Tag: Pornography Addiction

There is meaning to life…no matter how bad it may get

When one is an addict, porn or otherwise, and hits rock bottom, some dark questions about mortality can emerge. Is there meaning to life? Yes, there is. But don’t try too hard to figure out the finer details. Like the concepts of infinity, the universe and God, I don’t believe the human mind is evolutionally equipped to understand the concept.

If there wasn’t a meaning to life, why wouldn’t more people try to kill themselves?

The suicide rates for the five-year periods between 1910-1915 and 1929-1934 were just over 16 people per 100,000. These are the highs of American history. Since 1945, it’s never gone much above 13 per 100,000…nor has it dipped below 10 according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Based on that, it’s pretty safe to say that when you’re only talking about 10-16 people out of 100,000, you’re talking a tiny, tiny minority. Clearly, it’s not hard-wired into our DNA to kill ourselves. It doesn’t rise significantly during times of war, bad economies or poor leadership. Conversely, the rate doesn’t drop much during times of prosperity and great peace. It is what it is.

For those people who say there is a difference between a meaning to life and a survival instinct of a life, I think you’re wrong. If there was no meaning, there would be no survival instinct. Things will get better, things will get worse…yet only 10-16 people out of 100,000 will choose to end their life in a given year.

 

Why? Because life has meaning. Even if you’re an alcoholic who ran over a child or a drug addict with no job. You could have gambled away your life savings or eaten your way to 600 pounds. You’re still here. There’s a reason.

But it’s not exactly survival instinct. Our bodies know when to give up and stop working.  You can witness that in a hospital every day. Sure, we have so many cries for help, but so few actual cases of suicide. You’ve got to really, really be out on that ledge to make the jump. I like to believe that those people who do kill themselves were just as terminal as a cancer patient and knew there was no coming back.

I think people are actually asking a series of questions when they ask if there is meaning to life. I think it is more about wanting reassurance they are not a mistake, that they have value and a genuine concern how to make a difference in the time they are given.

While not all of us were part of our biological parents’ plans, you are not a mistake. Your female parent had many eggs over the years. Yours was a strong one. Your male parent had billions of sperm through the years. The one that made you was a fighter. The odds of that particular egg in that particular person meeting with that particular sperm in that particular person are not calculable…especially if one of your parents was a giant whore. Isn’t there meaning in simply beating those kinds of odds? It’s like winning a lottery of lotteries of lotteries. The math behind you simply being here is astonishing.

I don’t know if life is supposed to be about helping others or advancing humanity. For some it’s about wealth acquisition and the conquering of power. In a vacuum, neither is right or wrong.

I believe I’m here for some reason, but I don’t think I necessarily ever need to get the fortune cookie that tells me what it is. For a long time, I looked for definite answers, but I don’t think the meaning of my life needs one. Just the fact there is meaning…is meaning enough.

Creating an environment to address concerns you have with someone else’s pornography use

Over the last few months I’ve talked to a lot of people about pornography addiction and I get a lot of the same questions over and over. That’s OK, it shows they are the most important. Ironically, the two most popular questions have the same answer. They are: “How do I approach someone about the fact I think they have a porn addiction?” and “How do I talk to my kids about pornography?”

I think the words you use are secondary to the conditions you create. You know the person that you’re talking to better than me, so you probably can figure out how to actually say the words. It’s like firing somebody. Theoretically, we can all do it, but no matter how much you prepare, you don’t always know what’s going to come out of your mouth and how the other person will react.

The two conditions that will allow the most favorable outcome are:

  1. Create a judgment-free zone: We all have our opinions, biases, likes, dislikes, stereotypes, fears, political views, etc. None of these are important as part of this conversation. Telling a child they are naughty if they look at “dirty” pictures or your brother that you “don’t understand how they can look at that smut” may be two things you absolutely believe, but all they will hear is, “I don’t approve of your actions.” It’s OK to not approve of their actions, but if you’re trying to have a conversation, removing your condemnation in the moment is important.
  2. Create a safe space for dialogue: Kids want advice and guidance. Addicts want to know you care. If either feels threatened, you’ll be giving a soliloquy, not having a conversation. A good rule for any conversation that may be stressful or you may worry will become combative is to first establish common ground. When the other person feels like you’re on their side, it becomes safer to share information.

The sooner we start working pornography into the “beware of drugs, strangers and look both ways before crossing the street” speech that parents should give their kids, the sooner we’ll be raising a generation who understands the negative power of pornography. The sooner we’re able to address those who have pornography addiction as concerned onlookers, the sooner we’ll be removing the stigma from what is an illness, not an act of moral repugnance.

We need to start talking about pornography addiction as a society, but we also need to do it the right way.

Are people inherently good or bad?

Neither. People just are. Social norms, acceptable behavior, laws and regulations all change over time. The behavior of someone in Year 317 or 1317 may seem to stand in stark contrast to behavior labeled as acceptable today. Were those people bad and didn’t know better? If we’re so advanced, will people in 500 or 1000 years look at us as immoral cretins?

