Guest Blog: How Prayer Can Help You to Overcome Your Addiction

Note from Josh: While I take an extended break this summer, I wanted to provide some kind of content, so Patrick Bailey was once again nice enough to contribute several entries you’ll read over the next few weeks.

By Patrick Bailey

The work of treatment centers is to get you sober, but staying sober is a lifelong process. Holistic therapy provides various mechanisms for coping with addiction. While holistic therapy is a great way of addressing the root of the addiction to prevent a relapse, inspiration to overcome addiction is necessary for overcoming it for good.

But how do you find a lasting inspiration in a world full of fleeting motivational speakers who inspire you for just one hour? When they leave, you are left with the same if not worse struggles for days, months or even years. The solution for lasting inspiration lies in prayers.

The Power of Prayer

Whether you are religious or not, mantras or prayers can be a valuable practice for positive affirmation. Prayers bolster a holistic therapy when dealing with pornography, or any other addiction for that matter.. For examples, the serenity prayer, which was created by Reinhold Niebuhr is one of the routine prayers in the recovery process. The prayer provides an insight into self-realization by showing that you cannot control everything in life while also acknowledging the struggles that you face daily as you seek for a way towards recovery and serenity. Such prayers are effective in reinforcing positive thinking when repeated daily to ward off cravings.

Abby Willowroot also came up with one of the most inspirational prayers in the path to recovery from addiction. The Recovery Prayer is a reaffirmation of your awareness that it takes strength to recover. Such an affirmation can remind you to keep pressing on, in spite of the difficulties and temptations that come your way on a daily basis. Remaining positive in the fight against addiction is crucial if a person is to avoid relapsing.

Addiction is perceived as spiritual warfare in the Christian faith. It is seen as temptation, which leads to sin when you succumb, however, it leads to glory in eternal life when you remain strong and overcome the cravings. The Easter story in Christian faith is centered on the goodness of God in choosing to become human. The pain and suffering that Jesus went through allow a believer to turn to Jesus because he understands your afflictions based on his own suffering on the cross. The total healing of a person from the chains of addiction is linked to the wounds of Jesus at the cross, which is a message of hope for anyone battling addiction.

Sheer willpower can take you far when fighting addiction. Inspiration towards being a loving father or mother and a devoted spouse are crucial elements in the recovery process but willpower will only take you thus far, as you may have learned in your battle against pornography addiction. When life stresses kick in, it is easy to find yourself back in the same boat facing the same problems and struggles. That’s why turning to greater power for inspiration is crucial. In a world full of judgmental people, revealing your secret to everyone can be counterproductive. This is why turning to God with all your secret struggles is such a reassuring gesture especially in your time of desperation.

Holistic Therapy

Prayer provides a holistic therapy in that it focuses on making you whole again from a spiritual perspective that addresses the roots of your addiction. Like a holistic treatment approach, which is often used alongside other conventional treatments, prayers should be incorporated as a daily practice and a source of strength especially when addiction urges are strong. In conventional medical facilities, medication is provided to ease withdrawal symptoms. Such an approach may not work when addressing addiction because some of the medications used in conventional treatment, such as fentanyl, cause addiction. It is crucial to find a holistic treatment approach that does not expose you to potential-addictive substances to prevent other addictions. When you emerge from these treatment and recovery centers, you are armed with the knowledge that will help you to stay sober, but the ups and downs of life may bring you down to where you began. Hence, inspiration through prayer should be incorporated as a daily practice towards maintaining positive thinking and clarity to fight addiction.

Secrets weigh down on you and can hold power against you when they remain hidden. Any pornography addict can certainly relate to a world of secrets. It is a solace to know that you cannot keep secrets from God. When you empty the secrets of your struggle to God in prayer, the weight of these secrets subsides. This is why mantras and prayers have been widely used in recovery and treatment programs. Science supports prayer as an effective tool for lowering blood pressure, relaxing the body and uplifting your mood. Therefore, prayers can be highly beneficial when recited in high tension or stressful situations.

The effectiveness of different prayers depends on beliefs and faith of the person. Addiction can blind a person from the goodness inherent in them. During such times you can find it easier to believe in eternal goodness. A spiritual awareness through prayer can help you begin to recognize the external goodness, which instigates the reconnection to the inherent goodness inside of your whole being. Some prayer can help you to separate your individuality from addiction, which is causal in letting off the burden of addiction.

