Ladies, Do Not Forget: You Can’t Be Afraid to Force His Hand to Make Him Face His Porn Addiction

Note: I wrote a version of this on a Reddit post the other day, but thought it deserved repeating here.

I may not highlight this enough, but pornography addiction is absolutely insidious. It will destroy some relationships and lives, but being almost six years sober and having met and known so many porn addicts and their partners at this point, I can also tell you that if he is willing to do the work, you have a decent chance of turning things around. And yes, there are many relationships that survive and get even better. I was lucky enough to be in one of these.

Unfortunately for you, the partner, you’re dealing with an addiction that affects those around the addict worse than a lot of substances and behaviors. A husband with a gambling addiction may send you into bankruptcy, but you won’t be debating your worth as a woman. A boyfriend who plays video games 20 hours per day is probably irritating, but at least you know he isn’t masturbating to those games.

Success getting through porn addiction with a partner is hard work, but if I can do, anybody can. Those of you who have partners that self-admitted their addiction or who didn’t disagree when confronted are certainly in a better position than those who have partners that are denying it 100%, but even if he doesn’t want to face it, it doesn’t mean you are helpless and it doesn’t mean you have to leave immediately.

I learned in my two trips to inpatient rehab that it doesn’t matter what the behavior or substance — if there’s no incentive to change, there’s not going to be change. If your partner thinks he can continue to look at porn without any real consequences other than you occasionally nagging, why would he change? He’s gotten by on gaslighting, manipulating, lying and deceiving for this long… in his mind history proves he’ll get away with it again.

At this point, you should be getting yourself into therapy. Whether you are just mildly bothered or have a horrible case of betrayal trauma, it’s time to start working on processing your feelings and having somebody to discuss these things with who has experience. Taking care of yourself needs to be your new No. 1 priority…no matter what happens moving forward.

Before you make any grand pronouncements to your partner, figure out what you want out of not only the relationship moving forward, but also your life. You must decide what you can live with and what you cannot and how those goals can be achieved. A professional can certainly help you with this. The bottom line question is: Are you willing to continue on with this life, with his addiction likely only getting worse? If the answer is yes, buckle up. It’s going to be rough.

If the answer is no, you need to establish what are non-negotiable things that you want. Do you need him to change to a flip phone and put browser filters on his computer? Do you need him to start to see a therapist and attend 12-step meetings at a group like Sex Addicts Anonymous? Do you want him to go to rehab or join you at marriage counseling? Do you need his big box of porn destroyed or weekly trips with the guys to the strip club to end?

Now, ask yourself if it really is non-negotiable. What are you willing to do if he doesn’t comply? Are you willing escalate things and put your entire relationship on the line? If you’re going to provide him with these boundaries and ultimatums, you’re going to need to have consequences. They can start small, like you won’t accompany him to the weekly trip to grandma’s house or he’ll need to do his own laundry (if he doesn’t.) Consequences can escalate to things like you don’t want him to go to church with you or you won’t sleep in the same bed, but you need to be prepared to bring things up to the point of asking him to leave or being willing to leave yourself.

Next, is the second-most difficult part…you have to convey your wishes. Don’t beat around the bush. If you need to put it in writing to get through it, do so. There can be no miscommunication with this. He needs to know what you expect and what will happen if he cannot comply.

It doesn’t matter what you request: YOU HAVE 100% THE RIGHT TO DEMAND CHANGES. You are an equal partner in the relationship and have complete control over your life. By that token, he has complete control of his life and will only change if he wants. Here’s the thing though…once a guy is willing to admit to himself he has the addiction (whether it involves prodding or not) he generally recognizes that you are far more important than the porn. Even the addict who is trying but repeatedly fails generally understands what his priorities should be. It’s the rare one who will never admit to the problem. They exist, though.

