Q&A Time: I’m A Porn Addict. Help.

QUESTION: I’m struggling with this addiction and I need help. What now?

ANSWER: That’s about as direct and to-the-point as you can get. It’s hard to get very specific because I don’t know if you’re looking once-a-week and feel bad about yourself or if this is a daily, multi-hour activity that is starting to stray into extreme or illegal territory. Either way there are some common pieces of advice I’d offer.

First is to find a professional to talk about this with. Depending on where you live there may be Certified Sex Addiction Therapists available. That would be your first choice. Here in Maine, where I live, that is an official licensure designation. If that’s the case where you live, you’ll want to find someone who has expertise with addictions. That can range from LCSWs (licensed clinical social worker) to LMFTs (licensed marriage and family therapist) to CACs (certified addiction counselors).

When you find that therapist, be 100% honest with them. You’re wasting everybody’s time and your money if you are anything less. The therapist will help guide you through you journey, but you’re going to have to do the heavy lifting and lying to them (or yourself) is going to largely render the therapeutic experience as worthless. Also understand you are probably going to bring up a lot more questions before you start with answers. This is all part of the process.

Next, find others who are also suffering from pornography addiction. Share your story with them and listen as they share their story with you. Recognizing you’re not alone, and coming to a sense of community with others like you will help you.

You can find these communities with 12-step groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. If these kinds of support groups are not local to your area, there are online meetings and hundreds of hours of recorded testimony available on YouTube of people talking about this exact subject. If you want to be more interactive, there are a handful of really good message boards out there. I’ve listed a few on the Resources page of this website and I’m sure a simple Google search may yield a few more I don’t know about. The point is, you are not alone in this struggle.

Finally, I’d urge you to learn as much about porn addiction, or addiction in general. There are literally thousands of books that you can find online and countless videos on YouTube that address addiction. I found learning about the scientific side of things helped me understand what I was experiencing at a deeper level.

As addicts, we tend to think that we’re a special snowflake and nobody could possibly understand what is happening with us. The reality is, in most cases, we’re just another statistic. Understanding those statistics, especially ones that had to do with success in recovery, was one of the key steps to me staying on the recovery path.

You must understand that your addiction will not go away overnight. Recovery is a long, hard road with triggers galore in the beginning. While I rarely feel triggers these days, even five years into recovery, they can still happen. You need to develop the tools to deal with them.

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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.

Spotting the Signs of Pornography Addiction, Updated

I’m putting a new introduction and conclusion on this blog entry, but the meat of it ran on December 11, 2017. It is the most frequently viewed article on this site and really speaks to the reason I put the site up in the first place.

Porn addiction is a very real thing. Since this blog first appeared, the World Health Organization finally included Sexual Impulse Disorder among its diagnosable conditions in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) guidebook used by mental health clinicians worldwide. Hopefully the American Psychiatric Association will update their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders (DSM), which tends to be favored by American clinicians (and insurance companies) when it comes to this disease.

Porn addiction really is a disease, and like any disease, there are stages. Addiction.com came up with a list talking about the stages of porn addiction. Looking back, I can see my journey through all three stages clear as crystal.

Early Warning Signs

  • Lying about, keeping secrets about and covering up the nature and extent of porn use
  • Anger or irritability if confronted about the nature or extent of porn use
  • Sexual dysfunction with real-world partners, including erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation and an inability to reach orgasm

I had girlfriends who hated everything about porn and those who didn’t. It didn’t matter to me. I’d deny to both that I looked at the stuff. I had folders for my folders on my computer. As a young guy in my early 20s, when I was with a female sexually for the first time, I almost uniformly was never able to perform to completion, unless I did it myself. I was intimidated by the fact I didn’t have the full control of the situation as I did with pornography. It was scary to let myself go. I would have to think of porn and think of what we were doing in terms of porn to perform. By the second or third encounter, it was not like real-life porn anymore because with traditional porn, it’s one-and-done.

Ongoing Signs

  • Escalating amounts of time spent on porn use, with hours and sometimes even days lost to pornography
  • An inability to form lasting social and intimate romantic relationships
  • Intense feelings of depression, shame and isolation
  • Disintegration of relationships with family, friends and romantic partners
  • Loss of interest in non-porn activities such as work, school, socializing, family and exercise

The pattern for my intimate relationships that lasted longer than a couple of months featured a dramatic drop in physical intimacy after the initial rush was gone. With porn, everything was new every time. After the 100th intimate encounter with a girlfriend, you know how the movie ends. I never allowed my physical relationships to become emotionally or spiritually intimate. I equated intercourse with only physical pleasure, because that’s all porn was to me.