Prayer and forgiveness work in tandem. During times of addiction, turning to prayers and feeling God’s forgiveness can be powerful tools for overcoming addiction. The warmth and acceptance that someone feels through forgiveness from God and other people who are hurt by the addictive lifestyle can be astonishing. Not only does it help a person to find forgiveness from God, but it is also a powerful weapon for personal forgiveness, which acts against self-blame to uplift you towards revisiting your life choices. The effects of fentanyl addiction such as seizures, slowed breathing, euphoria, drowsiness, headaches, and itching can be a thing of the past when one embraces a powerful method like prayer to beat addiction. Forgiveness can help you achieve a feeling of love, abiding peace and assurance in life.

One Day at a Time

Beating addiction is a struggle that you need to take one day at a time to avoid the pressure of surviving the whole process. Some prayers remind you that it is important to approach the problem one moment at a time so that you can manage the anxiety that comes with the early stages of recovery. Through such prayers, you are reminded that the problems you face are temporary and that they will subside, which helps with focusing on one issue at a time. Thinking far ahead is a major source of anxiety. The daily practice of prayer reminds you of taking a day at a time until you reach a point of complete recovery. The rest of the Serenity Prayer is a reminder that living one day at a time is a crucial factor in finding peace. The prayer can give you a different perspective for approaching addiction not as a problem meant to limit you but as a challenge raised to strengthen you.

One of the most powerful prayers against addiction is St Jude’s prayer, which perceives addiction as an illness and that the addict is not alone in the battle against addiction. The prayers affirm the messages of God’s unconditional love. It further asserts on the message of self-awareness to help you gain control of your life through acknowledging that God is always available to help you to realize the best state of health. Many treatments and recovery options are available for the addicted person but a holistic approach to address the root of addiction should incorporate the power of prayer.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

 

Guest Blog: How Men’s Mental Health is Completely Ignored

Note from Josh: While I take an extended break this summer, I wanted to provide some kind of content, so Patrick Bailey was once again nice enough to contribute several entries you’ll read over the next few weeks.

By Patrick Bailey

With the recent news on suicide of high-profile public figures such as Anthony Bourdain and Avicii, it may be difficult to wrap our head about the fact that mental health for men is very underrepresented. Whether it’s because women often speak out, or there is generally more women who suffer from mental health issues, this is not an excuse to ignore the other side of the spectrum.

 

The facts about mental health problems in men

Also known as the “silent battle”, many men often fear coming clean of the issues they are facing because of the stigma about mental health. Often, it is easier for women to admit that they are facing these issues because there is no double standard when it comes to talking about emotions. Many men suffer in silence for two main reasons: they don’t want to be thought of as “weak”, and they don’t want to be labeled as someone with a mental health issue.

However, this problem is only making the situation worse. According to recent statistics, 75% of the total population who commits suicide annually are men. In simpler ratio, a man attempts to take his own life every 20 minutes in the United States. The stigma isn’t helping–and the silence is aggravating the situation either way. Often ignored, men may even suffer more severe symptoms of mental health problems when untreated. Some of the common conditions include:

Depression

A total of 6 million men in the United States undergo depression every year. Since men may be less attuned with their emotions, some of them have less awareness that they might be suffering from a condition. Male depression is much less diagnosed compared to female depression. Some of the telltale signs of depression in men are:

  • Fatigue – general exhaustion, lack of physical energy to do usual tasks
  • Irritability – easily angered, annoyed, displays negative moods which are far from the usual self
  • Aggression – threatens to hurt others, hurt oneself, or shows physical or verbal signs of abuse
  • Loss of interest in activities – lack of motivation in work, hobbies, and relationships

These signs are quite different from those of women, as women often report feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. Since men’s minds are wired differently, depression may manifest differently.

Anxiety

Aside from depression, men are also prone to developing anxiety problems. Some of the symptoms may include:

  • Extreme sense of worry – loss of judgement over things that may cause actual harm vs. those that shouldn’t be thought about too much
  • Physical manifestations – nervous breakdown, panic attacks, cold sweats
  • Loss of function – in some cases, anxiety may be severe to the point that a man may refuse to even avoid daily activities to suppress feelings of anxiety

Another hidden problem that has lately starting to gain attention are men diagnosed with social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Some men isolate themselves to the point that they never go out of the house for years, as seen in Japan’s epidemic called Hikikomori in men.

