Meet A Porn Addict on the Verge of Getting Help

Note from Josh: I can’t pretend this isn’t long. It’s very long, but it’s very powerful. In the pornography addiction advising service I offer, I always ask for an introduction from the prospective client to give me a sense of where they are with things. This is one that came from a new client who allowed me to run a version of what he presented me. I think it is one of the best first-person profiles of somebody who recognizes they have a problem and has some inkling where it came from – and is finally ready to address it. This does get a little graphic in a few parts and this man’s thinking – like any pornography addict – is flawed in many places.

 

I was born in (the very early 1980s) in California to parents that had gotten married because my mother had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. They were Catholics. My father was a narcissist, as in NPD, and took actual pleasure in manipulating my mother. As part of this manipulation, he decided he needed to separate her from the support of her family, so he moved us to Idaho where he had purchased nine acres out in the mountains near absolutely nothing. He had made the purchase with his older brother who just wanted a place to camp and hunt, and we moved out there with the idea that they’d be able to set up a homestead with elbow grease and a few hundred dollars. They were stymied right up front when trying to drill a well with a rented hand operated drill, and we went from tents to looking for something else.

My parents found an abandoned house and “bought it” with a very small down payment and promise of monthly payments, it was owner financed. There was no heat, the pipes had all burst, and the roof leaked, but it was a start. My dad found that there were no jobs available, so he was unable to repair the house in preparation for winter, and we found out first-hand how brutal the winters in Idaho can be. He got a job bucking hay, it paid him $1,800 the first few years, which didn’t really buy much food, even when all you’re buying is bulk beans, rice, and flour.

After that first winter, my dad took a construction job in California and we returned long enough for him to build a few houses. In that time, I befriended my great grandfather and then watched as caught pneumonia and died. I was later told that the family was relieved he had died because he had attempted to grope us children, though I don’t remember this. I had a sister already, I was three at this point and she was two.

We moved back to Idaho with enough money for my father to patch the roof, replace the crumbling plaster and pipes, and cut and split an awful lot of wood from the state forests just outside of town. We proceeded to go through another winter, where things spiraled downward for my parents. I even got to witness my mother shrieking at my father while throwing firewood at him and I had no idea why, or what this meant, except that things were very cold and not safe. And pea soup was terrible.

We continued to live in that house for most of my childhood. All of our belongings came from the dump and my mother recycled or made our clothes. I ended up going to public school for the first three grades, where I was mostly an outcast because I wore trash, but it wasn’t all bad. I made friends with the second-grade teacher and she got me books.

There were now more of us, two younger brothers were added to the brood. I got along with them fine, but they hated each other and were miserable because my father didn’t show them any real attention. In third grade, my father decided to take me out of school and start homeschooling, my mother was the teacher, all grades, all subjects. There was no longer any friends or activities outside the house.

My dad seemed averse to getting any house with heat and paint on the walls, even when he started to make money (which he did). There’s a lot of details in here that aren’t relevant. Life was OK for me during the rental house years, though I started into puberty without any guidance from either of my parents, which was very rough. I had pretty much decided I had cancer of the pee-pee and was going to die and go to hell, because I couldn’t stop thinking about touching girls, and bad thoughts are sins just as real as taking action on those thoughts. But still, there were no friends allowed, so we just kept to ourselves and studied inside.

Then my dad bought 76 acres in northern Idaho, literally 20 minutes from a gas station and nearly an hour from town. We got two old trailers that had been abandoned and hauled them out there. The boys got put in the smaller trailer (there were 9 children now). The heater was an old fuel-oil unit that had a tank inside the trailer. At first, I kept this filled and we had some meager heat, but the firebox in the oil burner from the 1950s had rusted through, and was smoking into the trailer, which didn’t poison us because it was missing windows and the steel doors were warped and didn’t shut. So, that was the end of the heat for the boys.

My father installed a fireplace in the other trailer. Us boys walked down to the back half of the property and started thinning the trees, cutting out the dead ones, and hauling the wood back up to the trailer on our backs to keep our parents (and little sisters) warm. My mother was pregnant at this point and just wanted a house with water and a sewer.

