Q&A Time: I’m A Porn Addict. Help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Documentary Forced Me to Revisit My Use of Porn Movies in the 1990s

Despite taking two different medications for it, I will inevitably wake up in the middle of the night at least twice a week because of my acid reflux, or as I’m told it’s more correctly called, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Usually I’m forced to eat a popsicle and just sit up for an hour or two.

This happened over the weekend. When it happens during the week, I know what shows play in the middle of the night, so I don’t need to peruse the movie channels we have like HBO. On weekends, however, the schedule is all messed up and I usually end up flipping through the movie channels with the remote.

As I was going by, there was a woman in a white lab coat who didn’t quite look like a doctor saying something like, “It was a race to find Patient Zero.” I’m a fan of any epidemic or pandemic documentary, so I stopped.

Then it became quickly clear what this was about. In the late 1990s, adult films followed a trend of being very extreme with what was shown on screen. The industry had a very poor system for testing its workers for communicable disease and all of a sudden, women started testing positive with HIV. Ironically, the doctor who finally instituted a real testing system was a former adult star herself in the 1980s.

I clicked on the info button and found the documentary was called Porndemic and it was recently released.

I quickly asked myself if I should be watching the Showtime documentary. While I didn’t see any nudity in the first few minutes, it still was about pornography. I decided to give it a few more minutes and ended up watching one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in years that I think should be shown in rehabs, in every Sex Addict Anonymous meeting and to anybody who has a porn addiction.

It was the furthest thing from triggering. There was nothing sexy in this film. It profiled a bunch of sad, often mentally ill people who usually had a bunch of other issues, and showed what their reckless behavior and ignoring their own health (both physical and mental) can result in.

It wasn’t an indictment on the industry itself, and it certainly wasn’t designed to be an anti-porn documentary, but the interviews done recently with those people who were stars 20 years ago are borderline tragic.

Most look like they’ve aged 50 years, not 20. A good portion still clearly have issues they can’t deal with and almost all regret being part of the industry. I found these interviews to be more powerful than any anti-porn program I’ve seen. This documentary didn’t attack the industry, it just shows what happens when you’re a part of it.

The late 1990s was when I made the transition from the kind of films these actors were in to Internet pornography. I recognized some of the names and faces. It was actually heartbreaking to see what happened to them. Instead of ending up rich and happy, they’re living in trailer parks, now have dead end jobs and regret so much of what has happened in their lives.

These people turned to porn for escapism, the same reason I did. They were just on the other side of things, and we both ended up having porn radically and negatively affect our lives. We really weren’t all that different back then, and in some ways, even now.

While I wouldn’t want kids to watch this documentary, and it might be difficult if you’re just getting into recovery, I think this film is a power wake-up call to pull the curtain back from what you’re watching if you’re a porn addict. There is a stray body part here or there, but it’s clear the documentarians tried their best to keep it nudity-free.

Patient Zero is eventually found, but not until he infects five or six women. It’s such a sad and scuzzy story that it has evolved my outlook of porn and made it even worse than it previously has been.

I don’t like anti-porn documentaries because its usually crazy people screaming incoherently and that isn’t the way for me to get a message. Allowing these poor, broken souls to share their tales really struck me in the heart. Hearing directly from the people who were involved and where things stand now, it’s tragic in most cases. I think about all of the time I spent watching those movies 20 or 25 years ago with those exact people and feel like I was part of the problem for the first time. I think that’s a good wake-up call for me.

I didn’t care about the real people behind the naked bodies on screen. I didn’t want to think of their real lives when I was watching, just like I didn’t want to think about mine. Now here we all are, 20 years later, and porn destroyed so much for us, and so much of us.

Would anything have changed had I seen this documentary 20 years ago? I have a suspicion the answer could be “Yes.”

Porndemic could be a wake-up call for a lot of people.

 

Q&A Time: What if I Refuse to Say I’m An Addict at a 12-Step Meeting?

QUESTION: I’m 19 years old. I feel like I’m too young to call myself a porn addict and I don’t want to go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings because they make you say it there. I’m not sure 12-step groups are even for me. What should I do instead?

ANSWER:  I had an AA sponsor in the brief time I was in Palm Springs at rehab who I expressed some of the same qualms about labeling. I also had a problem with the notion that we were to define a higher power however we wanted, yet it was specifically Christian prayers said to open and close the meeting.

