Random Thoughts, Feb 2020: Super Bowl Halftime, Porn is Everywhere, Contact Your Local Library for Me

Being a New England Patriots fan, one of the few perks of living in the tundra known as Maine, this year’s Super Bowl was far less important than most in recent memory. I did watch the game, however, and while it was tremendous, I’m hearing a debate between those who enjoyed the dancing and pageantry of the halftime show and those who thought it was an oversexed, adults-only debacle.

For those who missed it, the halftime show featured Jennifer Lopez, who returned to acting last year as an aging stripper in the film Hustlers, taking certain inspiration from that role, including a brief pole dance and Shakira, known for her belly dancing-inspired moves, doing some kind of oral sex equivalent tongue wagging that has become the most popular meme this week.

Taking a cue from both women’s Latino roots, the music was fast-paced and they were usually surrounded by dancers who one may feel were gyrating in a sexual manner in too-revealing costumes while others might defend it as a normal piece of the Latin music culture.

Despite my strong desire to educate the world about pornography addiction, I’ve got to be honest, I find both sides a bit extreme. It was a Super Bowl halftime show. I’m not a fan of either woman’s music, so I was playing on my phone. I think the last one I watched was Lady Gaga a few years back when the Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit. Take that, Atlanta fans.

Could the halftime show possibly trigger someone who is new to recovery or send a person in their addiction off to the computer for a round of watching pornography? Sure, but as with my alcoholism, I don’t think the world should stop because I had a problem. I had to get over the fact people drink around me, not that they needed to stop drinking because of me.

I just looked it up and the highest-rated halftime show ever was Katy Perry’s, so apparently they keep track of things like that. If you’re offended by what you’re watching on the halftime show, turn it off. Sports and television are entertainment mediums that depend on audience engagement. The less eyes on the product, the less money they make.

Ironically, the Super Bowl is great for anti-porn advocates as PornHub always reports a sharp decrease in consumption on Super Bowl Sunday. And seriously, do you really want them to bring back Up With People?


I did a podcast recording a week or so ago and somebody asked a question that I have never been posed. Aside from simply being refreshing, it was a terrific question and I thought I’d share the answer here.

I was asked: “You say that you are nearly six years sober with no relapses. Are you saying in those six years, you’ve never seen pornography?”

I gave my typical response to the question “What is pornography?” in that it’s two-fold. First, anything can be pornography if you use it in a certain way. One person’s Victoria’s Secret catalog is a junk mail nuisance while it’s another’s main source of visual stimulation. More pertinent to that question is the second definition, which is what we can all agree is pornography. That’s the XXX stuff that is shown on the pay-per-view channels with names like Spice and Xtacy, in magazines like Hustler and Penthouse, and on websites like PornHub.

Have I seen any of this second classification of pornography in the last six years?

Of course. I have no idea how I could have avoided it.

In jail, there was a guy who had a couple of small hardcore sex photos taken from a magazine. I’ve seen street vendors in NYC selling the stuff. As a guy who writes regularly about pornography and includes pictures with his blogs, sometimes the Google search terms bring up pictures that go well beyond an R rating. And there’s been more than one movie I’ve seen in the last six years that while not technically pornographic, sure pushed the boundaries in the name of “art.”

So, do I feel like I relapsed? Not at all.

I’ve seen alcohol plenty of times since I got sober. Hell, we have some here in my house. Have I drank it? No. Am I still sober? Yes. When I saw any of that pornography, did it give me urges to engage in self-pleasure using visual aids? Nope. Did I engage in self-pleasure using visual aids? Nope. Do I reasonably try to avoid seeing such pornography? Absolutely.


My book He’s a Porn Addict…Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions has been performing decently. It was the publisher’s best performing new title over the last two months and ranked in the top of its “new release” category in three categories on Amazon during that time. You’re still invited to buy a copy.

The rollout of an “evergreen” book (meaning that there is no huge element of time involved) is a slower process than many books. First, the softcover comes out, then the Kindle and in this case, we’ve been lucky enough to also have a hardcover run. It is very cool seeing my book in hardcover. It makes me feel like a real book writer for the first time.

Marketing has involved blanketing just about anybody who would listen to me, as I started doing multiple podcasts every week dating back to November. That schedule is finally slowing down as I now am more selectively targeting audiences.

One area that my first book did well and I’m hoping this one also will also is with libraries. A lot of people don’t realize it, but libraries purchase their books like anyone else. Sure, there are certain titles that are gimmies like Stephen King or the next political tell-all, but for most of us, we are competing for limited shelf space.