A co-worker of my father’s bought a truck load of plywood and 2x4s and lied about it, said it was being thrown away by the building supply store, otherwise my father wouldn’t have accepted it. I dug an enormous hole and we build an outhouse over it with the materials, so at least we didn’t have to do our business in the elements.

We did have a well drilled at this point and installed a hand pump. It was an eighth mile away from the trailers down a very steep hill in a deep ravine, and as I used to joke, we only had running water if I had the energy to run. I pumped water into five-gallon jugs, two at a time, and carried them back to the trailers, one on each shoulder. I did this a few times every day. Bathing involved a sponge and warming this water on the fireplace.

Making at least a show of getting basic necessities, my dad had me dig a pit for a 2,000-gallon cistern, another one for a 500-gallon septic tank, and then a few thousand feet of leach field. I got up early, finished my homeschool before noon and did this until night fall, every day. My father actually hired a bulldozer to come out and cut a quarter mile long driveway from the county road, after we had gotten the 4×4 Suburban stuck in the muck one too many times. He wasn’t willing to pay for gravel, however, and made some kind of a trade for six or seven loads of pit rock to be delivered. The trucks did a passable job of spreading this and all I had to do was finish spreading it and breaking the pit rock up (head size rocks) with a 16-pound sledge. So, yeah, I kinda felt like I lived on a chain gang.

My mother was miserable during this time, she was pregnant and it wasn’t going well. I was too miserable to really notice, I was digging the trenches through this snow to get the septic tank connected to the bigger trailer so my parents and the girls would have a functioning toilet. I was standing in two feet of water, covered with ice, and ended up getting severe frost bite. I was afraid to tell my parents, so I hid it from everyone. I watched as most of the flesh blackened and peeled away in chunks. My feet did heal, but were agonizing in hot or cold water for the next decade or so.

At this point, I was told that the baby wasn’t going to make it. My dad didn’t want to pay for a funeral, so the two of us made a coffin from fiber reinforce concrete, and as the hard winter transitioned to a flood spring, I began to dig a grave in preparation for the body of my baby brother. I only got to see him for a moment, the back half of his skull was missing, and he died immediately after birth, there was nothing that could be done to save him. My mother was devastated, and I struggled with burying him. At the makeshift funeral, I broke down sobbing too hard to finish, and my grandfather had to step-in to finish shoveling the dirt back into the hole.

My father had effectively nothing to do with the bury, and my mother was too stricken with grief to even notice what burying my baby brother was doing to me. I built a little fence around the sight and planted some flowers.

This coincided with me finding the internet at the place I was going to get help with my math course work. I found the internet, and the same day found porn. It was actually the first time I had seen a female unclothed, and the porn I ran into wasn’t exactly the classiest. I came away from the experience disturbed and sickened, it made me feel like women were incredibly unattractive, a feeling that stuck with me for the next two years of so.

I took the GED to graduate from high-school, home-school style, this was very near my 16th  birthday. On that birthday, I got my first job and shortly thereafter my first car. I spent the next year basically living in my car and working. I saved up a little money and got my first rental, a trailer, to be sure, but a trailer just off the nearby downtown of Paulson…a trailer in human habitable condition, with a heat, and AC and a roof that didn’t leak AND plumbing.

I fell back into porn, not having any girls to even think about, and not being sure how one approached a female, or where. To view porn helped, but it took getting past my aversion to the sight of naked women, which took a bit and kept me firmly on the track of the classiest softcore porn for the next few years. I’d look at it in the evenings and dream about the day when I would meet one of those women.

I had no expectation of ever meeting a girl anywhere near my age. I probably could have, and maybe fared better, but my father was very clear that college was for faggots and I would be a disappointment if I wasted my money on a piece of paper instead of succeeding with my wits. I got into classic car restoration and this more or less replaced my porn and video games almost entirely.

By the time I was 19-20, I had moved back in with my parents, who had finally bought their first normal human dwelling on the outskirts of Paulson. They set about trying to get me back into church by setting me up with a single woman who was 10-15 years or so older than myself. She was the youth counselor and my parents tried to convince me that if I could just get back in church and make it at least look like I believed, I stood a real chance of getting a piece of that, because, they told me, she was a spinster, lonely, willing, and still attractive. She wasn’t attractive to me, honestly, but I was on fire from the waist down, so I spent a couple of months going back to church. I finally decided that the pursuit was completely dishonest and gave up. I wanted sex, but it didn’t really find this woman attractive, and even if I had managed to woo her enough to look past the fact that I was the age of her students, I would have done so based entirely on a lie.

