Getting Trivial Things Off My Chest – August Edition

A couple weeks back I saw the Mr. Rogers’ biopic that’s been in movie theaters lately. It’s actually the highest-grossing documentary this year thus far. For me, Mr. Rogers was a signal that I was in the clear. My parents would pick me up at the abusive babysitter’s house around 3:45 p.m., when they were done with their elementary school teaching jobs. After being in a tumultuous environment for the previous eight hours, there was something calming and soothing about being able to sit in the safety of my home and a kindly gentleman telling me that everything was OK. My mother called him “Mr. Boring” but after the days I had, I was totally ready for Mr. Boring. I got choked up watching the movie several times because of my admiration for how truly decent a human being he was. Truth be told, I find most children irritating. I think those people who don’t and can be their mentors are very lucky.

I went to see that movie with my son. Since he’s on school vacation, I try to find at least one or two things a week for us to do so he doesn’t get too bored with his summer. He just started driver’s education this week, so I don’t have to work as hard at keeping him occupied. The fact he will be driving soon is a reality – and age – check for me. He read my book when it came out in January and he’s had a few questions here and there, not necessarily about my crime or even my addiction, but about things that happened in my childhood that may have contributed to where I ended up. I think at nearly 16 he’s ready to hear non-graphic accounts of what happened to me and my opinions about it. I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk about a lot of things. Feelings and “the past” were tops on that list. I’m hoping that my openness with my son will carry through to future generations. I know older people lament the good old days being gone when children respected their elders and blah, blah, blah, but I think our interpersonal communication skills are better than they’ve ever been as a people and while far more work needs to be done, we are finally accepting mental health as a real thing. I know there’s a tendency to romanticize the past and ignore its problems, I have a lot of optimism for the next generation. Sure, the younger generation utilizes electronic communication devices and platforms that I will never integrate into my life, but that’s not a reason to dismiss them. There’s still plenty of work to be done in areas of accepting all people regardless of race, religion, sexual orientations, etc., but if I compare my grandparents’ generation to that of my children, I’ll pick the new generation every day of the week, even if I still don’t understand the point of Snapchat filters. My parents and grandparents did not come from “The Greatest Generation”. They came from the most self-righteous, and you reap what you sow.

Do you ever wonder who the heck is reading your website? I mentioned at the beginning of last month that my numbers were exploding, but that was nothing compared to what happened through the rest of July. I saw overall users for July grow by 39% and hits grow by 45% and the numbers may be even better for August. Who are these people finding my site? Are they reading anything helpful? Am I being duped by robots and crawlers who aren’t actually real people? I know there are plenty of companies that can tell me exactly what’s going on if I drop a load of cash on them. Not going to happen. So much of my life has been about trying to manipulate and overanalyze results and I kind of like the organic nature I feel this whole thing has taken on.

I’ve been working pretty steady on the second book over the last couple of weeks. I still find it a challenge to balance my freelance and ghostwriting work, which pay the bills, with my pornography addiction work, including this blog, which are my passion, but aren’t putting a roof over my head. I think this book, both in structure and content, will be like nothing else the pornography addiction recovery community has seen. I’m very excited, or at least more excited than I am about writing healthy eating blogs at $50 a whack for people who claim it’s their own work. That balance between passion and responsibility is a tough one to manage for me at times, and those people who can blend the two are truly lucky.

You may have seen the entry I made recently about resentments and how I think there are still people in my area who are resentful against me less for the things I did and more for the fact they see the entire episode as a betrayal of trust. I mentioned an Amazon review that had recently gone up that was an attack on me as a person, not a commentary on the book. As expected, it was pulled quickly. A few days ago, I got what you might call my first “bad” review, and you know what? It didn’t bother me nearly as I thought it would. I think the reviewer missed the bigger picture of what I was trying to do, but who cares? I don’t need to explain the nuance. They didn’t like the book. I can’t count the number of books or movies people have liked that I can’t. I’m sorry, but The Big Lebowski is asinine. There will be plenty of people who say I don’t “get it” but that’s fine. I still think Jeff Bridges is a fine actor, I just didn’t like the movie. It’s reassuring to know that a negative review on the actual subject matter won’t get me down. Negative reviews of me as a person just make me feel bad for the other guy.

