Here’s Your Chance to Redeem Yourself…

Screen Shot 2019-09-11 at 12.54.52 PMYou really wanted to buy my new book and support me when it came out in softcover in December, but either the $19.99 (plus tax and shipping) cost or the fact you’d have a book laying around the house that said “Porn Addict” on the cover was too much for you. That’s OK, I understand. And now, both of those excus….err….reasons have been taken care of as I am proud to announce He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions is available in Kindle!

Now, with a low price of $9.99 and no shipping costs, you can show you support, learn a few things, and prove that reading isn’t dead. With Amazon’s gifting and lending program, if you know somebody who should have the book but isn’t going to pick it up for whatever reason,  you can share with them in a much more subtle way than giving them an actual book.

Hope you’ll pick up, or download, your copy today!

Link to the Kindle:  https://amzn.to/2NyIWAT

For those who purchase the Kindle (and those who don’t, but whatever) my first book is available on Kindle for $3.99 for a short time for only HERE

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.

Meet A Porn Addict on the Verge of Getting Help

Note from Josh: I can’t pretend this isn’t long. It’s very long, but it’s very powerful. In the pornography addiction advising service I offer, I always ask for an introduction from the prospective client to give me a sense of where they are with things. This is one that came from a new client who allowed me to run a version of what he presented me. I think it is one of the best first-person profiles of somebody who recognizes they have a problem and has some inkling where it came from – and is finally ready to address it. This does get a little graphic in a few parts and this man’s thinking – like any pornography addict – is flawed in many places.

 

I was born in (the very early 1980s) in California to parents that had gotten married because my mother had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. They were Catholics. My father was a narcissist, as in NPD, and took actual pleasure in manipulating my mother. As part of this manipulation, he decided he needed to separate her from the support of her family, so he moved us to Idaho where he had purchased nine acres out in the mountains near absolutely nothing. He had made the purchase with his older brother who just wanted a place to camp and hunt, and we moved out there with the idea that they’d be able to set up a homestead with elbow grease and a few hundred dollars. They were stymied right up front when trying to drill a well with a rented hand operated drill, and we went from tents to looking for something else.

My parents found an abandoned house and “bought it” with a very small down payment and promise of monthly payments, it was owner financed. There was no heat, the pipes had all burst, and the roof leaked, but it was a start. My dad found that there were no jobs available, so he was unable to repair the house in preparation for winter, and we found out first-hand how brutal the winters in Idaho can be. He got a job bucking hay, it paid him $1,800 the first few years, which didn’t really buy much food, even when all you’re buying is bulk beans, rice, and flour.

After that first winter, my dad took a construction job in California and we returned long enough for him to build a few houses. In that time, I befriended my great grandfather and then watched as caught pneumonia and died. I was later told that the family was relieved he had died because he had attempted to grope us children, though I don’t remember this. I had a sister already, I was three at this point and she was two.

We moved back to Idaho with enough money for my father to patch the roof, replace the crumbling plaster and pipes, and cut and split an awful lot of wood from the state forests just outside of town. We proceeded to go through another winter, where things spiraled downward for my parents. I even got to witness my mother shrieking at my father while throwing firewood at him and I had no idea why, or what this meant, except that things were very cold and not safe. And pea soup was terrible.

We continued to live in that house for most of my childhood. All of our belongings came from the dump and my mother recycled or made our clothes. I ended up going to public school for the first three grades, where I was mostly an outcast because I wore trash, but it wasn’t all bad. I made friends with the second-grade teacher and she got me books.

There were now more of us, two younger brothers were added to the brood. I got along with them fine, but they hated each other and were miserable because my father didn’t show them any real attention. In third grade, my father decided to take me out of school and start homeschooling, my mother was the teacher, all grades, all subjects. There was no longer any friends or activities outside the house.

My dad seemed averse to getting any house with heat and paint on the walls, even when he started to make money (which he did). There’s a lot of details in here that aren’t relevant. Life was OK for me during the rental house years, though I started into puberty without any guidance from either of my parents, which was very rough. I had pretty much decided I had cancer of the pee-pee and was going to die and go to hell, because I couldn’t stop thinking about touching girls, and bad thoughts are sins just as real as taking action on those thoughts. But still, there were no friends allowed, so we just kept to ourselves and studied inside.