Somewhere around this time, my father decided to burn his bridges at work, sell the house, and move over to the coast of Washington to try to live semi-retired. I made the mistake of moving with them. What I found was an area with incredibly high drug use, nearly everyone I met was an alcoholic, and there was almost no one near my age, male or female. I got a rough job as a mechanic in a bad part of Rayburn, where I was frequently hounded and cat-called by the old gay guys in town. I took to drink and was quickly going through a few fifths a week, along with my normal beer consumption. I had lost all hope and started looking at porn a couple of drunken hours a day.

I finally managed to get a job at the shipyard as a finish carpenter. At first, it felt like a huge step up in the world, but I quickly realized it wasn’t. My drinking did slow a bit, but the porn got heavier. The only women at the shipyard were nearly the only women that I knew, and every guy there was gunning for them no matter age or looks, like these women were meat and they were starving dogs. One of my younger brothers also got a job at the shipyard, he met a meth addict, got her pregnant, got married, and got divorced, all in the course of a year. Now he had child support payments, and she was off working the next opportunity. He fell pretty hard into the bottle and has only recently come back out.

After about a year and a half of this, I was just done. I didn’t care if I lived or not anymore and decided that if I didn’t there was no reason to continue the grind. So, putting all my belongings in the back of a U-Haul, I set out for Texas. I got a job at AT&T and found that there were women, actual female creatures, in my age range. It was amazing.

The job was awful, at least for me, but the fact was that I was no longer in Washington and my drinking fell of very sharply, as did my porn use. I dated a few women, felt like it was at least possible, now, and did eventually meet my wife Carrie.

My parents started their long and incredibly dirty divorce at this time, culminating in a completely fractured family that hasn’t recovered since.

Carrie and I dated for almost exactly one year, and it was without a doubt the happiest year of my life. I had found a woman that I adored, who I thought was incredibly attractive, and was finally getting that thing I never really thought I’d experience: sex. We were codependent in the most literal sense of the word. We did everything together, at the near complete expense of friends and family, isolating us, just the two of us as a unit. It was probably, in retrospect, not the healthiest thing to do, but we were very happy with each other.

Shortly after we met, I lost my job and was on unemployment, which made it difficult to plan our future. We ended up getting married anyhow, after one year of dating very intensely. We had no money to speak of, so we got married by a guy nicknamed “Choppy” with no fanfare and no reception.

Shortly after that, I got a job offer for real money at a time when the recession was at its worst, so we decided to move out to California. We almost immediately ran into problems. My wife was unemployed and felt like she couldn’t get a job due to weed use, legal there, but almost every place still piss-tested. She became unhappy, and I became busy with 12-hour days at work, 6 days a week.

At first, she still dressed up in sexy outfits for me, and we went out to eat when we could, but the bills were crushing, the hours long, and my wife was home alone and bored out of her mind all day. This cocktail of bad things left us drifting apart. She tried to engage me in video games, but I was busy and turned her down, and so we ended up sitting on opposite sides of the same couch. We stopped having sex, which made me bitter.

At some point, actually, the day of my grandmother’s funeral, I complained about being treated like a friend. From that point on, my wife said she had sex out of fear, and felt like the next four years or so was me using her as a fleshlight. This feels very unfair to me, since we were both involved and I no longer wanted to have sex with her, because she clearly didn’t enjoy it, but when I opted out, she cried and said I didn’t find her attractive anymore.

We both filled this roll of unwilling partners, having sex once or twice a month for most of the next few years. I, as you can imagine, fell back into porn in earnest. The more I fell into porn, the less I felt the need to spend time with my wife, and our relationship became increasingly strained. We ended up nearly at divorce and moved back to Texas, where we hoped to put our lives back together, but that hasn’t happened. We have a nice house, I have a job that allows me to work at home, and we still can’t seem to sort out our differences.

I don’t really know what to try next, but I know that my kinks and interests in sex have morphed in the last five years into something that my wife is no longer able to meet me halfway on. Our struggle is that sex is just a way to relieve sexual tension, instead of a real gratification.