 

 

Coming to Terms With My Pornography Addiction Took Me A Long Time

As many of you know, I have a side business where I counsel pornography addicts or the loved one of addicts. You can learn more about it HERE. One of the people I help, who I told I would be writing this, said to me the other day, “He’s not like you, he’s not just going to accept he has a problem.” Wait, what?

That blew me away. I feel like I was dragged kicking and screaming over a long period of time into recovery and accept myself as an addict. Maybe because I’m writing this 4.5 years after I started I appear like I had it all together in the beginning, but I didn’t.

If you’re the partner of a loved one who you think is an addict, be prepared for a long road that is especially bumpy in the beginning. Sometimes, all you can do is plant a seed, stand back and hope it germinates.

It’s not like there’s a blood test or urine test you can force a porn addict to take that will reveal it. If you’re not willing to be patient, you may have to talk to him in a different way and not use classic terms like “addiction” when it comes to his use.

I think there are two ways to go with this:

First, you can agree with him that he’s not an addict if it’s going to help the situation get resolved. Saying something like, “I respect the fact you don’t think you have an addiction and you would probably know better than me, but I don’t want pornography in this house and I don’t want my husband looking at pornography. I don’t want you to get to the point where you think you are an addict, because either way, I feel like it disrespects me. If you continue to look at pornography, it will be hurting me and our marriage/relationship. I won’t stand around and let that happen. If you don’t think you can do that, either because you don’t want to or you’re unable, there are a lot of places that will help, but that’s your decision.

Second, go the scholarly route. This is more for the person who thinks they are smart and needs facts about porn. Figure out why you think he has an addiction beyond, “He looks at a lot of porn.” What negative effects has his pornography had on his life or your life together. Take a look at the definition of addiction. It may feel like you’re building a PowerPoint presentation for work, but if he’s anything like me, he’ll accept he has an addiction once presented with the science and data.

It took me about eight days of listening to hard data regarding alcoholism at a rehab before I accepted that I had a problem with drinking. It was another six months and hundreds of hours of therapy before I was able to wrap my arms around the idea I was a pornography addict and was another six months before I finally accepted that addiction is a disease.

Yes, 4.5 years later I may appear to be fully active in my recovery, but the first year of my recovery was a slow, slow build. I had to get there on my time regardless of what the experts, therapists and family members said around me. I got there, but it wasn’t on their timetable. If you told me in that first year I’d be a pornography addiction expert by this point, I would have laughed in your face.

You’re not going to be able to force you partner into rehab or know that he’ll walk through the front door of a 12-step meeting just because you tell him it’s best. Even if he accepts the fact he is an addict the moment the words come out of his mouth, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done.

You plant the seeds, you water them, you hope for sun.

Q&A Time: Even if Porn Addict Husband Doesn’t Go To Therapy, Should I?

QUESTION: My husband has told me that he looks at pornography, and he will stop. I’ve suggested couple’s counseling or even individual sessions and he has said no. I read an online board that says I should still go by myself. Can that really help anything?

ANSWER: I don’t think it will come as any shock to you that I answer this with a resounding “Yes!” It may not directly help with his pornography addiction since it sounds like he hasn’t actually accepted it as a problem. That may just take some time.

Get a therapist…and be honest with your therapist.

I believe that even though I wasn’t 100% honest with my therapists through my 20s and early 30s, they were still instrumental in helping me get through some of the challenges I faced that had nothing to do with my addictions. There is something powerful about somebody who is there to advocate for you, is rooting for you, but isn’t emotionally involved, nor plays an active role in your everyday real life.

The relationship between a therapist and patient is unique and unlike any other. I think most people fear going to a therapist because they think it will be a complete bearing of their deepest secrets and simply by the act of seeing a therapist, it must mean there is something wrong.

