Waking Up From Dreams Makes Me Sad

When I go on podcasts or radio shows to discuss my pornography addiction and people ask what’s the worst thing that has come out of my last five years, first from my heinous mistakes, then my legal ordeal, and the fallout since, I usually talk about how I’ve created victims and can’t change that fact.

I still think that is the worst part, and I hate to be at all self-centered or self-pitying, but I personally underwent massive seismic changes in my life and none has been more unexpected than losing 99% of the people I used to call acquaintances and friends. I have to say this is second place in what has become the worst part of things.

Most of the time I handle this OK. I’m actually a very solitary person. I’d rather work from home doing my own thing than a cubicle farm in some office. The only thing I liked about working at those places in the past was the interaction with co-workers a couple times a day. I’m a loner who doesn’t like to be alone.

I feel that longing for human interaction most of all when I’m dreaming as I sleep. Or, I should say I feel it most when I first wake up. The subconscious is a weird thing. One moment you’re in high school, the next you’re on a road trip and the next you’re in the hospital. The mix of people is just as random, but for whatever reason, our brain makes sense of the crazy narrative thread, even if your fifth grade teacher is interacting with your first boss.

When I wake up, I’m so, so sad. Nobody asks me about my crime in the dreams. In real life, people ask how I’m doing out of duty because they ran into me at Home Depot or just flat-out give me the cold shoulder. That doesn’t happen in dreams. When I wake up, I recognize I haven’t talked to any of those people since the day I was arrested. I haven’t talked to some of the people in a much longer time, but most are people who were part of my life at that point everything changed.

The only ones who are more recent are the people I met at one of two rehabs I attended. It’s hard to explain just how close you get so quickly to that group of people. I’ve been told it’s like being in a foxhole by people who have done both. The problem is, once you’re out of that incredibly intense bonding experience, you see all the differences. While I’ve tried both times, I haven’t been able to maintain casual friendships with people outside of rehab.

I’m not going to get into specific storylines in dreams, because let’s face it, nobody likes to hear other people explain their dreams. As these dreams are unfolding, they are in a world where I haven’t committed a crime by encouraging a teenager to perform sex acts in a computer chat room. Nobody ever asks about that in the dreams. Nobody seems to know it ever happened.

It’s almost magical being able to escape that, because it’s very different in real life. When something like my entire ordeal happens, you understand certain things will change. But then there are little things, like when I was in jail and would see restaurant commercials on TV. You enter jail worrying about getting beat up and what the shower situation is, but you never think about seeing things you can’t have on TV.

I think this dream world is like that. In my blissful slumber, I’m devoid of the self-inflicted shunning. In the next, I’m awake, and mourn a world that I will never be able to go back to in my waking hours.

I’m not asking for pity or ideas to recirculate back into society as I know that ship has sailed. Instead, I just urge anyone who is doing anything illegal, pornographic or not, to try and think about all the little things you’ll miss if you’re caught.

I saw a guy leave my pod in jail to head to state prison where he was to serve 20 years. My sentence was nothing compared to his and his crimes deserve that long. But he was also a human I got to know.  A human who won’t see his friends at the bar he talked about often, a human who won’t have a steak dinner until 2036 and a human who will wear only khaki or blue for the next two decades. Those may seem like little things, but when you’re living them, they’re not.

I’m 4.5 years away from that fateful day I was arrested and regardless of any jail, probation, offender’s registry or anything else the legal system throws my way, I’ll be paying for this crime in ways I never imagined for the rest of my life…except when I take a nap.

Q&A Time: My husband has a porn addiction – Should I tell other people in his family and see if they can help?

QUESTION My husband has a pretty bad porn addiction and knows it, but doesn’t seem to want to do much about it. If this is a real addiction, would an intervention work? Should I at least tell other people in his family and see if they can help?

ANSWER This is another tough one there is no easy answer for. I want to immediately say no, but in my case, it was helpful.

