It’s Time to Admit the Reasons We Tell People to Stay Away From Porn Aren’t Working

I use Einstein’s definition of insanity too many times on this blog because it explain the frustration I feel with a lot of people’s attitudes and actions toward pornography and pornography addiction. I’ve never made my fight against pornography itself because I think it diverts attention from education, but it seems a correlation could be made if people were effectively dissuaded from using pornography, there would be less pornography addicts.

The problem is that our current list of reasons for urging people to stay away from pornography are ineffective. I’m not saying that they aren’t valid reasons – they almost always are. They aren’t scare tactics, which don’t play well with most, but well-reasoned rationalizations for putting down the porn. And none of them work.

I recall about 15 years ago, fast food restaurants were forced to put the calorie content on all of their menus by the FDA, with the belief if we only knew how bad it was for us, we’d stop. Yeah, that didn’t work. People knew fast food wasn’t quality food. In fact, fast food revenues exploded with the invention of the value menus with popular items for $1 or $2. People didn’t want healthy, they wanted cheap. It’s the same story with porn. If you’re paying money for porn these days, you’re doing it wrong. I think most people see it as junk food for the brain. It’s not healthy, but it’s not going to create lasting damage. Our standards reasons to stay away don’t combat that attitude effectively.

Why don’t our go-to reasons for staying away from porn work? I think I’ve figured most of them out:

The actors and actresses are exploited, don’t want to be there and had bad childhoods – All of this may be true, but has it stopped a single person from watching pornography? I think on some level everybody who watches porn understands its very essence is about the exploitation of the human body. As for not wanting to be there, I recently wrote a blog for a freelance client where I had to dig up statistics on job dissatisfaction in white-collar corporate America. Depending on the study, it ranged from 70% to 85%, so nobody likes their job.  As for having bad childhoods and still needing to seek out work, that isn’t a porn-exclusive thing either. I think when most people look at porn, they’re just not thinking about the poor professional conditions because they have to live with those conditions themselves and most would rather be having sex with beautiful people in pretty places than washing dishes at Buffalo Wild Wings.

It’s not realistic and doesn’t depict love – There have been a million and one studies on why people look at porn and one of the top two or three reasons, usually the top reason, is that it is an escape. People understand it’s not realistic because they only have to look to their own lives to reach that conclusion. I don’t think pizza guys and tennis instructors get into those vocations because they see a lot of sex in porno movies for guys in those industries. How many people would want to watch porn if it was people who looked like them doing things that they do? When it comes to love, I don’t think people turn to porn. If they want to see love, there’s a whole Hallmark Channel showing a slightly different version of the same Christmas movie for the next two months.

It’s going to rot your brain – For addicts, it actually does change the brain chemistry, but by that point, any standard reason to not use doesn’t work. I think that we’re told that so many things in this world are going to rot our brains and it simply doesn’t, and most people know that. First, you had people claiming rock music would make us all miscreants and Satanists. Didn’t happen. Then, kids raised on video games would all be prone to violent outbursts. Proven untrue. Porn certainly isn’t good for your brain, but enough people walk away without permanent scarring – or we’re still not talking about that scarring – that this argument falls on deaf ears for lack of proof.

Looking at porn brings you further away from God – I’m guessing this might work on some very devout people, but data would suggest otherwise. Two of the four fastest growing consumer groups of porn are members of the Roman Catholic Church and LDS Church and those who work in service of god (rabbis, priests, reverends) all report higher-than-average porn usage rates. This doesn’t even take into account that there are a lot of people who don’t believe in God or that he doesn’t play an active role in the consequences of their decision making. I have no hard statistics other than my own experience, but I bet 75% of the blogs I find on WordPress that talk about recovery from porn addiction give a lot of credit to God, but threats of the almighty fall on deaf ears prior.

