Random Thoughts, November 2019: The Person I Can’t Forgive, A Book Push Coming, Gratitude Proven Healthy

It’s another one of those days when I’m ready to start writing but my mind is so full of multiple things that I don’t know where to go with it, so a random thoughts entry seems best. Strap in and we’ll see what comes out of my fingertips.

For those of you who check in here almost every day, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your continual support. You have been a piece of my ongoing recovery that has been like a rock I can always count on and I thank you.

That said, I’m going to warn you in the next month or two, there’s going to be a lot of messaging about my new book appearing on the site and it might get old or boring if you’re here every day. I apologize in advance.

First and foremost, this site is a great tool for marketing. Based on the search terms and how many people come here from search engines, I know there are a lot of new visitors here daily. They may only visit once in their lives and I have to let them know the book exists. Also, if anybody hears me on a podcast or radio show (of which a lot are coming – I’m recording 3-4 a week right now) and they visit the site, they need to easily figure out how to get the book.

I would really like this book to make some money and I’m going to try and do my best to make sure it gets into as many hands as possible. I know that I’m doing a good thing by producing the information in the book, but if I want to write more books, the publisher needs to make money and if I want to justify the time it takes to write the books, there has to be a few dollars in it for me. So anyway, thank you very much in advance for understanding I’ll be a little bit more in sales mode when the book goes on Amazon pre-order next week.

And of course, feel free to buy many copies. They make wonderfully awkward stocking stuffers.

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I’ve let go of so much resentment in my life and given internal apologies to so many people who did me wrong in my life as part of my recovery. It’s been a crucial part of getting better. Letting go of bad feelings has freed up plenty of space in my head and my energy can be used for more productive things.

There’s one person who I’m still having the hardest time of forgiving and it’s my fourth grade teacher. I know that sounds strange and I keep running through incidents in my head that more than prove she was a cold, narcissistic phony with little regard to children or their mental health. It doesn’t make sense why of all people, she’s the one I’m holding a grudge against. Why could I forgive the others and not her?

I could share a lot of stories that would make you dislike her, too. She wasn’t a good person. But even if I easily convinced you of that, why does this stick with me?

I remember once she said something to the effect of, “I’ll have you children know that you may think I’m not fair now or I give you too much work, but I can’t tell you how many of my former students come back and say, ‘Thank you Ms. G. You were the best teacher I ever had.’” I think she couldn’t tell us because it hadn’t happened yet.

I recall the moment she said that I thought to myself, “I’m going to come back and tell her how terrible she was and I hope I hurt her feelings.”

My position hasn’t changed in nearly 35 years, and I don’t know why.

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Speaking of productive things, for those of you who read this entry from a few weeks ago, you’ll be pleased to know I cleaned the garage enough to get a car in their during winter storms. Or, rather, I threw about 10 trash bags of junk away, made around 20 trips to the basement moving stuff I wanted to keep, then was exhausted, moved everything into a big pile on the right side, and called it good. I’ll either finish the job in the spring or die before that. I’m not sure which is worse 🙂

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Finally, I finished reading a study about gratitude yesterday and while I’m not going to write a full entry about it, in the last few years, science has made amazing strides toward connecting those who regularly, consciously practice gratitude vs. those who don’t.

From quicker recovery time from major ailments and procedures, to a better overall performance at work, some of the statistics blew me away. Part of me still wonders if there is some other common thread that researchers are missing, but it’s hard to deny that aside from just making you anecdotally feel good, practicing gratitude will make you a healthier, more productive person.

So, I guess this means we should stop throwing up in our mouths a little when every perfect family shares on Facebook how much they are blessed. Apparently, it’s healthy.

Science is cool.

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.

Questioning the Changes in My Attitude Toward Healthy Sexuality

I’m anti-pornography, but I’m not militant about it. I understand that pornography has been around as long as man could draw on the wall of a cave, and getting into a battle you can’t win seems like a waste of time, energy and resources. There’s also the civil libertarian in me who doesn’t want to tell you how to live your life because I don’t want you to tell me how to live mine. But, yeah, I’m anti-pornography.

When you’re a heroin addict, a gambling addict, an alcoholic, a video game addict, a cocaine addict, etc., the goal is clear in recovery: Stop using or stop behaving that way. My goal was clear, too; stop using pornography. But, much like with food addicts still needing to eat, a further goal for a sex or porn addict is that they are supposed to develop healthy sexual habits and attitudes. Moving completely away from sexuality is known as being a sexual anorexic and that can be just as unhealthy as being an addict.