When my story hit the media, everybody knew about my addiction overnight: family, friends, neighbors and even people who had no idea who I was.

I was in and out of therapy for years in my 20s and early 30s and never once mentioned my porn addiction. I was married for a dozen years and it never was addressed. Short of being publicly outed at age 37, I can’t fathom a scenario where I would have sought the help of anybody else, be it family, friends or professionals.

Why? Because it’s about sex. It’s about naked people. It’s about what turns you on, which may be kinkier than most. And let’s be honest…any conversation about sex is still socially frowned upon. Viewing pornography is a behavior most people pretend they don’t engage in. People won’t admit to looking at pornography despite statistics proving the vast majority do, so how can somebody openly admit to having a problem with it?

The day after I was arrested and my lawyer asked me (with my wife and father in the room) if I had any addictions, I immediately admitted to my alcoholism, which they both suspected. It took me another six months before I stopped blaming the alcohol for the mistake I made, finally recognizing I did have a porn addiction problem.

Looking back now, I don’t think I would have progressed to the point that I’m now at in recovery if not for my family. They have been a non-judgmental safe haven in a world where many either don’t view pornography addiction as a “real thing” or condemn those who suffer with it.

That said, if I was a part of many families I know, I would have been disowned, not helped. While my immediate family has been wonderful, there are pockets of my extended family who I have basically ceased to have relationships with. You’ve got to have a solid barometer on how the family will react before you bring them into the mix.

I believe this question can best be answered by looking at his relationship with his family, looking at the history of their values, opinions and behaviors and if they are likely open to being part of the process of recovery.

I know how helpful my family has been, but I have talked with so many people where their family’s intervention had a different outcome.

Support doesn’t mean his mother or sister sitting down and working out with him why he became the way it is. It can be as simple as just letting him know that they love him and have faith he can overcome his addiction. It’s about love and support.

If you make the decision to seek help from his family, I would start with the male relative he is closest to and allow them to have input on if, and how, the family should be involved. They may have insight about the family you don’t possess.

I don’t think a mass intervention is a good idea. People usually don’t do a good job of hiding being a drug addict or alcoholic. When an intervention happens, the family has known for a long time, and the target of the intervention is well aware the family knows about their addiction. Imagine your husband walking into a room of family members and learning they all know about his addiction. I would think that would just be too overwhelming. Even though my family was supportive, it was embarrassing when it all came out.

As for friends, I wouldn’t get them involved. Friends talk. If he wants help from a friend, leave that up to him.

In the end, I never would have asked my family for help unless it was forced upon me. Thank God it was, but don’t base my experience as what always happens.

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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: While many call me a pornography addiction expert, 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.

The Day I Truly Entered Recovery from Pornography Addiction Was…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Alarming Pornography Statistics for September

I’ve learned a lot about how everything we ever do on a computer is recorded. Everything. It’s in your hard drive, even if you think you’ve erased it and if you’re using one of those “here and gone” apps like Snapchat…there’s no such thing as here and gone.

But it’s not like many people are even making it difficult for authorities to track them on their computers because they’re using wide-open public networks to look at pornography. In a July 2018 study by Neowin, 15,000 people across the world were asked about their porn watching habits. One in six had used a public network to watch pornography.

Norton by Symantec, the computer virus giant, went even deeper after it also found the one-in-six statistic through their surveys. They actually found where people were watching:

  • Hotel/Airbnb (40 percent)
  • Café/Restaurant (30 percent)
  • Work (29 percent)
  • Airport (25 percent)
  • On the street (24 percent)
  • Train/bus station (18 percent)
  • Public restroom/toilet (16 percent)

To give that a little perspective, if 1-in-6 people are looking at porn on a public network and 1-in-4 of those people are in an airport, that means that statistically, one out of every 24 people in an airport has accessed porn there. It doesn’t mean they’re doing it now, but just sit and watch the hundreds and thousands pass you by. Four out of every hundred accessed porn in that building. More did it at a restaurant or at their job, just slightly less did it in a public restroom…but that’s still one out of every 38.

