My Return, and Lightning-Fast Exit, from Facebook

I wasn’t on social media, specifically Facebook, for 5½ years. I returned earlier this week, and it took me less than 72 hours to leave again.

I wasn’t trying to re-launch my personal page. That ship has sailed. I can just imagine people who turned their back on me back in early 2014 getting a friend request now.

“Wait, that bastard’s still alive and living around here?” would probably be the typical response. Those who might be more willing to welcome me back would probably be hesitant for what those friends who still hold a grudge would say. It’s just not worth it.

It was, however, worth it to see if I could create some kind of presence that could serve as a conduit to get people over to my site and blog. The WordPress community is a wonderful, supportive place that in some ways has become a surrogate friendship circle for me. But, it reaches just so far.

I created a page titled, “Joshua Shea, Pornography Addiction Expert” because I thought it sounded professional. I put a few links to things I’d recently written on this site and a link to each of the two books I’ve written about pornography addiction.

After a day, I noticed nobody had been to the page. Facebook offered a $15 credit to run ads promoting the site, so I took them up on it. My hope was to generate enough likes to encourage other people to automatically visit the page, and hopefully harvest a few new regular readers for this site.

Listen, I know pornography addiction turns off a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Whether you’re a victim of abuse, simply squeamish when any sexuality topic is discussed, or hiding the fact you’ve got a problem, I understand that I’m not going to get the quantity nor diversity of traffic on my Facebook page that a pop culture page will. I expect that.

I also understand, based on first-hand experience, that there are people who will judge me without knowing anything about me. I came to terms with that a long time ago and it no longer bothers me…or at least I thought it didn’t.

This all said, I decided that I would target the Facebook ads to mental health professionals in the United States and Canada. I figure if there would be any group who was at least open to exploring what I had to offer, it would be those who have a professional interest or potential curiosity in what I was offering.

So, I turned on the ads and sat back.

The first 12 hours were as slow as I suspected. A nurse from Michigan liked the Facebook page and a couple dozen people clicked over to look at it.

Then, somebody put an emoji on one of the posts that I had to look up. Since I left Facebook, they added a laughing face. I didn’t understand why this person put a laughing face, and when I tried to look up his page, I was only met with far right-wing memes. Along with porn addicts, he didn’t seem to like anybody who wasn’t a gun-owning, meat-eating, Ford F150-driving, country-music listening, Islamophobic, homophobic, 40% of my clothing has a flag or an eagle on it, white male.

In the next couple of hours, I received five more of these laughing faces. In the limited amount I could see their pages, they were either the same kind of right-wing person as the first guy or far-left anti-porn zealots who gave me the vibe that since I once saw a woman naked, I should be castrated and sent off to an island. Given a few more hours, there actually started to be “Get the F off Facebook” messages under my posts.

Except for that first nurse, I could not confirm if any of these people worked in mental health. I hope not, but I’m also smart enough to know that who people present themselves as professionally is not always who they are behind closed doors. My optimistic belief is that there was one or two who got an ad, commented and that was passed on to their equally intolerant, but not mental health sector employed friends.

I could pretend that I’m worried those kinds of negative actions toward my Facebook page will hurt my “brand” or that I don’t want other porn addicts to view my site and see my being laughed at and fear they will be, too. The reality is, I just don’t have the time or space in my head to deal with small-minded people. I spent too much of my life worrying about what everybody thought of me or how I could win their attention and affection. It got me nowhere.

I’ve learned to turn off political news and not watch movies or TV shows that upset me. I don’t get involved in causes that I used to work myself up about; I had to let the polar bears and voter registration go. My loud aversion to religion is now barely a murmur and I’m actually open to hearing another’s point of view without attacking it. I look for opportunities to laugh and smile, or engage in discourse with people who – even if they disagree with me – do it in an intellectual and civil way.

Recognizing this, I should have known Facebook was the wrong move from the get-go.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the options as I see them:

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

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

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

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

My new book for partners of pornography addicts is now available for pre-sale!

I was very psyched earlier today when I found out that my newest book, He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions is officially for sale through the website of my publisher, MSI Press. Pre-sale will be exclusively there for the next six weeks, and then it will open up to typical retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. There’s a special to purchase the book now for 25% off at the bottom of this article that I wanted to extend to my website visitors.

Here’s the current description for the book:

Screen Shot 2019-09-10 at 2.39.49 PMIt can be a difficult time admitting you’re a drug addict or alcoholic, but when it comes to pornography addiction, the pain and feeling of betrayal can hit the addict’s partner worse than the addict himself. Those feelings can be amplified when the pornography addict won’t admit his problem, leaving a partner feeling like there is nothing she can do and nowhere to turn.

