Q&A Time: I failed to get better. How do I live with porn addiction?

 

QUESTION: I’ve read your site for a while, I’ve tried to follow your advice. I saw a therapist until I couldn’t afford it anymore, but porn is just part of my life and I don’t think I’m ever going to get better. What’s the best way to just live with the addiction?

ANSWER: If that’s your reality, I’d say don’t do anything illegal, but it’s impossible for me to accept giving up and succumbing to your addiction.

Here’s a truth that is sometimes hard for people like me who are trying to help others to face: There is nothing that rehab, a therapist, your partner, or I can do to change your addiction. We can offer help, encouragement, tips, support, punishment, boundaries, motivation, etc., but we can’t get you to stop. That’s on your shoulders.

You can do it. I’m proof of it and I’ve seen it happen with others. Some still struggle staying sober after 10 years, some lick this in a couple of months and never go back, but in every single case, they decided the most important thing in their life was doing what they needed to do to kick their habit. I believe you simply haven’t reached the point that defeating this addiction is your No. 1 priority.

I only reached that point after intervention from the law. It’s not how I would have wanted it to be, but more than five years later, I’m grateful it happened.

Back then, I was a magazine publisher and city councilor who worked 90 hours every week and ignored my family. I snuck a couple hours of porn watching and chat room trolling in the middle of the night. I was sick and didn’t see how to get out of it.

I now work about 30 hours per week and spend all my time with my family. I would have said my current lifestyle was impossible, but when forced into certain situations, you figure things out. Nothing is impossible, but excuses make it seem that way.

If you can quit, and do it on your terms, it will make your future much easier and you’ll have more control. I fear based on the brevity and tone of your question that you are in a critical phase of addiction and whether it be in 2 months or 2 years, it’s going to lead somewhere you don’t want it to go. Make it a priority — THE priority — to take care of it before that happens. I wish I would have.

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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.

Trading One Addiction for Another is Not Recovery

As many of you know, I have a sister site, where I offer advising services to those who have pornography addiction issues and their partners or family who are trying to learn and cope with the situation. I’ve done this for about a year now and after working with many people, I’m seeing a trend of pornography addicts trading their addiction for another.

In most cases, it’s either a sharp increase in drinking or many additional hours spent playing video games. While you may be able to rationalize that there aren’t as many moral issues (objectification, debate about cheating) with alcohol or video games, they are still addictions with side effects that don’t necessarily exist with porn.

I’m not suggesting for a second to stick with porn. I’m saying that simply moving on to a different addiction is not going to fix anything in the long run, as the addicted brain doesn’t really parse the difference between addictions. It just wants those pleasure chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.

Why do people drink? When it came to my alcoholism, I can tell you that it was for the exact same reason I used porn: As an escape from real life. I don’t pretend to understand the physiology of how alcohol leads you to getting buzzed or drunk, but that feeling of numbness was what I was after.

Why do people play video games? I’ve never been a video game guy, but it seems to me that the appeal is two-fold. First, like all other addictions, it’s an escape from real life. You’ll never be a cowboy, gangster or professional football player, but today’s games can get you virtually closer than ever before. Second, I think gaming comes with a false sense of accomplishment. Being able to say you finished a game is great, but how does that positively affect reality?

Switching addictions is not recovery. It’s simply falling further into the pit. I’ve talked to a couple of female partners of male porn addicts and while they all seemed worried about the new addictions, especially when it was alcohol, they universally seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that the porn use was gone or greatly dissipated.

I can understand that feeling. I would bet my house that the instances of a partner’s betrayal trauma with alcohol or video game addiction are exponentially lower than they are with sex or pornography. They may still feel neglected by the addict who is drinking to excess or sitting in front of the TV at all hours with a video game controller in his hands, but these addictions don’t feel like the personal attack pornography does.

Addiction is addiction is addiction is addiction. Individual addictions all have their specific physical and psychological side effects. You’ll rot your liver far faster with alcohol than any other addiction, but what’s going on in your mind is largely the same as pornography or video game addiction (or for that matter drug addiction, gambling addiction, food addiction, etc.)

I say congratulations if you’re taming the beast of addiction. I know first-hand that it’s not an easy road, especially in early recovery. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The time I spent with my addictions is now spent on healthy behaviors, but I constantly have to make sure that I’m not slowly and quietly forming other addictions.