Then my dad bought 76 acres in northern Idaho, literally 20 minutes from a gas station and nearly an hour from town. We got two old trailers that had been abandoned and hauled them out there. The boys got put in the smaller trailer (there were 9 children now). The heater was an old fuel-oil unit that had a tank inside the trailer. At first, I kept this filled and we had some meager heat, but the firebox in the oil burner from the 1950s had rusted through, and was smoking into the trailer, which didn’t poison us because it was missing windows and the steel doors were warped and didn’t shut. So, that was the end of the heat for the boys.

My father installed a fireplace in the other trailer. Us boys walked down to the back half of the property and started thinning the trees, cutting out the dead ones, and hauling the wood back up to the trailer on our backs to keep our parents (and little sisters) warm. My mother was pregnant at this point and just wanted a house with water and a sewer.

A co-worker of my father’s bought a truck load of plywood and 2x4s and lied about it, said it was being thrown away by the building supply store, otherwise my father wouldn’t have accepted it. I dug an enormous hole and we build an outhouse over it with the materials, so at least we didn’t have to do our business in the elements.

We did have a well drilled at this point and installed a hand pump. It was an eighth mile away from the trailers down a very steep hill in a deep ravine, and as I used to joke, we only had running water if I had the energy to run. I pumped water into five-gallon jugs, two at a time, and carried them back to the trailers, one on each shoulder. I did this a few times every day. Bathing involved a sponge and warming this water on the fireplace.

Making at least a show of getting basic necessities, my dad had me dig a pit for a 2,000-gallon cistern, another one for a 500-gallon septic tank, and then a few thousand feet of leach field. I got up early, finished my homeschool before noon and did this until night fall, every day. My father actually hired a bulldozer to come out and cut a quarter mile long driveway from the county road, after we had gotten the 4×4 Suburban stuck in the muck one too many times. He wasn’t willing to pay for gravel, however, and made some kind of a trade for six or seven loads of pit rock to be delivered. The trucks did a passable job of spreading this and all I had to do was finish spreading it and breaking the pit rock up (head size rocks) with a 16-pound sledge. So, yeah, I kinda felt like I lived on a chain gang.

My mother was miserable during this time, she was pregnant and it wasn’t going well. I was too miserable to really notice, I was digging the trenches through this snow to get the septic tank connected to the bigger trailer so my parents and the girls would have a functioning toilet. I was standing in two feet of water, covered with ice, and ended up getting severe frost bite. I was afraid to tell my parents, so I hid it from everyone. I watched as most of the flesh blackened and peeled away in chunks. My feet did heal, but were agonizing in hot or cold water for the next decade or so.

At this point, I was told that the baby wasn’t going to make it. My dad didn’t want to pay for a funeral, so the two of us made a coffin from fiber reinforce concrete, and as the hard winter transitioned to a flood spring, I began to dig a grave in preparation for the body of my baby brother. I only got to see him for a moment, the back half of his skull was missing, and he died immediately after birth, there was nothing that could be done to save him. My mother was devastated, and I struggled with burying him. At the makeshift funeral, I broke down sobbing too hard to finish, and my grandfather had to step-in to finish shoveling the dirt back into the hole.

My father had effectively nothing to do with the bury, and my mother was too stricken with grief to even notice what burying my baby brother was doing to me. I built a little fence around the sight and planted some flowers.

This coincided with me finding the internet at the place I was going to get help with my math course work. I found the internet, and the same day found porn. It was actually the first time I had seen a female unclothed, and the porn I ran into wasn’t exactly the classiest. I came away from the experience disturbed and sickened, it made me feel like women were incredibly unattractive, a feeling that stuck with me for the next two years of so.

I took the GED to graduate from high-school, home-school style, this was very near my 16th  birthday. On that birthday, I got my first job and shortly thereafter my first car. I spent the next year basically living in my car and working. I saved up a little money and got my first rental, a trailer, to be sure, but a trailer just off the nearby downtown of Paulson…a trailer in human habitable condition, with a heat, and AC and a roof that didn’t leak AND plumbing.

I fell back into porn, not having any girls to even think about, and not being sure how one approached a female, or where. To view porn helped, but it took getting past my aversion to the sight of naked women, which took a bit and kept me firmly on the track of the classiest softcore porn for the next few years. I’d look at it in the evenings and dream about the day when I would meet one of those women.

