No, Social Isolating is Not Like Jail

I was up with the dogs this morning, letting my wife sleep as long as possible before she has to go into her shift at the hospital. She’s been put on duty to stand outside the elevator in a modified hazmat suit and take every visitor’s temperature who is coming into the respiratory unit and have them sign in and out. I was watching TV and heard multiple people complain that the social isolation they’ve experienced over the last four or five days is akin to jail.

Fuck off, no it’s not.

I went to jail for six months in early 2014. I was in county jail, not state prison, and I was in a minimum security pod under protective custody — in Maine. I don’t believe jail gets much more mild than that, and I’ll still take social isolation any day. The drama queens and hyperbole spewers need to chill out and recognize they’re in for a long ride.

In jail, at least when you get there, you have your underwear taken from you. Until you buy some from the commissary, which can take more than a week after you arrive, you’ve just got the thick, rough fabric of the jail pants rubbing against your parts.

You also, at most, only get to change your clothes every two days. You can change your underwear, once you get it, every day, but the uniforms are cycled in and out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursdays, they’ll wash your whites.

In jail, you get your meals when they say (6 a.m., 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in my case) and while you don’t have to eat what they provide, they aren’t giving you a menu to choose. I stopped eating meat when I was there because I couldn’t identify it and heard horrible rumors about the low standards by which food for incarcerated people had to meet. I actually mostly survived off junk food and oranges.

In jail, basically every day is the same. Time takes on a different cadence. It’s surreal. Even when people come visit, it’s not like they’re the same people because their lives continue yet yours is same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

A book cart came around in jail twice a week with a very poor selection. Thankfully, I was able to get books sent to me as long as they came direct from Amazon. But that’s because I had the money to do it. Most guys don’t. There’s also only about a 14-inch TV that got about 12 channels. Once I was there long enough and got tenure I instituted a system for picking shows based on seniority, but in most pods I was told it was based on muscle. And I still had to watch 4 hours of country music videos every day which was like torture. I still can’t hear Marin Morris sing “My Church” without having flashbacks.

I wrote two books in jail. Wrote. No access to computers. Or pens. Or pencils of a proper length. While in jail, I estimate I wrote 500,000 to 600,000 words. All with those pencils that you score mini golf with that are one-third normal size and have no erasers.

In jail, you sleep on a mat similar to the ones you used to do push-ups and curls on in gym class, except even thinner. You don’t have a pillow. It’s lights out at 11 p.m., but the lights never go fully out, and a guard does a headcount every 90 minutes, opening and slamming a large metal door, waking you up ever damn time.

burnt finger

But, perhaps the biggest difference I’ve experienced in this social isolation that is not like jail is an injury I sustained yesterday. I burned the tip of my left middle finger and it’s now got a giant blister, as you can see in the accompanying photograph. In jail, there’s no access to any flames or heating elements (although I learned if you take a staple from a magazine binding and plug each end into a light socket, you can create a circuit that is capable of creating enough heat to light a cigarette) of any kind. How did I mess up my finger? By touching the top of the Crème brûlée I was making before the sugar cooled off after firing.

Yeah, social isolation is nothing like jail.

 

Four Years and A Feeling of Distance

Today is the fourth anniversary of getting sentenced in court. It was a Friday and like they were there through most of my ordeal, my wife and father accompanied me to the County Building.

I was full of anxiety, fear, hope, nausea, etc. My emotions were pinging far harder than they are pinging today. In fact, I’m barely registering the anniversary today.

This may sound like a strange analogy, but I can’t immediately think of anything else that springs to mind. When 9/11 happened, it was a huge, huge deal. You know what I mean if you were around at the time. It changed so many things in the world in an instant. The following year, every TV network had memorial shows. Then, as time went on, the networks stopped covering the anniversary and left it to cable channels. Eventually, the only cable that seemed to care was History Channel, but even they stopped making new documentaries eventually. Now, we have a world where many people who could remember 9/11 are dead and many who can’t because they were too young. Hard as it is to realize, someone coming out of college now was alive for it, but doesn’t remember it.