While the elite scientists and academics waste time trying to perfectly define pornography addiction, the condition has spread like wildfire throughout the world as access to porn takes little more than a click of the mouse or pulling a telephone out of one’s pocket.

Upon learning – with or without her partner’s knowledge – about a husband’s or boyfriend’s addiction, negative feelings and difficult questions usually come rushing into a woman’s life:

  • Does he look at this stuff because I’m not enough?
  • Was he like this when I first met him?
  • Is this God trying to test me?
  • What kind of help is available for him?
  • Am I just supposed to stay here and deal with this?

A sense of loss, betrayal, sadness and anger is completely normal, but there are difficult questions to answer and a rocky road ahead. The good news is that there are plenty of people who have been through this and their relationship not only survived, but it eventually thrived.

So where is a woman to turn when facing the revelation their partner is a pornography addict? Friends and family? They can offer moral support but likely have neither the experience nor the expertise to lend real help to the situation.

With He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions, you’ll get pertinent answers from both sides of the equation. Tony Overbay is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked with thousands of couples dealing with pornography addiction. Also host of the popular The Virtual Couch podcast, Tony tackles your questions from the expert side of things. Joshua Shea, a former pornography addict and author of The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About, provides answers from the point of view of someone who dealt with a critical pornography addiction, and has been sober since early 2014.

To celebrate it being available through the publisher for the next six weeks exclusively, if you click on this link to purchase and type in FF25 upon checkout, you’ll get $4.99 off the cover price!

Pre-order your book today by clicking HERE

Figuring Out if You’re A Casual or Problem User of Pornography

For this article, I’m going to suspend the discussion of whether pornography use in moderation is not unhealthy or if there is any moral component to the decision to utilize pornography. I’ll tackle those issues later on. For now, I simply want to provide a list of questions that people who are wondering if they have an issue with pornography can ask themselves to better understand their situation.

I think words like addiction, habit, obsession, compulsion and problem are more subjective than objective. Their definitions can be fluid and feature a lot of crossover from one term to the other. Ultimately, it’s up to you to honestly decide whether you have an issue or not with pornography and more importantly, what you’re going to do about it should you conclude there may be something there.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that much like there are people who can drink, play video games, gamble or eat in moderation – yet are not addicted, nor have a problem – that there are also people who can view and utilize pornography in moderation. At what point does “recreational” use start to bleed into being a problem? Asking yourself these questions may help point you in the right direction:

Is there any sort of trauma in your past? This doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual abuse, either. It can be physical or emotional. Roughly 90% of full-blown addicts of anything can trace their past to find some kind of meaningful trauma. With porn addicts, the number is 94%. That still leaves an opening to be an addict with no pre-existing trauma, but the two often go hand-in-hand. If your parent killed themselves in front of you, a sibling molested you, or any number of other major negative events in your life happened as a young person, addiction may be a symptom of how you deal with that trauma.

Is there any co-occurring disorder or previous addiction existing? While not at the numbers of trauma and addiction, more full-blown addicts have some kind of mental health issue than those who don’t.  These mental health problems may include bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety and a number of other diagnoses. Also, it is very easy for someone who is addicted to one substance or behavior to become addicted to another. Addictive behavior is not limited to one addiction at a time, although there are people who trade addictions, successfully battling one obsession only to take on another.

Are you addicted to pornography or masturbation? In my case, it didn’t take long to recognize once the porn was removed from my life, masturbation dropped to almost nothing. I masturbated more as an indicator to end a porn-viewing session than anything else. There are many people who have the opposite story. They were able to easily stop watching porn because it turned out pleasuring themselves was their actual vice. There’s a fairly easy way to determine which you’re addicted to, or if it’s both. For the next week or two, allow yourself to look at porn, but don’t utilize it to masturbate. Conversely, masturbate all you want, but do it without visual aids. You should be able to determine a trend among obsessive thoughts where your addictions truly lay.

Are there rituals around your use? Addicts generally use in the same way almost all the time. My alcohol use, which was certainly an addiction, came with rituals. I never drank cans of beer. It was either a bottle or in a pint glass when I was away from home. Corona, specifically, couldn’t touch my lips without a lemon or lime wedge. At home, I didn’t drink beer, just tequila and Red Bull. I’d only drink at night at home, and it always had to be in one of the three large plastic tumblers we had. I always poured the tequila and Red Bull the same way, almost parfait-style. First a dash of Red Bull, then tequila, then Red Bull, then tequila, and so on until the tumbler was full. That’s routine, or ritual and is common with addicts.