I wish I had some great new techniques and solutions. I think most of the solutions are going to come from talking to our kids while they are young and informing them about the potential physical and mental dangers of taking porn use too far. We can argue whether that has or hasn’t worked with drugs and alcohol, but I think everybody who has a kid that is clean is thankful they said something.

We can keep repeating the standard “evils of pornography” list and while they certainly are valid, they are also ineffective. It’s tough to admit that, but the sooner we do, the sooner people far smarter than I can work to develop the new techniques and solutions we so desperately need.

Is It Ethical to Attempt to Make Money Off Of My Porn Addiction Educating?

One of the nicer things about this past weekend when I met with a half-dozen people individually to discuss porn addiction at a Massachusetts library was the feedback that my time educating people and being a source of support is not being wasted. I need to hear that now and then, but I need to begin to figure out the next step.

On an average day, I probably devote 2-3 hours to my blog: writing, editing (though some days you’d never know it) posting, responding to comments and that doesn’t include the time I look at other people’s blogs and comment on their entries.

I’m at a place in advance of the new book coming out soon where I’m devoting 2-3 hours per week on a bunch of the last-minute edits and other things that need to be done before its printed. I’m also doing 2-4 podcasts/interviews per week that usually take 3-5 hours total.

Adding that all up, on a slow week I’m devoting a minimum of 20 hours and on a busy week it’s closer to 30. That’s a busy part-time job. Throw in something like Saturday when I was gone from the house for 13 hours and spent around $75 and it’s a full-time job where I lose money.

I still feel a mighty pull to educate and help wherever I can. It feels like one of the most natural things I’ve ever done. I have felt like I’m supposed to be a writer. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a traveler. I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be a father and I’ve felt like I’m supposed to educate and help others about porn addiction. That’s really it…four things.

Last year, I tried to monetize this a little bit by starting pornaddictcounseling.org. I’ve helped several people through that site and made a few dollars doing it, but not enough to really make a difference in the bottom line of my life. I’ll admit I didn’t promote or push it, but I don’t know if that would have made a difference. I’ve been debating shutting it down before another year of charges is applied to the site.

I’m not going to make a lot of money on the next book unless something very unexpected happens. I have to split royalties with my co-author and don’t think I’ll actually see a dime of them until early 2021 if I read my contract correctly.

I know that I need to spend more time looking for ghostwriting and freelance writing work to get a bit more income through the door, but that’s on me, and isn’t really the point here.

One part of me sees this really going to the next level. Writing more books that make some money. Getting guest speaking gigs where I’m actually paid to appear and a bump in visibility that gets me on higher-profile podcasts and radio shows, in turn leading to more money-making opportunities. If I can pull back on the freelance writing time because I’m making money with this, I can do even more with the education and speaking, but I need money to replace that money I don’t make writing. Isn’t making a living and helping people the best of both worlds? Hell, doctors do it every day.

The other side of me says that if I start doing any more than covering expenses, I’m going to enter a world of exploiting the situation. Why are you reading this right now? Because I did a horrible thing. Why did I get to participate at the library this past weekend? Because there’s a girl who (at the time) was underage and I encouraged her to show me her body. Why do I have a second book coming out? Because my story is unique and special for all the wrong reasons. Isn’t there an argument to be made I’m exploiting myself, the girl, the crime, the whole situation by trying to make anything resembling a profit? Isn’t there an argument that any money I make is almost dirty? These are arguments that plague me.

Porn addiction is starting to gain some traction in the mainstream. People are just starting to talk about it. With two books behind me, my personal experience with addiction and the wealth of knowledge I have about the subject puts me in a position where I may be able to capitalize on opportunities in the near future as this becomes even more mainstream. But should I be talking about this is terms of entrepreneurialism?

I don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer. I’m going to keep doing what I do as long as I can afford it. Maybe the rest will work itself out.