How is this OK?

Think porn isn’t everywhere? Think again.

 

Thank You For a Year of Reading My Pornography Addiction Blog

I just had to renew my subscription on this website, which means that in a couple days, on September 1, I’ll have hit the one-year mark on this website. I wanted to post a note of thanks to those who have been with me for a while, whether it’s only 10 days or 10 months. You’re a big part of the reason I keep doing this.

As somebody who is both a natural-born statistician and has a tendency to be a narcissist, there are few things more pleasing, or infuriating, than rankings and tallies in my life. While I save most of my bile for how my book is doing — or not doing — on Amazon, I find that the stats page through WordPress sometimes consumes me a little too much, but it also shows me how far I’ve come.

I started the site simply as a marketing tool for my book, which looked like it was originally going to come out in October. It’s probably good it was delayed because I averaged 1 visitor per day in both September and October. A year later and I regularly do 70 times that on most days. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

When the book got delayed because I wanted to fine-tune some things, I recognized that I had a window to try and engage with people before the January release. I started writing blog entries and never really stopped. It’s been cathartic for me much of the time, but it’s also hooked me into a wonderful community I never knew existed.

Whether you’re a Bible thumper, are dealing with betrayal trauma recovery, are hiding the fact you’re an addict or just find the whole thing fascinating, I want to thank people for sharing and following. I’ve read statistics on the ratio of followers to viewers and mine are way off. I think that’s because the word “porn” is in the title and most people fear putting a permanent “like” or “follow” on anything with the word “porn”. So thank you to the brave souls who did and are the first to get notification when I post something.

I saw an upswing after I started regularly posting, then I saw a big upswing when the book came out because the marketing materials referenced the site. It saw yet another uptick when I started going on podcasts and radio shows talking about the addiction.

Shortly after that happened I realized the site wasn’t just a commercial for the book and the book wasn’t just something I wrote in jail to pass the time. I’m supposed to be writing and talking about pornography addiction. That’s my purpose right now. Sure, I may piss a few people off and even miss the mark from time-to-time, but everything that’s happened to me has led up to this time. I’ve always had this feeling that I have been put on this earth to spread information. I think that’s why I was a journalist for so many years. Now I realize I was wrong about the kind of information.

I created many victims in my wake. I don’t know the exact number and we could quibble for days. However, I believe that I can make that number infinitely small compared to the number of people I help educate.

You’ve all been a big part of making that happen in my first year. I never would have thought I’d be where I am now a year later. I’m excited to see what the next year brings. Thank you.

Lessons I’ve Learned While Helping Pornography Addicts & Their Loved Ones

For the last couple months, I’ve been offering a porn addict peer support service where I lend my expertise to people struggling with pornography addiction and spouses/partners who are living with a suspected or outed addict. I’ve learned a heck of a lot from dealing with these folks, which number around 8 or 9 at this point.

It’s evolved into a weigh station of sorts for people to figure out if they need to, or are willing to take the next steps, whatever that may be, to get help. I probably average 3-4 interactions per person and am proud to say most go on to official therapy after talking to me.

There are several things I’ve learned up to now on this little journey:

Porn Addiction Knows No Bounds: I have had a woman, a doctor and a former school teacher who are among the people I have worked with on the addict side of things and everybody’s story is so different. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to show that even successful white-collar guys with families can get hooked…which means anybody can. I want to repeat that for the doubters who are like, “Even a cross-eyed Eskimo with a skin condition or a Chinese millionaire who also gambles too much?” Yes, even them. Anybody. An-ee-bod-ee.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery is Brutal: I’ll often go to my own therapy sessions with a question or two for my therapist who is well-versed in this area with questions about how to handle the wives and girlfriends of sex addicts who have been hit with betrayal trauma like a ton of bricks. I’ve never lost a spouse or child, but I imagine the trauma is similar to what many of these women are feeling. I’m forever grateful my wife handled my situation much more smoothly than would have been expected.