I had no expectation of ever meeting a girl anywhere near my age. I probably could have, and maybe fared better, but my father was very clear that college was for faggots and I would be a disappointment if I wasted my money on a piece of paper instead of succeeding with my wits. I got into classic car restoration and this more or less replaced my porn and video games almost entirely.

By the time I was 19-20, I had moved back in with my parents, who had finally bought their first normal human dwelling on the outskirts of Paulson. They set about trying to get me back into church by setting me up with a single woman who was 10-15 years or so older than myself. She was the youth counselor and my parents tried to convince me that if I could just get back in church and make it at least look like I believed, I stood a real chance of getting a piece of that, because, they told me, she was a spinster, lonely, willing, and still attractive. She wasn’t attractive to me, honestly, but I was on fire from the waist down, so I spent a couple of months going back to church. I finally decided that the pursuit was completely dishonest and gave up. I wanted sex, but it didn’t really find this woman attractive, and even if I had managed to woo her enough to look past the fact that I was the age of her students, I would have done so based entirely on a lie.

Somewhere around this time, my father decided to burn his bridges at work, sell the house, and move over to the coast of Washington to try to live semi-retired. I made the mistake of moving with them. What I found was an area with incredibly high drug use, nearly everyone I met was an alcoholic, and there was almost no one near my age, male or female. I got a rough job as a mechanic in a bad part of Rayburn, where I was frequently hounded and cat-called by the old gay guys in town. I took to drink and was quickly going through a few fifths a week, along with my normal beer consumption. I had lost all hope and started looking at porn a couple of drunken hours a day.

I finally managed to get a job at the shipyard as a finish carpenter. At first, it felt like a huge step up in the world, but I quickly realized it wasn’t. My drinking did slow a bit, but the porn got heavier. The only women at the shipyard were nearly the only women that I knew, and every guy there was gunning for them no matter age or looks, like these women were meat and they were starving dogs. One of my younger brothers also got a job at the shipyard, he met a meth addict, got her pregnant, got married, and got divorced, all in the course of a year. Now he had child support payments, and she was off working the next opportunity. He fell pretty hard into the bottle and has only recently come back out.

After about a year and a half of this, I was just done. I didn’t care if I lived or not anymore and decided that if I didn’t there was no reason to continue the grind. So, putting all my belongings in the back of a U-Haul, I set out for Texas. I got a job at AT&T and found that there were women, actual female creatures, in my age range. It was amazing.

The job was awful, at least for me, but the fact was that I was no longer in Washington and my drinking fell of very sharply, as did my porn use. I dated a few women, felt like it was at least possible, now, and did eventually meet my wife Carrie.

My parents started their long and incredibly dirty divorce at this time, culminating in a completely fractured family that hasn’t recovered since.

Carrie and I dated for almost exactly one year, and it was without a doubt the happiest year of my life. I had found a woman that I adored, who I thought was incredibly attractive, and was finally getting that thing I never really thought I’d experience: sex. We were codependent in the most literal sense of the word. We did everything together, at the near complete expense of friends and family, isolating us, just the two of us as a unit. It was probably, in retrospect, not the healthiest thing to do, but we were very happy with each other.

Shortly after we met, I lost my job and was on unemployment, which made it difficult to plan our future. We ended up getting married anyhow, after one year of dating very intensely. We had no money to speak of, so we got married by a guy nicknamed “Choppy” with no fanfare and no reception.

Shortly after that, I got a job offer for real money at a time when the recession was at its worst, so we decided to move out to California. We almost immediately ran into problems. My wife was unemployed and felt like she couldn’t get a job due to weed use, legal there, but almost every place still piss-tested. She became unhappy, and I became busy with 12-hour days at work, 6 days a week.

At first, she still dressed up in sexy outfits for me, and we went out to eat when we could, but the bills were crushing, the hours long, and my wife was home alone and bored out of her mind all day. This cocktail of bad things left us drifting apart. She tried to engage me in video games, but I was busy and turned her down, and so we ended up sitting on opposite sides of the same couch. We stopped having sex, which made me bitter.

At some point, actually, the day of my grandmother’s funeral, I complained about being treated like a friend. From that point on, my wife said she had sex out of fear, and felt like the next four years or so was me using her as a fleshlight. This feels very unfair to me, since we were both involved and I no longer wanted to have sex with her, because she clearly didn’t enjoy it, but when I opted out, she cried and said I didn’t find her attractive anymore.