As time went on, I got into male-male-female threesome and wife sharing/cuckoldry fantasies and pornography, which meant I was moving further from anywhere my wife was willing to meet me.

Recently, I really stupidly asked her if she was fantasizing about a girl she had just met, while in the middle of us having sex, and the sex stopped immediately and she has been furious with me ever since. Part of the problem we are having with getting past this is that I can’t tell her why I asked her such a thing, and at such a time, because I don’t know why.

She thinks it’s because porn has brainwashed me, and maybe she’s right. I don’t always know why I do the things that I do, and that one I really don’t understand. To make it even more bizarre that I did it, I never gave a fig about lesbian porn, I found it boring. My normal fantasy, which would have upset my wife too, was that I was watching another man have his way with her. I am told that having fantasies like this is due to porn, but I had these kinds of fantasies before I had even seen porn the first time, so I don’t know. I do know that at the height of my porn addiction, it was actually impacting my work to a very unhealthy degree, so it is a valid concern, I can’t deny that.

 

 

Should Those Who Look at Underage Pornography Be Allowed to Tell Their Therapists Without Fear of Consequences?

I was about three years into recovery, taking part in a group therapy session when the therapist said something in passing that caught my attention. He mentioned that in Maine, if a patient reports that they have looked at underage pornography and the therapist does not deem them to be a threat to act-out in a hands-on manner, that behavior does not have to be reported to authorities.

As I’m sure you know there are plenty of behaviors that have to be reported, like threat to commit suicide, plans to hurt another person, certain deviant illegal behavior, etc. But in Maine, there is no provision for reporting the use of underage pornography.

I bring this up because yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, there was an article about how their therapists are mandated to report the use of underage pornography and that the law is being challenged by therapists and therapists’ groups because they don’t think they should be reporting these people outside of their office if they pose no danger.

It’s an interesting debate and I’m not completely sure which side I fall on.

A quick recap of my story

Unless you’re new here, you know that I was arrested in early 2014 for illegal behavior in a chatroom that happened in late 2013. I encouraged a girl who I was unaware at the time was underage to perform sex acts on herself. At the end of our session, I created two screen captures as “trophies.” I’m not going to turn this into a giant rehash of exactly what happened or include my typical disclaimers about blaming myself, not the addiction. You can find them many places on this site.

It was obvious to the judge I wasn’t a serial offender but rather an ill person who took strides to get better, but you can’t do what I did and get away with it. I think a lot of discretion was shown in the fact I only served six months compared to what I could have done.

I appreciate that discretion. I was a guy who made a terrible mistake, not a pedophile, child stalker or anything of that ilk.

In the six years since the crime took place, I’ve been called a pedophile twice. It wasn’t out of malice. It was out of generally not understanding what the term means.

A pedophile is somebody who is attracted to children above the age of infant, but who have not yet reached puberty. There is also a difference between a pedophile and a criminal. Not all pedophiles are criminals. Most never act out on their attraction.

Both in rehab and as part of the ongoing legal case, I took several assessments to test for my likelihood of recidivism. It was as non-existent as the tests could score.

The fact my victim was underage was not lost on anyone, but based on the fact I’d done similar things in chat rooms with over a dozen adult women and the teenager in question could realistically pass for an adult, I was not cast a sex offender with a taste for underage girls, which was entirely correct.

Meeting the offenders

All of that said, when I was released from jail, I was court-mandated to participate in a weekly meeting of people who were on probation and had similar crimes. There were a few guys, like me, who I believe just made horrible mistakes. There were also several guys who – in a non-contact way – had been acting on their pedophilic tendencies for quite sometime before being arrested, sentenced and released.

Some of them were too ashamed to ever talk in any detail about it and others genuinely wanted to get beyond it and move on to having normal lives. Having spent a year seeing these men weekly (I was moved to a different group that only met monthly after a year – again, deemed no risk to re-offend) I felt like I got to know them on a personal level and I got the feeling that they couldn’t be “cured” but that they could develop the tools to not succumb to their attraction.

