Sorry, But There Was No Thrill In My Addiction

I’ve found LinkedIn to be a great resource for pornography addiction information. However, much like statistics that peg the porn industry worth anywhere between $2 billion and $200 billion (just a slight discrepancy there), I’m starting to bump into information provided from professionals that I think is just flat-out wrong.

This morning, I was scrolling through the feed and there was a short video from an Australian health professional. The video’s thesis was that “the thrill” that comes with looking at porn and masturbating makes the addiction even worse.

The thrill?

At first I thought it may be an Australian colloquialism for the physical pleasure that comes with an orgasm, but that’s not it. This person believes that there is a genuine thrill associated with succumbing to the addiction on a regular basis. Aside from the slight rush of adrenaline that came with porn viewing when I was afraid of getting caught by my parents more than 25 years ago, I don’t recall watching porn ever being a fun, exciting experience. It was a necessity. Despite trying to stimulate my dopamine receptors, there wasn’t a lot of pleasure in it.

The thrill?

Try the shame.

I didn’t want anybody to know about my addiction and in all truth, I never really faced up to my addiction or called it such while I was locked in the battle between my brain and the computer screen. There was nothing thrilling about that. It made me feel bad. I didn’t feel like I was getting away with anything. I felt like I had a dirty little secret.

Here’s my guess: This person has probably never been addicted to anything. I’ve met plenty of ex-alcoholics and ex-drug users at the rehabs I’ve been to who work in the field, but there was also plenty of people who weren’t. Usually these people love to tell you they’re in recovery and this person didn’t do that in the video.

I’m guessing they associates caving to your addiction, even though you don’t want to, as something “naughty.” There’s a big chasm between naughty and shameful. Having a piece of cake at the restaurant with dinner when you’re on a diet is naughty. Going home and binging on the cake in the fridge because you can’t stop yourself is shameful. Promising yourself you’d only lose $100 when you visit the casino, but you lose $120 is naughty. Losing $1,000 and only stopping because you’re broke is shameful. Sneaking a 5-second peek of a pornographic website at work or when other people are in the room is naughty. Waiting for everybody to go to sleep because you NEED hours to look at porn is shameful.

I know if this person was my therapist, we would not click. I also know that I would leave this person after probably only one or two sessions. Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who stick with their therapists because they feel like it’s a relationship where the client doesn’t have the control. A therapist you can’t work well with is not a therapist worth keeping.

I’m sure this person probably gets through to some of their clients and I’m sure they’ve helped a lot of people, but hearing that there was a thrill to my addiction made me shake my head.

That’s not a thrill. That’s shame.

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.

Gonna Be a Man in Motion…

Last night, I had dinner with the person who I would say was likely my closest friend between 2000 and 2003. I think the last time we sat across from each other was 2005. I didn’t know what to expect.

I’ll call him Joe to maintain his anonymity and because “Joe” is a short name to type. It wouldn’t make sense for a hypothetical name to be Bartholomew. Too long. Anyway, Joe knew me in the years before I was put on my bipolar meds, when hyper-creative, super-energetic manic was my norm.

I don’t think hierarchy-wise, Joe was my boss, but I first met him in early 2000 when I went to work for a small trade newspaper company. He was the editor and I was the staff writer for a monthly paper covering the northern New England high-tech sector. For the most part, it was just he and I putting the paper together.

Last night, I wasn’t the 24-year-old man-child who knew he was destined for huge things sitting across from Joe anymore. It was a 43-year-old guy who not only got kicked in the ass by life over the last decade, but recruited, lined-up and paid the ass-kickers overtime himself. Joe hadn’t seen me since before the magazine publisher and city councilor days. It also meant he hadn’t seen me since all my legal stuff connected to the addictions went down.

In a brief email he wrote while we were organizing the dinner, he said, “I don’t know many of the details, but I do believe we all make mistakes and get beyond them, so we don’t have to talk about any of that stuff if you don’t want to do that.”

It was a nice offer but the moment I sat across from him at the restaurant yesterday, I said, “OK, here’s the deal, I talk about this stuff all the time. Most of the time I talk about it for educational purposes because I’m writing about it or giving interviews. I almost never hear a question I haven’t already been asked. I don’t want you to feel bad for being curious, but I also have to say, if you got nabbed for what I did, I’d have SO MANY questions for you!”

He let out a nice long laugh, realizing if the situations were reversed, he would be willing to talk to me about it and would expect me to have questions.

For 45 minutes, we talked about the case and what happened. It was nice because I didn’t have to be 100% politically correct and choose my words ultra-carefully because despite our time apart, we still knew what the other guy meant without having to add lots of disclaimers or clarifying statements.