He gave me some great advice that I think many of the hardcore AA’ers would have got on his case for saying: “Take what you want, leave the rest at the door. As long as you’re not drinking, you’re in recovery.” I never thought I was powerless over alcohol (or pornography). I made very bad choices for a handful of reasons, but I was always the one steering the ship even if I wanted to pretend otherwise. I had the power to become an addict and I was the one who had the power to pull myself out of it. Claiming to be powerless was the opposite of what I needed to be doing.

I felt similar with Sex Addicts Anonymous. There is just too much putting words in my mouth and telling me how I feel in 12-step groups. I appreciate their structure, understanding many people need precisely that structure to succeed in recovery, but from the opening moments when I’m forced to identify as an addict publicly, there’s a dogma that – probably for the same reasons I’ve never been a fan of organized religion – I had trouble blindly subscribing to, addicted or not. It’s just not my personality. Maybe it’s not yours either.

So, I get where you’re coming from. That said, I’m guessing there is an untold amount of lies, cajoling, manipulating and deceit based in your consumption of pornography in the past. If you’re trying to turn over a new leaf, that’s fantastic, but if you’re going to skip Sex Addicts Anonymous – which may be the exact thing that will help you – you’re losing out on a lot over a word.

Despite the fact I stopped going to 12-step groups, I can see the value in them and think that everybody should try them to see if they are a fit for their recovery. If you think SAA is the answer and identifying yourself as an addict is what’s holding you back, no offense, but a label is a silly reason to not seek help.

Yes, it’s powerful the first time you say the phrase, “I am an addict.” Truth is, I still shudder a little when I think of it. It’s not a label anyone wants to wear.

Whether you have a bad habit, and addiction, a compulsion, an obsession or whatever else you want to call it is far secondary to getting help to fix the issue. By virtue of writing this question to me, you are indicating there is some kind of problem happening.

A big piece of me just wants to say, “Say the word addict, and see what they have to offer.” But if you can’t say the word addict, that’s fine. I don’t think it has anything to do with age, so I’d stop using that as an excuse and figure out the real reason behind your hesitancy to use the word “addict.”

If you can’t get yourself into an SAA room, I urge you to check out the Resources here. I also urge you to consider one-on-one counseling. It is the thing that I credit to ultimately bringing me into a successful recovery.

If SAA isn’t your thing, that’s OK and all hope is not lost. Just keep pursuing recovery. You can have it if you’re committed.


 

If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Recognizing small victories is key to my overall addiction recovery

As a pornography addict for 20 years, changing my behaviors and thought patterns was huge, but now I take it for granted and should probably take a moment to recognize how far I’ve come. I think checking in and celebrating the small victories keeps them coming. I truly believe that a big part of addiction is recognizing and eventually overcoming your triggers. Wallowing in, or pretending they don’t exist is not a strategy I want to take.

As I was reflecting on having seen Bohemian Rhapsody last night, I recognized that not only did I not wonder if any of the women in the film had done nude scenes in the past, but that it’s been a long time since that thought entered my brain at any movie. Between 1988 and probably 2016, if I was watching a movie or television show with a beautiful woman, I’d make a note of her name and then run to the Internet at my earliest convenience to see if she’d shown any skin in a different movie.

I’m not a believer that pornography is just made up of the XXX stuff you have to go into a seedy shop to purchase. I believe that if I used mainstream films for the same reason many people used the XXX variety, there really was no difference between us. I think pornography is really about the intention behind the materials and not necessarily the materials themselves.

Even after I entered recovery, I still found myself wondering, but not pursuing information about actresses I’d see. I could probably tell you the nude scenes of every major actress prior to 2015.

To this day, I don’t know exactly how I trained my brain to not think about this stuff when I’m watching TV or at the movies. I did a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy and think that has something to do with it, but in the end, I think it has to do with the fact I denied my pleasure sensors the reward they were seeking. Yes, it was hard to deny myself the visit to the Internet to check out the rest of an actresses’ resume – and there are certain sites that cater to this exact vice making it easy to research – but with enough denying came a lack of the behavior of wondering.

