, she is healing. Let her grieve.

You can start to sense your spouse is getting better when they can sit with you in your pain. This demonstrates they understand the extent of your anguish and are committed to helping you get to a better emotional place.

  1. He starts to develop and engage in healthy communities

Clinical studies have demonstrated a critical key to recovering from sex addiction is participating in a healthy community. Yet, it’s the most significant pushback we receive from our sex addiction clients. In their intense shame and embarrassment, it would be easier to get them to agree to walk a tightrope across two New York City skyscrapers than attend a recovery group meeting. Men who refuse to participate in a support group are playing Russian roulette with their recovery. The lone wolf fails.

As the wounded spouse, if you see your husband is attending a support group; working with a sponsor and engaging in a men’s group, you should feel comfortable that he is learning how to step outside of his negative comfort zone. Establishing authentic relationships with others will help him maintain accountability, which for you and your relationship is a significant win.

  1. He demonstrates the ability to attach with you emotionally

A man struggling with sexual addiction is confused about intimacy. Somewhere along the line, they confused physical intimacy for emotional intimacy. They have an easier time connecting physical, and therefore their emphasis is on sexual relations.

When you find your spouse being able to identify and express emotions, or showing signs of being open and vulnerable, you know he is on the right track of recovery. Sexual addiction is an intimacy disorder, and the course of treatment is designed to broaden the addict’s view of healthy intimacy to include an emotional connection.

An addict who is committed to recovery; supports his wife’s grieving; engages in a healthy community and begins to identify and express deeper emotions is an individual who is on the right path for recovery.

Is It Ethical to Attempt to Make Money Off Of My Porn Addiction Educating?

One of the nicer things about this past weekend when I met with a half-dozen people individually to discuss porn addiction at a Massachusetts library was the feedback that my time educating people and being a source of support is not being wasted. I need to hear that now and then, but I need to begin to figure out the next step.

On an average day, I probably devote 2-3 hours to my blog: writing, editing (though some days you’d never know it) posting, responding to comments and that doesn’t include the time I look at other people’s blogs and comment on their entries.

I’m at a place in advance of the new book coming out soon where I’m devoting 2-3 hours per week on a bunch of the last-minute edits and other things that need to be done before its printed. I’m also doing 2-4 podcasts/interviews per week that usually take 3-5 hours total.

Adding that all up, on a slow week I’m devoting a minimum of 20 hours and on a busy week it’s closer to 30. That’s a busy part-time job. Throw in something like Saturday when I was gone from the house for 13 hours and spent around $75 and it’s a full-time job where I lose money.

I still feel a mighty pull to educate and help wherever I can. It feels like one of the most natural things I’ve ever done. I have felt like I’m supposed to be a writer. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a traveler. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a father and I’ve felt like I’m supposed to educate and help others about porn addiction. That’s really it…four things.

Last year, I tried to monetize this a little bit by starting pornaddictcounseling.org. I’ve helped several people through that site and made a few dollars doing it, but not enough to really make a difference in the bottom line of my life. I’ll admit I didn’t promote or push it, but I don’t know if that would have made a difference. I’ve been debating shutting it down before another year of charges is applied to the site.

I’m not going to make a lot of money on the next book unless something very unexpected happens. I have to split royalties with my co-author and don’t think I’ll actually see a dime of them until early 2021 if I read my contract correctly.

I know that I need to spend more time looking for ghostwriting and freelance writing work to get a bit more income through the door, but that’s on me, and isn’t really the point here.

One part of me sees this really going to the next level. Writing more books that make some money. Getting guest speaking gigs where I’m actually paid to appear and a bump in visibility that gets me on higher-profile podcasts and radio shows, in turn leading to more money-making opportunities. If I can pull back on the freelance writing time because I’m making money with this, I can do even more with the education and speaking, but I need money to replace that money I don’t make writing. Isn’t making a living and helping people the best of both worlds? Hell, doctors do it every day.

The other side of me says that if I start doing any more than covering expenses, I’m going to enter a world of exploiting the situation. Why are you reading this right now? Because I did a horrible thing. Why did I get to participate at the library this past weekend? Because there’s a girl who (at the time) was underage and I encouraged her to show me her body. Why do I have a second book coming out? Because my story is unique and special for all the wrong reasons. Isn’t there an argument to be made I’m exploiting myself, the girl, the crime, the whole situation by trying to make anything resembling a profit? Isn’t there an argument that any money I make is almost dirty? These are arguments that plague me.