I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in your situation because everyone has a different story, but I would urge you take a step back with every decision you make and simply be sure it’s what you want to do because sending mixed messages does not help an addict. And if what you think he did was disgusting and you don’t approve…he knows it. If you create a judgmental atmosphere, it’s not going to help recovery. He needs to feel safe to open up to you, and making him feel as bad as you feel — while it may feel right in the heat of the moment — will hurt long-term success.

Now the most difficult part. If he doesn’t comply with your ultimatums and boundaries, you MUST go through with the consequences. It is a MUST. Otherwise, this is just another message he will twist in his head that you are not to be taken seriously.

I could ramble on. After all, I wrote a book, but I just want the women who read this to know that you are better than having to live in a horrible situation. That situation can change in many instances.

In those it can’t, you are not cast to a lifetime of misery. If you can say that you tried, there is no shame in walking away. Heck, there’s not even shame in deciding you can’t try and walking away if you feel that’s the best option for your self-care. Remember, this is about you and YOU HAVE 100% THE RIGHT TO DEMAND CHANGES. No matter what happens, you can be a strong person.

Random Thoughts, December 2019

My mind is buzzing today. Trying to focus on one topic is impossible. Thankfully, I’ve built this escape hatch that lets me get away with being scattered once a month.

One of the ironies of what I do now with pornography addiction awareness and education is that I have to keep up-to-date with changing technology and how people are utilizing their porn and how porn is essentially sold online – all while not using it myself.

The situation makes sense when you think about it. I couldn’t lecture about the evils of video game addiction, telling young people what playing too much Pac-Man on Atari or Legend of Zelda on Super Nintendo will do to their brains. I have a feeling with our current crop of young pornography addicts, Playboy sounds more like an antique than a source to get your fix.

I was kind of reminded this when I had a conversation with a couple of people in their 20s who know what’s going on and laughed when I asked if people were still hooking up over Skype. Apparently that’s like asking if they still post to Facebook. I was just showing my age.

Thankfully I have a daughter who knows what’s going on. I’m 99.99% sure that she doesn’t engage in any of these activities, but she’s able to keep me abreast of how the young people are making their own porn and how camgirls now mostly use Snapchat and cut out the third-party cam sites so they can keep all the money themselves, minus  the small percentage they kick back to Venmo.

I don’t quite understand Snapchat because I’ve never used it, but the entrepreneurial side of me says good for you getting more of the money. The anti-porn side of me screams that you’re selling your body for what an appetizer at Buffalo Wild Wings costs. This is why parents need to start talking to their kids early about pornography. You don’t want it seeming like a viable option as a part-time job.

 

I haven’t asked anybody on here to buy my book in the last week. One of you has an extra $20 in your pocket and appreciates what I do on here, right? Be a pal and go support me. The first 10 or 11 days went well, but it’s leveling out and I need to keep showing my publisher it’s a viable entity to put their marketing resources behind. If nobody knows about the book, it was a pointless exercise in writing it because it helped nobody. And I know you may only think you’re one person and one book doesn’t make a difference but with this genre (sexual health recovery) it really does make a difference to the bean counters. As I mentioned before, if you don’t need the book, donate it to your local library, women’s charity or church. Doesn’t donating stuff at the holiday season warm your heart? Follow the link… https://amzn.to/2qvxVbm

 

In a couple of weeks, PornHub releases its annual statistics report to show how pornography viewing trends have changed in the last year. I was surprised to find out as of November 1, PornHub has actually fallen to the third most popular pornography website after years of being on top. It’s ranked as the 10th most popular website on Earth. The other sites are No. 7 and No. 9, but since they don’t hand out analytics, I’m not going to mention them. When you realize that these three websites get more individual traffic than Yahoo, Amazon, Netflix and Reddit do, it shows you just how silently the world is using pornography. There are also porn sites at No. 21 and No. 48.