Bipolar Disorder

Over 2.3 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, half of which are men usually around the ages of 16-25. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings which have two opposite poles: manic phase and depressive phase.

During the manic phase, a man may feel a sense of invigoration, similar to feelings like “he can conquer the world”. This results to sleeplessness, heightened senses, and even engagement with reckless activities. This might be very draining as some men experience manic episodes even during normal times of rest. During depressive phase, men may feel sluggish, unmotivated, and restless to seek another “high”.

A lot of men who suffer from bipolar disorder couldn’t sort out their emotions clearly, making them resort to unhealthy ways to cope such as drinking alcohol and taking in drugs. As a result, bipolar disorder can be accompanied with problems in substance abuse.

Psychosis and Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and psychosis is a very debilitating condition that affects how a person views reality and their internal thoughts. It is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and bizarre ways of thinking. People with schizophrenia may even be acting on things that appear on their minds, having mistakenly thought that it was appearing in real life.

Other men who have schizophrenia have reduced feelings of happiness, may have a flat affect, or have trouble remembering past events.

It is shocking to know that most schizophrenia patients are men over 30. This is an alerting statistic that professionals should be taking mental health for men more seriously, as early diagnosis and treatment for schizophrenia disorder is key.

 

Why are men’s mental health often ignored?

To understand the reasons why men’s mental health is not given its due attention, we must take a look at the problem in many angles.

There are double standards for men in mental health.

Looking at a sociocultural perspective, the stigma on men has always been there–they are perceived as emotionally tough, mentally strong, and does not break down with the slightest challenges in life. This is often portrayed in the media through Hollywood’s superheroes, soldiers, and other men of valor who did not let their “feelings” get in the way.

As this stigma is embedded in men’s minds, it has become difficult for them to open about what they are going through because men are supposed to toughen up. This double standard to be “emotionally strong” has caused lesser men to seek help from mental professionals.

There are many organizations that support mental health for women, but rarely for men.

A lot of mental health organizations are created specifically for women, such as those related to eating disorders, postpartum depression, and anxiety. These organizations run programs that speak specifically to women’s issues, and it is for a good cause.

However, the emphasis on these programs for women strikes a loss of balance for organizations that are specific to men. Thankfully, this has been called to attention and there are now new organizations meant to address some problems commonly faced by men such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression.

Mental health is often overshadowed by a substance abuse problem in men.

Men are known to be problem solvers. Whenever something isn’t right, they don’t want to talk about it–they want to do something about it. This is why in moments of depression, anxiety, or loss of control, men often resort to whatever could seemingly “fix” the problem–whether it’s consumption of drugs, alcohol, or any other form of addiction. Men are more likely to try out different kinds of illicit substances than women.

The problem now appears to be more of a substance abuse problem and the underlying causes that brought about the abuse are often ignored. Although mental health issues are still more common than women, it may be possible that statistics for men are higher if only they sought help instead of turning to substances.

 

What should be done to help increase awareness for men’s mental health?

Given that men suffer as much as women when it comes to mental health, what are specific steps that communities should take to bring awareness for mental health towards the other gender?

Equally promote gender-targeted programs for men.

Just as women have campaigns on their own, men should also be given the same privilege. There should be more programs open to men who are looking to solve mental health problems–campaigns for PTSD, drug rehab for men, and other gender-specific programs to help them feel that they are not alone in their battle as men.

Men should be assured that it is not only women who seek help for mental health. Having more gender-targeted programs make them feel secured that there are other people who may be going through the same problems as them.

Re-program stigmas through media.

The idea that men shouldn’t be talking about how they are feeling should be removed the way it was introduced–through media exposure. Advocates can lobby in media companies and pitch advertisements, campaigns, and programs that would help increase mental health awareness in men.

Additionally, they could also spread the message in other forms–through social media campaigns, contests, and short films. It is okay for men to share their feelings. It is not a form of weakness, rather, it’s a way to unload and to let others understand your mental and emotional states. When men say that they are okay even when they’re not, others might just believe it. Re-programming the stigmas can completely change how men see their mental health.

Strengthen advocacies related to suicide.

Three-quarters of suicides in the United States are done by men. A lot of these men go through bouts of depression, and a recent study shows that men have consumed alcohol over the last hour before their decision to take their own life. This all links back to the tendencies of men to alcoholism, drug intake, and other dangerous addictions as a way to cope with depression.