When I was arrested and charged with possession of underage pornography, I went from a “good” person to “bad” person in the blink of an eye for many people. Nothing else mattered. I wonder if in revising their opinion, they decided I was secretly bad prior or was it just that now they knew a piece of information about me, it eliminated everything I’d accumulated in the good column?

One of the more interesting evolutionary traits of humans (and I’m talking over millions of years, not hundreds) is the increasing need for order, averages and the status quo. We crave to know where to set the bar when it comes to every product, behavior or thought we produce or consume.

People are neither inherently good or inherently bad. People are inherently fearful. They are scared that they will fall outside of their desired norm – and that’s even true of the most alternative anarchist. We go with the crowd, even if that crowd is a minority.

When people are looking through their black and white lenses because shades of gray are scary, I’m reminded of the oft-used phrase, “Hitler loved his dogs.” Can somebody be pure evil if they still love dogs? If the person who is the gold standard of evil has a soft spot for puppies is anybody 100% bad?

Well, no and nobody is 100% good, because again, those are labels that I’m using with my own unique definition. You have your own definition. Hitler existed. His behavior has never been accepted as OK. But what if the Nazis won? There’s a good chance we’d be living in a world that looked back on Hitler through very different eyes and reached a very different conclusion about his place in history.

When I was arrested and convicted for my crime, I know that many people took an eraser to all of the things I had ever done that were seen as good. I raised tens of thousands of dollars for and brought awareness to plenty of local causes. I regularly volunteered my time or donated advertising space in my magazine. I made dozens of filmmakers’ dreams come true with the film festival I ran for three years. I’m not going to run through a list, but I went from being a “good” person in many people’s eyes to a “bad” person because the one act of convincing a teenage girl to masturbate online trumps everything else I’ve ever done.

Should it? It’s not up for me to decide. I accept and live with the punishment I was given. I’ve come to understand what happened and for me, it takes place beyond good and bad. It was more an issue of sick vs. healthy. But I can’t stop people from viewing me as bad.

People are not one-dimensional enough at their core to be inherently anything. Labeling and stereotyping makes things easy. I think it was George Carlin who said something like, “There’s no reason for sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. If you just take a few minutes to get to know somebody, you’ll have legitimate reasons not to like them!”

I want people to like me and I want to feel like I’m contributing something to society. I think I achieved it in my life prior to my arrest. I want to be seen as good. With what I did, that may never happen for a vast majority, even if I find the cure for cancer.

What’s important for my recovery is that I know that I once had the capacity to do things that most people could not. I was very sick when I made the decision to talk to women in online chat rooms. Even most sick people don’t do that. Then I made the decision to urge several to take off their clothes. Even more sick people don’t do that. Then I ignored the fact that there were females who might not have yet reached the age of 18, but continued the behavior. We’re now getting into a small number of sick people…but it’s what I was capable of, sick or not.

Does the fact I have the capacity to sink this low make me inherently bad? I think statistics suggest it makes me inherently rare and someone society correctly punished and has determined tabs should be kept on for a while.

There is no one-word, conditional-for-the-world-we-live-in-at-this-moment label that can apply to anyone. If we are inherently anything, it’s complex.

The -est day of my life

Today marks exactly four years that a knock at my door changed my life forever. The Maine State Police were there to arrest me for my inappropriate online behavior. It was the scariest, saddest, worst, loneliest day of my life.

Exactly 1,461 days have passed since that day. If you would have told me on that day that four years later, I’d have a better relationship with my family, less stress and anxiety, a job that paid more for less work, rejuvenated mental health and be free of my pornography and alcohol addictions, I would have said, “Where do I sign?”

I couldn’t see it on that day. That day was the fiercest, muddiest, freakiest, emptiest day I’d known.

Yes, I lost everything I worked for professionally and it was my fault. Life ceased to exist as I knew it on that day. It took a little while to recognize it, but that was not a bad thing.

And that is why now, I look at March 20, 2014 as the clearest, luckiest, happiest, best, gladdest and most honest day of my life.

Facing Triggers Makes You Stronger

I hope this entry doesn’t trigger anyone, but I wanted to talk about triggers. So, it may be triggery. Prepare to be triggered. Is this a good enough trigger warning? Trigger.

I think it’s time in the mental health/addiction/abuse survivor communities that we talk a long, hard look at triggers and figure out – on an individual basis – what are actual debilitating triggers and what are excuses for us to not live our lives and face the challenges everyday life brings.

I was talking to a therapist recently, exchanging emails about my book, and they expressed something that I’ve often felt but never thought was safe to say: Some people use their mental illness, addiction or past abuse as a crutch and excuse to sit on the sidelines of life and “triggers” are the doctor’s note that excuses them from gym class. Sometimes, you actually can’t participate, but a lot of the time, you just don’t want to…it’s hard, it’s too much work, it makes you tired, you might not be good at, you don’t like it, people might laugh at you and you may just be lazy.