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-12 at 8.06.05 AMThis has nothing to do with pornography addiction or prevention, but it does speak to a tone-deaf response to addiction in general. On my massive road trip through America earlier this year, my favorite state was South Dakota for a bunch of reasons. One is not their ability to clearly get an idea across. The state, which has a massive meth problem, launched an advertising campaign last month designed to get the average citizen to start caring about the problem and start doing something about it. You know how when somebody asks you to do a task and instead of saying “Ok,” you say, “I’m on it.” Yeah, well, for the nice people of South Dakota who are going to tackle the meth problem, they’re on it. That’s like a state deciding they’re going to tackle porn addiction and using the slogan, “Let’s examine pornography” or sex addiction and saying, “Sex Addiction, let’s do it.”

 

It often flies under the radar, but I added an amazing link to pornography addiction resources for both the addict and the partner on the Resources page on this site. I hope if you get a chance, after purchasing my book, you check it out. I feel like I’ll never have to update that page again, it’s so comprehensive. https://amzn.to/2qvxVbm

 

I was watching a documentary last night and I felt tears welling up in my eyes. It dawned on me that it was the first time I was getting emotional about something in a long, long time. I know that I had my recent bout of mild mania that I think has settled, but it made me realize that before I got into recovery, and even through the first couple years of recovery, while I was waiting to find out my legal fate, I got emotional very easily. I think this shows some level of getting better, but crying is a fantastic way to get stuff out of my system. I’ll have to engage it more often. The only sure-fire way I know of making myself cry is listening to this song: Click Here I’m not even going to tell you it’s cultural significance and thankfully, if you’re under 40 you probably have no idea. If you like it, that’s the standard version…here’s one that really gets me: Click Here

 

My website numbers are off the charts lately. I don’t know if posting daily has made that much of a difference or if there are now more bots visiting or if it’s just a series of a lot of little things happening, but 9 of the top 10 days for views and 10 of the top 10 days for visitors have happened in the last 45 days. Thank you all for sticking with me. Now go buy my book…please. https://amzn.to/2qvxVbm

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Grateful Eight, December 2019

Generally, I don’t like these entries that mimic what other bloggers do. I have no problem with anybody else doing them, but I’m not into awards or challenges or any of that stuff. However, since I am a hypocrite at heart, I’m going to continue with an idea I found on another site and began last month.

The Grateful Eight is a chance on the eighth of every month to pause and mention eight things you are grateful for. They can be serious, funny, whatever. I enjoyed writing last month’s entry and I think since being grateful is such an important part of recovery, I need to display it openly a little bit more on this award-winning blog.

In no particular order, this month’s Grateful Eight:

BooksInHand1) My Book Finally Coming Out – I’m sure the regulars are already way sick of hearing about it, but apparently in its first week it has surpassed the publisher’s expectations and we are now moving up the Kindle release to much earlier in 2020 than first planned, and we’re having a conversation about producing a hardcover version for libraries. Even with all of my ghostwriting, I’ve never had a hardcover book before.

2) Podcasts – For the last several weeks, I’ve been a guest on 3-5 podcasts per week and I continue to get requests to book spots, now into February. If not for them, the only way I’d be able to spread my story is the occasional radio interview and this blog. Yes, I tell a lot of the same stories over and over, but to someone out there, they are always new. In my post-recovery world, it’s also connected me with some terrific people I’m still talking with to this day who aren’t into judgment. I still need that. I probably always will.

E5380CCF-602F-4F33-9069-5BC0CD70324D3) The movie Midsommer – I saw it at the movie theater twice this summer and while I know it’s not going to be 80% of people’s cup of tea, I was so moved that I got a tattoo based on the film when on my trip this past summer. Then I didn’t see the movie again for nearly six months. I watched it the other day now that it’s on demand and any fear I had of regretting that tattoo is gone. Again, I warn you that it’s a pretty intense movie. Nobody who is easily triggered by anything should watch it, ever.