I wish that I could go back to the beginning when I was 20 years old when the therapist inevitably asked me if there was any sexual dysfunction, I could say, “I have been renting porno movies or buying Playboy every month since I was 14 years old.” I don’t know what I thought the blowback would be. They weren’t going to kick me out of their office.

But, like so many guys who believed porn was something to be ashamed of and that I was just walking around with this invisible black cloud of perversion over my head, I kept my mouth quiet when it came to the pornography. I didn’t talk about any of my sexual hang-ups, either. I just said everything was fine and complained about work or my parents.

Would I have ended up behind bars if I had been honest with my therapist in my 20s? Honestly, I don’t think so. Part of the reason my addiction festered into a nasty wound was because I never had the salve of a professional’s ear. That’s on me, not them.

A therapist is a great sounding board and somebody who isn’t going to take it personally when you get mad or start crying or blurting things that you can’t believe are coming out of your mouth because you’ve tried to suppress them for so long. A therapist is going to know the next thing to say to keep things moving in the right direction.

I will mention that not counting the pair of couple’s counselors that my wife and I saw, I’ve seen five therapists, but I say I’ve only had two. I probably saw the other three a combined eight times.

If you’re not clicking with a therapist, find someone else. In your case, it would help if you could talk to someone who has experience working with relationships and hopefully has some experience in dealing with addiction, even if it is drugs and alcohol. Your personalities must mesh and there needs to be the opportunity for a level of trust to develop. You’re wasting your time if you don’t have a bond, or at least I was.

Ironically, the therapist I have now who has seen me through all of my recovery is the first woman I’ve seen. I never would have guessed it, but it isn’t an older man who I clicked with, but a woman only a couple years older than me.

You’re going to learn a lot about yourself in therapy you never otherwise would have. I wholeheartedly endorse therapy for anyone with a pulse.


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.

Another Jail Story: Visiting Days

Having visitors is a weird thing in jail. It’s awesome to see your loved ones, but they are seeing you at your absolute worst and the picture in their head of you in a jail uniform talking through glass isn’t something that I think will ever leave their mind. I can understand why some inmates choose not to see anybody if they’re doing a short stint.

In my world, traditional visiting days for minimum and medium security inmates were Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Saturday nights. If you’d been there for more than 30 days, every other Sunday afternoon were “contact visits.”

I was extremely lucky that my parents visited every Thursday, sometimes bringing my son, while my wife came alone on Tuesdays. My wife and one of the kids came on Saturday nights. If I had a contact visit, she brought both.

I’m so grateful that nearly three hours of my week was spent with loved ones. I mentioned many choose not to, but the sad fact is for many of my fellow inmates, even those who were there for a long time, they didn’t have anybody who wanted to come visit or it was extremely rare.

The regular visiting room was actually two smaller rooms, with a long window in each room that was double paned plexiglass all scratched-up to shit. On the bottom 20% of the plexiglass, abutting a metal table was a large grate. It looked like a long cheese grater and that was what you talked through. There were no phones like in the movies and the place echoed like crazy.

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This is the visiting room where “contact visits” were allowed. Families would sit in the inner section, with inmates on the outer. Want to hear a terrific irony? That’s Sheriff Eric Samson. He’s the man who I replaced on the Auburn City Council when I won my race in 2011. Funny how things work out sometimes.

There were a limited number of spots for each visiting time based on the layout of the room, but we were never denied a spot. On a few days, we were the only people in the room. It’s sad, especially when someone in my pod would posture like they didn’t care, but you could tell otherwise.

Anything out of the ordinary in jail is good. I often told people I didn’t feel like I was doing hard time, I was just doing long time. Breaking up the monotony was important and seeing my wife or someone else was good. It kept me connected to the outside world. It was the same reason I called home every single day while I did my time.

If you ended up in the same room with someone who talked loud, it could be a bitch to try and communicate with the person visiting you on the other side of the glass. It was a challenge when the other inmate and their visitor started arguing, which happened a lot of the time with the younger inmates and their girlfriends. I’d see the female often carrying a baby in her arm and just know that kid already had a strike against him in the ballgame of life. I often felt more sad seeing the real-life characters from the stories people told back in the pod than seeing my own family. We were doing OK, everything considered.