My sentencing was a pivotal piece in my legal ordeal and it was the unknown hanging over everything in the two years between arrest and sentencing. I was a healthier version of myself than I’d ever been walking into that court room, but I knew logically, you can’t just let someone who did what I did go free. You have to send some kind of message and the six months that was handed down seemed fair to me. I would have felt lucky with six weeks and totally screwed with six years. I know others still have differing opinions, but as I always mention, none of our opinions matter, just the judge’s, so I’ve learned to accept it. It’s also much easier to accept now that it’s so far in the rearview mirror.

This is the first anniversary of sentencing since completely being rid of the legal system, as I left the probation system in mid-2019.

I hope it’s a sign of progress that I’m moving on from an anniversary day causing deep emotions, and not that I’m somehow becoming cold to the events or what I did to end up in that position. In many respects, I can never just “move on.”

The day makes me a little sad because it reminds me of my wonderful lawyer who died a couple of years ago. He was a class act who never judged me and just wanted to help a guy who clearly made a horrible mistake but was trying to fix himself. His nudging toward rehab and reminding me multiple times it was about getting better, not about pleasing a judge, have stuck with me to this day.

Even if I’m not feeling strong emotions today, I thought it was important to at least mention it, remember it, and pause to check in with myself how I’m feeling over the whole situation against the backdrop of where I am now.

Is it More Important to Be Popular or Taken Seriously?

I’ve operated this site now for 27 months and despite times of lengthy posting droughts, like earlier this year, or times of daily updates, I’ve managed to produce 225 entries. I think with this experience behind me, I can start to develop trends on what works or doesn’t work when it comes to people reading my articles.

From a statistical point of view, the entries from the first few months are both at an advantage and a disadvantage. They have lived on this site the longest, and have been searchable through Google for the most amount of time and the SEO clock has been ticking the longest. However, when they were posted, there were far less regular followers, which still makes up the core of views. This site gets a decent amount of hits based on what I’ve read for traffic numbers of many bloggers. The place that you don’t see great numbers is often in follows, likes and comments. Without having done any real surveys, I believe this is simply because the website has the words “porn” and “addict” in the title. I think a lot of people would be hesitant to publicly follow a site called “Child Molesters are Bad” despite the fact that we can all agree with that sentiment.

I further believe this phenomenon to be proven when you look at what the most popular postings in two metrics. First, there are the ones that are the popular articles based on “likes”. If you want to see a list of these, just head to the homepage and you’ll find them on the right side of the screen. You should actually do that to understand the rest of this article better.

The other metric to view to determine the most popular articles is based on “hits” which isn’t a public display option on WordPress, yet is the actual number of times an article has been read.

By number of hits, these are the top 10 entries in the history of this site:

  1. The Bond Between Sex Addicts and Those With Eating Disorders
  2. Spotting the Signs of Pornography Addiction
  3. The Day I Went to Jail
  4. Facing Triggers Makes You Stronger
  5. Statistics on and The Definition of Pornography
  6. Q&A: PMO and NoFap as Addiction Cures
  7. Q&A: What Does ‘Gaslighting’ mean?
  8. Practicing Empathy Has Been Huge to Recovery
  9. Mental Health Education, Not Gun Laws, Will Reduce Violence in Our Schools
  10. Q&A: Does Hiding a Porn Addiction Mean He Hid Affairs?

Of these top 10 most-viewed entries, only one, The Day I Went to Jail, makes it onto both most hits and most liked Top 10 lists.

So, considering that any entry has to be in the Top 4% of what I’ve written to make either list, which I think is a large enough sample size, what conclusions can be drawn?

First, I think people do want to read about the ins-and-outs of pornography addiction and want real information. Looking at the hits list, only the jail entry is an experiential piece and only the mental health education one is mainly opinion.

When I look at the most liked list, it’s much different. The top two liked articles both have the words “mental health” in the title and they are both experiential pieces talking about my life. In fact, 8 of the Top 10 most liked articles have the words “Me,” “My,” or “I” in the title. You can even make an argument that the other two are experiential mixed with opinion.

There are certainly other variables. Seven of the top 10 most liked articles have been written in the last three months, and liked by mostly the same people. This could suggest that I just have a following that is more apt to hit the like button at the moment.

Perhaps I’ve also consciously or subconsciously got better at writing click-bait like headlines. I look at the Top 10 most liked articles vs. those that are sitting in the 190s and there’s a big difference in the quality and excitement of headlines. Funny, sensational, cliffhanger-like headlines draw people in. It’s why the news media does it all the time. I mean, let’s be honest, when you read the headline and saw the photo for this post, did you think it was going to be about website data analysis? No, but it got you this far.

