The Day I Truly Entered Recovery from Pornography Addiction Was…

…the day I stopped waiting for other people’s advice or tricks to be the magic bullet solution. I’m now just over 4.5 years sober from porn. I would have told you then that M/O (masturbation/orgasm) was also an issue, but once the porn went away the M/O reduced by 98%. I was a porn addict.

I was in therapy for years long before I ever admitted to my porn addiction, trying to deal with my anxiety and feelings of always being out of place in the world. While it did come to light that I was bipolar, and that was important to contain, I just kept waiting for the piece of advice or the pill that would make my life fall into place and I’d become like all of the other people.

Through my 20+ years of porn addiction and alcoholism, there were certainly times where I was very weak and I know that I certainly did some damage to my pleasure centers by nuking my brain with dopamine, oxytocin and all of those others happy chemicals.

I am grateful for my therapist. She is an amazing guide through my psyche and has helped me connect so many threads that I finally understand the web of who I am, and I couldn’t have done it without her, but she couldn’t have done it without me…and for too long I was waiting for that.

I didn’t know about NoFap or online boards where most guys try to white-knuckle it, or theories like the whole Red Pill thing back when I was in early therapy. I think there are holes to all of those modalities, but if they work for you — actually work — then I think they’re fine because it’s YOU who is making them work.

I sat in a few months worth of Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings mostly listening to men complain about their sexless lives and realized that the only way you’re going to change is if you truly become committed to change.

My therapy moved in a bit of a cognitive behavioral direction and that started to make all the difference. How often do you ask yourself, “Why am I about to do this?” “What is motivating me here?” “Why am I having these feelings?” At one point in my recovery, I was probably doing this 25 times a day. Now, there is a level of muscle memory that has sunk in. Triggers are hardly a bother, for both porn and alcohol.

I’m proof that anybody can beat this thing, but I’m also proof that this isn’t like a broken leg where it just heals on its own, and it’s not like an illness that antibiotics will take care of. It’s not a mental condition that a few pills will contain and nobody is holding back the secret that will make you better.

It’s on you. You need to make the commitment to change. It’s not a desire, it’s not a hope. It’s a commitment. You get your ass up everyday to go to work. You visit your family on holidays. You pay your taxes. You know how to handle commitment. You just have to decide this is worth it and once you take control — well, the hard work has only just started — but at least you’ve taken that legit first step.

Note: I posted this on a message board about porn addiction, but thought it would also fit with what I do on this site. I need to remind people that while they may not end up a pornography addiction expert, they can all end up in recovery.

Pneumonia reminds me of my real place in the pornography addiction world

I find that I have illnesses so rarely that when I do I always end up saying, “I haven’t been this sick in a long time” despite the fact I couldn’t actually tell you the last time I was ill. I don’t get those three-day colds twice a year. I get bronchitis every couple years, or end up with something that technically isn’t an illness, like needing my gallbladder out or a knee operation. This time, the culprit has been pneumonia.

It started as a nagging cough in late August and after about 5 days I finally went to the doctor – only because we’d already met our deductible – and found out that it was pneumonia following a chest X-ray. I remember back in the day when an X-ray would take 30 minutes to develop and read.

I’ve spent most of the last week in bed. One of my once-in-a-great-while freelance clients fired me because I couldn’t produce a project as quickly as he’d hoped. I think it’s kind of an asshole thing to do, but I also believe karma will get you in the end. I can’t recall the last time I’ve been this consistently tired, or had a cough that just won’t quit.

I’m feeling better, though still a bit weak. The doctor said it could be a month before I feel back to my normal, jaded self.

Along with ignoring my work, I ignored updating my site. It’s the first time I’ve ignored it for over a week in the year I’ve been operating it. Despite my hits dropping by half, it was nice to see that people still used it as a resource even if I was AWOL.

Not only did I ignore my site, I had to cancel an appearance for a library presentation on porn addiction and two podcast appearances. I completely got off my porn addiction high horse for probably the first time in three years. I didn’t write about it, talk about and for the most part, think about it.

Instead, I watched reruns of Match Game ’78 and Card Sharks. I watched a little bit of the supreme court nomination hearings (anybody who can’t or refuses to answer questions as much as this guy – liberal or conservative – wouldn’t get my vote). I read an old Malcolm Gladwell book called Outliers and I improved about 40 levels on an iPad game.

This taught me that it’s OK to walk away now and then. When I’ve taken vacations or breaks in the last few years, I’ve not taken breaks from the porn addiction stuff. Despite the fact I felt like crap, I think the last 10 days has shown me that recharging my batteries is going to be a vital part of keeping my message fresh moving forward.

I don’t know how many more people crossed the line into porn addiction in the last 10 days, nor do I know how many entered a program of recovery. Both numbers have nothing to do with me. I am not the end-all, be-all of porn addiction and if I walked away from this cause today, the world would not come charging, begging for me to return.