Last night I ran back the list of the last handful of movies I’ve gone to see this year and couldn’t tell you who most of the females in the movies were. This is a huge leap forward.

I’ve noticed that I probably ogle women on the street 90% less than I once did, frankly not even noticing anybody on the sidewalks anymore. I no longer have a craving to read personals ads on Craigslist or Backpage. Strip clubs were never my thing, but the thought of going to one, which I thought of often, doesn’t have a place in my head anymore. I look at the computer and don’t think “porn” anymore. These are all small miracles to be celebrated.

There are tough, stressful days where the thought of a drink or jumping online to look at porn still exist, but they are few and far between. They are also fleeting thoughts, not the obsessions they once were. In the past, if the thought entered my mind, it could only leave by engaging in the addiction.

I’m a work in progress, I always will be, but to those people out there reading who don’t get into recovery because you don’t think your mind can change, I’m proof that it can. For those who are new to recovery and feel like things aren’t changing, stick with it, because they will. Odds are you’ve made some gains and it’s important to pause and recognize them from time to time.

 

Getting Trivial Things Off My Chest – November edition

I noticed I didn’t have trivial thoughts post for October. Maybe that explains why there are so many rolling around in my head today. Without further ado…

So, depending on when you read this Election Day is either a) over, b) today or c) tomorrow. I’ll be really glad when people pick up their signs on their lawn and go back to be secretive about who they support. Whether you like Trump or not, one thing you’ve got to say for him is that he has galvanized both sides of things. A lot of people will call it a divide, and it is, but at least it’s now out there in the open, for good or bad. I just think lawn signs look tacky and don’t affect my vote in the least. And whether your guys win or not, recognize that come Wednesday, it’s same shit, different day. None of this is going to affect you all that much in the long run.

I’m taking my son to an event on Wednesday where I expect to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen for about 20 years. I’m wondering if I should wear a ball cap and a hood, or shave, or do something to try and throw off my appearance. Despite not seeing these people, I’ve got to believe many know what happened to me about 5 years ago and probably have strong feelings against me because of it. I’m hoping that if someone recognizes me, they just ignore me. It would be bad form to confront me, especially in front of my son, yet that’s the big fear. Telling me off isn’t going to change anything. Next time you decide you’re going to give someone a piece of your mind, think about what you actually achieve. It’s little to nothing.

All of the years I was a journalist, I almost never voted in an election. I didn’t want my objectivity to be swayed one way or another. While I often found one (or both) candidates to be narcissistic assholes I wouldn’t want babysitting my kid, I did so by interviewing them and actually looking at their record. These days, I’ve resumed voting – absentee so I don’t have to show my face at the polls – and I leave the races where I don’t know both candidates blank. It seems safer than to just put a check mark next to the R or the D. What if you vote for the wrong person? It’s safer to vote for nobody.

I hate the leaves changing colors. I hate them falling off trees. I hate raking and I hate that it’s all a harbinger of the death season that is winter. Yet I still live in Maine…

A reminder before you vote. It doesn’t really matter who you vote for because progressives always win. I know conservatives don’t like to hear it, but you only have to take one look at this country to recognize that conservatives do little more than put up speed bumps. Whether it’s slavery, abortion, women’s suffrage, gay marriage, or 101 other issues, the progressive side always wins in the end. The most a conservative can really hope for is to be an obstructionist and win a battle or two until they’re dead because history has proven progressives always win the war. And I say this as someone who doesn’t label himself a progressive, but can honestly view how things work.

I had somebody approach me about writing a guest blog for this site. I’m still working with her on the content, but figured that so many people have given me shots at writing over the years, I may as well return the favor. If anybody else out there reading this wants to do a guest column, just let me know and we’ll figure something out.

Final thought: If you’re a diehard Democrat or Republican, your vote actually counts more if you don’t show up to maintain the status quo. In most elections, you’ll find 38% go Democrat and 38% go Republican. It’s the 24% in the middle who actually make the election count. As a hardcore Democrat or Republican, your job is just to cancel out the vote of the guy on the other side of the street with the equally ridiculous signs. Those people like me, who don’t have a sign on their lawn? We’re the ones who really decide things. It’s nice to play for one of the big teams, but there’s a freedom of being a free agent most will never experience. And one final reminder, you don’t have to vote a certain way or belong to a certain party because your daddy did. There’s a 49.999% chance your daddy was below average. Break the cycle. Think for yourself.