Porn addiction is starting to gain some traction in the mainstream. People are just starting to talk about it. With two books behind me, my personal experience with addiction and the wealth of knowledge I have about the subject puts me in a position where I may be able to capitalize on opportunities in the near future as this becomes even more mainstream. But should I be talking about this is terms of entrepreneurialism?

I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer. I’m going to keep doing what I do as long as I can afford it. Maybe the rest will work itself out.

The Piece of Advice that Stopped Me From Relapsing

I’ve mentioned several times that I’ve never relapsed. I’m very proud of that fact, although I think it speaks to my self-centered stubbornness more than anything else. It’s nice that personality trait has finally paid off. I also think my obsessive nature toward statistics constantly reminds me that I’d be into my 50s before I’d have a streak this long again if I relapsed today.

That’s not to say it’s always been easy. There were nights in that first year when I was awake at home after everybody had gone to bed and it wouldn’t have been hard to grab one of the laptops or a tablet and start surfing the Internet. I could have had as many drinks as I wanted, too. The lure toward drinking was always stronger during the day, with porn taking over after dark.

I was given a piece of advice from my favorite counselor at my rehabs (who I’ll tell a longer story about tomorrow, as promised earlier this week) and it was so simple, but it’s been the thing that saved me with drinking quite a few times and porn more than once.

Bob’s advice? Get up and go sit over there.

That’s all. That’s it. Get up and go sit over there.

People will dismiss this as too simple. It’s not.

I never actually tried this until the day I was going to my second rehab in Texas in the late spring of 2015. My wife dropped me off at the airport in Portland, Maine, around 11 in the morning. Portland’s airport isn’t big, but it’s got a couple small restaurants and shops.

As I checked in and found my gate, I found myself facing the Shipyard Brewing Company’s airport brewpub. Here in Maine, Shipyard is probably the most famous craft brewery.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. I had not been in an airport alcohol-free, much less sober, in probably 20 years. I didn’t realize it, but flying was one of my triggers. Apparently the fear of hurtling like a dart into a side of a mountain in a giant tin tube was something I needed relief from.

At this point, I’d been alcohol-free since April 1, 2014, so I was about 14 months sober. It was 14 months more than I’d been since I was 15 or 16 years old, but dammit, I was in an airport and despite my bail conditions forbidding me from drinking, nobody in the airport was about to give me a breathalyzer.

I walked over to the bar, not sure what I was going to do. Aside from the airport thing, I was nervous about heading off to sex/porn rehab and knew the beer could calm my nerves.

As I stood in front of the bar, just far enough back that the bartender wouldn’t ask me what I wanted, I remembered the advice from Bob: Get up and go sit over there.

I had a moment of clarity and realized I needed to get out of there. I walked about five gates down to a newsstand and picked up a Rolling Stone magazine and Gatorade. I headed back to my gate and sat down with the magazine and drink.

About a third of the way into the cover story about Ronda Rousey, I looked up at the brewpub again. Like a siren luring a sailor to his death on the rocks, I thought about a red bull and tequila on the rocks…and how that wouldn’t hurt anybody.

The craving for beer was gone. I wanted my hard liquor. If I went for beer, I’d have two or three. If I went for the hard stuff, I’d only have one. That was better, right? My addict mind was hard at work trying to justify getting a drink.

I put the magazine down and stood up. The only way that I was going to get through this was to listen to Bob’s advice again. I got up and I went to sit over there. In this case, one gate over, so I could still hear the announcements.

Unfortunately, I could still see the brewpub, so I did it again. I got up and I went to sit over there. This time, over there was three gates away, far enough that I couldn’t see the brewpub and in front of a departures board so I could follow what was happening at my gate.

I didn’t drink that day. I didn’t drink any other day. I haven’t had to follow Bob’s advice for several years at this point, but that day it saved me. That was the closest call I ever had to relapsing.

Get up and go sit over there. Do it as many times as you need to until the craving passes. Get up and go sit in your car and let it take you somewhere else. Get up and go sit at the mall and people watch. Get up and go sit on your front steps. Just get up and go sit at a friend or family member’s home.

Just get up and go sit over there.