Human Library Participation Really Put the Emphasis on ‘Human’ For Me

I drove nearly 9,000 miles on my vacation last summer through places like Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Indianapolis and more, yet I will testify in any court of law that Boston has the worst traffic in the United States. It took me nearly an hour to drive four miles on a Saturday afternoon, without construction! So much for the Big Dig.

I shared a photo yesterday from the Osterville Village Library in Barnstable, Mass., where I took part in my second Human Library. The Human Library sprang out of Europe and is an event where people (dubbed “books”) who have a unique personal story to share gather at a traditional library and patrons take turns “checking out” these books, which really just means they spend 30 minutes in conversation with the person.

My book is unironically called “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About” and either goes in the direction of my personal story or how I believe porn addiction will be a national healthcare crisis by 2050 unless we take certain steps; I let the patron decide where to take the conversation. Other books included an African-American police officer, a rabbi in the U.S. military, an atheist, a person recovering from drug addiction, somebody who has been through the U.S. Immigration process, etc. It’s stated purpose is a chance for people to understand someone else who is nothing like them.

img_2619This event was far more successful than the first one I participated in at a New Hampshire library last year. I was only booked for two of the six sessions then as attendance was sparse. This time around, I was booked for five of the six and spent the spare session doing a long interview with a local radio station.

I felt prepared, bringing a handful of copies of my first book and a sheet of statistics regarding pornography addiction. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional outpouring from the other chair.

The first gentleman who came in around 1 p.m. was probably in his late 50s or early 60s. I shared my personal story, largely uninterrupted for about 15 minutes. When finished, he called me brave and thanked me for being willing to talk openly about porn.

“After listening to you,” he said softly with a stutter, “I’m now left to wonder if I’m a pornography addict, although I guess if I’m asking myself that question I know the answer.”

I told him he was brave to admit that and started defining addiction, including some of the specifics of porn addiction. I could see tears well up in his eyes.

As our time reached an end, I told him that only he can determine if he’s an addict and if he should seek help, but I urged him to sit down with an addictions counselor at least once and get a baseline for where he is. I only know his side of the story, but if addiction is there, I think it’s more to the mild side of things, thankfully.

I didn’t expect such an emotional first session and it reminded me not to pre-judge anybody. I can’t tell people not to stereotype who is or isn’t a porn addict and then do it myself.

The second woman worked in health care and simply wanted to learn more about the addiction in general. She had fantastic questions, and frankly, getting a bit of an emotional break was nice.

My third session was the radio interview. The interviewer wasn’t intimidated by the subject, but you could tell she feared offending me with personal questions. I assured her that I’ve been asked everything, so she couldn’t offend me. I get this same reaction with some of the podcasts I appear on. People are more scared to ask questions than I am to answer them. I’d never really recognized this before until someone was sitting across from me.

The fourth session was another gut-churning one. The woman, who said she’d been married for 45 years, mentioned up front her husband has a great tolerance for things, specifically mentioning he needs to drink 10 beers to feel anything where the average person only needs two or three. She called it a “high tolerance for pain.”

I got through my story and she asked a few benign questions about how my wife handled the situation both before and after I entered recovery. In sharing the premise of my soon-to-be-released book geared toward the partners of porn addicts, she asked what advice is given when the man doesn’t want to attend therapy.

I told her that it’s best to not pretend the partner doesn’t have an addiction. I said that the partner needs to suggest couple’s counseling, but even if the addict doesn’t want to go, they should still find a counselor on their own, and to never forget that self-care is the most important thing, because you can never make an addict do something they don’t want to do. I finished by saying ultimately the non-addict has to decide what they can live with and if they need to create boundaries or ultimatums. I told her that the key is to enforce those boundaries and ultimatums or they mean nothing.

She began crying and said while she and her husband didn’t have this problem with pornography addiction, they were going through it with something else and she was doing everything I suggested. I didn’t know if it was alcoholism as she didn’t say and I didn’t pry. I just assured her that she had to do the right thing for her, not her husband or adult kids or anybody else. As our time came to an end she tried to dry her tears and thanked me for being a shoulder to cry on.