Other signs were that I would look forward to people being out of the house so I could look at porn, or planning to watch later when I wasn’t at home yet. Watching regular TV was a trigger if I saw an actress and wondered if she’d done any nude scenes in the past. I couldn’t wait to do the research online to find out.

Critical Signs

  • Viewing progressively more intense or bizarre sexual content
  • Escalation from two-dimensional porn viewing to use of technology for casual, anonymous or paid-for sexual encounters, whether in-person or via Webcams
  • Trouble at work or in school (including reprimands and/or dismissal) related to poor performance, misuse of company/school equipment and/or public use of porn
  • Physical injury caused by compulsive masturbation
  • Financial issues
  • Legal issues (usually related to illegal porn use)

This is my crash. Ignoring a crumbling business, ignoring my psych meds, not getting any sleep, allowing my alcoholism to rule me, being up at 3 a.m. so I can talk to women in chatrooms…eventually leading to convincing a teenage girl to expose herself. I lost my job, I went to jail for six months and I’ll be on the sex offender registry for life.

The critical signs and that type of behavior lasted only a couple of months in a 25-year stretch of looking at porn, back to me being a kid. But as with most diseases, when it gets critical, things go downhill fast.

I look back on this article 13 months after I initially posted it and can even more recognize my life during those stages. The further I get down the recovery road, the more surprising it is that I didn’t recognize a problem sooner. I guess my alcoholism, mainly because of the attention it gets from the mainstream, grabbed my attention.

Well over 1,000 people looked at the first version of this article. I hope that they walked away with the two points I’ve consistently tried to make about pornography addiction: First, it can happen to anyone. There is not stereotypical addict. I could line 10 people up and tell you to pick the five addicts and it would be an exercise in futility. Second, if you have a problem, get some help. It’s OK to admit that you can’t do this on your own. The most important thing is you get up before things get to that critical point. If they can get critical for me, they can get critical for everyone.

Since this article went up, I’ve appeared on around 60 podcasts, radio and TV shows talking about pornography addiction, sharing many of these warning signs. Hopefully it’s done some good. If you’d like to check any of them out, visit HERE. As for seeking help, or simply to learn more about the addiction, check out the RESOURCES page and if that doesn’t do it for you, just contact me directly HERE.

 

Q&A Time: Even if Porn Addict Husband Doesn’t Go To Therapy, Should I?

QUESTION: My husband has told me that he looks at pornography, and he will stop. I’ve suggested couple’s counseling or even individual sessions and he has said no. I read an online board that says I should still go by myself. Can that really help anything?

ANSWER: I don’t think it will come as any shock to you that I answer this with a resounding “Yes!” It may not directly help with his pornography addiction since it sounds like he hasn’t actually accepted it as a problem. That may just take some time.

Get a therapist…and be honest with your therapist.

I believe that even though I wasn’t 100% honest with my therapists through my 20s and early 30s, they were still instrumental in helping me get through some of the challenges I faced that had nothing to do with my addictions. There is something powerful about somebody who is there to advocate for you, is rooting for you, but isn’t emotionally involved, nor plays an active role in your everyday real life.

The relationship between a therapist and patient is unique and unlike any other. I think most people fear going to a therapist because they think it will be a complete bearing of their deepest secrets and simply by the act of seeing a therapist, it must mean there is something wrong.

I wish that I could go back to the beginning when I was 20 years old when the therapist inevitably asked me if there was any sexual dysfunction, I could say, “I have been renting porno movies or buying Playboy every month since I was 14 years old.” I don’t know what I thought the blowback would be. They weren’t going to kick me out of their office.

But, like so many guys who believed porn was something to be ashamed of and that I was just walking around with this invisible black cloud of perversion over my head, I kept my mouth quiet when it came to the pornography. I didn’t talk about any of my sexual hang-ups, either. I just said everything was fine and complained about work or my parents.

Would I have ended up behind bars if I had been honest with my therapist in my 20s? Honestly, I don’t think so. Part of the reason my addiction festered into a nasty wound was because I never had the salve of a professional’s ear. That’s on me, not them.

