Q&A Time: How do you live with yourself?

QUESTION: How do you live with yourself with what you did? How do you look at yourself in the mirror and who made you the voice of every porn addict out there?

ANSWER: Your autographed 8X10 is in the mail.

Two questions in two days…wow. For anybody who wonders why I’m posting this question, you should have read the rest of the email this came from. I believe it was from somebody who discovered me during my ill-fated sojourn onto Facebook last week. Yeah, the email was full of bile, but when you strip it away, as I have, I think those are actually legit, rational questions.

I don’t think those questions are really the ones that person wants answered. I doubt they even wanted answers. They just wanted me to know they thought I was a bad person. At this point, all I can say is, “Noted.”

If I read between the lines, I think this person is first asking why I don’t spend every waking minute groveling and repenting. I think the follow-up question is about why I don’t just disappear into the darkness.

I am absolutely embarrassed and ashamed of what I did. The fact that I was able to let my mental health (and rest of my life) slip to a point that I encouraged women to perform sexual acts on their webcam is, in a word, gross. The fact I didn’t have the sense to somehow make sure no female under 18 ended up on cam is negligent at best and sinister at worst.

I don’t think that I’ll ever not feel embarrassment and shame for what I did. I don’t know if it had a lasting negative effect on that girl, or any of the other women I got involved. I do know it had a negative effect on my family and they never asked for that.

But here’s the thing, I’m not a disciple of Brene Brown, the shame guru. Perhaps this is narcissistic or means I’m denial, but while I did an embarrassing and shameful thing, I don’t think that makes me a person who has to define himself as ashamed or embarrassed. I did a horrible thing, but I haven’t let it affect my self-worth. I actually feel better about myself now, 5½ years into recovery than I ever have. There’s no defense for what I did, but I’m not ashamed of who I am. Those are two different things.

I think that there is a segment of the populace who, when they first hear my story, or are reintroduced to me for the first time since my arrest in 2014, they are shocked that I’m not on my hands and knees, begging for forgiveness from them and the world in general.

I went through that period. You just weren’t there. I believe at some point, you have to stand up, dust yourself off, and move on because, really, what else can you do? I think it’s like a lot of traumas that way. You deal with it and you move on or you let it totally consume you. I’ve seen people who get consumed and I didn’t want to be like that.

I had a deep emotional reaction to what I did that was on display for all early on. The amount of times I cried to my wife, or in therapy, were plentiful. If you need a show from me to believe that I will forever be deeply, deeply aware of what happened and what it means, the show’s over.

Finally, I’ve never claimed to be the voice of all porn addicts. Many never understand they are addicted. Even more never confront it or try to do anything about it. Very few have the law involved as I did. I’m critical of some of the online communities of men based on their methodology in trying to tackle the issue. I’m not trying to be anybody’s voice but my own.

I tell my story because I didn’t hear anybody’s story when I was in the same situation. There were few resources when I was going through this. I felt completely alone. I hope that telling my story makes a few other people feel less alone. I might not only help some addicts, but help prevent some victims this way.

I also want to raise the idea with people who don’t think of it, or don’t believe it, that porn addiction is a real thing and can have real consequences. If they can walk away understanding it’s not a moral failure, but an illness, that’s one more person in the world who might move us toward a place we can accept a national dialogue on the matter.

Finally, I tell my story because I don’t think I’m the stereotype people conjure when they think of a porn addict. If I can break the mold, and explain there is no “typical” addict, perhaps we can dump the stigma that a porn addict is a specific kind of a person.

I’m not trying to win fans, I’m just trying to make the best of what was a bad situation. I understand most people slink away and don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine, it’s just not the cloth from which I was cut. Much like my advice if you stumble across a TV show you don’t like, just turn me off if I bother you that much.

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

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

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

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