The thing is, these suicides could have been prevented if the problems in depression was addressed initially. When men suppress their feelings, they tend to deal with their problems in the ways they think would give them satisfaction–through temporary, yet dangerous highs. By cutting the root of the problem, it is easier for men to succumb to problems of addictions and abuse, and ultimately suicide.

There should be more advocacies to help men who are undergoing depression. It would be helpful to see more male high-profile personalities coming out and testifying about their struggles on depression and thoughts of suicide, to help other men understand that they are not facing the challenges alone. When more people talk about it, others muster enough courage to get help.

Check on all the precious men in your lives.

Government programs and non-profit organizations are helpful–but they can only reach as far as those who ask for their help. As citizens, we can always do our part to help men succeed against mental health problems.

The first thing is to understand the signs of common mental health problems in men–whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or something else for that matter. Trust your instincts and talk to a professional right away if you notice some signs on your male loved ones. They might be able to give you some ways to encourage the men in your lives to get a definitive diagnosis and treatment.

The second thing to do is to be an encouraging person in times that these people in your life show signs of their mental health problem. We can’t truly, fully, walk in their shoes and understand their struggles, but we can empathize with them. By letting them know that we are there, and we care, they are more likely to be motivated to get help for their issues.

Lastly, it is also important to be an encourager through your actions. Perhaps your husband may be suffering from substance abuse due to depression. You can be an encourager by inviting him to try jogging outdoors. Maybe your brother exhibit signs of bipolar disorder. Give him motivation by presenting thoughtful reminders about his medication. These simple acts of encouragement makes the men in your lives feel that they matter, and for that they would want to be better.

 

Men deserve help as much as women

When it comes to mental health, men deserve all the help they can get as much as women. Men can also affected with psychological factors as much as any other type of person. However, they might be discouraged to open up due to the lack of support and stigmas in society.

The purpose of this post is to spread awareness that men can also be victims of mental health problems. By understanding why they might be reluctant to seek help, we might just be able to find ways to reach out to them.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Guest Blog: Understanding Depression During Addiction Recovery

Note from Josh: While I take an extended break this summer, I wanted to provide some kind of content, so Patrick Bailey was once again nice enough to contribute several entries you’ll read over the next few weeks.

By Patrick Bailey

People who have gone through withdrawal or have witnessed someone suffer because of addiction understand how difficult it is. Besides the physical discomfort and pain, people in this process suffer from devastating depression that makes the recovery even more difficult.

Depression is a mental illness that can affect anyone and anywhere in the world, even those in rehabs. According to the report released by the Center for Disease Control, 10 percent of physician’s visit is because of depression. The World Health Organization reports that it is the leading cause of disability.

Depression is a mental illness that can happen anytime. In fact, it often strikes during recovery from alcohol or substance abuse and addiction. The symptoms often show during the first few weeks or months of the recovery phase. It is therefore essential that the treatment facility, be it a regular type or a luxury rehab in California, offers dual diagnosis treatment in order to effectively provide care should depression happen during recovery.

Causes of Depression During Recovery

There are many factors that could cause depression during the addiction recovery process. This includes the following:

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or simply PAWS is the usual phenomenon related to recovery. Depression can function as PAWS and commonly happens in the days or weeks after symptoms of acute withdrawal died down. The symptoms of acute withdrawal often coincide with detoxification and linger until the first few weeks of recovery. On the other hand, depressive symptoms can last for months during the recovery stage.

Changes to the brain related to addiction

During addiction, the brain is affected by alcohol or drugs. When you go to a rehab or a treatment facility, you are treated. As a result, your brain adjusts to the effects of the substances by decreasing the production of neurotransmitters that give you the high or feel good sensation. This includes dopamine, GABA, and serotonin.

These neurotransmitters are responsible for modulating your mood or simply tell you how you should feel. When these chemicals are at their optimum levels they can be translated as a positive outlook or a good mood. When these neurotransmitters are at their lowest levels, this could manifest as depression.

During the early stage of recovery, when the brain is still adjusting to life without harmful substances like alcohol or drugs, depression can happen due to low levels of dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. This usually happens approximately 90 days without drugs or alcohol. A brain functioning lower than normal and producing lower levels of these neurotransmitters can show symptoms of depression ranging between mild and severe.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis has a higher chance of occurring to people with substance addiction. Although there are also other factors at play such as family history. Usually, an untreated dual diagnosis like bipolar disorder, major depression, and other depressive mental issues may be the reason for depression during recovery. After all, there is a strong link between alcoholism and dual diagnosis as well as depression and substance addiction. Several studies show that many cases of substance addiction are due to the patient’s effort to numb the pain he is feeling.