The contact visit room had a couple long table running the length of the room. Visitors sat on the inside and inmates were against each wall. In both rooms, visitors were seated before inmates were allowed in. As far as contact went, it was only a hug at the end, but it was a sliver of normalcy every few weeks that made waiting until release data a little easier, and a little harder.

Ironically, it’s not until you’re put in a position to sit and talk to someone for an hour that you realize how rarely you actually do that. After a few weeks in jail, I commented to my wife that I had to think about what I was saying so I wouldn’t repeat myself because there was always two hours of visits, at least a 15-minute phone call every day and I probably wrote a dozen multi-page letters to her while I was in jail as well. There’s just so much you can say when nothing is happening in your life.

I kept having to remind my mother that fact when she’d ask how things were going. Nothing ever changed, so I didn’t have much to say. There wasn’t a lot of negative or positive to talk about. It’s hard enough to come up with an hour of material on the outside, where my life was busy, much less to try and generate talking points in a place that is all about boring routine.

I was always happy to see my visitors and several other friends offered to visit, but I was allowed just so many on my list. The best visits were when I was sitting in the contact room on one side and my kids and wife were on the other and we were near a window where we could look out and see a spot that we’d drive by multiple times a day when things were normal. We could tease each other a little, laugh and it was a brief respite from the actuality of the situation. That was like finding gold in a coal mine.

Remember, this all happened because I let my alcohol and pornography addictions get out of control. I never thought they would. I managed to hide them for 20 years, but you can’t hide things forever. If you don’t take care of your problem, jail is where you could end up. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Get help.

Revisiting the Connection Between Porn Addicts and Those With Eating Disorders

While the right side of this website highlights the more popular articles are by people clicking “Like”, it isn’t an accurate depiction of what the most read articles are, what the most commented on happen to be or which ones generate the most private messages. Only a few fit into all four categories, and I think if you had some kind of point system, the article I wrote about the connection between pornography addiction and eating disorders would be in the Top 5. This has encouraged me to revisit the topic.

If you haven’t read the first article, I’d urge you to look to the right and find it. I have information in there that I’m not repeating in this one. Can’t find it? Click Here.

Early in life, I never had experience with people who dealt with eating disorders aside from rumors about certain girls in high school or college. I don’t recall anybody ever disclosing to me they were anorexic, bulimic or had any issues with food, but then again, I wasn’t exactly open and sharing about my problems with alcohol or pornography.

In 2015, when I found the Santé Center for Healing in Argyle, Texas, I was just happy to find a facility that would allow me entrance despite my pending legal issues. Most inpatient rehabs in the US are just drugs and alcohol, much like the first place I attended in 2014. I noticed there was an eating disorder program on the website, but I was just scrambling to find a place that would take me and gave it little thought.

With sex and food, it’s healthy to want and need both. You’re taught from a young age to stay away from drugs and get a lesser, but still present message about alcohol. For the most part, that message is abstinence. With food, the message you get is to eat healthy or you’re going to get fat. With sex, it’s to fall within traditional boundaries or you’re a pervert and a freak. Both try to keep you in line with the threat of shame and embarrassment.

Many of the women in the eating disorder program I spoke with began to experience their addiction in their mid-teens, just as I did with porn. I should mention when I arrived, there was one man in the eating disorder program, but he left shortly after my arrival. The rest of my experience, there were only females in that program.

Unfortunately, those ideas of youth about what is healthy become warped and twisted so quickly and society quickly applies the embarrassment and shame that porn addicts and eating disorder patients suffer with silently. I’ve never met a porn addict who was a sex maniac, much like I never met someone with an eating disorder who blamed Barbie or pictures in magazines. I’m sure there are porn addicts who are sex maniacs and there’s got to be some women who developed bad eating habits after looking at magazines…but I’ve never met them, and yet mainstream society continues to use these crazy excuses/reasons for why we are the way we are.