Sometimes it’s important to remind yourself that you’re just a small cog in a giant machine that can operate independent of your placement. It doesn’t mean you’re not important, just that you’re not vital to the continuation of the mission.

Years ago, I would have either denied I was a small cog, unimportant or that the world could continue spinning without me. I think I’m far healthier – despite being far more unhealthy than usual – in knowing and accepting this.

Thank You For a Year of Reading My Pornography Addiction Blog

I just had to renew my subscription on this website, which means that in a couple days, on September 1, I’ll have hit the one-year mark on this website. I wanted to post a note of thanks to those who have been with me for a while, whether it’s only 10 days or 10 months. You’re a big part of the reason I keep doing this.

As somebody who is both a natural-born statistician and has a tendency to be a narcissist, there are few things more pleasing, or infuriating, than rankings and tallies in my life. While I save most of my bile for how my book is doing — or not doing — on Amazon, I find that the stats page through WordPress sometimes consumes me a little too much, but it also shows me how far I’ve come.

I started the site simply as a marketing tool for my book, which looked like it was originally going to come out in October. It’s probably good it was delayed because I averaged 1 visitor per day in both September and October. A year later and I regularly do 70 times that on most days. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

When the book got delayed because I wanted to fine-tune some things, I recognized that I had a window to try and engage with people before the January release. I started writing blog entries and never really stopped. It’s been cathartic for me much of the time, but it’s also hooked me into a wonderful community I never knew existed.

Whether you’re a Bible thumper, are dealing with betrayal trauma recovery, are hiding the fact you’re an addict or just find the whole thing fascinating, I want to thank people for sharing and following. I’ve read statistics on the ratio of followers to viewers and mine are way off. I think that’s because the word “porn” is in the title and most people fear putting a permanent “like” or “follow” on anything with the word “porn”. So thank you to the brave souls who did and are the first to get notification when I post something.

I saw an upswing after I started regularly posting, then I saw a big upswing when the book came out because the marketing materials referenced the site. It saw yet another uptick when I started going on podcasts and radio shows talking about the addiction.

Shortly after that happened I realized the site wasn’t just a commercial for the book and the book wasn’t just something I wrote in jail to pass the time. I’m supposed to be writing and talking about pornography addiction. That’s my purpose right now. Sure, I may piss a few people off and even miss the mark from time-to-time, but everything that’s happened to me has led up to this time. I’ve always had this feeling that I have been put on this earth to spread information. I think that’s why I was a journalist for so many years. Now I realize I was wrong about the kind of information.

I created many victims in my wake. I don’t know the exact number and we could quibble for days. However, I believe that I can make that number infinitely small compared to the number of people I help educate.

You’ve all been a big part of making that happen in my first year. I never would have thought I’d be where I am now a year later. I’m excited to see what the next year brings. Thank you.

Lessons I’ve Learned While Helping Pornography Addicts & Their Loved Ones

For the last couple months, I’ve been offering a porn addict peer support service where I lend my expertise to people struggling with pornography addiction and spouses/partners who are living with a suspected or outed addict. I’ve learned a heck of a lot from dealing with these folks, which number around 8 or 9 at this point.

It’s evolved into a weigh station of sorts for people to figure out if they need to, or are willing to take the next steps, whatever that may be, to get help. I probably average 3-4 interactions per person and am proud to say most go on to official therapy after talking to me.

There are several things I’ve learned up to now on this little journey:

Porn Addiction Knows No Bounds: I have had a woman, a doctor and a former school teacher who are among the people I have worked with on the addict side of things and everybody’s story is so different. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to show that even successful white-collar guys with families can get hooked…which means anybody can. I want to repeat that for the doubters who are like, “Even a cross-eyed Eskimo with a skin condition or a Chinese millionaire who also gambles too much?” Yes, even them. Anybody. An-ee-bod-ee.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery is Brutal: I’ll often go to my own therapy sessions with a question or two for my therapist who is well-versed in this area with questions about how to handle the wives and girlfriends of sex addicts who have been hit with betrayal trauma like a ton of bricks. I’ve never lost a spouse or child, but I imagine the trauma is similar to what many of these women are feeling. I’m forever grateful my wife handled my situation much more smoothly than would have been expected.

We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves Only to Ourselves: I don’t know if it’s a 12-step saying or if it was just popular at one of my rehabs, but I’ve heard, “We are the stories we tell ourselves” too many times. I understand it means that we like to believe things that aren’t necessarily true about ourselves. But I think there’s also a level of belief that other people are buying our stories. Forget gaslighting your partner, I have worked with so many addicts and loved ones who continue to tell themselves stories that are simply not true. We may believe our own BS, but there are plenty of people out there nodding who let you live in your fantasy world but can see right through you.