Feelings of despair

Most patients undergo the stage where they grieve for the loss of drugs or alcohol in their life. This usually happens at the start of the recovery process. Letting go of your old habits or addiction, however crucial to your well-being, can still cause you to feel a sense of loss. In addition, emotions that were once repressed by alcohol or drugs can suddenly arise causing sudden negative changes in your mood.

Symptoms

During the addiction recovery stage, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of depressions. Signs can include the following symptoms that could manifest alone, or all at the same time:

  • Persistent emotional numbness or being in a sad, empty, or low mood
  • Recurrence of negative thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty to focus or concentrate
  • Changes in appetite (eating remarkable more or significantly less)
  • Having trouble sleeping, oversleeping, or staying asleep
  • Lack of motivation for hobbies that you once loved
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Frequent feeling of being guilty

If you or your loved one is experiencing or manifesting any of the symptoms listed for a couple of weeks or more, consult a healthcare professional about this.

Risks of Untreated Depression

Clinical depression that goes untreated and allowed to progress can compromise your recovery in rehab centers, treatment facilities, or wherever you are admitted. This is applicable especially during the first few weeks of the recovery stage when cravings are at their strongest. Negative emotions like anger, grief, sadness, feeling of helplessness, can trigger anyone to go back to their old habit.

There is also a great chance that the patient will have the urge to escape the facility because of the painful situation he is undergoing. Patients usually report ebbing of suicidal thoughts. The worst thing that could happen when depression happens during recovery is drug or alcohol relapse. Going back to alcohol or substance at this stage could have fatal results because of the high risk of overdose and deadly health effects.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

I’m Wondering if Confronting a Bad Choice from My Past is the Right Choice Today

One of my poor choices of the past found me today and I’m still unsure how to handle it.

I feel like I’ve lived a lot of lives in that I’ve really packed plenty into my 43 years. One of my little adventures that people have found among the most interesting was from 1998-2001, when I was a co-owner, promoter and performer with a professional wrestling company that produced shows throughout New England.

I very rarely ever wrestled. I just didn’t have the interest nor commitment to train. I enjoyed writing the scripts and serving as a bad guy “manager” for those wrestlers who were not good at working the crowd. We can get into the pathology of me actively trying to get crowds to boo me another time, but for a short while, I was considered one of the better talkers in the area when it came to eliciting a negative reaction from the audience. I’ve included one of my headshots and a photo where I was trying to help one of my wrestlers to his feet because, well, they’re funny as hell two decades later. I don’t completely shun that time of my life and it’s important to highlight that.

Anyway, this morning I was watching TV and my son was going through old New England wrestling videos on YouTube. Years ago, I had a DVD that showed some of the things I did in wrestling, so he’d seen me before and wasn’t specifically looking for me on there.

He called my attention to a video he found from 1999. It was called “Josh Shay promo” and was one I have never seen and didn’t realize a tape existed. This misspelling of my name in the title kept it in hiding all of these years.

This particular show was not one I promoted. One of the wrestlers who worked for me pulled together a show as a fundraiser for his father, who was well liked in their Rhode Island town and had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Both he and his father asked me to be on the show because they knew that I could rile the crowd up with some dark references to his cancer early in the show. They also knew I wouldn’t have a problem “getting what came to me” at the end of the show when a 300-pound wrestler would jump on me from the top rope, and then the father would run into the ring and put a foot on me to make the pin. It was illogical because neither the father nor I were wrestling, but would send people home happy.

I got to the show about three hours early because I thought Rhode Island was much further. When I ran into my wrestler friend and his dad, we briefly went over the plan and then he told me I could go downstairs to wait at the American Legion hall, because that’s where the “locker room” was set up.

Screen Shot 2019-05-26 at 4.57.02 PMIn reality, it was the bar at the Legion hall, and since it was a Sunday afternoon, the bar was open, serving its regular members. The locker room was really the men’s bathroom and the performers stuck to one side of the basement that had a lot of tables and chairs to wait.