The next woman came in and after listening to my little introductory speech told me that she has a problem with chat rooms that tend to lean toward the kinky side of things. In her situation, her husband wasn’t against it as he had fetishes and she believed a touch of sex addiction. She, too, began crying and telling me that she just wanted a normal life and not one where she found herself with strange people in basement sex clubs in Boston at 3 a.m. on a Saturday. I urged her to see a therapist, but told her that she can’t look at it as an on/off switch, whether it’s recovery or transitioning to a new life, it happens slowly, with clear, deliberate steps.

It was a bit of a relief that the last woman to stop by was just looking for information. She said she had an extended family member dealing with this and she wanted to learn more about it. I shared my details, which would have been hard two years ago, but was easy, especially since she wasn’t crying.

After wrapping up and talking with the head librarian and volunteer who coordinated the event, letting them know I thought it went well based on comparing it to my first experience, I got in the car and made the trek north to Maine and through the heart of Boston.

At least the traffic gave me time to reflect on the emotional outpouring I received from many of the people who sat with me. Even those who didn’t have an issue were gracious and I could tell appreciated what I was doing. It’s good for me to see that face-to-face because despite the comments section in these blogs and the fact I know people listen to the podcasts I appear on, getting that one-on-one interaction reminds me what I’m doing is not just a selfish activity to keep my own recovery on track.

I went to bed around 10:30 p.m. last night and didn’t get up until 11:30 this morning. Clearly this took a lot more out of me than I realized, but in a good way. Actually, a great way.

If there’s a Human Library event taking place near you (this Facebook page for the organization is constantly updated), I urge you to go check it out and learn the stories of people who are not like you, or maybe even more importantly, those who are exactly like you.

If You’re Not Willing to Ask For Help, You’re Not Going to Overcome Addiction

I think there are three basic steps in achieving recovery: 1) Admitting to yourself have a problem, 2) Asking a professional for help, 3) Following through with treatment. I think the second step is the toughest part for most people and where recovery either happens, or doesn’t.

I don’t think admitting you have an addiction problem is difficult. Sure, it’s the first step, and I can only speak for myself, but even with mild denials I provided my brain, I always knew something was different and abnormal with my pornography use and alcohol consumption compared to most people. When I reached the critical point, it was clear something was wrong, even if I had no idea exactly what was going on with me.

Treatment comes in all forms and sizes, but if you follow through with it, you’ll achieve some level of recovery. I have met plenty of people who think they are the special one who can’t recover, but in reality, I have only met one person I ever thought to myself, “I don’t know if they’re constitutionally capable of long-term recovery.” Thankfully, I was wrong. They have been sober for 5 years now. I’ll tell that story in a few days. My point here is that if you are committed to recovery, you will recover. It’s not a complex recipe.

As some of you know, I have a side hustle giving specific one-on-one advice to addicts and/or their loved ones. It’s featured in the ad on the side of the homepage of the website, and you can access it HERE.

I always tell people that it’s a big step they asked me for help, but at the end of the day, I’m not a professional. I’m somebody who can be the first person they talk to who isn’t going to judge and will create a safe space. I can be the person who lets them know what the next several steps could/should be. Talking to me is like easing your toe into the water. It’s asking for help, but the sugar-free, “light” version.

One of the reasons I started this consulting/advisement service is because I know just how hard it is to ask for help. I usually work with someone for 3-6 major interactions (phone calls/skype/email) and it’s all about getting them to recognize they need real help. They can practice telling their story with me and I can get them ready for a therapist or a 12-step meeting. If I can remove any of the fear, it’s not as big a leap to getting the help.

The biggest pushback I get is not in somebody feeling that they don’t have a problem, but feeling that their problem doesn’t rise to the level of needing professional help, or being too proud to take that leap and becoming the kind of person who “has to get help.”