Be wary of swapping one addiction for another. At best, it will only slow, not stop, your one-way ticket to rock bottom.

‘Radical Acceptance’ Has Been Crucial to My Successful Addiction Recovery

One of the more important tools I developed in recovery has been the practice of radical acceptance. I was once called out for not having any radical acceptance ability when I was in rehab and it forced me to reflect on the accusation.

Several of the residents were allowed to attend an “outside” 12-step meeting, meaning they went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting off the rehab property with regular community members. On their way back, they stopped off at a store and bought candy and energy drinks, which were both forbidden at the rehab. Their car was searched upon return and the contraband was discovered.

The next day, at our large group morning meeting, one of the counselors told us because of the actions of those four residents, all visitor’s passes would be cancelled the following weekend.

A few of the residents who had family or friends visiting got visibly upset and/or angry.

“This is meant to make you all accountable to one another,” the counselor told the group. “It’s a skill you need to develop. If you were in an office and one of your co-workers was flaunting the rules, your co-workers would come together and set them straight.”

I had always thought I had an overdeveloped sense of justice/injustice, and it was going off like a light on top of a firetruck. I couldn’t stand to see many of my friends denied visits with their families.

“Your rationalization is bullshit,” I said loudly.

“What is that, Mr. Shea?” the counselor asked.

“That’s a pathetic rationalization. First, if we were co-workers, that person would get fired. The entire team wouldn’t. Sure, we could complain to the boss about them, but none of us even knew what these guys did. Second, making each other accountable isn’t actually the way the world works. That’s why we have police and the legal system. We don’t punish all of society for one person’s wrongs.”

“Mr. Shea, do you family visiting you?” the counselor asked.

“No, they’re all in California or the northeast. They’re not flying to Texas to see me,” I explained.

“Then why does this particular situation concern you?” she asked.

“Because it’s not fair,” I said. “It’s not fair to the people who have family and friends coming.”

“Yet none of them are talking,” she said. “It’s you, who doesn’t even have a stake in this.”

“Whatever,” I said, and let it go, seething silently.

It kind of bothered me none of the people affected spoke up. It bothered me even more when a few hours later, I saw them joking and laughing with each other – and the counselor who delivered the news. It dawned on me that I was more upset about a situation that had no bearing on me whatsoever, than people who were directly involved. Something didn’t make sense about it.

Later that day, I sought out that counselor and told her that while the (in my eyes) unjust punishment was still bothering me, the others seemed to move on, and I didn’t understand how they could just do that.

She told me that she knew I believed I had a strong sense of justice and injustice, but she recognized it for what it was. It was really about power and control. I disagreed, but she pointed out as long as it was my allies, I was fine with other people in control, but the moment someone had it and I felt threatened, I confused it with injustice.

“You know you’re probably going to see a little jail time for what you did, right?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I explained. “Technically, I already pled guilty, but when I get home, they’ll look at the fact I went here and to another rehab for alcoholism and that I’m in therapy…”

“You’ll probably do 6 to 12 months,” she interrupted.

“My lawyer is hoping for no time,” I said.

“They always hope for that, and I hope you get no time, but if you do, be prepared that there is nothing you can do about it,” she said.

I looked at her somewhat blankly not wanting to admit she was correct.

“Do you know why none of your friends are still freaking out about their visitors? They’ve learned to practice radical acceptance. That’s where sometimes, no matter what happens, you’re not in control and you just have to accept it and move on.”

It took some reflection, but I was able to recognize plenty of times in my life that I tried to manipulate a situation I didn’t want to accept under the guise of injustice. I also recognized how many times I ended up begrudgingly accepting something I couldn’t control, and how when I finally let it go, it rarely stuck with me very long.

As I’ve made my way through recovery, I’ve done a lot of reading about radical acceptance. That counselor simplified the concept. For me, what’s it really about is the pain and suffering that comes from not being in control.

When I don’t let something I can’t control go, I suffer more pain than if I just moved on. Refusing to accept the pain by refusing to let things go just brings additional suffering, and who really wants that?