Without going into too much intimate detail, I feel like I’ve achieved much healthier sexual habits, but I’m wondering if my sexual attitudes, which were once “anything goes between two or more consenting adults” have swung too far in the other direction.

In researching several podcasts that I’m going to be on, I have spent a fair amount of time being exposed to the titles and icons of a lot of sex-based podcasts out there. Some pitch themselves as lurid (usually hosted by someone in the adult entertainment industry), others as health-based (usually hosted by someone with real credentials, or some sort of “sexual shaman”) and there’s a segment that just seems to treat it as matter-of-fact (usually a couple of friends just talking about sex.)

I’ve looked at the descriptions of some of these shows, because they seem like perfect places for someone like me to warn the masses about the potential dangers of pornography. I mean, I’ve got a pretty good story and I’ve got a ton of statistics on my side. I don’t see myself as a missionary, but you go where they need you – even if most reject you.

Further, I’ve been connecting with a lot of people on LinkedIn lately, mostly medical professionals. I have stumbled upon many people who fall into that “sexual shaman” category where they may have some degree they earned in the 1980s, but they’ve taken a New Age approach to sexuality. I tend to not connect with these people.

Frankly, what a lot of these podcasts and alternative sexual healers are pushing scares the hell out of me. I don’t think it would have 10 years ago. Back then I probably would have wished I had gone down their road of openness and experimentation. Today, though, I’m kind of repulsed.

I’m not sure that should be my reaction. If you and your partner (or partners) decide to embark on a journey that is far more kinky than anything I’d be comfortable with and it’s consensual, or you’re able to talk communicate about sexuality on a level with a frankness most people can’t muster, is there anything wrong with that?

I’ve never been a BDSM guy, but 10 years ago, I was a live and let live guy. If whips and chains do it for you, just have a safe word and don’t hurt anybody. Today, I tend to gravitate more toward a “they are deviants” point of view. Nothing changed with them. It changed with me.

I’ve been to red light districts in a few major international cities and I’ve stayed at a clothing optional resort in the Caribbean. Those places now seem gross and I really don’t want to judge the people buying or selling the sexuality, but I can’t help it.

Maybe I’m just getting more conservative with age. Maybe all of the fallout of my recovery has caused this shift. It could be I’m just a hypocrite and dismissed that extreme sexuality before because I was hoping to be a part of it. Something has caused a change in my attitude toward what “healthy sexuality” means.

Objectively, I still say if it’s between two or more consenting adults and you can keep it behind closed doors, I really shouldn’t have any input into your sexuality. I also respect the First Amendment enough that I’d stand next to these people and fight for their right to say whatever they want on their podcast. Nobody should ever dictate Free Speech.

Subjectively, none of it’s for me and I wonder if going that far in the other direction, unintentionally or not, is a good thing.

Sorry, But There Was No Thrill In My Addiction

I’ve found LinkedIn to be a great resource for pornography addiction information. However, much like statistics that peg the porn industry worth anywhere between $2 billion and $200 billion (just a slight discrepancy there), I’m starting to bump into information provided from professionals that I think is just flat-out wrong.

This morning, I was scrolling through the feed and there was a short video from an Australian health professional. The video’s thesis was that “the thrill” that comes with looking at porn and masturbating makes the addiction even worse.

The thrill?

At first I thought it may be an Australian colloquialism for the physical pleasure that comes with an orgasm, but that’s not it. This person believes that there is a genuine thrill associated with succumbing to the addiction on a regular basis. Aside from the slight rush of adrenaline that came with porn viewing when I was afraid of getting caught by my parents more than 25 years ago, I don’t recall watching porn ever being a fun, exciting experience. It was a necessity. Despite trying to stimulate my dopamine receptors, there wasn’t a lot of pleasure in it.

The thrill?

Try the shame.

I didn’t want anybody to know about my addiction and in all truth, I never really faced up to my addiction or called it such while I was locked in the battle between my brain and the computer screen. There was nothing thrilling about that. It made me feel bad. I didn’t feel like I was getting away with anything. I felt like I had a dirty little secret.

Here’s my guess: This person has probably never been addicted to anything. I’ve met plenty of ex-alcoholics and ex-drug users at the rehabs I’ve been to who work in the field, but there was also plenty of people who weren’t. Usually these people love to tell you they’re in recovery and this person didn’t do that in the video.