I try to kill both of these birds with one stone. I tell them that if their doctor referred them to cardiologist because of a heart issue, they wouldn’t compare themselves to other heart patients, they’d just go. If you need glasses, you go to the eye doctor. You don’t worry about people with better or worse vision. If you see an oncologist and they give you one year to live, you don’t stop seeing them because they give some people only three months.

I also try to address their pride. I have to admit, I’ve never been a prideful person. It probably has to do with my imposter syndrome. I’ve worn so many masks, pride doesn’t phase me all that much. I think it’s just another mask I never wore. But I’ll point out the fact that Pride, much like Lust, is one of the seven deadly sins. Also, I’ve never heard of anybody on their death bed complain that they didn’t have enough pride or were glad they didn’t ask people for help. The deathbed is for regret and never getting professional help will be a huge regret.

So why do the naysayers point to inpatient rehabs and 12-step groups as having historically low success rates? Having been to a couple, I can tell you that those who are forced to go, either by their family or the law, never actually asked for the help. You can’t skip to step three without step two. I’d guess between 50% and 75% of the people at both my rehabs didn’t want to be there. And if you’re at an AA or NA meeting, watch how many people only show up once or twice — likely pushed by family — or need to have their “court card” signed by the leader at the end of the meeting. A judge told them to be there. They aren’t there because they are seeking help.

As far as the self-imposed stigma of being one of “those people” who are in the minority of asking for professional help, you’re actually in the minority if you aren’t wiling. According to a 2018 study by the Barna Group, 42% of American adults have seen a counselor at some point, 13% are in active therapy and 36% haven’t seen a therapist but are open to it. Not being willing to see a therapist actually makes you one of the few, not many.

You know you have a problem. If you want it bad enough, you can get through the treatment. You just have to be willing to ask for the help. Don’t let fear hold you up.

Fascinating Stats: Does Watching More Porn Make You Realize You’re Bisexual?

Note from Josh: Let me preface this article by saying that I think the following data is fascinating. I do not want any conclusion drawn that it somehow shows I have any negative feelings toward anybody’s sexual orientation. I have no problem with any gender or sexual identification. I say be who you are, not who others tell you to be. I do, however, think that any data we can gather that further illuminates who is watching pornography can do nothing but help us understand the grip it has on people. I draw no value judgment on this data, but I thought it important to share. If any disparaging remarks are left in the comments section about gender or orientation fluidity, they will be deleted.

While I think their product is garbage, I have always been complimentary toward Pornhub’s annual release of their analytics, which give us a better understanding of how more people are using porn, exactly who those people are, where they’re from and what kind of material they are looking at. Recently, another very popular site released data that was compelling about the sexuality of their viewers.

While PornHub is the nation’s 7th most popular visited site, xHamster, the creator of this new report, is the 27th. For statistical purposes, their content, like PornHub, is all over the place, not catering to any particular demographic. xHamster claims that it polled around 11,000 of its users to get this data. If true, that’s an amazingly large sample group and since their site is one of the most popular in the US, should paint a relatively clear picture of who is using their site.

I’m taking the screen captures directly from their blog. It’s completely SFW and there is no nudity at all. It goes more in-depth than I do here. Obviously trigger warning, but if you’re interested in seeing the other stats, the link is: https://xhamster.com/blog/posts/934387

Here’s the first slide…

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 1.41.53 PM

Their site reports:

“…while women who watch porn were more than twice as likely as men to identify as bisexual, nearly one-fifth of men in the study identified so as well. These are much higher numbers than have been previously reported.”

Consider the 11K interviewed, I have no doubt this is accurate, but it is surprising to me. When given the luxury of anonymity, over 32% of porn users do not identify as heterosexual. Personally, I would have thought the straight and gay numbers would have been higher.

On to the next slide:

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 1.42.07 PM

Now, we have to remember that this is a pornographic website, not a site that interprets the Bible. While you can’t really stereotype a porn user into any specific demographic these days, those who use the Internet tend to be younger and more liberal than the generations prior.