These men didn’t talk in graphic terms of what they saw in the underage pornography they looked at or why they were attracted to it, but I can’t remember a single one who struck me as the kind of person who would take that attraction off the computer screen and actually harm a child. Most clearly had co-occurring addictions and/or mental health disorders and it seemed like the pornography they used was a certain way to cope, leaning toward their pathology.

This is largely what they are arguing in California. A passage from the LA Times article that ran Monday, December 9, 2019:

 

Sharon O’Hara, a Los Angeles County therapist who began her career treating rape survivors, said people “with true porn addictions tend to look at everything.”
“They are looking for intensity,” she said. “It is the intensity and shock value” they seek.
She compared them to people who play violent video games but lack a propensity for violence in real life.
Ira Ellman, one of several scholars who joined a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, said the state law is based on misconceptions.
“Half of the people who molest children don’t test positive for pedophilia, and a lot of people who do test positive for pedophilia are almost at zero risk for molesting a child,” said Ellman, a retired law and psychology professor from Arizona State University and now a scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Law and Society.
The scholars cite a federal government study that followed men whose only sexual offense was viewing child pornography and found that 96.4% committed no contact sexual crime during an 8½-year follow-up period. A 2010 study found that “online offenders rarely go on to commit contact sexual offenses.”
Therapy may not be able to change a person’s sexual interest in minors, Ellman said, but it can help someone control impulses and avoid criminal acts.
People who molest children are likely to have antisocial personality traits, including lack of empathy, the scholars said, and therapists can identify them.
“I am not suggesting there is nothing wrong with looking at pictures of kids,” Ellman said. “Obviously, the creation of such a picture requires horrible abuse of a child. Everybody agrees that is a horrible thing.”

What to do?

I could present another dozen statistics that are in line with what these experts from the LA Times article are saying. There really is no connection between a hands-off crime leading to hands-on crimes. The link has never been made.

Here’s where the whole thing may fall apart for me. The people looking at the underage pornography are still consumers. Most never purchased it, but they are creating the demand for the product. If there was nobody who wanted to see the stuff, it stands to reason that far less would be made, right?

Any child who appears in any of those photos is a victim. Sure, maybe it’s not a violent sex act, but a “harmless” photo of them on a nude beach from a vacation in 2008. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being naked on a beach where it is allowed, but I do think there is a problem with posting a photograph of anybody – child or adult – at one of those beaches in a state of undress without their consent.

If a nude photo of me from a beach ended up on the Internet now, I probably wouldn’t fret too much. However, if I had been 13 or 14 in one of those photos and it fell into the wrong hands of people I knew when I was in my 20s, I could see some severe long-term PTSD happening and a life with more therapy than I’ve already needed. The reality is, I can’t imagine a situation where any child, no matter what is happening in the photograph itself, provided their consent.

If somebody is perpetuating this underground network of underage pornography to continue, that’s a crime. Perhaps if they are downloading pictures and videos from peer-to-peer networks there is no supplier making money, but should the producer making money be our litmus test to determine if this is wrong? No. Looking at underage pornography is wrong. We all know this.

From a philosophical standpoint, everything I just argued makes sense, but in reality, reporting every consumer of underage pornography in California – heck, reporting every consumer in America – is not going to end the international problem and do we want to clog up our court system with people who clearly need rehabilitation, not incarceration? If a therapist reports their client for admitting to look at underage pornography, you risk potentially moving the client from an environment of rehabilitation into one of incarceration. Isn’t that exactly not what is best? The perfect-world philosophy and real-world circumstances are clearly at odds here.

Should California look the other way at perpetuating this underground industry, as Maine does, under the guise that the consumer will likely not physically offend? Isn’t it better, as many of the experts believe, that the patient feel comfortable enough to share this information and address their issue before it gets worse? If they can be given tools to fight their urges now, the situation may not worsen in the future, but if they know they’ll end up being reported to authorities, there is no incentive for them to share their tendencies, which will likely continue without therapeutic attention.

This feels like one of those situations where this is no clear-cut correct answer and you’re almost picking the least of two evils. I just go back and forth on which option is the lesser of the two.

 

 

 

Confusing AF: Abuse That I Have Trouble Not Remembering Fondly

The always brilliant Rollie Anderson sparked a memory in me that I haven’t thought about for a while, with a comment he made yesterday on my post about thrills in addiction. This was a story I axed from my first book, but wish I would have left in because as I reflect backward now and again, I think this played a big part in my maladaptive sexual attitudes.