How does a library decide what’s important? From its patrons.

I’m going to ask you, especially if you didn’t purchase a copy of my book, to do me a solid favor right now. Go to the website of your local library. Usually the site will have a search function that lets you search their catalog or the site. Search the site with the phrase “suggest a title for purchase.” Most of you will find a link to the form you need. If you can’t find this, and the link isn’t in one of the drop-down menus, just simply go to the “contact us” or “ask a librarian” form they all have.

Then, fill in the blanks. By you simply saying you want He’s a Porn Addict, Now What? and listing my co-author Tony Overbay in the author field (he’s listed first, so it’s easier for them to find if you use his name), you’re doing a lot to increase the chances of getting the book into your local library. You may not need it, but there are probably people who do, and your library may never get the book if you don’t suggest it. You’re doing a good thing for me, and for those who may benefit.

So, go do that right now. I’ll wait. Seriously. It takes 2 minutes. Please.

Thank you.

 

Six Years After Starting Recovery, I Make One of My Biggest Advances Toward Normalcy

I did something I’m actually going to brag about, that I never would have thought I would have done in a million years, but it felt like such a step forward, I’ve been meaning to come here and write about it to show people just how far you move away from mistakes you made and how you don’t need to hide from who you are, no matter what has happened.

As many of you know, my uncle died about a week ago. He was one of those guys who was the glue in any group he was a part of, be it our family, his friends or his professional life. I won’t say the world revolved around him, but if his life was the show Seinfeld, he was the Jerry Seinfeld upon which everything was held together.

He was also an administrator in the school district I attended. Since I’m 43 and he died at 63, most of the teachers I had while he served are still alive and I knew many would attend his wake. I also know he was one of those guys who knew everybody and could theoretically foresee anybody walking through the doors of the funeral parlor, so when it came to his wake I was very nervous.

The people I have around me in life have pretty much all uniformly moved on from my arrest six years and the attention it drew. They’ve seen the new guy I’ve evolved into and life is pretty routine these days. For the first time since my arrest in early 2014, I was looking at seeing people I hadn’t seen since before that all went down.

I’ll be honest with everyone. I took an Ativan. It doesn’t escape me that 10 years ago, I would have had a couple drinks before going to something like this. I took a bunch of Ativan immediately after I was arrested and in the week leading up to going to jail. I also took it for about a month last year when I was going through debilitating anxiety attacks. I have been very cognizant to not take any more than I need. I took one about 30 minutes before leaving and haven’t needed another. I expressed hesitation to my wife, but as she said, “The medicine specifically exists to help you in a moment like this.”

At first I was sheepish. I saw my third-grade teacher, a cousin who had given me the cold shoulder for a while and a guy who was a freelancer at the magazine I owned. They were all friendly exchanges.

I don’t know why I chose them, but about an hour into things, my junior high school principal, who’s got to be 80, give or take (he was my mother’s 9th grade math teacher…and she’s 71) and his wife, who I worked with at the local newspaper for about five years before she retired approached me to express their condolences.

When they asked what I was up to, I explained that I ghostwrite books for people who are usually CEOs, working on self-help programs or simply want an autobiography. And then it hit me. I’m proud of my work with porn addiction. I’m not ashamed of it. It was nothing I set out to do, but it’s a problem and if my mission is to educate the world, I should let the world know what I’m doing.

“If you remember all that stuff that happened to me six years ago, I got my head on straight and now I write books about pornography addiction and try to help people and their families who are struggling with it,” I told them. “There was nothing for me when I wasn’t doing well, so I thought maybe I could make things better for other people. It’s a huge problem out there.”

They told me that they knew I did one book but were glad to hear I just released a second one. They said it seems like pornography is everywhere these days and they were proud of me. Then they each gave me a hug.

In my wildest dreams, since first meeting the man 31 years ago, I never thought that I’d hug my junior high school principal. I also don’t remember him being that short. I’ve grown.

Telling them what I do now was such a feeling of relief and moment of empowerment. I went on to tell probably four more people in the last two hours. I didn’t make it about me, I didn’t quote stats or do my podcast-style preaching. I just mentioned in matter-of-factly. The results were positive across the board.

Six years ago, when this all went down and it was headline news, I was scared to death. I barely left the house. If I went to a restaurant, it was 30 miles away. Over time, I’ve become comfortable being out in public locally and have been surprised just how few interactions I’ve had with people from my former life. I think that my uncle’s wake may have been a huge final step toward whatever level I end up at in being comfortable owning what I did and being open with what I do now, no matter who I’m talking to or where I am.

