The Day I Went to Jail

I usually talk about something to do with porn addiction, but this is a bit about what happens when it comes time to face your (well-deserved) punishment. Nobody told me about porn addiction, but nobody also told me what it would be like going to jail and that weighed heavy on my mind the 22 months between arrest and sentencing. So I thought I’d go a little off-topic and share what my first day in jail was like.

The judge granted me one week between my sentencing and the day I was supposed to report to “get my affairs in order.” I think years ago if you’d have ever told me that I was in a situation where I’d have a week before I knew I was going to jail, I would have told you that I was going to form a plan to flee and live as a fugitive. When you find yourself actually in that situation, the bravado disappears. I knew doing my time would bring me that much quicker to returning to whatever normal life I could cultivate.

The truth also is, I did the crime. While I was battling mental illness and addiction, I was well aware I had both and did not take proper care of myself. That led me to eventually convincing a teenage girl to perform a sex act in a video chatroom. I didn’t know her age at the time, but that is not an excuse for my behavior. I got what was coming to me.

My wife and I stopped off at the pharmacy at 8:15 a.m. on the morning of January 22, 2014. I needed to pick up my mental health medication. The whole thing seemed routine, yet I knew that would be the end of routine. I was surprisingly calm.

Heading up the walkway into the building was surreal after my wife dropped me off. I knew I’d be stuck in the building for seven or eight months, but what that meant wasn’t registering. I think part of me started detaching from reality at that point at as a coping mechanism.

I’ve seen enough jail and prison movies to know that intake is a humiliating experience, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I was given delousing shampoo and instructed to shower after stripping. Nobody watched me strip or shower and it was in a private stall. Following the shower, I had to show I had nothing in my ears or mouth, lifted my testicles and spread my ass cheeks and cough. The officer who was putting me through the paces seemed uninterested in doing a thorough job, much to my appreciation.

While this was taken before I got there, this was the exact room that I stayed in during my time at Androscoggin County Jail. Photo ran with a story in the Sun Journal.

I was given a beige shirt, pants and a pair of bright orange slip-on shoes. In all, everything was actually quite comfortable, like pajamas and slippers. I wished I had underwear and socks – and I brought these things with me – but was told it would be a day or two before the officer who could release the property to me would be there.

When I asked about why I wearing tan, they told me it was for minimum security. It was the first time I was told I’d be heading to that part of the jail. He then said because of my conviction and the fact I was known in the jail community because of the media coverage, I’d be put into a protective custody pod. That meant at least one corrections officer would be stationed outside the door at all times and that I would always be accompanied by an officer when I traveled throughout the jail. I was given a plastic duffle bag to hold any possessions I acquired in the pod. Inside it were a couple bars of soap, shampoo, a tooth brush and an orientation booklet.

The first, “Huh…I never knew that” moment was looking at the toiletries. They were all “Bob Barker” brand. I went through my entire jail time thinking it was the game show host and didn’t find out until a few years later it was just some same-named dude from the Carolinas who, like me, was ironically a former publisher and elected official. He went on to make jail toiletries. I went on to use them.

Upon arriving outside the pod, I was given a mattress, a sheet and blanket. The mattress was little more than a worn-out replica of one of those mats from gym class you’d do sit-ups on. It was around 11 a.m. when I walked in for the first time. There were six bunk beds and all except one upper-bunk were full of sleeping people. I tossed my mattress on the metal frame and climbed onto my perch.

The pod sometimes got so crowded they would bring in “boats” for people to sleep on placed on the floor. To the left you see the door to the mostly private bathroom. Photo by Sun Journal.

I made a promise to myself that I told many people during the 22 months following my arrest and reporting day. I said that the first thing I’d do when I was situated in jail was breathe a sigh of relief because I knew how much time I was doing and I knew when it would be over. Two years of not knowing really wears a person – and his loved ones – down.

So I sat on my bed and looked around at the 11 people asleep around me. This was my new reality. Every second that passed would be one second closer to being out.

Several years have passed since I left, but the jail is only about a two-minute drive my house and I probably pass it 10 times a week. About half of them I see and reflect on the fact there is an entire different culture going on inside of the building I never want to be a part of again. The other half of the time, I drive by without noticing. I’m not sure which is healthier.