A therapist is a great sounding board and somebody who isn’t going to take it personally when you get mad or start crying or blurting things that you can’t believe are coming out of your mouth because you’ve tried to suppress them for so long. A therapist is going to know the next thing to say to keep things moving in the right direction.

I will mention that not counting the pair of couple’s counselors that my wife and I saw, I’ve seen five therapists, but I say I’ve only had two. I probably saw the other three a combined eight times.

If you’re not clicking with a therapist, find someone else. In your case, it would help if you could talk to someone who has experience working with relationships and hopefully has some experience in dealing with addiction, even if it is drugs and alcohol. Your personalities must mesh and there needs to be the opportunity for a level of trust to develop. You’re wasting your time if you don’t have a bond, or at least I was.

Ironically, the therapist I have now who has seen me through all of my recovery is the first woman I’ve seen. I never would have guessed it, but it isn’t an older man who I clicked with, but a woman only a couple years older than me.

You’re going to learn a lot about yourself in therapy you never otherwise would have. I wholeheartedly endorse therapy for anyone with a pulse.


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: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, 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.

Practicing Empathy Has Been Huge to My Alcohol & Porn Addiction Recovery

Early in recovery, going through the inpatient rehabs, I was told many times I had a history of exhibiting a clear lack of empathy in my life’s decision making. I understood what they meant as I tended to be outwardly cold and indifferent. I would listen to another person’s problems simply to wait for my turn to talk and put on display I had mastery over their issues, which made me superior.

For most of my life, people did not come running to me for emotional support because they knew they’d be met with a logical answer for solving whatever ailed them. I’m sure there are people who are born with a legitimate lack of empathy, but mine was shut off as a defense mechanism.

I was the guy at funeral who would blurt things like “I don’t think he looks peaceful, I don’t think he looks dead” or “You’re right, he’s not suffering anymore. He’s not anything anymore.”

I knew even then how things like that sound, but it was a way for me to ignore not only my feelings, but theirs as well. I could barely deal with my own stuff. I didn’t need theirs cluttering up my head.

In recovery, I came to the recognition that I would need to work on how people perceived me. I wanted the world to know a more authentic Josh, not just the carefully crafted eccentric character I portrayed. I’d done such a good job building up these walls of emotional resiliency, people actually thought nothing was on the other side.

Because of my probation restrictions, I wasn’t able to get on social media for a long time. Lacking an audience for my philosophical or political rants was good for my mental health. I stopped following national and international news and I actively started to practice putting myself into other people’s shoes when they shared their stories.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to let down my guard and let the world see my more authentic, empathetic self. It was less energy than trying to keep my armor up at all times. While I know many simply can’t believe this, it’s actually easier to find why you’re more alike with someone than why you’re different.

I think the biggest piece of self-realization came when I recognized most people didn’t care what I had to say and that was perfectly OK because almost nobody was ever going to change their opinion based on what I said, nor was changing their opinion going to result in anything different. They just wanted to be heard for reasons that had nothing to do with what they were saying.

There has been a giant change in the social landscape of America in the last five years, probably becoming it’s more outward “authentic” self as I’ve been going through the same process. It’s not like people just got racist and hypocritical and mean in the last few years. They always just hid it, the way I hid who I was. I think it’s politics and social media that have caused this change, but that’s a discussion for another time.

What I see in this world now is so much anger, fear and sadness. I see so many people who have such little sense of self-worth and need for validation. I see people who reach conclusions without even consciously deciding to ignore the facts. I see segmentation into more “tribes” than ever before and an instinct to blame others before looking within. I see who I proudly once was.

Five or six years ago, I wouldn’t have let myself care. I would have played along, making sure I portrayed myself as righteous to those who agreed with everything I said and vilify those who didn’t. I would have used my communicative skills to manipulate to get what I wanted in both my professional and private lives. I would have played the game so many other people were playing, fooling myself that I was two moves ahead of everyone else.

At the end of the day, when there wasn’t anyone around, I’d retreat to my world of alcohol and porn because I knew I wasn’t the guy I was showing the world, but I wasn’t ready to meet that guy either. The pornography and alcohol allowed me to run from myself.