The last step is going to be the people who I work with. It never comes up, but most of them don’t know my real name. I intentionally hide it from them whenever possible, and when it has to be revealed for payment or tax purposes, I tell them I professionally just go by my first and middle name.

Anyway, my message is really just if you have something that you don’t think you can face, or something you feel shame an embarrassment about, try being open about it. Try with someone who you think will be safe. I mean, realistically, unless my mother dies very soon, I don’t think I’ll ever see my junior high school principal or his wife again. They were safe people, and it felt damn good. Damn good.

Christians Need a New Strategy to Battle Pornography Addiction

One of the areas that I’ve been starting to focus on with my porn addiction education is podcasts and radio shows that have a spiritual or religious audience. Most of them are Christian, which is perfect, because the statistics around Christians who use pornography far outpace that of the secular world.

I was a leery to enter this space for a long time. I was raised Catholic, but don’t really subscribe to a lot of the doctrine and dogma. Watching from the sidelines for a couple of years though, most of the religious people who write about porn addiction are still using shame and God’s judgment as motivation to quit. That just doesn’t work. You can pray away addiction as effectively as you pray away cancer.

The rates of use among Christians is fairly staggering. Here are a few numbers from the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes:

  • 68% of men who attend church on a regular basis and 50% of pastors report viewing pornography on a regular basis. Among the 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s 76%
  • 87% of Christian women said they have watched pornography at least once.
  • 70% of youth pastors say they have had a teen tell them that they have a pornography issue in the last month.
  • 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issues to their congregation, while only 7% say their church has a program to help people struggling with pornography.

These are numbers that reflect a population that needs help. Both the clergy and the followers have been raised in an institution that preaches sexual sin is among the worst. Despite various forms of repentance is different denominations, it’s human nature not to admit the problem in the first place for fear of the fallout, embarrassment and shame.

For the Christian people out there struggling with pornography, if your church is unwilling or unequipped to help you, seek assistance outside. Simply because somebody doesn’t worship the same way that you do, or doesn’t worship at all, does not mean that they can’t help you overcome your personal demons.

Porn addiction does not make you a bad person. It makes you an ill person who can take the proper steps to get better. Having a strong faith and belief system will only be a plus in the process, but you can’t let that belief system be a hurdle to getting healthy.

If there is anything I can do to help any Christian or clergy member out there, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Q&A Time: What’s The First Advice You Can Give an Addict or Partner?

Note: I answered this question on Reddit today and it seemed like the perfect thing for a short Q&A on this site. I also liked the way she referenced my book. Big news coming about it very soon!

QUESTION: Given your experience, what is the likelihood of someone kicking this habit and if I decide to stay, what advice might you have to follow initially? I will get your book if I do decide to stay for the full advice.

ANSWER: I’ve never seen any actual statistics about recovery, but I have seen many men (and several women) successfully kick this habit. They all had the following in common:

  1. Every addict admitted they had a problem, decided they wanted to fix it and committed themselves to it.

  2. Every addict had a supportive partner. I truly believe partners need to learn the ins and outs of addiction to understand what the disease is on a scientific level. Once you understand, it’s easier to accept the fact it really has nothing to do with you, never did and never will.

  3. Every addict sought professional help. Addiction is a symptom of a bigger problem. With porn addiction, 90% to 94% of addicts have some kind of trauma in their background, wit 81% reporting sexual abuse as a child. Until the addict can figure out why they developed their addiction, it’s not deal with the root cause. That’s why I’m not a fan of the NoFap culture. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger wound.

  4. Every addict had some sort of fellowship. Be it a 12-step group (whether they followed diligently or not), group therapy, and online forum or another means, addicts need to talk to other addicts who are in recovery.

I hope this helps a little bit.

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If you liked this Q&A, check out the others HERE

You can check out my Resources page if you need a place to start getting help. Click HERE

If you’d like somebody to talk to who has been there about porn addiction, be it yours or someone you love, but aren’t ready to make the leap to get help from the medical community, I can be a great resource. For more information, click HERE

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal training in counseling or medicine. My advice comes from experience as an addict and as someone in recovery for over four years. Please take my words only as suggestions and before doing anything drastic, always consult with a professional. If you’d like me to answer a question publicly, either post it in the comment section or visit the contact page. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

It Was Harder Growing Up With Religion Than Recovering Without It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Higher Power, The Afterlife and Mom Gets Mad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Religion is Not The Only Road to Recovery

I promise I’m about to wrap this up.

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

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

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

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

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

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