Porn is a Concept, Not an Actual Thing: Porn is like: Anger, Cold, Bright, Proud, Alert – these are all words that mean basically the same thing to all of us, but not EXACTLY the same because they are concepts or ideas. One man’s pornographic film is not necessarily another’s. I can’t disagree with your conservative definition of porn, but I can’t disagree with the next person’s liberal definition. One of the most important things when I talk to people is to find out what their definition of pornography is before I start asking too many questions.

Porn Addiction is Rampant, Yet Invisible: Statistics suggest that 18% of all men in this world are addicted to pornography, with the largest group – 18-to-35 years old – at around 33%. I believe this and think those statistics are under-reported. I also have a feeling the rate of female addiction are far less underreported. We once lived in a world where you had to go to a store or a disgusting movie theater to get your porn needs met. Now, you can see porn as easily as you buy tickets, plan a trip, or send an e-mail. When the barriers for becoming a porn addict all drop, you’ve got loads of susceptible people that easily fall into the trap.

This Is Going to Get a Lot Worse Before It Gets Better: I remember first hearing about heroin in middle school. It was one of those drugs so far out of the mainstream, like PCP, that it seemed like it was almost a myth. Now, 30 years later, it’s probably more difficult to find cocaine or speed on the street than heroin. Why? Because we let it happen. I recall learning of the dangers of a handful of drugs in school, but never learning about heroin. It must have not seemed important to the curriculum. I don’t know what they’re doing about it now, but they failed a generation or two. That same mistake can’t be made with porn.

I talk to people in such pain over this, wracked with guilt, shame and embarrassment who feel like they have nowhere to turn. Resources for porn addiction are few and far between. In the state of Maine, there are 5 meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous statewide per week. There are over 50 per day for Alcoholics Anonymous.

In Maine, there is no designation for a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT). You can certainly go take a course on it, but the State doesn’t seem to want to recognize it as an area for professional certification among therapists. This means that an addict largely has to cross their fingers that a therapist who lists “sexual issues” in their areas of expertise aren’t simply trawling for clients and that they know their stuff.

Unfortunately, Maine is far more typical than atypical. We are horribly behind the times here, but like most places, there’s a tendency for the herd to gather, not want to talk about uncomfortable things and shun those who do. The herd will eventually talk about these things, but as the opiate crisis shows, they’re often decades too late. The herd is reactive, not proactive.

I’m trying to do what I can, talking about this problem with anybody who will listen. I love to do podcasts with people who have thousands of listeners, but I’ll do them with podcasts that have dozens. Once people learn they won’t become, nor will be perceived as a porn addict for simply having a conversation, maybe we’ll start making strides.

One day, I hope to step away from my daily job of ghostwriting to focus on porn addiction education full-time, but that’s about 20 clients away. It’s OK, I’ll get there someday.

If I can give you one call-to-action it’s that whether an addict, loved one of an addict, or someone who just stumbled upon this article, please don’t carry fear or embarrassment when it comes to talking about the scourge of pornography addiction. We need to normalize the conversation in society before anybody is going to do anything about it.

And of course, if you’re interested in my peer support services, click HERE.

Q&A Time: He Promised He’d Stop Looking at Porn, But Didn’t. Now What?

QUESTION: I confronted him in the past about looking at pornography on the computer and he said he’d stop, but he didn’t. What now?

ANSWER: What incentive he had to change in the past and what incentive does he have now? If you don’t have boundaries, or don’t follow through on your ultimatums, there is no incentive for him to listen to you other than he knows it’s easier to just listen and nod, then go do what he wants.

Probably about three years before the police ever got involved in my life, prior to entering the critical phase of my addiction, my wife stumbled upon my browser history after a particular session of looking at porn. She said something to the effect of, “Do you really spend this much time looking at porn?” I don’t remember the exact wording, but the message I got was that I shouldn’t be as involved with porn as I knew I was.

But that was the end of it. I don’t know if she was asking me to change, or just making an observation, but it went in one ear at out the other because there was no incentive for me to reduce my viewing.

By the time my viewing reached a critical point, there was nothing she could have said or done to stop me. You need to nip this in the bud before he ever gets to that place.

This question sounds a little bit like a cop-out or throwing up your hands, if I’m being honest. You seem to not think the situation can be fixed because of previous history, so why bother trying again? If you value your relationship and want it fixed, shouldn’t you try again and again until you reach the conclusion it’s hopeless? Once you deem it hopeless, you can either stay and brace yourself, or you can leave the relationship, but until then, you try, try, try.

If he says he’ll change again, hold him to it. Find out how he’s going to change. Is he going to see a therapist? Is he going to give you access to his computer? What are the ways that life will be different after you have this conversation? If he says “You can look at my email” then look at his email.

If he says he can’t change, offer to help find him the recovery tools he needs to begin. If he says he won’t change, then you’re back at bracing yourself or leaving.

The kind of change you’re looking for involves seeing a therapist to get at the root of the addiction and if you can be there to help him in a positive, constructive manner, this time you may see the change that you didn’t before.

 

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: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, 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.