We were at a restaurant that – like every other one in Maine lately – is a brewpub that makes its own beer. Joe was super-apologetic to learn I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in my system since April 1, 2014, saying he would have suggested a different place. I told him what I tell everybody, “It’s my issue, not yours. Drink up.” Thankfully, I’m not tempted to drink in this kind of environment because it was never really my typical getting drunk scene in the 25 years I did that.

Perhaps understandably, I dominated the conversation, but like old friends do, we turned back a bit to remembering many of the people and times from when we were younger. Somewhere in the distance, behind the rumble of a faraway locomotive destined for the West, a jukebox played Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”

As I mentioned, Joe knew me even before I started being treated for bipolar disorder. That was the period of time in my life that I romanticized when I decided to pull myself off my meds in early 2013, which I believe was the removal of the keystone that led to my life toppling in the following months.

I would say 85% of the drinking I did in my life was medicinal and directly to feed the coping mechanism of the alcoholism. But 15% was still recreational. I experienced the kind of drinking that “normal” people do who don’t develop problems. This 15% took place in those first few years of the new millennium when Joe and I would hit the town often with a whole cadre of young people who were part of Portland, Maine’s burgeoning tech scene.

Joe and I recalled several stories from those days fondly. Would I want my kids to have roles in stories like those? Of course not, but I’m sure they will and won’t tell me. It was young adults finding themselves, making dumb mistakes, and having a good time learning in the process. I think it’s a place in time many young people find themselves. Despite having no money and not knowing where your life is going to head, you feel a freedom for the first time that you never have, and looking back, never will again. It’s the St. Elmo’s Fire life against The Big Chill life I’m living now; 1980s movie reference of the day award goes to me.

I said goodbye to Joe at the end of the night and we agreed to get together again soon. With the lack of actual friends in my life these days, I’m going to hold him to it. Mentally and emotionally, it was a great thing for me.

Driving home, I started to think about sharing those “war stories” from nearly two decades ago. In AA, and almost every mode of therapy I’ve been through, they advise against glamorizing stories from your drinking days. I think the fear is that if you romanticize what a good time it was, you may want to recapture it and think the only way you can is to hit the bottle. I also think that the recovery community believes hearing old stories that involve joy while engaging in alcohol lends one remember alcohol in a positive light.

I can’t change what happened 18 years ago, and I don’t know if I’d want to. I know that alcohol contributed to poor decision making that in the right light, creates a funny story. Sneaking around fishing docks at night with several people who are drunk, trying to be quiet because one person (not me) wanted to steal a lobster trap to make a coffee table is absolutely stupid and illegal. But if you were there in the moment and knew the people involved, it might elicit a smile, as it still does with me.

What I was left wondering on the ride home was if that kind of fond reminiscing is wrong. Should I be trying to put a negative spin on events every time I drank during those specific years? I was already well into alcoholism and drinking for the wrong reasons when I met Joe, but I think that if I was capable of “normal” drinking, those years were the window when it happened and Joe was one of the people it happened with.

Am I supposed to retroactively see those times with red flags and as warnings I didn’t admit, or despite the fact alcohol played a huge role in my demise 10-11 years later, is it OK, or dare I say even healthy to remember them fondly?

I curious what other people think. Please share your two cents.

 

Human Library Participation Really Put the Emphasis on ‘Human’ For Me

I drove nearly 9,000 miles on my vacation last summer through places like Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Indianapolis and more, yet I will testify in any court of law that Boston has the worst traffic in the United States. It took me nearly an hour to drive four miles on a Saturday afternoon, without construction! So much for the Big Dig.

I shared a photo yesterday from the Osterville Village Library in Barnstable, Mass., where I took part in my second Human Library. The Human Library sprang out of Europe and is an event where people (dubbed “books”) who have a unique personal story to share gather at a traditional library and patrons take turns “checking out” these books, which really just means they spend 30 minutes in conversation with the person.

My book is unironically called “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” and either goes in the direction of my personal story or how I believe porn addiction will be a national healthcare crisis by 2050 unless we take certain steps; I let the patron decide where to take the conversation. Other books included an African-American police officer, a rabbi in the U.S. military, an atheist, a person recovering from drug addiction, somebody who has been through the U.S. Immigration process, etc. It’s stated purpose is a chance for people to understand someone else who is nothing like them.

img_2619This event was far more successful than the first one I participated in at a New Hampshire library last year. I was only booked for two of the six sessions then as attendance was sparse. This time around, I was booked for five of the six and spent the spare session doing a long interview with a local radio station.

