Q&A Time: What’s The First Advice You Can Give an Addict or Partner?

Note: I answered this question on Reddit today and it seemed like the perfect thing for a short Q&A on this site. I also liked the way she referenced my book. Big news coming about it very soon!

QUESTION: Given your experience, what is the likelihood of someone kicking this habit and if I decide to stay, what advice might you have to follow initially? I will get your book if I do decide to stay for the full advice.

ANSWER: I’ve never seen any actual statistics about recovery, but I have seen many men (and several women) successfully kick this habit. They all had the following in common:

  1. Every addict admitted they had a problem, decided they wanted to fix it and committed themselves to it.

  2. Every addict had a supportive partner. I truly believe partners need to learn the ins and outs of addiction to understand what the disease is on a scientific level. Once you understand, it’s easier to accept the fact it really has nothing to do with you, never did and never will.

  3. Every addict sought professional help. Addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. With porn addiction, 90% to 94% of addicts have some kind of trauma in their background, wit 81% reporting sexual abuse as a child. Until the addict can figure out why they developed their addiction, it’s not deal with the root cause. That’s why I’m not a fan of the NoFap culture. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger wound.

  4. Every addict had some sort of fellowship. Be it a 12-step group (whether they followed diligently or not), group therapy, and online forum or another means, addicts need to talk to other addicts who are in recovery.

I hope this helps a little bit.

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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.

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….

Therapy and Fellowship, not Online Forums, are the Key to Pornography Addiction Recovery

I know anything is possible and there are people who have done it different ways, but I firmly believe that if you are seeking to permanently eliminate your pornography addiction, you can only do it with professional help, often bolstered by the (real-life) interaction with other addicts. Anything short of this and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

You know when you do something that irritates you, but you can’t help it, like letting the dishes pile up in the sink or watching mindless reality TV? I do this with online forums where guys talk to each other about their pornography and masturbation problems.

I find it frustrating because it feels like 95% of these men will never understand that they are statistically unlikely to beat their addiction on their own. Many include “counters” in their signature that show how many days they’ve been without porn or masturbation. It’s rare that they ever get above 20 days. They relapse and relapse and relapse again.

Their solutions?

“I need to try harder. I need to put filters on my computer. I need to try yoga. I need to distract myself when I feel the urge. I need to get out and meet people. I need to turn off my phone. I need to meditate. I need a girlfriend.”

Usually less than a week later, they’re singing the same song. It’s clear that they feel guilt and shame about their addiction, but there are other men like me on the site who have years of recovery who talk about how we got to this point, but almost all of it falls on deaf ears. I sometimes wonder if they want to do something about their addiction, or they want to do just enough to convince themselves they are trying, but somehow they are the special snowflake who is just never going to be able to get into recovery.

There are others who remind me of people who consider themselves political, but really just regurgitate the talking points they hear on TV. These are the ones who try to tell you that they can “re-wire” their brains, but when you ask them about the science behind what they’re doing, they mumble-write something about dopamine and usually admit to not knowing everything, but knowing it’s true, much like climate change deniers.

I can give you a dissertation in how brain chemistry works with addiction, but I’ll save it. Bottom line is you’re never going to rewire yourself out of that childhood trauma causing the addiction.

The lazy, ignorant and stubborn don’t recover. That’s just a fact.

If it’s not one of those things, I think it boils down to fear. Sitting across from a real person, face-to-face, and having a conversation is much different than typing essays on a computer and waiting hours to read equally one-side responses. It’s scary to be that vulnerable and ultimately, intimate, with another person if you’re not used to it.

The main excuse I hear when it comes to avoiding therapy is that somebody doesn’t have the money or the time. First, the time excuse is BS. Send me a copy of your schedule and I’ll find plenty of time for you to get help. You just make it a priority. As for money, there are plenty of mental health treatment programs funded by local, state and national sources that will pay for, or at least help you out, with the cost. In my part of Maine, there’s an agency that covers three counties and offers steep discounts depending on your income. And if you don’t qualify for an income break, your lack of funds is just another excuse. Put your mental health in front of the big movie package on your cable system.