I don’t use those things anymore and I don’t play that game anymore. I’m so much happier and healthier for it. Years ago, my life was about fooling myself into thinking I was successful. Now, if I give an interview and someone calls me a “pornography addiction expert” I kind of laugh inside my head….of all things to finally be successful at.

Today, I can clearly see all of the people who I acted like still living in the world around me. I couldn’t back then. I see the people with all of the negative emotion and non-constructive ways of dealing with it. I read the words of those who are so blinded by resentment and greed that they can’t fathom how resentful and greedy they are. I witness people pointing fingers at others and wonder if they could do that in a mirror for any length of time.

I see a world that appears to be on the verge of throwing punches or collapsing in tears. Who wouldn’t want to have the kind of defense mechanisms I used for all those years? Isn’t it obvious why addiction rates are sky high? Isn’t it clear why so many young people choose pornography over real life? And in a very sad way, isn’t it somewhat understandable why a person might confuse suicide with a positive conclusion?

I’ve read 101 definitions of empathy in the last few years. I’ve come to believe it’s about recognizing the character flaws in others, yet not letting those flaws disqualify you from caring. I think it’s also about recognizing what you see as flaws, other see as virtues, and debating which-is-which is a waste of energy. Empathy is about not letting your own baggage get in the way of someone else’s. It’s about understanding, even if they can’t, and especially when they can’t.

Q&A Time: Reader with Porn Addiction Wonders What To Do Next

QUESTION Hi. I really like your site and I promise I’m going to buy your book when I get enough money. I think that I am a porn addict. Or maybe I should say I know I’m a porn addict, but it’s not that bad yet, but I want to stop before it is. Do you know what I mean? So if someone like me wants to stop, what do I do? I don’t think I need to see anyone.

ANSWER It’s good to hear you think you’re not an addict and maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re is just in more of a compulsive use phase or maybe you’re in the early stages. As you’ve probably seen me write, these are labels. You believe you have a problem with porn. Instead of worrying where it is on a scale of 1-to-100, it’s more important you recognize the problem and want to deal with it.

Maybe you don’t need to see anyone. For now, it’s more important you try on your own than don’t try at all, but I hope you’ll stay open to the idea of professional help if the need arises. You don’t go to the hospital for a scrape, but you go for a big gash. If your unhealthy use of porn is now just a scrape, maybe you can tend to it by yourself.

You didn’t say much about how you use (or even if you’re a man — I really have to stop assuming) but I’ll assume it’s video clips online since that’s the vast majority. We both know that there is no filter that is foolproof, but we also know that having that one extra second to stop yourself can make the difference. I would urge you to put on the parental filters on Google or whatever search engine you use, and find a free piece of software online or app for your phone that can block certain sites. If you’re a fan of a certain site, not having access disrupts your routine, even if you find another site. Part of breaking habits is breaking routines. Being forced to adapt to something new may give you the moment of clarity you need to stop.

After this, I’d say look at your other routines and patterns. Are you only looking on your phone? Or at night? Is it always the same place? If your addiction isn’t “that bad” there are probably very obvious similarities in the circumstances of your use. You have to figure out a way to avoid them. I’d also suggest taking a step or two back in your routines and find out what you’re doing before you use the porn. Do you always take a shower first? Is it always immediately after you come home from work? Is it after a certain TV show? You’ll probably see patterns there. You need to disrupt those patterns.

I’d also suggest thinking about what you’re getting out of it. What itch does it scratch? Is it relaxing? Relieve tension or stress? Does it make you forget your life for a little bit? If you can find out what needs the pornography is meeting, you can also start to address how to better meet those needs in healthier ways. You may feel like you don’t need professional help for the porn addiction, but maybe you do for the grief over a lost relationship you’re running from by using porn. Maybe this is the way to fill a certain hole in your life and numb a raw nerve ending.

I can speak from experience. Take care of the core issues and dealing with the addiction actually gets so much easier. If you’re hungry, you eat. If you’re tired, you sleep. If you’re (what?), you use porn. Fill in the blank, my friend. If the answer is simply “horny” you may need to dig deeper.

I can’t really speak to the spiritual or religious side of things, but if you’re someone who has a relationship with and draws strength from God, use that, too. It seems to work for a lot of people.

I would have claimed to be in your position for many years, although I don’t think I’d be brave enough to use the term “addict” back then. I didn’t try to address things and I didn’t seek help and it blew up in my face quickly. It’s admirable you want to challenge your budding addiction. If you find that a few tweaks to your lifestyle and willpower alone aren’t enough, please seek real help.