Now, I was 23 at the time, but had been drinking – often heavily – for six years at that point. I knew that I’d never performed under the influence before because I was usually heavily involved in the planning of a show. That day, I was just a performer, and didn’t have anything too athletic to attempt, so I figured it was OK if I got a buzz.

Fast-forward three hours – and around 8 beers a couple shots – later and I was far drunker than I intended on getting. When it came time to go upstairs to do my nasty promo, I may have had a little trouble walking…but I don’t remember.

Later I was told that I gave one of the most venom-filled-approaching-inappropriate speeches most had ever heard. The workers appreciated it for its rawness and the crowd was full of genuine disdain…but I don’t remember.

I faintly remember the end of the show, when I took the big splash from the top rope and the father pinned me.

A few times over the next year or two I was reminded of that promo by some of the people who were there and how I probably crossed real-life lines the audience wasn’t ready for. A wrestling crowd expects a live-action stunt-filled cartoon show that doesn’t challenge their values. I heard enough reports that I crossed that line.

So, this morning, my son finds this promo and asks me if I wanted to watch it with him. I hadn’t thought about this show for years, but the entire situation flooded back into my mind in the blink of an eye.

Screen Shot 2019-05-26 at 4.56.18 PMI told my son the truth. I was drunk, don’t remember what I said, was told it was too much, and that I think I’d be embarrassed. He took his iPad into his room and watched it alone. He told me later, “That was really pushing it, but you did get a good reaction.”

In the eight or nine hours since that’s happened, I have felt tempted to have him play the video for me, but it gives me a real bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. There I am, in the early years of a drinking problem that would turn into full-blown alcoholism trying to pretend to be an asshole, only to legitimately come across as one.

I like seeing a car crash as much as the next guy, but I don’t know what would happen if I watched this. I’m not afraid I’ll return to drinking…in the three days I’ll be 5 years, 2 months sober. I just don’t want it to be a black cloud over my head for a few days. I could say it might serve as a reminder to stay sober, but I don’t really need those reminders anymore.

There are things that I actively avoid, like a large box full of trophies, plaques and certificates I was given in the few years leading up to my downfall when I was a magazine publisher and city councilor. When I clean the garage and see them, it gives me a sick feeling. I still debate tossing them in the garbage, but it seems almost disrespectful to just throw the Key to the City away.

I don’t think seeing this video would be a real trigger for me, other than seeing something I wish had never happened. If it were someone else, maybe it would be entertaining, but I don’t think there’s any bad drunken behavior of mine that I’d laugh at on video, even it’s 20 years old.

Anyway, it’s certainly not life or death. I’m sure I’ll forget about it in a few days. I’m just surprised that it’s stuck with me all day.

Trading One Addiction for Another is Not Recovery

As many of you know, I have a sister site, where I offer advising services to those who have pornography addiction issues and their partners or family who are trying to learn and cope with the situation. I’ve done this for about a year now and after working with many people, I’m seeing a trend of pornography addicts trading their addiction for another.

In most cases, it’s either a sharp increase in drinking or many additional hours spent playing video games. While you may be able to rationalize that there aren’t as many moral issues (objectification, debate about cheating) with alcohol or video games, they are still addictions with side effects that don’t necessarily exist with porn.

I’m not suggesting for a second to stick with porn. I’m saying that simply moving on to a different addiction is not going to fix anything in the long run, as the addicted brain doesn’t really parse the difference between addictions. It just wants those pleasure chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.

Why do people drink? When it came to my alcoholism, I can tell you that it was for the exact same reason I used porn: As an escape from real life. I don’t pretend to understand the physiology of how alcohol leads you to getting buzzed or drunk, but that feeling of numbness was what I was after.

Why do people play video games? I’ve never been a video game guy, but it seems to me that the appeal is two-fold. First, like all other addictions, it’s an escape from real life. You’ll never be a cowboy, gangster or professional football player, but today’s games can get you virtually closer than ever before. Second, I think gaming comes with a false sense of accomplishment. Being able to say you finished a game is great, but how does that positively affect reality?

Switching addictions is not recovery. It’s simply falling further into the pit. I’ve talked to a couple of female partners of male porn addicts and while they all seemed worried about the new addictions, especially when it was alcohol, they universally seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that the porn use was gone or greatly dissipated.

I can understand that feeling. I would bet my house that the instances of a partner’s betrayal trauma with alcohol or video game addiction are exponentially lower than they are with sex or pornography. They may still feel neglected by the addict who is drinking to excess or sitting in front of the TV at all hours with a video game controller in his hands, but these addictions don’t feel like the personal attack pornography does.