I felt prepared, bringing a handful of copies of my first book and a sheet of statistics regarding pornography addiction. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional outpouring from the other chair.

The first gentleman who came in around 1 p.m. was probably in his late 50s or early 60s. I shared my personal story, largely uninterrupted for about 15 minutes. When finished, he called me brave and thanked me for being willing to talk openly about porn.

“After listening to you,” he said softly with a stutter, “I’m now left to wonder if I’m a pornography addict, although I guess if I’m asking myself that question I know the answer.”

I told him he was brave to admit that and started defining addiction, including some of the specifics of porn addiction. I could see tears well up in his eyes.

As our time reached an end, I told him that only he can determine if he’s an addict and if he should seek help, but I urged him to sit down with an addictions counselor at least once and get a baseline for where he is. I only know his side of the story, but if addiction is there, I think it’s more to the mild side of things, thankfully.

I didn’t expect such an emotional first session and it reminded me not to pre-judge anybody. I can’t tell people not to stereotype who is or isn’t a porn addict and then do it myself.

The second woman worked in health care and simply wanted to learn more about the addiction in general. She had fantastic questions, and frankly, getting a bit of an emotional break was nice.

My third session was the radio interview. The interviewer wasn’t intimidated by the subject, but you could tell she feared offending me with personal questions. I assured her that I’ve been asked everything, so she couldn’t offend me. I get this same reaction with some of the podcasts I appear on. People are more scared to ask questions than I am to answer them. I’d never really recognized this before until someone was sitting across from me.

The fourth session was another gut-churning one. The woman, who said she’d been married for 45 years, mentioned up front her husband has a great tolerance for things, specifically mentioning he needs to drink 10 beers to feel anything where the average person only needs two or three. She called it a “high tolerance for pain.”

I got through my story and she asked a few benign questions about how my wife handled the situation both before and after I entered recovery. In sharing the premise of my soon-to-be-released book geared toward the partners of porn addicts, she asked what advice is given when the man doesn’t want to attend therapy.

I told her that it’s best to not pretend the partner doesn’t have an addiction. I said that the partner needs to suggest couple’s counseling, but even if the addict doesn’t want to go, they should still find a counselor on their own, and to never forget that self-care is the most important thing, because you can never make an addict do something they don’t want to do. I finished by saying ultimately the non-addict has to decide what they can live with and if they need to create boundaries or ultimatums. I told her that the key is to enforce those boundaries and ultimatums or they mean nothing.

She began crying and said while she and her husband didn’t have this problem with pornography addiction, they were going through it with something else and she was doing everything I suggested. I didn’t know if it was alcoholism as she didn’t say and I didn’t pry. I just assured her that she had to do the right thing for her, not her husband or adult kids or anybody else. As our time came to an end she tried to dry her tears and thanked me for being a shoulder to cry on.

The next woman came in and after listening to my little introductory speech told me that she has a problem with chat rooms that tend to lean toward the kinky side of things. In her situation, her husband wasn’t against it as he had fetishes and she believed a touch of sex addiction. She, too, began crying and telling me that she just wanted a normal life and not one where she found herself with strange people in basement sex clubs in Boston at 3 a.m. on a Saturday. I urged her to see a therapist, but told her that she can’t look at it as an on/off switch, whether it’s recovery or transitioning to a new life, it happens slowly, with clear, deliberate steps.

It was a bit of a relief that the last woman to stop by was just looking for information. She said she had an extended family member dealing with this and she wanted to learn more about it. I shared my details, which would have been hard two years ago, but was easy, especially since she wasn’t crying.

After wrapping up and talking with the head librarian and volunteer who coordinated the event, letting them know I thought it went well based on comparing it to my first experience, I got in the car and made the trek north to Maine and through the heart of Boston.

At least the traffic gave me time to reflect on the emotional outpouring I received from many of the people who sat with me. Even those who didn’t have an issue were gracious and I could tell appreciated what I was doing. It’s good for me to see that face-to-face because despite the comments section in these blogs and the fact I know people listen to the podcasts I appear on, getting that one-on-one interaction reminds me what I’m doing is not just a selfish activity to keep my own recovery on track.

I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. last night and didn’t get up until 11:30 this morning. Clearly this took a lot more out of me than I realized, but in a good way. Actually, a great way.

If there’s a Human Library event taking place near you (this Facebook page for the organization is constantly updated), I urge you to go check it out and learn the stories of people who are not like you, or maybe even more importantly, those who are exactly like you.

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.