We both filled this roll of unwilling partners, having sex once or twice a month for most of the next few years. I, as you can imagine, fell back into porn in earnest. The more I fell into porn, the less I felt the need to spend time with my wife, and our relationship became increasingly strained. We ended up nearly at divorce and moved back to Texas, where we hoped to put our lives back together, but that hasn’t happened. We have a nice house, I have a job that allows me to work at home, and we still can’t seem to sort out our differences.

I don’t really know what to try next, but I know that my kinks and interests in sex have morphed in the last five years into something that my wife is no longer able to meet me halfway on. Our struggle is that sex is just a way to relieve sexual tension, instead of a real gratification.

As time went on, I got into male-male-female threesome and wife sharing/cuckoldry fantasies and pornography, which meant I was moving further from anywhere my wife was willing to meet me.

Recently, I really stupidly asked her if she was fantasizing about a girl she had just met, while in the middle of us having sex, and the sex stopped immediately and she has been furious with me ever since. Part of the problem we are having with getting past this is that I can’t tell her why I asked her such a thing, and at such a time, because I don’t know why.

She thinks it’s because porn has brainwashed me, and maybe she’s right. I don’t always know why I do the things that I do, and that one I really don’t understand. To make it even more bizarre that I did it, I never gave a fig about lesbian porn, I found it boring. My normal fantasy, which would have upset my wife too, was that I was watching another man have his way with her. I am told that having fantasies like this is due to porn, but I had these kinds of fantasies before I had even seen porn the first time, so I don’t know. I do know that at the height of my porn addiction, it was actually impacting my work to a very unhealthy degree, so it is a valid concern, I can’t deny that.

 

 

It Was Harder Growing Up With Religion Than Recovering Without It

When a new book comes out, I generally get a lot of messages and while it’s happening again, I’ve had several this week that had deeply religious connotations and I don’t know if they don’t read the site or I haven’t explained it well in a long time, but I figure since it’s Sunday, it would be a great day to get into the whole spirituality/religion thing with you.

I apologize up front as I know this is going to be all over the place, long and I’m sure unintentionally offensive to some.

I was raised by a devout Catholic father and a hugely, hugely devout Catholic mother. They were raised by largely absentee, alcoholic parents. Their faith was something they pursued as they both went to parochial school. They didn’t meet until college, but I think the fact their religious upbringing was so similar helped things.

As I told someone the other day, words like “God,” “sin,” “Bible” etc. are a little bit triggering for me and I think I know why. I have started to draw a lot of parallels to my need for control that was borne out of the environment where my abuse took case. Let me stress I was not abused in the church, but being in a place where I felt completely helpless and lost was not good for my mental health.

I was the inquisitive little kid who had questions at Sunday School or for my mother. The answer was usually the same, “Don’t ask questions” or “It’s God’s Law.” That’s not an environment for somebody like me, who already had power and control issues, was going to thrive.

The rare answers I got didn’t make any sense and attending church was a miserable experience, only second to Sunday school. I would say that other kids around me were having a better time, but based on the exodus from the Catholic Church in America, they just weren’t marketing it to kids in the ’80s very well. They did not communicate what God was supposed to be in a way that we understood. Like chemistry or physics in high school, eventually one gives up trying to understand.

Back then, you went through Confirmation at 15 or 16 and I made a deal with my parents that I’d agree to be confirmed, but at that point, I was going to stop going to Church. They did their job getting me that far, but I was done. I think they recognized I wasn’t joking. I didn’t hate their faith, but I didn’t have it.

My Higher Power, The Afterlife and Mom Gets Mad

Keep in mind that while I attempt to be respectful of people’s religious beliefs, I think the biggest thing missing from the religious (not necessarily spiritual) is the ability to put themselves in the shoes of someone who doesn’t subscribe to the exact same doctrine that they do. I mean, you only have to look at history’s great wars; almost all have a religious angle to them. One of the reasons that 12 Step Groups were not my ultimate answer was (aside from the fact that they don’t really mean “higher power of your choosing” because they end every meeting with a Christian prayer) there is no room to talk about what not having a higher power means.

I have never felt powerless over alcohol or porn because despite my lowest points, I was the only who actually had the power. I just chose not to use it. Today, I have a concept of a higher power that I simply call “the universe” and it doesn’t really have a set of rules, dogma or doctrine you have to follow. It doesn’t care if you get a midnight abortion or if gay people marry. It isn’t about raising a dime, nor about any particular book. I don’t pray to it, nor does it threaten to smite me when I don’t. My concept of it is vague, but I don’t need to have all the details. It’s a balancing energy in the universe and that’s all I really need to know. I have a Higher Power and that’s that. It just doesn’t have a name tag or handbook.