About eight months after my conversation with the counselor, I got a sentence of nine months (of which I served six.) As the judge was reading her verdict, a bit of a calm came over me. I now knew what my punishment would be, and I was at peace with it because there wasn’t anything I could do about it and it would be a waste of time to try.

Radical acceptance doesn’t mean being lazy. It doesn’t give an excuse to not standing up against the real injustices of the world, but for people who were power-hungry control freaks like I was, it’s a way to gain perspective.

 

Guest Article: Making Early Porn Addiction Recovery Easier

Note From Josh: When Patrick Bailey asked if he could share the following article, I thought it was perfect. Learn more about Patrick, and his extensive health writing, at the end of this article.

By Patrick Bailey
Living in recovery from porn addiction can be a lifelong process full of challenges and wins. There are many emotions attached to your journey and navigating your new lifestyle may feel impossible at times. Luckily, the healthier habits you build over time will become easier as you understand your own behaviors from a psychological standpoint. Treating your journey of recovery with patience and compassion will help you move forward as a happy and fulfilled person who sees an optimistic future ahead.

Stay In Treatment

Contrary to popular belief, treatment is a tool you can use for life, not just from the period where you transition from facing your addiction into the beginning of recovery. In fact, the most successful treatments are ones you can integrate into your new lifestyle for the extra professional support. Rewiring your brain and practicing healthy behaviors is not something you need to go through alone. Because addiction can also impact other unhealthy coping mechanisms, consider holistic treatment or an inpatient approach to start your recovery with the most support. There are plenty of licensed psychologists and inpatient treatment centers available for you to lean on, both at the start of your recovery and throughout your new life.

“Crowd Out” Old Habits

Crowding out your old habits will be the easiest way to move forward from any unhealthy behaviors you’ve relied on in the past. Recovery may seem daunting at first, especially if your entire lifestyle has centered around your porn addiction. There is no shame in working hard to create the new lifestyle you want, and there will be moments where you’ll need to dig deep or ask for help in building a new habit to replace an unhealthy one. These new habits will strengthen over time and your patience will pay off after you’ve practiced filling your world with routines and thinking patterns that fulfill you.
Lean on resources and literature for ideas as you integrate healthy coping mechanisms to address your impulses and desires in ways that work for you.

Build Your Support System

The quality of your support system will help you feel encouraged and far less alone on your journey of recovery. Porn addiction can be isolating as people may not understand your struggles or experiences so far, but you can nurture a strong support system no matter how alone you feel right now. Even one high quality friend or therapist can make all the difference in supporting your healthy lifestyle. Check out hotlines,
support groups in your area, and even peer support advocates who are willing and able to be there as you challenge yourself. Learning to ask for help will be one of the most critical skills you will need to master in order to navigate future challenges, so make the practice a part of your early recovery.

Making recovery from porn addiction easier requires being able to ask for help and connecting yourself with the resources available to support you. Changing your habits can be mentally and emotionally draining, but will pay off in a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle when you find appropriate outlets for your emotions and desires. Living your truth as a recovering addict is a journey that will last for life, so lean on these resources to make your experience positive and manageable.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Yes, Recovery Does Get Easier

While porn addiction isn’t exactly a happy topic, I feel like I sometimes tend to be about doom-and-gloom, often specifically looking for negative statistics to show what a problem the addiction is, and will become in our society.

I rarely talk about what it’s like for me today, nearly five years into recovery. For those wondering the big question “Does it ever get easier?” I’m here to tell you that yes, it does, but you have to find the way to make it easier.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about cognitive behavioral therapy. If you have a behavior, even one that reaches an addictive level, I urge you to seek out a therapist who specializes in CBT.

When I was at both of my rehabs, there were the naysayers and people who didn’t want to be there. I remember one time, there was an especially mouth drug addict. He was young and it was clear his parents forced him to be there or he’d get cut off. There are always a few those at every rehab.

“You’re just here to brainwash us!” he once blurted out to a clinician who was running one of our group activities.

He stopped, walked over to the guy, looked him straight in the eye and said one of the most truthful things I’ve ever heard.

“If you’re not here to get your brain washed, you’re in the wrong place. Don’t you think you all need a little bit of brainwashing?” he asked the addict.

A few days later, the anti-brainwasher was kicked out for hooking up with one of the young women he shared his drug of choice with at the facility. It’s funny how it’s never the sex or porn addicts that hook up at these places.