The only other way I’ve seen people recover – and many of these people don’t have loads of pre-existing trauma – is through a form of group therapy. It can be a 12-step group like Sex Addicts Anonymous, a spiritual approach like Recovery Today or a secular approach like SMART. I’ve been to all three and while none were the ultimate answer for me, it’s clear based on the people who are deep into recovery in all three groups that communal fellowship plays a big role in recovery.

I’d still urge people who go this route to get some professional help just to make sure they’re not missing anything, but I am confident that this is a way for some to achieve successful recovery.

This does not mean that blogs like this, online forums and bulletin boards are a communal fellowship approach. They’re not. They exist on a screen, not in real life. I believe that they can be secondary or tertiary levels of support, much like researching in books or watching YouTube videos, but the amount of people failing again and again seems proof enough that anything you find on a computer or telephone screen cannot be the sole solution.

I’ve said this plenty of times: Any route to recovery is the right route to recovery. The key word in that sentence is “recovery” not “any.”

If you’re reading this and you’ve failed again and again and again, it’s time to stop doing what isn’t working and try something new, or step-up and own it: you don’t really want recovery bad enough.

 

How Many People Do I Know Who Have Overcome Porn Addiction Without Therapy? Zero.

Do you ever get so frustrated watching people figuratively bang their heads into a wall again and again that you’re not sure if you should bother pointing out that it doesn’t solve anything? I feel that way when I read message boards and forums from the “rebooting” and “NoFap” communities and their vast majority attitude toward therapy, or even refusing to call what they have an addiction. Maybe I’m the one banging his head.

(For those who sometimes ask, NoFap is short for No Fapping. “Fapping” has become a slang term for masturbation among the younger generation.)

As I’ve said before, if something works for you in recovery, stick with it. I appreciated the very early stages of 12-step groups, but beyond the foundation, my personality type let me know that I wasn’t going to thrive in that culture. Religion wasn’t the right route for me either and although I eat better and am more physically active than before, diet and exercise weren’t the secret. I like sitting around and eating Cheetos too much. But if any of this works for you, keep on going with it.

However, if none of it works for you, shouldn’t you try something else?

I don’t spend the time on Internet forums dedicated to overcoming pornography problems (too many won’t call them addictions) I once did, but I still feel reading their stories are interesting and informational. I’ve mostly stopped trying to tell them that based on everything they write, they meet the criteria for “addict” and that the addiction will only end when they get to the cause of it, which isn’t just a random joy for watching naked people go at it.

I see so many of these men writing about how weak they are, how they can’t stay away from porn or masturbation and how they feel completely lost…yet they aren’t addicts and are not going to seek help from a professional because it’s their problem to solve. Many of these men keep a “counter” as part of their signature that says how many days they’ve been sober. Most can’t get beyond 10 days without having to reset because their white-knuckle recovery method is failing them.

The pessimist in me says they don’t really want to stop, which is why they don’t seek real help. When I managed a call center, we sold a package of CDs and DVDs to parents who had defiant children. In a lot of cases, the parents didn’t want to spend the money, nor actually have to go through an 8-hour educational program to fix the problem. They just wanted to temper their guilt with the idea they looked into doing something.

If there’s one thing I learned from experience and from my time in rehab, group therapy and being around addicts, it’s that hiding an addiction is not difficult. Addicts are brilliant liars and manipulators. We even use the term “gaslight” to accuse others of what we’re doing to them.

Maybe these addicts see taking a short break and being “real” in an Internet forum as some brief form of relief. The only way that an addict can get better is to admit to themselves that they have a problem that rises to the definition of addiction and that they must traverse a series of options and obstacles to successfully battle that addiction.

Those options and obstacles are different for all of us and while I know someone will show up in the comments section saying they did it alone, with sheer willpower, I have never personally seen a true long-term addict recover without some form of therapy, usually intensive in the beginning of recovery.

Through therapy, we learn how we became addicted people. People sometimes doubt me when I say addiction started the first time I picked up a Penthouse magazine at 12 or the first time I got buzzed on champagne at 14. The reality is that the groundwork for addiction was laid even before then and I needed to learn about that time period.