Addiction is addiction is addiction is addiction. Individual addictions all have their specific physical and psychological side effects. You’ll rot your liver far faster with alcohol than any other addiction, but what’s going on in your mind is largely the same as pornography or video game addiction (or for that matter drug addiction, gambling addiction, food addiction, etc.)

I say congratulations if you’re taming the beast of addiction. I know first-hand that it’s not an easy road, especially in early recovery. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The time I spent with my addictions is now spent on healthy behaviors, but I constantly have to make sure that I’m not slowly and quietly forming other addictions.

Be wary of swapping one addiction for another. At best, it will only slow, not stop, your one-way ticket to rock bottom.

I was Raped. Why do I Feel Nothing?

One of my favorite blogs to read is Revenge of Eve and in one of her postings today, she reflected back on a traumatic sexual assault at 14 she didn’t recognize as assault at the time. I thought it was refreshing to hear somebody say that they were a willing participant in the moment, but that the perpetrator (in this case a man in his 30s) is appalling and should have known better. I think a lot of sexual assaults aren’t as cut and dry as “this person did X against my will” and they need to be talked about.

While I’ve written a little bit about sexual abuse I endured at the hands of a babysitter when I was a child, I’ve not written about another incident that happened to me in my early 20s. This is partially because I don’t think I’ve completely processed it, but also because I haven’t figured out how it fits into the narrative of my life story.

The Incident in Question

When I was 22, I was living on my own for the first time in my life in Portland, Maine. It’s a fun city, and as close to cosmopolitan as you get north of Boston. I had recently been named editor of a B2B trade paper covering the burgeoning high-tech sector of Northern New England. This was about 2-3 years before the dot-com explosion took a nose-dive.

I had to regularly attend tech networking events, and among those in Portland, I ran into a lot of the same people. As a single guy on the lookout for dating opportunities, these were mostly dry wells, as the women were usually double my age, married and with children. However, I did bump into a woman I’ll call Ann, multiple times.

Ann was about my age, maybe a year or two older. She was a bigger girl with naturally bright red hair, bordering on orange. Ann seemed sweet enough, although a bit socially inept, although at networking events with high-tech types, social ineptness was the norm.

After one of our conversations about a mutual enjoyment of tennis despite a lack of motor skills, we agreed to meet in the park to play after work later that week. As expected, neither of us brought a lot to our games, but it was a chance to hang out and converse in a non-professional environment.

We played three or four times before I recognized that this was just somebody I would not be pursuing romantically. I didn’t find her physically attractive and while she was fun to be around, I thought we clearly lacked a necessary spark. After one of our games, she suggested that we both go home, take showers, change and reconvene at her house where she’d make us dinner and she’d pick something up at the video store for us to watch. With no ulterior motives, I agreed and about 90 minutes later, I arrived at her apartment house.

She was just finishing making dinner when I got there. We ate and then made our way to the living room. She got us each a beer and popped whatever movie she rented into the VCR.

My next memory is laying on my back in a bed, both of us naked, with her straddled atop of me. She was placing my limp hands on her breasts and clearly enjoying herself. I blacked out again.

The next memory is waking up in her bed with the clock reading 4:30 in the morning. I was groggy, but since I was laying on the outside, I was able to get out of bed, and gather my clothes from her floor and make my way out of her room.

I dressed in her kitchen and left her apartment. She sent me an email later that day at work telling me she had a good time and hoped we could play tennis later in the week. I agreed, but we never conversed, nor saw each other again. I didn’t even see her at networking events.

Making Sense of Things

My theory is that she spiked the beer and before I was completely unconscious, she led me back to her room where she had her way with me. From an objective point of view, especially if I reverse the gender roles in the situation, it’s hard to not call this experience a rape.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t believe I carry a lot of baggage because of it and I wonder why. The few people I’ve told about this usually look on with horror as I get to the end of the story and uniformly agree it was sexual assault.

I know how many rape victims suffer some kind of PTSD or other trauma from their experience – and while I have both from other incidents in my life – I question why it feels like this one didn’t cause an emotional or mental scar. Isn’t being sexually violated supposed to shake you to the core?

I never consented to having sex with this young woman, nor would I have as I just didn’t find her attractive. She coerced me into it without my approval. That is, technically, rape.