It’s hard to get a real statistic on how many people overall in the US are gay or bisexual, with figures ranging from the low single digits to the high teens depending on which study you look at.  I think these numbers are much higher than the overall national average, but it is telling that they are tied to porn viewing.

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 1.42.18 PM

For me, this is the most fascinating slide in the entire study. There is no correlation between homosexuality and frequency of porn usage, and it clearly drops in frequency among heterosexuals, but it grows among bisexuals.

This leaves a lot of unanswered questions: Does this graphic speak to a bisexual person’s tendency to watch more porn or a person who watches a lot of porn’s tendency to identify as bisexual — and how many of these people who are identifying as bisexual have acted on those feelings in real life?

The site attempts to analyze some of the data by getting even deeper:

We also wondered if there was some way that women porn fans — 38% of whom in our study identified as bisexual — might be somehow skewing the data. So we repeated the calculations with just men. The results were even more dramatic.

Just 10.8% of men who watched porn once a week identified as bisexual, but 27.2% of men who watch porn multiple times a day identify as bisexual. (After all, if you’re looking at naked men all day — even if there’s a woman in the picture — maybe it opens you up to a broader ideas about human sexuality.)

I think it’s absolutely fascinating that more than one-out-of-four men who view porn on a daily basis through this particular site identify as bisexual. It again brings up a lot of interesting questions and I mostly wonder if these men have engaged in a bisexual physical relationship away from the computer.

Since the frequency of viewing is at least once a day, it might be safe to assume that these are the problem viewers who are either addicted or close to it. That means that they have built up a tolerance to run-of-the-mill “vanilla” porn between a man and a woman. Like the alcoholic who starts with beer and moves to the harder stuff, are these viewers watching more exotic or extreme genres of porn? If they are, and they find themselves not repulsed by what they see on screen, might they make a leap that they are more open to different kinds of sexuality other than just heterosexual? One of the top guys at xHamster told the New York Post that was the conclusion they reached:

“We can only provide correlation, not prove causation, but it would seem that watching porn more frequently helps show users what sexuality can be,” xHamster vice president Alex Hawkins tells The Post. “The more porn you watch, the more you may think, ‘Hey, that’s actually somewhat of a turn-on. Maybe I’m not as totally straight, or gay, as I thought.’”

I don’t know what it all means, or if it has to mean anything, but it’s interesting. I hope that actual scientific research is done into sexual identity and porn usage in upcoming years. xHamster, despite publishing porn garbage, has provided us with an eye-opening look into its users that can be a jumping-off point for real study.

I’ll leave you with this final slide…

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 1.42.47 PM

That’s depressing. There’s still so much work to be done.

Reflecting on the Differences Between My Two Stays in Rehab

Telling friends, family and co-workers I was heading off to inpatient rehab for sexual addiction elicited quite a different response than when I told them a year earlier that I was entering a facility for my alcoholism. When I admitted the bottle was my demon, I was treated as a hero and got plenty of pats on the back; when it was my sexual issues, people looked at me like they’d just smelled cow manure.

People knew I was a drunk, or at least had issues around alcohol. I took great strides to hide the true extent of the problem, but few seemed surprised when they learned I was getting help. I think that lack of surprise may have helped convince me that there was a problem. On the other hand, my pornography addiction was hidden, played out online in the middle of the night through websites and chat rooms, away from my “real life.” Nobody knew.

Finding a facility for alcoholism was easy. It was more a matter of deciding where in the country I wanted to be and what was within my price range. I went with Spencer Recovery Centers in Palm Springs, California.

Pornography addiction isn’t as easy. There are plenty of facilities that list “sexual issues” as one of their areas of treatment, but after preliminary questioning of their intake coordinators, most admit they don’t have the programming or expertise to treat actual sexual addiction. Once my alcoholism was reined in, it was clear just how much the porn addiction had taken over my life and that I needed treatment exclusive to the condition. After an exhaustive search, I had a list of only 8-10 reputable, accredited facilities with multiple CSATs (Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist) on staff.