My First Television Interview Is Now Available to Watch

They say the camera ads 10 pounds, so just subtract that from what you see. They also say it’s all about the editing. While it’s always really hard to hear other people tell my story, I don’t think I could have asked them to do a better job with this interview. It was scary waiting to see how a 40-minute interview would be boiled down to 2 minutes, but I’m pleased with the outcome… Click Here to Watch

I Have a Cover!!!

Front CoverI was so psyched to get the cover of my first book sent to me by my publisher over the Christmas holiday. For the first time, it feels very, very real, which is both scary and exciting.

I’ll talk a lot more about the book when it becomes available in January, but from what I can tell, it’s the first memoir about pornography addiction where the author uses his real name and shares the story of ending up in jail for making poor decisions. Many publishers were scared to take on this book, but thankfully Joshua Tree Publishing out of Chicago understood what I was trying to do.

I saw the book typeset for the first time as well. It’s one thing to work on a Microsoft Word document for 18 months, and then it’s another when you see it in a real-life 251 page layout. I think it’s a good length and hopefully will inform and yes, entertain, people as well. It’s not a dry recitation of statistics, nor a graphic tell-all. It’s basically about a guy who seemingly had it all, didn’t see the warning signs he was sick and saw his entire life implode by his bad decision making. The book flashes back to parts of my life that likely contributed to my attitudes toward sexuality, while also chronicling my descent to rock bottom with pornography and alcohol.

It’s ironic that, technically, this is probably by 15th or 16th book. I’ve done a lot of ghostwriting and have released a book under a pseudonym. Despite all of those, this is the one that leaves me feeling raw and exposed for the first time.

I’ll be letting everybody know more about the book release in the upcoming weeks. If anybody knows of particularly good book review blogs, I’d love to hear about them. I need to start making a list for my publisher of where I want promotional copies to be sent. Thanks.

Preparing Those Close to Me For the Release of My Book

The final edit of my book is taking longer than I thought it would, but that’s OK. I’d rather the publisher take his time and go through it with a fine-toothed comb than put something into the world that is full of mistakes or sentences that make sense to me, but is incoherent to others.

One of the things that this extra time has allowed me is the chance sit down with a couple of people close to me who I haven’t really spoken with in the last few years and give them a chance to ask any questions they may have and fill in the holes between what they heard vs. what they think they know vs. what they actually know.

I don’t want them reading something troubling in the book they had no idea about. It’ll probably be rough enough without surprises.

They didn’t know much about my addictions, both alcohol and porn, because neither involved those who were close to me. The porn was all online and when it involved people, was total strangers. The only time anybody saw me drink alcohol publicly was at professional social functions and while I often had more than I should, nobody saw a falling-down drunk.

With close family and friends, they were mostly kept in the dark. At the extended family Christmas party, there is routinely a bottle or two of wine and a case of beer available. In the 20 years it’s been legal for me to drink, I believe I had a bottle of beer once, about 15 years ago.

I knew that at the core, my drinking was shameful and I didn’t want to put it on display. I couldn’t only have one or two and be satisfied, so why would I start, especially in front of the very people who I wanted to hide my dysfunctional relationship with alcohol from the most. Instead of getting the machine in my head going, it was better to wait to get home and get hammered on the hard stuff, alone.

It was the same way with the porn. I think it is for everybody, but even social events like going to a strip club were things I did solo. If buddies ever brought up porn or anything like that, I took steps to not be part of the conversation. I didn’t want to suddenly blurt, “But I prefer Jess Franco’s style of directing Italian porn films from the late 1970s” and be outed at someone who clearly had a problem.

I was never a Casanova or a guy who hit on the girls, going back to being a child. If a girl showed any interest in me, I tried to steer her toward a relationship, not a one-night-stand. I don’t think there was anything in my demeanor that would suggest to anybody close to me that I had an unhealthy fixation on porn.

Maybe those close to me simply don’t want to accept that I have these addictions and prefer to see the destruction of my life as the result of an isolated incident. I’ve written, re- written, edited, re- written, re-edited and re- written my book so many times, it almost feels like I’m deal with a character and not me at this point. Maybe that’s how they prefer to view it.