We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves Only to Ourselves: I don’t know if it’s a 12-step saying or if it was just popular at one of my rehabs, but I’ve heard, “We are the stories we tell ourselves” too many times. I understand it means that we like to believe things that aren’t necessarily true about ourselves. But I think there’s also a level of belief that other people are buying our stories. Forget gaslighting your partner, I have worked with so many addicts and loved ones who continue to tell themselves stories that are simply not true. We may believe our own BS, but there are plenty of people out there nodding who let you live in your fantasy world but can see right through you.

Porn is a Concept, Not an Actual Thing: Porn is like: Anger, Cold, Bright, Proud, Alert – these are all words that mean basically the same thing to all of us, but not EXACTLY the same because they are concepts or ideas. One man’s pornographic film is not necessarily another’s. I can’t disagree with your conservative definition of porn, but I can’t disagree with the next person’s liberal definition. One of the most important things when I talk to people is to find out what their definition of pornography is before I start asking too many questions.

Porn Addiction is Rampant, Yet Invisible: Statistics suggest that 18% of all men in this world are addicted to pornography, with the largest group – 18-to-35 years old – at around 33%. I believe this and think those statistics are under-reported. I also have a feeling the rate of female addiction are far less underreported. We once lived in a world where you had to go to a store or a disgusting movie theater to get your porn needs met. Now, you can see porn as easily as you buy tickets, plan a trip, or send an e-mail. When the barriers for becoming a porn addict all drop, you’ve got loads of susceptible people that easily fall into the trap.

This Is Going to Get a Lot Worse Before It Gets Better: I remember first hearing about heroin in middle school. It was one of those drugs so far out of the mainstream, like PCP, that it seemed like it was almost a myth. Now, 30 years later, it’s probably more difficult to find cocaine or speed on the street than heroin. Why? Because we let it happen. I recall learning of the dangers of a handful of drugs in school, but never learning about heroin. It must have not seemed important to the curriculum. I don’t know what they’re doing about it now, but they failed a generation or two. That same mistake can’t be made with porn.

I talk to people in such pain over this, wracked with guilt, shame and embarrassment who feel like they have nowhere to turn. Resources for porn addiction are few and far between. In the state of Maine, there are 5 meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous statewide per week. There are over 50 per day for Alcoholics Anonymous.

In Maine, there is no designation for a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT). You can certainly go take a course on it, but the State doesn’t seem to want to recognize it as an area for professional certification among therapists. This means that an addict largely has to cross their fingers that a therapist who lists “sexual issues” in their areas of expertise aren’t simply trawling for clients and that they know their stuff.

Unfortunately, Maine is far more typical than atypical. We are horribly behind the times here, but like most places, there’s a tendency for the herd to gather, not want to talk about uncomfortable things and shun those who do. The herd will eventually talk about these things, but as the opiate crisis shows, they’re often decades too late. The herd is reactive, not proactive.

I’m trying to do what I can, talking about this problem with anybody who will listen. I love to do podcasts with people who have thousands of listeners, but I’ll do them with podcasts that have dozens. Once people learn they won’t become, nor will be perceived as a porn addict for simply having a conversation, maybe we’ll start making strides.

One day, I hope to step away from my daily job of ghostwriting to focus on porn addiction education full-time, but that’s about 20 clients away. It’s OK, I’ll get there someday.

If I can give you one call-to-action it’s that whether an addict, loved one of an addict, or someone who just stumbled upon this article, please don’t carry fear or embarrassment when it comes to talking about the scourge of pornography addiction. We need to normalize the conversation in society before anybody is going to do anything about it.

And of course, if you’re interested in my peer support services, click HERE.