Most addicts also have mental health issues and while medication does keep me at the same level of most of the humans, it was also important in therapy to learn how those mental health issues affected my decision-making and judgment throughout my life when I wasn’t medicated.

Once I understood these complex connections – which I never would have made without the ongoing help of professionals (I still see a therapist every 2-3 weeks) – recovering from the addictions became simpler. When you understand the problem, the symptoms are easier to address.

I’m a metaphor guy, so I look at it this way: If you’re hiking by yourself and you take a bad fall and break your leg, what are you going to do? Some people will stand up and try to walk out of there. They may take a few painful steps, but will likely fall down again. Then, they may try to fashion an amateur splint on their leg. They may get a few more steps on their next try, but they’re going to fall down again. Determined to get off the trail by themselves, they start crawling. Maybe they even get a little further than they did on their feet. People continue to walk by, many offering aid, but our hiker wants to save themselves on their own. What then?

Here are the options as I see them:

  • Continue to crawl, and die trying to get out of there
  • Open up your damn backpack, find your phone, call the rangers and get the help you need
  • Eventually, against the odds, miraculously crawl to the end of the trail, but have you really learned anything?

The “rebooting” and “NoFap” communities seem to believe that Nos. 1 and 3 are the answer. The “I got myself into this and I’ll get myself out of it” vibe is strong, be it out of shame, ego, stubbornness or some combination.

Recovery is the goal, not recovery the way one says it has to be. Believing things have to be a certain way is probably a big piece of what got them to this point in the first place.

Now excuse me while I go bang my head into the wall.

The Day I Truly Entered Recovery from Pornography Addiction Was…

…the day I stopped waiting for other people’s advice or tricks to be the magic bullet solution. I’m now just over 4.5 years sober from porn. I would have told you then that M/O (masturbation/orgasm) was also an issue, but once the porn went away the M/O reduced by 98%. I was a porn addict.

I was in therapy for years long before I ever admitted to my porn addiction, trying to deal with my anxiety and feelings of always being out of place in the world. While it did come to light that I was bipolar, and that was important to contain, I just kept waiting for the piece of advice or the pill that would make my life fall into place and I’d become like all of the other people.

Through my 20+ years of porn addiction and alcoholism, there were certainly times where I was very weak and I know that I certainly did some damage to my pleasure centers by nuking my brain with dopamine, oxytocin and all of those others happy chemicals.

I am grateful for my therapist. She is an amazing guide through my psyche and has helped me connect so many threads that I finally understand the web of who I am, and I couldn’t have done it without her, but she couldn’t have done it without me…and for too long I was waiting for that.

I didn’t know about NoFap or online boards where most guys try to white-knuckle it, or theories like the whole Red Pill thing back when I was in early therapy. I think there are holes to all of those modalities, but if they work for you — actually work — then I think they’re fine because it’s YOU who is making them work.

I sat in a few months worth of Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings mostly listening to men complain about their sexless lives and realized that the only way you’re going to change is if you truly become committed to change.

My therapy moved in a bit of a cognitive behavioral direction and that started to make all the difference. How often do you ask yourself, “Why am I about to do this?” “What is motivating me here?” “Why am I having these feelings?” At one point in my recovery, I was probably doing this 25 times a day. Now, there is a level of muscle memory that has sunk in. Triggers are hardly a bother, for both porn and alcohol.

I’m proof that anybody can beat this thing, but I’m also proof that this isn’t like a broken leg where it just heals on its own, and it’s not like an illness that antibiotics will take care of. It’s not a mental condition that a few pills will contain and nobody is holding back the secret that will make you better.

It’s on you. You need to make the commitment to change. It’s not a desire, it’s not a hope. It’s a commitment. You get your ass up everyday to go to work. You visit your family on holidays. You pay your taxes. You know how to handle commitment. You just have to decide this is worth it and once you take control — well, the hard work has only just started — but at least you’ve taken that legit first step.

Note: I posted this on a message board about porn addiction, but thought it would also fit with what I do on this site. I need to remind people that while they may not end up a pornography addiction expert, they can all end up in recovery.