Do you lie to others, or yourself, about your usage? OK, it’s pornography, I get it. We all want to pretend that we’ve never looked at it, despite statistics saying those that don’t are in the massive minority. When the topic of pornography comes up in mixed company, do you stay quiet? Do you try to hide the role pornography plays in your life, especially the amount of time spent looking? Would you like about the time you spend if asked point-blank? When you’re finished looking at it, do you make deals with yourself that you won’t spend as much time engaged in the activity, yet you can’t keep the promises to yourself? Are you spending any money on pornography outside of typical Internet fees? Do you find yourself sometimes picking isolating to look at porn over other activities? Do you rationalize that the time you spend or material you look at is not as extreme as others with addiction, so if they have a problem, you have less than a problem? The answers are all small red flags that add up.

I am by no means a doctor, but do know how I answered these questions when I was in the throes of my addiction. I’ve also done more research and met more pornography addicts than most professionals, not to mention I’ve been through plenty of group and one-on-one therapy for my formerly rampant addictions. I understand if you don’t like your answers and want to discredit my opinion…but that may also be a sign you want to avoid the truth about your addiction.

As I mentioned earlier, anybody can diagnose you as an addict, but what matters is that you believe you have a problem. More importantly is deciding what you’re going to do about it. Next time, we’ll talk about what to do next when you’ve reached the conclusion you need to do something about your problem.

 

The Legal Ordeal Sparked by My Pornography Addiction is Finally Over

I know that I said I wasn’t going to write this summer, but allow me this one indulgence as I celebrate coming off of probation after three years. It is the end of the road for the legal part of my porn addiction fallout.

On March 20, 2014, as I was sitting in my parents’ house just hours after being arrested on a charge of possession of child pornography and subsequently bailed out by my wife, I uttered a sentence that has stuck with me straight through then to the day I write this, July 27, 2019: “The only thing we know for sure is one day this will all be over.”

Today, at least as far as the law is concerned, I will complete paying my debt to society. This is my last day of probation and closes the book on this chapter of my life.

I won’t go into the last five-and-a-half-years of my legal saga or even talk too much about the addiction or recovery here. Lord knows there’s enough of that all over this site, which will have its second anniversary at some point next month.

I guess what I want to let people know is that whatever hardship you’re going through in life, whether you created it or not, if it affected your entire circle or just you personally, if it caused the destruction of relationships or public humiliation, believe it or not, it will one day be over and there’s a likelihood – however hard to believe today – that you’ll be a better person for it.

Obviously, in the year or so leading up to my arrest I was not a healthy person, but I can look back over my entire life and see a mentally ill person, driven by ego and fear, who was a shell of the person I am today. Perhaps I don’t have 1/10th the friends and acquaintances I once did and I’m not a participating member of my community (both things that I do miss), but the trade-off is a healthy body and soul, and deeper relationships than I could have imagined with the family members and friends who did stick around.

The life I led back then seems like 40 years ago. Once in a while, I’ll stumble upon a box in my garage that contains trophies and plaques recognizing the work I did professionally, politically or otherwise. I’ll stumble on the box that has a stack of magazines I was the editor/publisher of or a box full of briefing papers from when I was a city councilor. It’s like these things are written in a foreign language. The person who cared more about this stuff than his family has long since left this Earth.

What probation did for me

Three years ago tomorrow, to the day – ironically on my wife’s birthday – I walked out of jail after 27 weeks, into fresh air for the first time during that stint (which was disappointingly underwhelming), understanding that while the worst of it was over, I still had three years of probation to follow.

After about six months, the minimum time allowed, my probation officer was transferred from a sex offender specialist to a regular PO because they’d long earlier established I was almost no threat for recidivism. They recognized I got sick and had been doing everything to get better and maintain my health. I was treated with great respect and understanding by both POs. I think they knew that there were other people they needed to keep much closer tabs on.

I credit probation with being the section of my ordeal that allowed me to put the period at the end of my addiction. Six years ago, I couldn’t have told you what it was going to take to stop me from using alcohol or porn. Certainly not a dorky intervention. Today, I now know it’s the law. The specter of returning to jail for a slip-up helped put my recovery in a place where I’m almost positive it’s permanent.

It became clear to me a long time ago they were not going to check my computer or test my urine, which they had the right to, but by that time, I had tasted this better life and wanted more.

Looking ahead

Tonight at midnight, I can go buy all the tequila and dirty magazines I want. But I’m not going to do that because it’s the roadway to a life that I never want to visit again. I probably wouldn’t have purchased either three years ago, but probation gave me the time – and the potential scary consequences – to really build my “new normal.”

The reality is, tomorrow – my first day of legal freedom in 5½ years probably won’t be all that different than today or yesterday.

When I said, “The only thing we know for sure is one day this will be over,” in my parents’ living room in March 2014 I was specifically talking about the legal ordeal.

I didn’t realize that was actually the day my previous life was thankfully over. The last three years have been practice for this new, better life…and the one thing I hope for sure is that there will never be a day that this life is over. I mean, I know I’ll die someday, but until then, this is the ride I want to be on.

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.

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