In a nutshell, CBT is self-brainwashing.

The other idea this clinician introduced me to was the concept of the “pre-lapse.” His contention was that once you’re at the stage of relapse, you’re going to engage in your addiction, but if you can nip it in the bud in advance, you’ll never reach relapse stage. There are a series of almost ritualistic thoughts and behaviors most addicts, regardless of the specific addiction, go through prior to using. Once that chain of events begins, it’s hard to derail it.

I learned how to derail the pre-lapse with cognitive behavioral therapy. I used it to tackle both my alcohol and porn problems and although muscle memory has made coping with the addictions easier, I still have CBT in back pocket.

As long as I live and I see an ad for beer on television, I’m going to have the Pavlovian response of thinking it looks tasty. That’s because the first beer or two is tasty. It’s when I feel this way that I pause and remind myself that I’ve never stopped at one or two and can’t stop at one or two, so I can’t have any. That works now. When the pull was harder years ago, I’d start thinking about all of the horrible things I’d done or said when I was drunk and how I never wanted to go down that route again. Eventually, maybe the commercials won’t trigger any response.

With porn, if I see a beautiful woman on TV or in the movies, I’ll sometimes have the immediate thought, “I wonder if she’s done a nude scene.” In years past, that would lead me to one of those celebrity porn websites. Today though, I’m able to pause and ask myself, “What does it matter if she’s done a nude scene? What will I see that I’ve never seen before?” I find that when I boil porn down to its essence, naked people being objectified, I want nothing to do with it.

And whether it’s alcohol or porn, I’m able to look back at the last six years: First, my worst year of addiction, then getting in legal trouble, attending two rehabs and hundreds of hours of therapy, a six-month jail sentence, hurting so many people close to me, almost bankrupting myself all leading to what is today a very isolated, often lonely life. My choices with alcohol and porn led me here and having spent time with addicts, I know I’m actually one of the lucky ones. Reflecting back on these last six years is a quick trick to put any porn or alcohol triggers to rest.

Yes, it’s easier now going into Year 5 of recovery than it was Year 3 and certainly Year 1. For those of you who are in the early stages, don’t fret. Just stick with it. You have control over your actions, even if you need someone to teach you how. Seek out a CBT therapist and make the recovery journey a successful one.

Reflecting on the Third Anniversary of My Time in Jail

It feels a little strange to recognize the anniversary of something that was so life-altering, but tomorrow, January 22, 2019, marks the three-year anniversary of the day I went to jail. I ended up serving 27 weeks which were among the most definitive of my life.

I ended up there because in late 2013, I made the heinous, reprehensible mistake of engaging a teenage girl online in a chat room. It doesn’t matter that I was an alcoholic, off my bipolar meds and generally watching my professional and personal worlds crumble. I made an error in judgment that I would never have made for 99.8% of my life.

The irony is that by the time I was sentenced, I’d spent the better part of two years in intense rehabilitation including two inpatient rehab stints, participation in 12-step groups and frequent one-on-one therapy sessions. The version of me that was sentenced by that judge in 2016 was the healthiest version I’d ever been.

I’m glad that I was healthy when I went to jail. If I had gone before my recovery truly had time to take root, I’m not sure I could have been so reflective with my time there. For me, jail was not hard time because I learned how to keep myself continually occupied. It was however, long time…and I think that’s the point. You get plenty of time to think.

In jail, nobody expects much out of you. You follow a few basic rules and that’s it. For some people, it drives them crazy. They literally pace the pod, taking 25 steps in one direction, turning around, taking 25 more and doing this for hours at a time. Others play cards, wagering their dinnertime desserts just to make things interesting. Meanwhile, others will veg out in front of the television, ironically watching marathons of Cops.

I did a lot of reading and wrote several books, including the one that a publisher picked up last year. I probably averaged 10 hours a day of reading or writing. While it was nice to have the time to get done two things I’d been neglecting for years, I felt a little like Burgess Meredith on that one episode of The Twilight Zone where all he ever wanted to do was be left alone to read, and when his end-of-the-world wish came true, he accidentally stepped on his glasses.