People get awkward fast when I tell them that I don’t really care if there’s an afterlife. I don’t think there is, there has never been a single piece of proof there is, and while it’s a pleasant story, I believe that you get your years on Earth and then you’re done. And I’m far more OK with that than the people who hear me say it, because they can’t believe I’d have such a view. It’s fine because it doesn’t have to be your belief, and vice versa.

This is clearly turning into a ramble, but here’s a quick story for you. As I mentioned, I was raised Catholic by two very devout, wonderful people. I was baptized, did the first communion and confirmation all in the same church. Saw many of my relatives married and memorialized there as well, and midnight mass on Christmas was a regular stop for me even long after I left my parents’ home. There was a purge here of Catholic churches in Maine about 10-12 years ago. The numbers of parishoners had dropped so dramatically, the diocese said they couldn’t afford to keep the churches open. My family’s church ended up on this list of closures, like 5 of the 7 churches in our town. With our particular church, the reason given was that it was too expensive to heat the church between September and May. It’s a valid argument. The place was huge and old members were dying off like 8-to-1 against bringing in new members and tithing just wasn’t what it used to be.

My mom asked me to come on that last day and being a sometimes sentimental, nostalgic person, I said OK. I didn’t enjoy the thousands of hours I spent there, but knowing it would be my last hour was a little sad. When the service was over – ironically to a packed house like they hadn’t seen in years – there was an organization in the back that was collecting money to try and overturn one of Maine’s gay rights laws. It didn’t bother me because it’s an issue that’s been decided and the right side won. When we got to the car, my mother let loose on the Church, I think for the first time in her life and I wouldn’t have believed it unless I was there. I’ll spare the long diatribe, but she thankfully saw the complete hypocrisy and overall wrongness of a Church that couldn’t stay open because of lack of funds collecting funds for a group that wants to discriminate. I pointed out how well the UU church was doing in town in terms of both attendance and funding. They, of course, were gay-friendly. Since that day, my mother still goes to church elsewhere, but it’s with far, far less devotion than she did in the past. She’ll even skip Sundays if the mood strikes her. She’s finally come around to what I recognized a long time ago – you need neither a book, nor a building to have a relationship with a Higher Power.

In losing a giant chunk of my mom, the church lost one of its staunchest advocates.

Religion is Not The Only Road to Recovery

I promise I’m about to wrap this up.

I think that there are really three main branches to pornography recovery. Maybe it’s true of all addiction, but since I’m immersed in this culture, it’s what I see. Those three branches are religion, will-power, and science. People can absolutely dabble in more than one, but I find a lot of people who are into things like NoFap (will-power) refuse to see a real therapist and many religious people think you can pray away a medical condition. Obviously, I’m a big believer in the science side of things because that is my experience and it was successful.

Nonetheless, if you go to the WordPress reader and type in “Pornography Addiction” or “Pornography Recovery” you’re going to probably find 75% of the entries have some reference to The Bible. Beyond the whole shaming thing that religious people are so good at doing to others which is an entirely other issue, the overall theme of these entries is that one must follow a religious path to addiction recovery, just like you have to follow their religious path to the afterlife.

It’s just not true. I mean, I can point to plenty of people it worked for, but I can point to plenty of people, myself included, who are happy and healthy without a word of Scripture read in recovery.

I’m OK if you want to use God as a tool for pushing recovery as long as you’re not shaming the addict, but it can’t be the only tool used and it can’t be preached that without God, recovery is impossible. That’s plainly wrong and frankly, a dangerous thing to say for two reasons: a) You wouldn’t encourage a person with cancer or severe hemorrhaging to only pray…you’d get them real medical treatment; b) Somebody believing your attitude may be stopped from recovery if the religious route doesn’t work for them. Is it better they go your way and fail or go their own way and succeed?

I’m sure many of those who actually got this far were offended along the way, and I apologize if my words were ever poorly chosen. There were a few places I debated writing certain things, but went for it anyway. I know that my personal issues with the church and religion are just that – my personal issues – and I know they carry over into my writing, but in a space where I try to be honest to a fault, even when it rankles some feathers, I thought it was time to explain myself.