4) My Son Being a Fool Like Me – On the way to school in the morning on Friday, I had the satellite radio on the Christmas classics channel. Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas came on. At the exact same moment that I launched into my over-the-top hack Elvis impression, he started an over-the-top hack version of the back-up melody. It was just like the end of the evening at a bad office Christmas party that employees were forced to go to that only had karaoke for entertainment. I couldn’t have been prouder.

5) The Me Who Once Was Up for Anything – When we’re young, we don’t think of consequences and are willing to take more risks based on blind optimism and the kind of naïve understanding of what could go wrong that only comes with youth. Toss two heaping cups of mania on top of that and I really had some amazing adventures when I was younger. Sure, there was plenty of recklessness and bad decision making, but I saw the world, met amazing people, pursued whatever my dreams were at the moment and didn’t let anything stand in my way. My life was the Laverne and Shirley theme song. I’ve been told more than once I’ve lived enough for three lifetimes already and while I’m very different now, I can appreciate who I was back in the day, despite any other issues I may have had.

6) The Moment I Grew Up – Yes, I can point to the moment that any thoughts of bungee jumping, becoming a race car driver, randomly moving to Jamaica and a whole lot of other stupid shit was erased from my bucket list. It was the day I volunteered to be tasered by the police department where I was a newspaper editor. I thought it would make a funny story for a column I wrote. It did, but it was a miscalculation of how far to go for a story on my part. Basically, it turned out to be the electroshock treatment I needed to cross the threshold into adult…at around 32. And yes, it’s all on film. Enjoy:

7) Frank Sinatra’s Music – Sure, he dealt with some questionable people as the Chairman of the Board and stories of not being the best father or husband exist (not to Bing Crosby-level genocide, however) but man, that cat could swing.

8) This Decade Coming to a Close – If you told me on January 1, 2010 — just as my magazine was starting to really gain local attention — what was going to happen to me this decade, I would have said you were crazy. Actually, that downplays it. The first five years and the last five years are the most Jekyll and Hyde span of my life, or just about anybody I know. Oh well, I’ve always been into extremes. Here’s to a less dramatic Roaring ’20s.

So, what are you grateful for? None of that typical family or health stuff…I want the trivia.

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….

You Don’t Have to Be An Angry, Resentful Person Just Because Everyone Else Is

I don’t think this entry needs a trigger warning in the traditional sense, but perhaps a “take offense” warning is necessary. I’m not attacking or critiquing any specific individual with this entry, although if you take offense, maybe you should stop for a second and figure out why.

One of the biggest parts of my recovery journey is the conscious attempt to be a better human being. I actively work on skills like empathy, inclusiveness and compassion. While I still certainly have a long way to go before I’m the person I’d like to become, I feel that while my life is swinging in one direction, the attitude of the population in general is swinging the other way.

It could be the 24-hour news cycle, more social media than we know what to do with or some other factor, but people seem to have no problem putting their lack of compassion and empathy on full display. Instead, those traits have been replaced with resentment and anger.

I’m not going to get into politics, religion, science, patriotism, parenting or any of the other areas that seem to set people off. I’m far less interested in the specifics of peoples’ opinions than I am in the way that many people present those opinions these days.

I think there are reasons that people become addicts, but there are only excuses why they don’t seek help, especially after learning why they have the problem. I also believe there are reasons that people turn into who they are with the belief system that they have, but only excuses why that belief system allows them to present themselves as boorish oafs.

I’ve been trying to figure out the cause of what feels like this massive pendulum swing in the attitudes of our society. I know it can’t just be the fact that I’m actively trying to become a better person. I’ve come up with a few theories:

The world is moving too fast. While older generations always make the argument their experience and wisdom trumps youth and inexperience, our older generations have seen exponentially more change than those before them. I think this is also filtering down into middle-aged generations. Technology moves at such speed that it seems like only 17-year-olds can keep up with it because the rest of us don’t have the extra time to learn. With all of the new media we have, getting glimpses into the past is easier than ever. I’m sure because of television and the Internet, I understand the culture of 1955 far more than the people of 1955 understood the culture of 1895. I believe this causes a bit of romanticism of the past, forgetting the negative and remembering only positive. The feeling you’re being left behind doesn’t feel good.