“Stop looking at porn!” or “Just eat your dinner!” seem like simple directives when you’re not coping with the kind of problems that we were. I promise you, if you think you have the solution to addiction, you don’t even have an understanding.

I think in the not-too-distant future we’re going to see an increase in the number of people who have an addiction to electronics, be it video games or smartphones. If you want to experience addiction, put your phone on the other side of the room and don’t touch it all day. No matter who calls, or texts or whatever beeps, vibrations and weird Law & Order-like clunking sounds you hear, don’t touch it.

You’ll have excuses/reasons why you can’t keep it up. What if somebody is dead? What if somebody needs you? What if somebody liked your cardio routine or commented on your new shoes? Addicts have a lot of excuses/reasons.

I think electronics addiction will be like eating disorders or sex/porn. Those who aren’t addicted won’t be able to understand it. There’s a healthy and appropriate time to use your phone or play a video game. There’s a healthy and appropriate time to stop. Those people who can’t? Well, I guess I’d say welcome to our little club. We’re the non-drug/alcoholic addicts.

We’re “The Others” and while I have nothing but compassion for drug/alcohol addicts (my addiction to alcohol is fairly well documented on this site) prepare to defend yourself as an addict in a way they never have to because they get the most attention.

Those of us with “fringe” addictions that don’t demand healthy use, not total abstinence, need to stick together and defend one another. I wouldn’t want to play Fortnite Battle Royale for 12 hours, but I get why some do. And I don’t relate, but I understand why some women who were close friends at that rehab couldn’t have a healthy relationship with food.

And addict is an addict is an addict. The brain chemistry is off.  Recognize that we are far more alike than we are different and be kind to one another.

Latest Q&A: What does ‘Gaslighting’ mean?

QUESTION: My husband is a porn addict. I’ve heard the term “gaslighting” used in this situation. What does it mean?

ANSWER: I know there are more technical definitions for gaslighting, so I’ll just handle the been-there, done-that side. Essentially, it’s the pure form of manipulation where I deflect, accuse and confuse.

Gaslighting is me making you think that you’re crazy for asking me questions about being a porn addict. Gaslighting is me manipulating you into doubting your own good sense of what is happening in front of your eyes.

It’s me telling you that I’m getting better and taking care of my problems so you live on the fumes of false hope. It’s about saying what I need to say and doing what I need to do in any given situation so I can continue to be an addict and take the spotlight off of myself.

Gaslighting is the control I have over you. I know you don’t want to leave this relationship or marriage. I know you love me and my knowledge of that is a chip in the game. I know you worry about how you’d deal with finances on your own or what would happen to the kids if you took some kind of stand about my condition. More chips for me. I know all of these things and I will use all of them to my advantage like a grand champion poker player trying to push a weaker player around.

When I’m deep in my addiction, I want you to stop asking questions and telling me what to do and I want to be left alone to engage in my unhealthy behavior. I’ll do what it takes to make that happen because I’m an addict. Porn, sex, gambling, drugs, alcohol, food – it doesn’t matter the addiction. As long as you’re standing in the way of me doing this thing, I’ll do what I need to do to move you out of the way, even if it’s hold you mentally and emotionally hostage. That because I’m an addict.

I read all this and think, “What an evil person” but I’ve described just about every addict I’ve ever met. We could teach a masterclass in manipulation. We’d even have the students believing “masterclass” means something other than “class”.

I don’t know where the term comes from, but gaslighting is absolutely the No. 1 illusion in any addict’s box of magic tricks.

We all learn how to lie and manipulate in life. When you’re a baby you figure out that crying gets you fed and changed. We all learn to do it early on, it’s just that the addict, by sheer means of practice, gets really good at it. Most adults tone it down, especially with loved ones, as they get older. I didn’t. Maybe that’s why I did well in business and politics.

There were times when I would lie about something and think to myself, “Holy crap. That sounded legit! I could be an actor!”

I look back now and realize it wasn’t a compliment.

 

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.

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