Why do I have a pornography addiction awareness blog?

I was giving an interview to a podcast yesterday and was giving my standard answer to the “Why did you write this book?” question and it occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever directly answered the question on this blog which is strange, because the two reasons I write this blog are the same two reasons why I wrote the book.

1. To reach my fellow addicts who need to go get help

First, for addicts, or people who engage in pornography use more than they wish, I try to use my experience as a cautionary tale. Statistics suggest that one-out-of-three men between the ages of 18 and 35 believe they use too much pornography, have a problem with it, or are in the throes of a full-blown addiction.

I didn’t recognize I had a pornography addiction until long after I was arrested for inappropriate behavior with a teenager in a chat room. I believe one of the reasons that I never thought about porn addiction was that I never heard anybody talking about it.

Would it have stopped me before I let it get too far? I don’t know, nor will I ever know, but I can at least try to be that voice I never heard.

If you believe that you have a pornography addiction, please begin to get some help. That could mean a 12-step group, rehab, a therapist, online forums, research…whatever. Just don’t sit there are let the addiction fester. Check out the Resources page for more info on multiple ways to get help.

I know there is an addict reading this now who thinks, “I may have an addiction, but it clearly wasn’t as bad as yours.”

That’s probably true, and consider yourself lucky you have yet to reach the critical point that I did. If you think that I had some idea I’d ever reach the place where I was capable of going into a chatroom, look for a woman to talk to and make the mistake of engaging a teenager…well, you’re wrong.

I would have sworn to you probably up to the last two or three months before I made that horrible mistake I was incapable of doing such a thing – and I would have been telling the truth.

The gambling addict never thinks they’ll lose the house, the guy who snorts cocaine never thinks he’ll be putting a needle in his arm, the person who find solace in food never thinks they’ll get to 300 pounds.

If you have a problem – it doesn’t have to be an actual addiction yet – get some help soon. Stop this before it festers into something you can’t control.

2. To remind non-addicts there is no stereotypical addict

If you’re a male under 40 years old and you don’t look at pornography regularly, you are in the minority. If you’re a female under 40 that doesn’t visit a pornographic website at least twice a year, you’re in the minority. 98% of married men and 70% of married women under 35 report having looked at pornography at least once in the last six months. It’s not just people born post-1978 either.

Most people look at porn, but they won’t admit it. I think that they believe that people like themselves don’t look at porn and they are an exception. We need to acknowledge that more people look at porn than ever before, even if they’re not talking about it.

When I was in rehab for porn addiction, in 12-step groups, or in a group therapy setting, one thing always struck me: These are not similar people. I have met doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, people ranging in age from 19 to 78, the rich, poor and everything in between. I’ve met several women and people who can claim to be of just about every race.

Why is it important that we not stereotype who a porn addict may be? When we stereotype, we miss the outliers. If we’re led to believe that every porn addict is a 22-year-old pimply faced kid who lives in his mom’s basement and has never kissed a girl, we’re going to miss all of the others. It’s kind of like how we seemed to all agree that opiod users in the 1980s and early 90s were homeless types who weighed next to nothing and were making bad choices, not actually sick people. Now, almost everyone knows someone struggling with opiods and they don’t fit the morally bankrupt hobo profile.

Your husband, daughter, father, co-worker, clergy member, etc., may not only look at porn, they may have a problem with it. How would you really know?

I was a 37-year-old civic-minded business owner with a wife and two kids when my recovery began. I believe that the reason I had so much negative fallout locally was not only because of the charges against me, but because the community felt duped. Since I didn’t wear the tag of pornography addict on my sleeve, I certainly couldn’t be one, right? Well, they were wrong and I think felt betrayed for it. The reality is, you can’t spot a porn addict. The moment you think you can, you’re stereotyping and potentially missing something important.

 

 

 

When the Sharp Reality of Regret for Your Actions Starts Setting In

For the longest of times, decades really, I lived by the philosophy that it was better to go ahead and live life the way I wanted and to apologize to people if I crossed any lines than it was to ask permission about crossing those lines in the first place.