People are smarter than you. This has always been the case, but with the Internet and 500 TV channels, we’re constantly exposed to people who are more intelligent, deeper thinkers and understand things many of us could never grasp. I think we also are aware that most smart people recognize their intelligence and far too many of us make the leap that they therefore believe they are better than us when that has never been established. There is deep resentment in this world toward people who act like they are better than someone else, but we seem to be at a point where we invent the idea that others believe they are better without them doing anything to suggest it.

There’s more diversity than ever. I’m sure there have been studies done and I’ve just never had enough incentive to look them up, but I’d like to know when it comes to fear of people who are different how much is nurture and how much is nature. Somewhere, there is somebody out there who has 100% the opposite views as you when it comes to politics, culture, entertainment, etc. They are the bizzaro, anti-you. And guess what? They’re not a crazy psychopath either. It’s not just diverse ideas, it’s also basic demographics. Communities are not as homogenous as they once were. Different languages are being spoken, even in small towns and people who don’t look like previous generations now live there. This is scary to many people.

The recognition you were wrong. I think at one time or another we’ve all recognized we were incorrect about something and instead of correcting course, we doubled-down, despite being wrong. I believe this also extends to those around you who you discover were wrong. Many people directly get their beliefs from their parents and others they knew when they were young, but how many of those beliefs ever get questioned? Something isn’t OK just because mommy or daddy acted like it was. Your friends may all think one way, but that doesn’t mean it’s the correct thing. When recognition that those around you made poor decisions, it’s often hard to stand up to them and blaze your own path.

Simply because you can’t relate to someone does not make them a bad person. Moreover, simply because you can’t relate to them does not mean that you have to present an argument why they are not a good person.

A changing world does not mean it is changing for the worse. Yes, new things – including attitudes and societal norms – take adjusting, but that does not mean they are bad. Despite what people who eschew change believe, most change is designed to make the world a better, inclusive place. Yes, it takes getting used to new ideas, concepts and technology. Changing who you are does not mean you are any less or more of a person before and after that change.

I think most people today are of a mindset of looking for what makes them different than the next guy, and whatever that difference is, it becomes the weakness of the other person, ripe for attack. This is also true with thoughts. The general rules seem to be that if two people think differently, one must be wrong, and it’s always the other guy. In most cases, neither – or both – are wrong.

We live in a world full of angry, sad, resentful, non-compassionate, close-minded people. Standing behind the fact you have the God-given or governmental-given right to be that way doesn’t make it OK. Feeling emboldened by like-minded people to share your negativity doesn’t make it OK.

There is someone, probably more than just one, who is reading this feeling attacked. I’ve shared no actual specific opinions here. I’ve isolated no specific group or type of person. If you’re feeling attacked, I hope you’ll take a few minutes and figure out why.

 

Recovery Wouldn’t Have Been the Same Without My Dogs

We’re having our first measurable snowfall of the year and as I look out of the windows of the office that doubles as my bedroom, I can see our three dogs playing outside, reminding me of how I used to play with my brother or other neighborhood kids on a snow day when we were little.

We always had cats growing up. I liked cats because they fit my general detached, non-empathetic mindset. They, too, also seemed to have the bipolar disorder I had not been diagnosed with yet, either running around causing havoc at full speed or taking long naps wherever they could find a flat surface.

My family had one dog that we got when I was about five and I think lived 12 years. The dog and I never bonded. It needed too much attention and too much care. It demanded things yet didn’t follow commands 100% of the time. In essence, I had no control over the dog and that made me uncomfortable, so I never got close to it.

It was probably two or three years after getting married before my wife brought up getting a dog, but I shut that down quickly, and did every time it was brought up afterward.