I don’t think I’ve shared this story here before, at least I couldn’t find it in the archives.

Regular readers know that I was the subject of sexual inappropriateness-bordering on abuse and both certain mental and emotional abuse at the hands of a babysitter I had when I was young. It was the basis for my poor coping skills and primitive survival instincts. But this really isn’t about her.

This is about her daughter.

I’m going to call her Jan because I like short fake names. Alessandra, while also not her name and pretty sounding, is too damn long to type again and again.

I’m going to guess this story happens when I was between 4 and 6. I wasn’t in school yet, or I wasn’t in school full-time, but may have been in kindergarten. She was out of high school, didn’t go to college and was still living at home. I’d guess she was 19 or 20.

Jan was a good-looking woman and I liked hanging out with her at the babysitter’s house. She wasn’t home very much, and she didn’t pay a ton of attention to me, but it was a break from being parked on the floor in front of the TV, paying for imaginary sins in a dark room, or exiled to the backyard for half the day.

One late morning, I was hanging out with Jan in her bedroom before she had to get ready to go to her job at a department store. She made the announcement she needed to change and told me to turn around.

I turned around and sat on the edge of her bed. I noticed if I looked in her dresser mirror, I could almost see her standing at her closet taking her shirt off. I inched my way down the bed as stealthily as 5-year-old boy can, which is to say not very well.

“Are you trying to watch me change?” Jan asked.

“No,” I said.

“You’re not supposed to watch girls change,” she said.

I recall not having a response because I didn’t understand at that point why I wasn’t supposed to watch. My mother had said similar things to me in the past, and with no other females in my house, it wasn’t like I could try to defy the order.

Jan could tell I didn’t have a response to her statement, but that I looked like a deer in headlights for getting caught red-handed.

“Have you ever seen a naked girl?” she asked.

“On HBO,” I responded. She should have known the answer. HBO was on all the time at the babysitter’s house and the new pay cable station was very liberal with the sex at all hours back in the early 80s. I saw Porky’s way too many times, way too young.

“Come over here,” she said.

I quickly crossed around the bed to the other side of the room where this pretty woman was standing in front of me with a black bra on. She reached to the back and unlatched it, letting it fall to her elbows. I was looking at my first set of breasts. I didn’t know what to say or do. It was without question, the most incredible moment of my life up to that point.

“Do you want to touch them?” Jan asked.

Without saying a word, I reached up with both hands and gently placed them on her breasts. I felt a charge – a thrill – some kind of energy and electricity that I had never felt to that point, nor have ever felt again.

After about three seconds, she pulled back, re-hooked the bra and swore me to secrecy that I’d never tell her mother or my mother what happened. I may have been around five, but I wasn’t stupid. Her warning went without saying.

I mentioned this story several times to therapists and in groups during early recovery. It took a long time for me to accept this was a form of abuse because I actually looked back upon it fondly. I have no bad memories about the incident, but I can now recognize it helped sexualize me very young and simply because it didn’t feel like a form of abuse doesn’t mean it wasn’t. But I still don’t look back with scorn. I don’t think if I ever will.

I believe for a lot of my years of ongoing addiction, before I hit the critical point and it turned into something else entirely, the rush of adrenaline, dopamine or whatever happened in that moment when I first touched a woman’s breasts was seared into me. Sure I saw a lot of porn, but I also had a fairly active sex life before settling down and I can’t say I was a saint when I visited places like Tokyo and Amsterdam in my early 20s. None of those experiences, though, ever came close to replicating that surge of brain pleasure in Jan’s bedroom that morning.

Did this feed into my porn addiction? Probably. I’d almost say definitely, because there was a muted version of that surge the first time I saw hardcore pornography years later.

I don’t hold ill will toward Jan. She moved out of her mother’s around the time I started going to school full-time and I left that babysitter around second or third grade. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw Jan or where she is these days. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure she carries some deep battle scars growing up in that house.

I’m sure Jan thought what she was doing was harmless – maybe even a nice gesture. I certainly saw it as such at the time, but with it still floating around in my mind, never to be truly forgotten, it clearly played a much bigger part in my development than I gave it credit for until many years later.