I don’t know exactly where subscribing to this way of thinking came from. My parents, both elementary school teachers, were not “rock the boat” kind of people. My friends were usually not in line with that philosophy either.

My guess is that it has to do with the manic side of my bipolar disorder. I wasn’t put on medication until my mid-20s, and there were times I pulled myself off of it in the last 15 years, including the year or so leading up to my arrest. I think it could also do with the development of a warped set of survival skills as a small child. I can thank an abusive babysitter for that.

I’ve been struggling a little bit lately with depression. It’s the second time this year I’m dealing with it. Surprisingly, I haven’t had a lot of depression to deal with over the last five years. My therapist believes that I was probably in more of a manic state during the 22 months I was waiting for sentencing, 6 months I was in jail and several months after my release as I began to see how my life played out. She suggests my mind was occupied with anxiety and manic energy, shielding me from the reality of what I was going through.

Now that I’ve made my way to the other side of the legal process, she says my body’s defense mechanisms are probably going back to the way they were before I went off the deep end with the porn and alcohol. I’m back to normal, but normal includes bouts of depression.

When I’ve gone through these cycles of depression in the past, I know they end in one of four ways: I basically sleep it off and let it pass, something extraordinary happens to shock me out of it, I figure out what is at the root of the depression or I up my medication. These cycles typically can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months.

I went the medicinal fix root earlier this year, but would prefer to avoid it this time. I’ve been sleeping a lot extra this last month or so – about 9 hours per day vs. my usual 6 – and it’s showing a few signs of working, and the extraordinary option is out of my hands.

That leaves me with figuring out the root problem, and I think I made a big stride last night as I was lying in bed, fighting off tears of which I couldn’t identify the source.

Then it dawned on me: I have been letting regret smother me and I don’t have the tools to fight it off.

That earlier philosophy I mentioned is the root of my problems. I clung onto it during the worst of my addiction, when business partners were leaving, as I was becoming increasingly estranged from my family and while my world was crumbling. I stopped taking the bipolar meds, hoping to tap into the manic side of things during this time and continued to play by my rules, which included treating women like shit in chat rooms on the computer late at night.

I don’t think most people understand manipulating women to my will on the computer – often ending in them taking off their clothes – had very little to do with sex. Yes, it’s a sex crime, but it was an activity I engaged in to assert power. If I wanted porn, I knew how the internet worked. I wanted to control these women.

I don’t remember if I ever thought it was wrong at the time. My mindset was a mess at the time. I just needed that fix of power and control and I was going to get it anyway possible. If it occurred to me that it was despicable behavior, I certainly didn’t stop. I was going to do what I wanted to manipulate these women and I wasn’t going to ask if it was OK.

Then, the police knocked at my door. It turned out that one of those women I treated so poorly was a teenager. There was no saying sorry to get out of this situation.

Now, nearly five years since I was arrested and six or seven years since I was thinking straight regularly, I’m finally starting to understand the real wreckage I caused. I’m not going to run through a list of damages because frankly, it’s too long, involves too many people and it’s mighty painful.

My actions forever changed the course of my, and my family’s life. Someday, I will have grandchildren who discover what happened. Someday, I will want to move from my home and have to adhere to any residency restrictions a town may have in place for sex offenders. Someday, I may want a loan from a bank, but because I’m a former felon, it will be denied. Someday, I may want to get a job outside of my house and will have to cling to the hope they don’t perform a background check. Someday, I’ll want to travel out of the U.S., but dozens of countries won’t let me in. Someday, I’ll be a frail, elderly man who needs somebody to help him get to the police station four times a year to check-in as part of a restriction for a crime he committed decades earlier.

The philosophy I lived by led me to one place, a locked closet of regret and right now, I don’t have the key.

I’m not asking for pity or to be seen as the victim here. I did horrible things and deserved to pay a price. This is what I have coming to me. I thought that mentally, life would be easier the further I got away from it, but the regret just grows deeper.

Also, I’m not just starting to live with the regret. That started on the day I was arrested. What I’m living with now is the knowledge the regret will never go away.

Regret is knowing you did the wrong thing, knowing there is nothing you can do about it, and living with the fallout. It’s a fallout I’m coming to terms with more and more every day and it’s a painful process.

I lived my life without regret – and it’s the most regrettable thing I’ve done.