I don’t know if there was any theme here but I guess sometimes these blogs are just for ranting and working things out.

 

 

The Horrible Truth of How I Ended Up Here

There’s been a lot of positive comments thrown in my direction lately, both here and on the podcasts I share my story. I know a bunch will come when my book comes out. I appreciate all of them and treat them not as fertilizer for my ego, but as an indicator that I’m doing the right thing now. I also realize they come from people who don’t actually know me in my everyday life, despite the fact I may share more here than anywhere else, and that helps keep things in perspective.

I’m going to share a story today that is honest, but may get your scorn instead of sympathy or admiration. I think that people forget just how I ended up here sometimes. It’s not a pleasant story, but it’s one that I have to retell myself every so often.

I shared a more graphic version of this in my first book. I’m going to tone it down quite a bit here and not talk about any specific incident in detail, but I thought it was time to come clean with my readers about what was going on in the weeks and months leading up to my arrest. Trigger warning, I guess. Scummy person warning, I’m sure of.

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After a 20+ year addiction to pornography, I made the fateful leap to the world of online chatrooms in mid-2013. My illness reached a critical point. Cross-addicted with alcohol, suffering the consequences of an ill-timed abandonment of my bipolar disorder medication, growing estranged from my family and watching my professional life begin to crumble, I let myself slide into a place of emotional, mental and physical disrepair unlike I’d experienced.

I told myself I was a victim of the world around me – a world conspiring on all fronts to take me down. As with so many other addictions, when what you’re doing isn’t meeting your self-soothing needs, you up the ante. I abandoned traditional online pornography sites for peer-to-peer webcam sites. This was when rock bottom started to get in sight.

These were not the traditional adult sites where one pays to talk to a stripper or “model.” The one I found was fairly simple: two random users connect via their webcams. If either doesn’t like what they see on their screen, they click “NEXT”.

Men outnumbered women 20-to-1. If you were going to get a woman to stop and talk to you, you’d better be handsome and have something fast to say, or in my case, type. I’ve never had a problem with a quick comment, but I wasn’t going to make the cut in the looks department. I looked as much the haggard late-30s failure as I felt.

Despite the site claiming to have over 40,000 people online at any given time, I noticed several of the same attractive men – the kind I bet women stopped for – popping up on my screen repeatedly. They were always in the same spot, wearing the same clothes, day-after-day. Something wasn’t right.

When the same buff guy bathed in orange light sitting against his couch appeared, I was able to get him to stop and tell me what was going on.

Whoever was actually on the other end of the computer explained I was watching a video. He couldn’t get women to stop to talk to him, so he found a video of a “hot dude” who appeared to be typing on his computer. He said women wouldn’t stop to talk to the real him, but he could probably get one out of five to stop now, and a quarter of those could be convinced to take their clothes off and/or perform a sexual act.

I found a video at a site containing these kinds of catfishing clips he directed me toward. A handsome guy in a white T-shirt and basketball shorts was laying on his bed, typing away. During the 14-minute video, he smiled, waved, made a peace symbol, laughed, pulled his shirt up to show his abs and took his shirt off completely. I isolated all of those moments into individual clips, including the main video, nine minutes of him typing into his laptop. I could play it on a loop for an hour without raising suspicion.

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I’m a project guy. I like to figure out how to get an idea off the ground, fine-tune it, and move on. My life at that point was more about being a fix-it guy, and I don’t play that role well. I was trying to save a business I’d long lost interest in. I was watching relationships with my family fall apart and had no idea how to salvage them. I was over-indulging in pornography and alcohol addictions I’d mostly been able to keep under control for two decades and it was taking a physical and mental toll. Instead of living a life where I was creating things, I was putting Band-Aids all over a balloon that was about to pop.

Then I found that website, learned how to manipulate a video and my warped, decaying mind found a new project. I’m a methodical worker. I experiment, analyze, experiment more, analyze again. I’d already cracked the hard part learning the technical end of being an online groomer. As somebody who interviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of people in my years as a journalist, I had an above-average ability to read people and get them to talk. As a charismatic business owner, I had plenty of techniques to convince people to do what I needed. These are not good skills for a sick person with no sense of boundaries or consequences to possess.

I’d seen how the average guy on one of these sites operates. If they could get a woman to stop, within 30 seconds of talking to them, they’d tell the female to flash their breasts. I could never see how the low success rate of that strategy reaffirmed it as the go-to technique.