It took almost 10 years for her to wear me down. It was in the early years of running the magazine, so everything was going well, and I was usually in a good mood. Our daughter was 12 or 13 and my wife thought it would be a great Christmas gift for her. I relented and my wife stood in line for nearly 7 hours at the shelter one cold early December morning for a chance at one of the retriever/lab mix puppies that were going up for adoption. Her face day home is the lead photo on this entry.

In the late morning, the Saturday before Christmas, she came home with Finley, who is now eight years old. I never remembered the puppy from my youth, so this was really a chance to have one for the first time. I was up at all hours, so Finley would stick next to me while everyone was awake and slept with my wife and I most nights. My daughter revealed herself to not be willing to care for a dog, so it fell on my wife and I. Living near my office, I’d come home at lunch to let the dog out.

It would be hard to say that Finley and I deeply bonded, but we certainly had a decent thing going. I laughed at any suggestion of a second dog and life took such a crazy turn not long after that any talk of new pets stopped as I went through my legal ordeal.

Fast-forward about three-to-four years. I’m several years deep into recovery and doing a very good job turning my life around. I’ve been out of jail for eight or nine months, and building a decent little ghostwriting and freelance writing business from home. However, with both kids in school and Finley now mostly just a fan of laying in my bed, I was lonely.

One weekend my wife made an off-hand comment about a post she read on Facebook that the local shelter was taking in 40 puppies from down south after some kind of disaster. I don’t know why, but I knew at that moment I was going to get another dog. About a week later, after everyone had gone to work and school, I went to shelter, waited in line about two hours and eventually took the puppy that ran at me from the holding pen. I was probably 20th in line to pick and I have no idea how this one slipped through the cracks.

I took her home, after swinging by wife’s office. She was upset I got a new dog without telling her…for about 15 seconds. My wife and daughter named her Scout and while we were told she was a Shepard mix, three years later, it’s clear she’s mainly a begel mixed with a couple other things. I thought I was getting a big dog, but she’s half the size of Finley.

Thankfully, she and Finley got along immediately, and she helped Finley lose a much needed 10-15 pounds with the playing they did. I couldn’t believe I was a two-dog household.

I’ve never bonded to anything except my kids and wife as much as this little dog. She’s slept next to me since day one and is the most loving dog I’ve ever seen in my life. I never thought it was possible to love an animal, but I love this one. I like our three cats and I like Finley, but I finally understand that bond with an animal, and no, she doesn’t always do what I say and she’s the first one up in the morning, usually around 4:45, which means I’m up to care for her (and by default the other dogs).

In the summer of 2018, my daughter – who was leaving for college just months later – somehow convinced my wife she was ready to take care of a dog and was willing to spend money to get one. I think this shows just how much recovery mellowed me because I didn’t fight it too hard. I was concerned about being the one to be at home trying to work with three dogs, but didn’t sweat it.

On a late June day, we went to a breeder about an hour away and my daughter dropped $1,000 on a purebred German Shepard. She named him Arlo and he was the naughtiest puppy to the point that it took me a long time to like him, but now, as he approaches his second birthday and is a huge beast, we get along very well. He sleeps at my feet in the bed and Scout is tucked into my neck and head. Finley loves this, because it gives her the entire couch in the living room.

I was never a dog guy, but I have to say, having these dogs during my recovery has been terrific. No, they don’t always listen. No, I don’t always have control. The feeding duties fall to me and I spend way too much money on grooming and vets throughout the year.

Scout broke her leg around the time we got Arlo and the surgery was over $1,500. I just handed them my credit card without thought. My wife and daughter both told me that I never would have done that five or six years earlier. I also never would have been the guy whose phone was 75% pictures of his dogs.

The dogs don’t know what I do for a living, or what I used to do. They don’t know about my legal ordeal or how big my bank account is or isn’t. They don’t care. They just need me to be there for them and that’s a healthy thing for me now.

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