Nobody asks graphic or detail-oriented questions. Most don’t know where to start with their questions. I let them know that I was very ill and tell them what I did. I talk about starting the book during the six months I was in jail and how the recovery process has changed me.

I know that they see somebody different, but I think they’re still having trouble assimilating that – despite their belief at the time — they never really knew the person I was.

Why I’ve Decided to Write a Book

Nobody wants to talk about it, yet it’s affecting half of our families, according to a well-recognized watchdog group.

According to National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography was a problem in their home in a 2010 survey. If that’s not disturbing enough, every second of the day an average of 29,000 are watching pornography on the Internet. They’re part of the 40 million who say they use the Internet for pornography and likely contribute to the 68 million searches for pornographic material every day.

But nobody is ready to talk about it. I know, because I’ve been trying for a while.

Although many self-diagnose, there are believed to be around 200,000 genuine pornography addicts in the United States. Those addicts are often the ones who utilize child pornography. Of those millions of pornographic search engine queries, 116,000 are related to child pornography every day according to government figures. The FBI reports that the amount of underage content on the Internet has grown by 700% in the last 10 years. Criminal investigations opened that lead to arrests are up 2,000% in that time. In 2012 alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tipline received 400,000 leads about people possessing, making or distributing child pornography.

But nobody is ready to talk about it. I know, because I’ve been trying for a while.

Some law enforcement officials believe for every person caught and prosecuted on child pornography-related charges, there are 20 who are getting away with it. That’s on the low end. Some law enforcement officials believe the ratio is more in the neighborhood of 1-to-100.

But nobody is ready to talk about it, I know, because I was the 1 in those ratios.

My crime

I was arrested in 2014 for possession of child pornography. I was sentenced in early 2016 to eight years, with all but nine months suspended. I ended up serving six month and six days.

I liked a lot of porn. I liked wet T-shirt contests and lesbians. I liked celebrities and cheesy foreign porn movies from the 1970s and ’80s. Whenever I felt bad about my porn usage, I figured I wasn’t hurting anybody and I told myself the wet T-shirt girls didn’t regret being exploited once they sobered up. That faulty thinking was with me for decades.

I think that I’ve been a porn addict since I was a small child. In all of the deep analysis and work I’ve done with professionals since my arrest, there are many red flags from my youth that likely contributed to or exacerbated the problem: A caregiver who was sexually inappropriate when I was very young, a home where talking about sex was forbidden and taboo, the ability at 14 years old to rent porn at a local video store.

My life seemed normal to people on the outside. I had girlfriends, went to school, cultivated a successful professional white-collar career, got married, had a family and ended up running my own company. Almost nobody knew that I utilized pornography, and since it was all legal usage up until 2013, I didn’t see it as a problem either. I knew my alcohol use was an issue, but that’s because we’re inundated about the dangers of alcoholism from a young age. Nobody talked about porn.

In the months leading up to my arrest, I had started to use cam-to-cam sites, recognizing that most of the videos of the young women I liked were recorded from interactions on sites like with names like “Chat Roulette”, probably the most famous of the genre. I quickly learned no female would stop to talk to a man in his mid-30s that looked like me, so within a few days, I had created a looping video of an attractive man in his early 20s. I was so manipulative, but in such a state of disrepair mentally, physically and emotionally that I couldn’t recognize how low I’d sunk.

On March 24, 2014, the Maine State Police arrested me and said they had been following my computer since November 2013. How exactly I got caught was in the evidence discovery packet, but I never looked too closely. It doesn’t really matter.

In the 22 months between my arrest and sentencing, I spent 70 days at an inpatient facility in California for my alcoholism. I also started seeing a therapist who specialized in sexually deviant behavior. Upon my return, I entered into deep therapy and became a voracious reader about sex and pornography addiction. I also spent 50 days at an inpatient facility in Texas for my pornography addiction. These two facilities were the most transformative experiences of my life. Success rates in rehab are not spectacular, but I beat the odds, made a multitude of changes to my life and the judge could see this, hence the heavy suspension of my sentence. I have still not had a drink nor utilized Internet pornography since early 2014.