 

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. While many have labeled me as a pornography addiction expert, 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.

The Strangest Thing I Did in Jail

Note: The following is a 100% true story. I am transcribing directly out of one of the journals I kept while in jail in early 2016. Based on a reference early on, it was probably written in mid-April. I kid you not…this is completely legit. I have the journal to prove it.

Day 0:

First, my skeletons in case I ever sell this journal to a magazine. I am serving a jail term that will last 186 days or six months and one week in the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, Maine. I was convicted on charges stemming from encouraging a teenage girl to engage in a sex act on her webcam. She looked like a woman but wasn’t. I allowed my pornography addiction to drift from younger women to older girls. The alcoholism didn’t help. What I did was heinous, and I expect I’ll always have to live with the pain, shame and embarrassment. I have never tried to claim innocence and try never to rationalize nor minimize the crime.

I needed to be punished, even if I sit here now a healthier version of myself than I’ve ever been. It’s been more than two years since I committed my crime and made getting better my full-time job (two rehabs, hundreds of hours of therapy) before coming here. I’m not bitter about being here. I have no right to be.

Once you get used to it, jail is fairly easy if you can keep your wits about you. Follow a few rules, take your meds without arguing and develop a tolerance for flatulence.

Nobody demands anything of me here. I’m now at the two-and-a-half-month point and I’ve settled into a regular routine of spending my days reading and writing. This place is a cross between the worst waiting room in the world and an all-male version of the TV show Big Brother.

For the last week, I’ve experience my first real bout of restlessness. I need something interesting to keep me motivated and to write about. Four days ago, I put in an order at the commissary for 50 two-cup packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Tomorrow at 6:30 a.m., I will begin an adventure. How long can I mentally and/or physically tolerate nothing but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? I’ll set the goal at one week.

When else in my life will I ever be able to conduct an experiment of this variety on myself? Take that, Morgan Spurlock.

 

Day 1: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 8
Total for the experiment: 8

I thought Day 1 would be a breeze and for the most part, it has been. I noticed after around 60 days in jail my body has hard-wired itself to know what we eat here. I skipped anything at breakfast and will probably continue through this experiment, trying to eat the bulk of the cups at normal meal times later in the day.

Many of my pod mates were enthusiastic about my experiment. I don’t think they’ve met someone like me before. I think their interest in a combination of curiosity and the fact I’ll be giving my trays away at meal time.

 

Day 2: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 8
Total for the experiment: 16

I’m hungry today, like I could eat 12 cups. I have budgeted for 10 per day, But I think 6-8 may be more accurate. I guess we’ll find out.

In jail, we are on a diet of 2,000 calories. I think it’s too much since we sit or lay down 23 hours per day. There’s just not much to do here. Each Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is 105 calories with 10% of daily fat, 11% of saturated fat, 3% sodium, 4% carbs, 2.5 grams of protein, 1% of calcium and 2% iron. That means I only took in 840 calories yesterday. I’m curious if this will become more mentally or physically difficult first.

hsy-004409

Day 3: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 25

I may be going about this the wrong way. Part of me is telling myself this is a diet, which it isn’t designed to be. If I want to lose way, I can do that during the second half of my sentence. This is only about living on peanut butter cups.

Today was fairly easy. I went the first 6 hours of the day without one but wasn’t hungry. My body still recognizes meal time physically and mentally, especially dinner. It just feels like when I did Atkins before. I have a small craving for carbs.

 

Day 4: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 34

I started today with three at lunch but stopped because my stomach was feeling sketchy. I rebounded and felt fine by mid-day.

I really like the taste of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I can’t see that changing, but they are starting to take a place mentally where they didn’t in my previous life. I’m also just starting to feel hungry for other food.

I’m considering trying to go longer than a week, but I’ll see what happens when I get there. I still can’t decide if it’s better to eat a bunch at one time or spread it out through the day.

 

Day 5: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 6
Total for the experiment: 40

Had my first two around 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon. I wasn’t hungry but felt like I should put something in my stomach. I have to remember I’m not trying to starve myself, just see how long I can eat only Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Within five minutes of eating that first pair, I wanted other food.  I don’t know if I can do this more than a week.

Today at lunch, for the first time ever, they had kiwi. I almost caved.