I think among those posts that are liked the most, there’s also a level of relatability. Tales of mental health issues, visiting other blogs, frustration with Facebook or loving my dogs are things that you don’t have to be a porn addict to relate with. When readers see themselves in the entries they may be more apt to like them.

I think that a similar correlation can be drawn on the most viewed articles. Clicking that you like those articles may “out” yourself as a porn addict, sex addict, someone with an eating disorder, a partner of a porn addict or somebody else you’re not ready to identify as publicly just yet.

I think another year or two of entries will help to establish whether my hypotheses are correct or if I need to rethink how people approach this website.

This is probably all “inside baseball” to those who don’t have a blog or website, but I’d love to hear from those people who have been blogging for a while. Do you find that there is a wide gulf between the entries that are most read and most liked, or is my experience an outlier?

So…one final experiment I want to try. I need you to “Like” this article. In a month, when views will slow down to a trickle (assuming it’s not one of the most “hit” articles), I can compare how many hits the article got to how many people liked it. In liking it, it shows that you are both supportive of my little experiment and read this far. The difference in # of people who “hit” this entry vs. “like” it should give the number of people who never got this far in the article.

Also, while I have you here, there’s a cool book I want to tell you about… https://amzn.to/2qvxVbm

The banana book is winning again. Help a guy out….

No, the Judge Didn’t Give Me a Raw Deal

I’ve mentioned in this space that long ago, I divorced myself from the debate of whether I got too much or too little jail time for engaging a teenager in a chatroom in 2013 that led to that life caving in and my new life starting. The judge deemed it appropriate I serve 9 months and the system whittled that time down to 6 months and a few days. It was what it was.

I was able to tune out the people who wanted me to rot in jail for the rest of my life – or worse – because they’re coming from an illogical place and don’t understand the facts of the situation. These are the people who make Facebook the loving, nurturing community that it has become in my absence.

I actually find it more difficult when somebody hears my story and then tells me, “That’s a bunch of bull crap. You shouldn’t have got any time” and then proceed to lay out a case for me not doing jail time based on what I did. I appreciate the defense, but it’s really uncomfortable. In many ways, I feel like they minimize, rationalize and even justify what I did. I always have to step in and remind them that I broke the law.

When this conversation happens in the context of an interview, I feel painted into a corner. From a selfish, individual point of view, did I want to go jail? Hell, no. Did I understand the rationale of giving me some jail time? On a very objective level, yes. As the judge in my case said, “Despite a set of extenuating circumstances, I can’t give you no jail time. People can’t do what you did and not serve some time.”

I never had it out for the police, the lawyers, the judge, CPS, the guards at jail or anybody else on “the other side” of my legal ordeal. I got myself into that situation by doing the wrong thing to such a level the government has to step in and get involved. I’m OK with that. Some of the guards were assholes. The CPS person who interviewed the kids scared the hell out of them. I understand they all have jobs though, and those jobs are to protect people and I’m glad they’re there.

It gets especially uncomfortable for me when the person starts attacking the teenage girl who was my victim. I don’t know a lot about her. I know she exposed herself in chat rooms with other men, and I do know that she had the kind of body type that one could mistake her for being older than she was. Despite these two pieces of information, it doesn’t let me off the hook for what I did. She still had a teenager’s brain and I showed no discretion.

Ideally, I never would be in a chatroom like that, but I should have been able to say to myself, “Like many females out there, this is one who looks older than she might be and I shouldn’t talk to her.” By that point, I had pulled myself off my mental health medication and my understanding of consequences, logic, etc. were fuzzy, especially with the alcohol. I made the incorrect decision to engage her in the devious activities I conducted with women of age.

There is no defending that. Don’t tell me I got a bad deal and that she was asking for it. Don’t tell me that she played me as much as I played her. Don’t tell me that despite my horrible manipulation of her, it was all in her control. This was a teenage girl and I did a heinous thing to her. Can I name 100 things that would have been more heinous? Sure, but that doesn’t let me off the hook for what I did. Victim blaming makes things worse, not better.

I appreciate those who try to come to my defense for me. I understand your heart is probably in the right place, but it doesn’t make me feel like the cheated victim of the system you may feel that I am. I got what I deserved. She didn’t get what she deserved.