There were many occasions where I would just stop and look around at the other nine or ten men sharing this small space with me and say the words to myself, “I am currently in jail.” It remains as surreal now as it was then. The script my parents wrote for my life and tried to have me internalize at a young age did not include incarceration.

I said earlier I don’t make excuses and try not to minimize nor rationalize my crime. The one caveat I do make is that I know if I had been aware of pornography addiction or had someone called my growing use of pornography in those final years to my attention, I may not have ended up where I did. My addiction – one I never tried to control – led to my going to jail.

For those reading this who think to themselves, “There’s nothing wrong with looking at pornography a couple times a week or a few times a month,” just please recognize, I once held that belief as well. I couldn’t see the evolution from an ongoing addiction to a critical-phase addiction.

I got a lot of time to think about my poor choices and poor health management while I was in jail. You may think it’s impossible that you’ll ever end up there, but I am proof anything is possible when it comes to an insidious addiction. You’ve been warned.

The 2018 Pornhub Statistics Should Scare the Hell Out of Everybody

Normally, I do a monthly “Your Alarming Porn Statistics for the Month” entry, but I worry those sometimes get buried and I don’t want this to go unnoticed as Pornhub, the most visited pornography site in the world, often appearing in the Top 10 of all websites for traffic in the world has released its 2018 statistics. They give a chilling testimony to just how fast pornography is growing.

First, let me say that while I don’t like what Pornhub does, they do have one of the most excellent analytics teams in the world when it comes to producing data sets. The statistician in me is glad they do such a good job illustrating the problem we have in front of us.

Here are just a handful of highlights from their 2018 numbers:

  • Pornhub’s visitors in 2018 went up more than 5 billion from 2017 to 33.5 billion people. That means 92 million people are visiting daily and Pornhub expects that number to exceed 100 million visitors per day by early 2019.
  • Pornhub saw 4.79 million new videos uploaded in 2018, or over 1 million hours of new content. If you watched for 24 hours a day without duplicating a single video, it would still take you over 114 years to view just the new content. In a single minute, over two hours of new content is being added to the site.
  • The top seven countries remained exactly the same in user rank, with United States, United Kingdom and India ranking in the Top 3, respectively. Interestingly enough, these are the three countries, in that order, that visit my website.
  • Of the top 20 countries that utilize Pornhub, only one saw a decrease in duration, South Africa. The United States was up four seconds to 10 minutes and 37 seconds. The Philippines leads the list with 13 minutes and 50 seconds. Throughout the world, the average was up by 14 seconds. In the United States, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama were the states that used the site the longest. Kansas, Nebraska, Washington DC and Utah were the shortest.
  • Women now make up 29% of Pornhub’s viewership worldwide. That’s an increase of 3 percentage points over last year, or about 12% more overall. The Philippines has the most female viewers, at 38%, while the US number is 28%.
  • The average Pornhub user is 35.5 years old. Only 22% of users are older than 45. Viewers 18-to-24 are actually down 3% from 2017 and now represent 26% of the total viewership. Conversely, viewers 25-to-34 are up by 3% to 35%. This means that 61% of all traffic on the world’s busiest porn site is under 34 years old. It’s unknown if children who view are not tabulated or lumped into the 18-to-24 age group.
  • Considering its young users, it’s not hard to understand that 71.6% of users access Pornhub with their telephone. That number is up by 8% in 2018. Less than 20% used a traditional desktop or laptop computer, down 18% from 2017. Porn is mobile.

I’m going to stop here, but their statistics go on and on and on. I don’t think it really matters who the most popular porn star was this year or what the most popular browser to utilize porn on people’s tablets might be.

I’m not going to give my analysis on every statistic, other than to state these numbers should scare the hell out of people. Young people use the internet. Young people use their phones and young people are reporting higher rates of PIED (porn-induced erectile dysfunction) and pornography addiction than ever before.

This starts with the porn. No, not every viewer is going to end up critical, much like not everybody who tastes a beer or places a bet on a game ends up an addict. The difference is that the populace as a whole is still greatly uneducated about pornography addiction. I truly believe it’s one thing to start smoking cigarettes, knowing what the potential health risks are to viewing pornography, which the vast majority of people still believe (while morally questionable) is relatively harmless.

As always, if you have a pornography addiction, seek help. Here are a few RESOURCES where you can begin.