 

Day 6: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 9
Total for the experiment: 49

I feel a little weak today. I actually took a late morning nap for the first time since I got here. Lunch was disgusting bologna which I would have passed up anyway. Eight days seems stupid. I feel like I’m counting hours to make it to one week.

I had a mid-day headache and took Tylenol for the first time since I got here and I’m drinking a lot of water. Dinner was hot dogs and beans, which I wouldn’t have wanted anyway.

A couple of people have told me they think today is the first day they can see the physical toll this experiment is taking. I just tell myself to reach my goal I only have to forego three more meals. I think tomorrow is going to suck.

Reeses-Peanut-Butter-Cups

Day 7: Peanut Butter Cups eaten today: 4
Total for the experiment: 53

I woke up today knowing I can soon quit this stupid experiment and will meet my goal in just a matter of hours. Knowing it’s almost done has boosted my spirit higher than it’s been in a few days. Officer Freeman told me it looked like I was losing weight. I came in here at 209. Guessing I’ll be under 200 when I leave. I can’t imagine I’m there yet, but I’ve got three months to go. If I could come out of here at 190, that would be great considering the lack of opportunity to exercise.

At 4, I had my second pack of the day. I only have to last 6 hours until I can have other food. I’ll be glad when this is over. I don’t know what I expected to happen. I think I may have broken in two or three days and given up if I really planned to keep going.

 

Day 8: Peanut Butter cups eaten today: 0

Had I gone to the store to attempt this experiment, I would have had to buy 27 of the traditional two-packs. I don’t think I’m going to eat any the rest of my time here and we’ll have to see what my relationship is like with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups after jail. Maybe this is the kind of immersion therapy people who are overweight could try if they are particularly addicted to a specific food.

When I hit the 10 p.m. mark last night, which made exactly 7 days, a pod mate made me a jailhouse burrito. It’s a burrito shell stuffed with pink sausage, crushed Doritos and jalapeno cheese – all purchased from the commissary. I’ve avoided these disgusting concoctions for almost three months but broken down when it was offered as my celebratory meal.

So, what did I learn? Aside from the fact I need projects to keep my mind occupied, not much. Jail time isn’t hard, but it’s long. It’s boring. It dulls all of the senses and makes measuring time difficult.

I know I’ll read this journal one day and think that this experiment was crazy, but I hope I have the perspective to realize that I did what I did because I needed to. This is probably the healthiest thing for my mental health. Staying healthy mentally won’t be hard on the outside after this experience.

I don’t know if jail is supposed to break your will. If it is, I won’t be broken, but I won’t ever, ever break a law that would get me here again. The only thing I had going for me this week was to live on 53 peanut butter cups. The incarceration system is not about rehabilitation.

This place sucks, and now, so do Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Note: Having read this for the first time in two years, I’m struck not as much by the experiment, but the recognition of needing to keep my mind occupied. I pulled my disconnection trick and have blocked most of what happened in jail and this reminds me of the monotony. I hope it doesn’t come off as not caring about my crime…the rest of this site should show you that I take my porn addiction very seriously and have maintained sobriety for over four years now. 

It’s interesting how I told myself that I’d one day think this experiment was crazy, and in a way, it was. It makes me wonder, though, if I could have been made to be more useful to society as part of my punishment instead of presenting this less-than-compelling data years later. Our system is broken. I don’t think you need more than this experiment to prove that.

Addict or Not, Therapy is Something All People Should Consider

I’m starting this about an hour before I head to my biweekly therapy session and it occurred to me that I’ve never really written at any length about the role it has played in my life during my addictive phase or the major piece it has been on my journey in recovery.

I first went to a therapist when I was 20. In late August that year, my close friend Mark was killed by a drunk driver and it sent me into a tail spin I had never experienced. After two months of barely being able to get off the couch, I finally went to therapy. While the therapist and I didn’t click, the five or six sessions I had helped me get things back on track.

A couple of years later, when I was (I think) 24, the first long-term relationship of my life ended with my live-in girlfriend. I was not mature enough to be in the kind of grown-up relationship she wanted, but her leaving was much like a death and I spiraled again.

I sought help again and finally clicked with a therapist, but it was when I created my first major misconception about therapy. I was waiting for a magic bullet statement that would put life into perspective. I was waiting for the one directive, the one instruction that would suddenly make sense of everything.