I was told when searching for a rehab center for alcoholism that I had terrible insurance, yet my carrier allowed me to stay a total of 70 days, only having to pick-up 15% of the price once my deductible was met. Between rehab stints (about 10 months), my wife got a job with a larger company resulting in better health insurance for our family. The facility I ended up choosing just outside Dallas, was ecstatic with the insurance I had since it was one of the few carriers that took sex/porn addiction seriously. I don’t know if this was the typical pitch addicts need to be leery of when talking to intake coordinators, but as it turns out, there is no “sexual addiction” designation when it comes to insurance.

I was technically admitted to Sante Center for Healing with “chronic impulsivity disorder” with a secondary diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which I’d been dealing with for almost 15 years and was already well-documented by the insurance company. Three weeks into my stay there, I was called to the rehab’s business office, which was never a good sign, and told my insurance company had dropped me completely. The other four weeks were all out-of-pocket, an almost unfathomable increase from the 10% of the overall cost I was already picking up. My life savings disappeared.

The facility in California catered to drug addicts and alcoholics. Many of the younger addicts, most of whom have hopefully come to recognize they also have drinking problems, often dismissed those of us who were exclusively alcoholic.

“The reason I never graduated to heroin,” I would explain when alcoholism was laughed at as a problem, “is because alcohol did what I needed it to. I’m lucky in that I didn’t have to use hard drugs to get relief, but keep in mind, when we get out of here, my drug of choice is at every 7-11. My drug of choice is on almost every restaurant menu, and my drug of choice is socially acceptable.” Sometimes this explanation was understood, often it fell on deaf ears.

At my second treatment facility in Texas, which housed around 40 patients, most were seeking help for drugs and alcohol, but about 10 of us were there for sex/porn addiction and a half-dozen were struggling with eating disorders. Once again, those with chemical dependency issues questioned why the rest of us were there.

“It’s easy to understand the goal of your addiction because I’m an alcoholic, too,” was how I’d launch into the explanation. “Stop using X. X can be heroin, X can be whiskey, X can be meth, but the goal is to stop. There is no healthy use for a chemical addict. You can’t tell one of these eating disorder girls that they need to stop eating. You can’t tell me to no longer be a sexual being. It’s part of our DNA and managing it in a healthy way is the goal, not complete abstinence.” Sometimes this explanation was understood, often it fell on deaf ears.

Having spent seven weeks around-the-clock with so many admitted sex/porn addicts, it was clear there is far more shame associated with the addiction than among those suffering with chemical dependency. This has also rung true for me post-treatment in attending 12-step meetings. If there’s an addiction that trades in shame more than sex/porn, I apologize for not knowing about it.

It’s not fair to compare the actual treatment of the two facilities, nor to make sweeping generalizations of all alcohol or sexual addiction rehabs. The California center favored a group dynamic and 12-step meetings off campus, while the Texas facility featured a heavy dose of one-on-one counseling and took a more holistic approach to recovery.

Alcoholism and sex addiction are very different maladies, each with their own host of issues and problems, but they are also similar in their brain chemistry and destruction. I would not have been able to address my negative sexual behavior had I not got the alcoholism under control first. I don’t know if that means one addiction was worse than the other, or which that would be, but I’m grateful I was able to experience inpatient care for both. It’s a shame attempting to overcome one addiction puts me on a pedestal and the other causes recoiling and disgusted faces, but I’ll take all of the adulation and all of the scorn if it continues to result in the healthy road of recovery I currently enjoy.

I know there are thousands of people who have defeated their addictions without inpatient rehab stays, but I also know that mine were absolutely invaluable and I can’t imagine being where I am today without them.

 

 

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.

 

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