Did this have any subconscious effect on my developing pornography and alcohol addictions at the time, or play any role 15 years later as other repressed memories aided in me spiraling out of control?

Is it possible that this could just be “something that happened to me” and there is no deeper meaning, context or result? I’ve never felt anger or hate toward Ann. It’s more a sense of pity and confusion. I don’t think there’s any answer to “Why did you do that to me?” that I need to hear for any kind of closure. Maybe I shrug off the women-rapes-man dynamic we rarely hear about. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a child. I just don’t know why I don’t feel more of…something.

Perhaps the biggest scar this incident left is the notion that something is wrong with me for not feeling more deeply about what happened. Maybe someday a door will open in my mind that gives the situation a deeper meaning and context, but for now it’s just going to remain an enigma. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to feel.

Why Seek Conflict when Recovery is Going So Well?

Revolutionaries change the world. For better or worse, they leave their impact on the political, physical, cultural and/or social environment in ways they may not have even intended. They can be evil like Hitler, gifted like Shakespeare or unknown – like whoever started that goofy dance all the kids are doing where they swing their arms in front of them and behind them while swaying their hips. That said, I know being a revolutionary is absolutely counterproductive to my recovery.

For the first 30 years of my life, I told myself that I was put on Earth to have some kind of long-lasting impact that would be felt by everyone far and wide. By my mid-30s, that level of narcissism had settled as I decided I only needed to be known by everyone in a 25-mile radius around me.

The ironic thing is, I achieved it. Whether it was through my successful regional magazine, a film festival I co-founded or because of serving in local political office, I reached my goal of having just about everybody around me know who I was, and I loved nothing more than when someone came up to me to tell me what a good job I was doing.

I loved it even more though when somebody would come up to me and start an argument. I was the kind of person who, whether you did it to my face, in social media, or the local newspaper, I would dig in my heels and fight you word-for-word until I won whatever battle I thought I was fighting.

I thought I was a revolutionary. Whether it was introducing new ideas to the community in my magazine, discovering new filmmakers or creating city policy, I felt like it was my place to change the world and if that came with conflict, bring it on. I was going to win…or at least convince myself I had.

Today, instead of fashioning myself some sort of regional revolutionary, I actually avoid as much unnecessary conflict as possible. I haven’t had social media for about five years, first as a condition of bail and then probation and I don’t anticipate myself ever going back. I need neither the attention a picture on Instagram will get me, nor the long thread of responses as I argue some political or social point with my “friends.”

I’ve learned that when it comes to this kind of conflict, there is very little that I’m going to be able to do, either about someone’s opinion, or about whatever it is we’re arguing about. I completely understand why there is such support for Donald Trump, and I completely understand why there is such contempt, but I’m not going to get into a discussion about either. Whatever happens with Donald Trump, my opinion has no effect on his decisions and changing someone else’s opinion these days is just about impossible, no matter what facts or statistics you bring to the table, so why bother?

I’ve also become the same way with television and movies. Why do I want to get emotionally involved in something that is going to upset me, whether there’s a positive resolution or not? The other day, I happened upon the reboot of Wife Swap and it didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that it was just about setting the audience up to root for one set of parents over the other, depending on what your beliefs and background are. I don’t want to get upset watching what I think is bad parenting. I don’t want to get upset watching people fail at running restaurants, bars or whatever the premise may be. I also watch far less sports than I once did.

It’s not just “reality” TV. I’ve almost completely turned away from dramatic TV shows and movies. I don’t want to see criminals be put in jail, nor get away with it, even if I know they’re just actors. I don’t want to see people lose loved ones or relationships not work out, even if it’s fake. Unless I’ve seen the movie and TV, so it’s lost its emotional punch, I avoid programming that features conflict as entertainment.

Perhaps this means that I’m running from the world’s problems and great art. At this point in my life, with my recovery going so well for so long, I’m OK with that accusation. Regardless of my opinion about the death penalty or abortion, I’m not going to be marching for or against it. That kind of energy, on either side, isn’t going to help me keep things on an even level. I’d rather see an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond or The Office that I’ve seen 10 times and leaves me feeling amused – or at worse, not feeling anything at all.

I think that I used alcohol and porn to let me escape my need of being a revolutionary, if only momentarily. I used them to bring me down from the emotions I caused – and needed — while creating conflict. When those needs disappear, it’s a lot easier to handle recovery.