I think these are the guys who frequent strip clubs and don’t understand it’s a show. They believe all women are nymphomaniacs just waiting to be commanded to remove their clothes in everyday life. I wasn’t interested in stripper types, who put on a show for money or nymphos, who made things easy for the simpler guys.

I wanted to talk to average, everyday women (or at least as close as I could find on a peer-to-peer cam site) who would hit “NEXT” the moment a guy like that demanded nudity. I wanted to find a woman who believed she’d never do that kind of thing and then figure out the path to push her to get there.

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I still got the NEXT treatment from most women and of those who stopped, if they looked underage, couldn’t hold a conversation for more than three seconds, or immediately steered the conversation toward sex – an indicator that it was probably a video – I’d hit the NEXT button.

The women I wanted to manipulate were never going to comply with a direct request. Much like a sales call when I sold advertising at my magazine, I had to build rapport and trust before I could close. Treating these scenarios like business transactions and not viewing the females on the other end of the computer as people would have been a red flag for me at so many other points in my life. Short of a professional intervention, I don’t know what could have stopped my increasingly poor judgment. I just saw “right” and “wrong” as concepts others lived by, not me.

I claimed to be a struggling model, surviving only by working as a personal trainer. I said I didn’t like training buff guys because they intimidated me. I preferred average women because they were more “real.” Ironic, I guess. Instead of taking a scholarship for college, I wanted to see if I could be a model, which broke my parents’ hearts when I left high school since I graduated second in my class. I said I wasn’t making it as a model and was considering quitting and heading back home.

So, I’ve created a smart, good-looking guy who prefers average girls and is trying to follow his dream, but is getting discouraged…and hasn’t yet said a sexual word. For the kind of women in need of attention on a site like this, you couldn’t build a better guy. At least, I couldn’t.

I made a show of not wanting to share my personal information. Most of them had never encountered a guy who accused them of wanting too much personal information. Many of them would start blurting facts about themselves just to prove I could trust them. I felt so powerful, never appreciating how my sense of good judgment was disappearing more every day.

I could take whatever information they gave me and while we held a conversation on one part of my screen, I’d be figuring everything out I could about them on the other side. If I discovered a lot of photos on Instagram of them as a competitive show jumper, I would somehow introduce a reference to my sister loving horses. If there was a Facebook entry about the third anniversary of their grandmother’s death, I’d casually mention mine died a few weeks earlier, but I couldn’t go home for the funeral. Most people simply don’t realize how much information they share about themselves and how that can lead to a world of other information. How do you think psychics are able to be so accurate?

Inevitably, they’d ask about my modeling and want to see examples. I found a model on the Abercrombie & Fitch website with a passing resemblance. There was another on a lifeguard supplies site who could pass. All I had to do to find these was take a screen capture of the video I was using and drop it into Google Images. When a woman would ask, “Is that really you?” I’d talk about lighting and makeup and how I always look so much worse in real life. They’d uniformly tell me I was wrong.

Along the way, I’d gauge just how much my story was getting them to have feelings. If none were developing, I’d cut my losses and let them go. If I wasn’t successfully manipulating them, my diseased mind saw no reason to continue and I was on to the next, or if it was past 3 a.m. at the point, I’d call it a night. I needed to get my 2-3 hours of sleep before I faced the world that hated me, I told myself.

In November of 2013, a female who popped up on my screen that I told myself looked old enough turned out to be underage. As I did with all of the other women, I took a couple screen shots of her at the end of our session. They were trophies of my accomplishments, not used for sexual gratification, but used to convince myself I had some semblance of control in my life and could reach goals I set. It’s still hard for me understand how I could rationalize that night after night, but I guess there wasn’t a lot of rationalization going on then.

I was informed about her age when the police came knocking at my door in March 2014. They found my folder of “trophies” and were able to establish she was the only one underage. With the way I was thinking then, I probably got lucky, as much as it hurts to recognize that.

I’m at the six-year anniversary of talking to that girl. She’s in her early 20s somewhere now. I hope my transgression didn’t cause any lasting permanent damage. Nobody deserves to be taken advantage of that way, at any age.

My poor choices led me there. It was nobody’s fault except mine. My poor choices also led me here, to create this blog, give the interviews and write my books. Hopefully, at some point in the far future, the good I do in my life now will cosmically, karmically and in-actual-fact, outweigh the harm I did.