I’m guessing they associates caving to your addiction, even though you don’t want to, as something “naughty.” There’s a big chasm between naughty and shameful. Having a piece of cake at the restaurant with dinner when you’re on a diet is naughty. Going home and binging on the cake in the fridge because you can’t stop yourself is shameful. Promising yourself you’d only lose $100 when you visit the casino, but you lose $120 is naughty. Losing $1,000 and only stopping because you’re broke is shameful. Sneaking a 5-second peek of a pornographic website at work or when other people are in the room is naughty. Waiting for everybody to go to sleep because you NEED hours to look at porn is shameful.

I know if this person was my therapist, we would not click. I also know that I would leave this person after probably only one or two sessions. Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who stick with their therapists because they feel like it’s a relationship where the client doesn’t have the control. A therapist you can’t work well with is not a therapist worth keeping.

I’m sure this person probably gets through to some of their clients and I’m sure they’ve helped a lot of people, but hearing that there was a thrill to my addiction made me shake my head.

That’s not a thrill. That’s shame.

Five Things for a Sex or Porn Addict’s Partner to Realize Upon Discovery

Despite the fact that I’ve got a book coming out about the subject the first week of December and I spend a lot of time talking about it on the radio show and podcast appearances I do, I really don’t write enough about the women who are left to deal with their partner’s pornography or sex addiction on this site.

I include sex addiction, or intercourse addiction, as I like to call it because it seems women who are faced with finding their partner is either type of addict have a similar reaction and it’s a reaction unlike any other addiction’s reaction. When you find out your gambling addicted partner lost your child’s college fund at the casino, you don’t question if you were the problem. When your partner turns to heroin, you don’t wonder if you weren’t enough in the bedroom. When your partner develops a video game addiction, there isn’t the sense of intimate betrayal.

I’m not suggesting being the partner of any addict is easy, it certainly is not. But when it comes to the core of sex and porn addiction, which is unhealthy sexuality, it leaves the person who you are supposed to be the only one to intimately share that sexuality with crushed in most cases.

I think loving, intimate relations between partners is a sacred thing. It’s almost as if it is a secret kept between people who have a bond that goes beyond being best friends. When the partner is discovered to have a sex or porn addiction, the sacred becomes soiled, the secret becomes a lie and the bond is severed.

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Once discovery happens, the story can go one of a million different ways, and the female partner is left with a lot of questions, which the new book examines. I do, however want to drive five points home:

  • What you’re feeling is called betrayal trauma and it is absolutely appropriate. You have been dealt a giant emotional and mental blow that is difficult to process. Have your reaction. Do not repress it as that will only make things worse. This may last months or years. I wish there was a quick fix to get through it, but in my personal experience and learning the stories of dozens of women, it lingers for a long time.
  • His addiction is not your fault. If he is the kind of man who is denying an addiction or telling you that you have in some way contributed to his illness, you have not. I was addicted more than 10 years before I met my wife and she didn’t learn of the addiction until we’d been married another 10. It had nothing to do with her and it has nothing to do with you.
  • It’s up to him if he wants to get help, either individual or couple’s counseling. You can create boundaries that encourage him to seek help or face consequences, but ultimately, it’s on him to get better. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t seek therapy. You 100% absolutely should. Talking with somebody and finding other women who have been through what you have (and are further along in the journey) will help you immensely.
  • You’re not a weak person if you decide to stay. You loved him and admitting you still do is not failure as a wife, girlfriend or woman. It doesn’t give him all the power and is not you admitting defeat. My wife, thankfully, recognized amid her trauma that I was a sick person. Yes, I did the hard work of recovery, but her support was my foundation and I couldn’t have done it without her. I don’t see her as weak for staying. I see her as strong for getting through this shitstorm that was not her doing.
  • You’re not a bad person if you decide to leave. While most experts will urge you not to act quickly and take some time assessing the situation, if you find that you simply cannot move forward with the addict as your partner, that’s your right and you should not feel guilty about exercising that right. Your mental health is most important and if it’s going to get wrecked staying, you should go. If my wife had left, I would have been said, but appreciated the need to take care of herself apart from me.

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Gee, I hope I didn’t give away the book there. You should still buy copies for all your friends. They’ll make great Christmas gifts if you want the party to get really awkward in a hurry. Seriously though, if you’re a woman (or even a man) and find that your partner has this other part of themselves that you never knew about, a strong reaction and even stronger lingering feelings are normal.

Sadly, it may get worse before it gets better. But it can get better and that was one of the big reasons I participated in the the book. I think not being with a woman physically helped my relationship’s healing a lot, but almost six years later, we still sometimes have conversations that are uncomfortable. I know they may happen forever, but that’s OK. I’m just thankful we’ve reached this point.

When my book is available in early December (or if you are reading this long after) the homepage of RecoveringPornAddict.com will have links to purchase.