After about 18 months, we stopped with the sessions. I felt like I’d evolved to a good point mentally. Over the next 12 years or so, as I got married, built a family and career, I’d periodically check back in with him and eventually saw a couple of other therapists for small 4-6 week chunks for a tune-up, but never clicked with any of them.

The reality was that I was never 100% honest with them. I downplayed my alcoholism and never mentioned my porn addiction. I was just waiting for the secret and thought it was taking a very long time and an awful lot of therapists and I still had nothing. Talking to someone always helped, but they weren’t FIXING me.

 

Going into therapy for real

Then, the police showed up at my door and life as I knew it came to a grinding halt. I hadn’t seen a therapist in probably five years at that point. I was riding too high on my own BS to notice what was happening and dearly paid the price.

One of the first things I did was to go see my doctor and get a referral to a new therapist. This was within 48 hours of being arrested and while I was a little uncomfortable with the fact I was being referred to a woman for the first time, beggars couldn’t be choosers at that point.

I don’t remember much of our first two sessions prior to leaving for 10 weeks for alcohol rehab on the other side of the country. The one thing I do remember she said was, “Don’t just play along. Give it a chance and see if you can get something out of it.”

Thankfully, after about a week, I heeded her advice and came to accept I was as textbook alcoholic as they make them.

When I returned, I continued our sessions, usually twice a week, for about nine months. We talked a lot about my anxiety concerning the legal situation swirling around me, but we also about things I had begun uncovering at rehab including abuse from a babysitter, how I viewed sexuality, what drove me to drink, and how someone like me who defined himself based on his professional endeavors was going to exist in a world where I’d never have another white-collar job.

Maybe the rehab helped jumpstart the process, maybe I was just sick and tired of the life I led for so long or maybe it was the fact that it was a woman in my age bracket, but therapy was different this time around. She understood my strange sense of humor. She actually gave me advice. She helped me understand I wasn’t a monster, a pedophile, a scourge on society…but that I did have issues when it came to pornography. If not for her, I never would have attended my second rehab for porn addiction.

I also came to recognize that a therapist is not there the way a doctor who prescribes medication is there. She can’t tell me some magic statement to change everything. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for a reason. I had to train myself to stop my thought processes dead in their tracks and analyze why I made certain decisions or held certain beliefs. It’s a bit grueling, but it provided more insight into who I was than anything else in the recovery process.

Once you understand who you are, that’s when you can start making changes. Too many people – including me for years – just wanted to skip to the changes part. Therapy doesn’t work that way.

 

A lifelong journey in therapy

I continued to see her after the second rehab and she testified at my sentencing, which I think helped give me reduced time. She visited me in jail and I resumed seeing her regular when I got out six months later and continue to see her to this day, more than four years after I first met her.

We got through the porn and alcohol stuff a while ago, although we do revisit it. Those are really symptoms and we talk about causes.

Now, we’re getting into some of the primordial ooze that is at my deep, deep core. It’s the stuff that is the building blocks of my mind and wired into my DNA. It’s why we’ve gone from weekly one-hour appointments to biweekly two-hour ones. Sometimes I just need to babble for 75 minutes before making some massive breakthrough that I needed four years and (when including the other therapy and rehabs) thousands of hours to get at. Some days, it’s absolutely exhausting and takes so much out of me, but it’s a necessary thing to evolve as a person.

I spend a lot of time on message boards and answering email from addicts and their loved ones. As many of you know, I actually started my own little advising side gig because of the time I spend doing this. While it’s far from professional therapy, I can at least ask a few new questions and raise a couple of issues that the person I’m working with hasn’t considered before. Then, I try to steer them toward professional therapy.

I don’t think it really matters who you are or what your story is. Having somebody who is rooting for you and on your side, yet detached from the ongoing saga of your life, is extremely helpful. I’ve learned that you have to click with the person and they aren’t going to reveal the secret to life to you, but they can guide you to the far reaches of your mind.

That’s a scary place for some people. It was for me and if you told me in the beginning how much work it would be, I wouldn’t be able to fathom the mountain I was going to have to climb. At some point, we may go to monthly one-hour sessions for check-in purposes, but I know therapy will always have a role in my life.

Even if you think you’re the healthiest person in the world, I urge, urge, urge you to consider seeing a therapist. I’m proof that they work and can exponentially make your life a better experience.