Telling my story

While in jail the first half of 2016, I wrote a memoir detailing the several years of my life leading up to my arrest. During that time, the magazine company I ran and my relationship with my family slowly imploded because of my addictions and because of the surfacing of issues from my past. I stopped taking medication I’d been on for a dozen years for bipolar disorder and slept only 2-3 hours per night prior to the arrest. Most people couldn’t tell anything was happening to me at the time because like all addicts, I was a great liar and manipulator. As long as you shave, have charisma and act like everything is OK, most people will buy it.

A few months out of jail, I edited the book down to a reasonable length and shared it with both a professional true crime author and a producer of true crime television. While it didn’t have the level of grisly detail they were used to producing, they gave a bunch of notes and said it was worthy of publishing. It was a story neither had seen before.

There are a lot of publishers who like to portray themselves as cutting-edge, ready to cater to the needs of authors who aren’t embraced by the mainstream and want to make a difference in the world. I am embarrassed to admit I was too naive to recognize these kinds of claims as branding and marketing.

Publishers who focus on memoir and biography said it was more suited to true crime. Those who publish true crime said it wasn’t the right kind of crime. Inspirational publishers don’t care about a happy ending in a tale of redemption when you’re not the victim. It wasn’t the quality of writing that slowed down selling the book. I spent many years as an award-winning journalist and those agents or publishers who bothered to read the book said the writing was top notch.

Who wants to be ‘That Publisher’?

Say the words “child pornography” out loud. I was caught with it and even I prefer “illegal pornography” or “underage pornography.” There is something about that phrase that I believe people are afraid to utter for fear the mere words will make others think they are not completely repulsed and revolted by it.

You can say “I read a book about a guy who was into heroin” or “I read a book about a guy who killed his family” and nobody thinks you have any connection to that guy. Say “I read a book about a guy who downloaded child pornography.” I think most people assume they will be seen as an apologist for the guy, because they are seeking to understand and not simply demonize him.

While it is standard for an agent or publisher to simply reject a response, there were a few who I believe took pity knowing I was in a Catch-22 situation before I did.

“The problem,” wrote one co-publisher who went to bat, but couldn’t convince her acquisitions team to take the chance, “is that many people will see you defending your crime and minimizing the victim no matter how many times you say that you want to help make things better. It’s difficult to position a book like this.”

I’ve been told the book: “Hits on key points that are important to our understanding of pornography and child abuse,” “There are good things here, good writing,”  “A powerful story, well written” and many other compliments but nobody came out and said what I think the real problem is: “There’s never been a book like this before and I’m worried what the fallout could be. I don’t want anybody to think I’m defending you.”

Here’s the thing: I’m not defending myself, either. For a short period of my life, I let an addiction get out of control and become heinously criminal. With almost four years of recovery under my belt, I don’t condone my actions. I also think if I would have been exposed to a cautionary tale similar to mine, it may have slowed or stopped my descent.

What’s Next

Fifty years ago, nobody wanted to talk about alcoholism or rehab. Then, Betty Ford did more to help the world than her presidential husband could ever imagine when she admitted her addiction and opened a center in Southern California to help treat it. Twenty-five years ago, it was sexual addiction. I’m in front of a wave that is still beginning to crest.

Statistics prove this isn’t a problem we can ignore until it goes away. How is this not going to continue to escalate until we are forced to face the issue? If 47% of families say porn is a problem in their homes and only 3% didn’t admit it, half of the families in America are exposed to pornography.

Thankfully, in the midst of the rejection letters, there was one publisher who recognized based on his experience publishing a heroin addict’s memoir that most people are cross-addicted and issues of sex are often one of those addictions. The forward-thinking folks at my publishing company recognized there is a lot that can come out of telling my story and by simply hearing the story, it doesn’t turn you into a sexual deviant any more than reading a book about Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer turns you into a serial killer.

My story is one about understanding how I sank to such depths, not war stories recounting females I manipulated. It’s about somebody’s life imploding who was too sick to see it coming. It’s a tale of addiction of a 21st century variety.

But nobody is ready to talk about it. Hopefully, I’ll help change that.