I was glad to hear this, because I agree. As somebody who is in recovery with a couple of addictions, was the victim of some childhood abuse and tries to keep a couple of diagnosed mental illness issues in check, I could easily throw myself on the floor and take a pass on living life. I know I could also easily create the kind of enablers who would let me.

I don’t want this article to come off as cold or unfeeling. I understand we’re all at different phases of our recovery, but it feels like the more I become part of a recovery community, the more I meet people who have never had an identity in life until they became “addiction/abuse/mental health survivor.” It wholly consumes them and it just doesn’t seem healthy. They use “triggers” as excuses, crutches and ways to draw attention to themselves.

Why not look at triggers as challenges to our recovery – good challenges. Recovery means nothing if we’re not overcoming something. Those drug addicts sitting in prison are not in recovery. They are just being denied their addiction, and not by choice. Triggers allow us to use the tools we develop in recovery. Isn’t that why we learned them in the first place?

My alcohol triggers

I don’t want somebody to put alcohol in front of me and I don’t want to be around drunk people. I have had both happen to me since I stopped drinking almost four years ago and it comes with a combination of jealousy, anger and irritation. I haven’t always been able to immediately remove myself from the situation. When this first happened several years ago, it was that I wanted to drink. Now, it’s more about not being around the assholes that people turn into when they are drunk, because it reminds me of the kind of asshole I was. It’s still triggering of strong emotions, but they have evolved…and I don’t have to run from them. I think it’s actually better to sit with them and figure out what they are about.

I try to avoid alcohol. I don’t have any need to go down that aisle at the grocery store, I won’t buy it for other people if asked and I don’t keep any in my home. I could avoid family gatherings, where drinking happens and I could never go to a restaurant again to keep away from alcohol. That would reduce trigger-causing situations. It would also mean I don’t spend Christmas with my family or enjoy quality food made for me that I don’t know how to make at home.

My porn triggers

I have Cinemax and HBO and whatever other cable channels are part of the massive introductory package for DirecTV. They show plenty of late night skin. I use the Internet for my job as a freelancer writer. Nobody knows more than me just how much porn can be found on the Internet. Almost every convenience store has Playboy, Penthouse and other adult magazines. In the past, I turned on HBO specifically for the dirty stuff and went online with porn as the only item on the agenda.

Yeah, if I happen to be up at midnight and I’m cruising through the preview guide and see something like “Lust Island” on one of the pay channels, it piques my curiosity. I know my favorite porn sites are only a couple keystrokes away at any given moment and when I see a porno magazine as I’m buying gas or coffee with a particularly intriguing cover behind the counter, I wonder what that woman looks like naked on the inside.

And then I just keep going. I don’t watch the movie, look at the websites or purchase the magazine. Is it hard? Not nearly as much as it was when I first started addressing my porn addiction, but there are still times where I have to actually tell myself “No. Walk away.”

I could get rid of the cable channels with one phone call. I could find a job that never means I need to be on the Internet again. I could only buy gas or coffee at places that don’t have pornographic magazines.

If I did that though, I’d miss out on a lot of good, non-pornographic movies and shows. I’d have to turn my back on a career I’ve spent over 20 years building and I’d have to drive further for gas and coffee. Why would I want to deny myself these things and make my life even more complicated? Because of triggers?

My abuse triggers

As somebody who suffered from various forms of abuse from a non-family caregiver when I was a kid and has had to deal with all kinds of repressed memories surfacing in the last few years, I get how hard it can be if you’re an abuse victim and don’t have addictions.

For 25 years, I could drive by this babysitter’s house without even thinking about the amount of time I spent in terror in that home. When these memories started to be unlocked, I couldn’t ignore her home when I drove by. The proximity to my parents’ house makes it almost impossible to avoid, although I could drive 2-3 miles out of my way and get to their house from another route.

I probably had a visceral reaction to her home for over a year. I would bet that’s 100 times at least. I could say the positive is that I didn’t drive 200-300 miles out of my way, which isn’t cheap when it comes to gas. I drove by that house earlier today. I saw it, said to myself “there it is” and kept on driving. She’s dead. She hadn’t lived there in 10 years before she died. But if I went a different way, it’s like she won.

Summing Up

I think for real recovery, we need to face our triggers more than we do. We allow them to act as anchors, as hurdles and as impediments to a better life. We’re scared of the emotions we’ll feel or the actions we’ll take facing them, but if you can get through, you’re going to be stronger on the other side.

I don’t think I’ll ever get myself in a situation where somebody is pouring booze down my throat, holding my eyelids open to look at porn, or forcing me to tour that home and tell the stories of my abuse. So as long as I learn to control my own actions, triggers are actually little exercises in making me stronger over the long-term.

If you’re incapable of facing your triggers, I’m sorry. It must be horrible. But for every trigger you honestly can’t handle, are there one or two that you can but choose not to deal with? I could let all of my triggers run my life and make my decisions for me, but I don’t. I choose to be the one in control now. Ask yourself if there’s more control in your life by facing your triggers head-on and defeating them. I think you know the answer.

** Learn more about all phases of mental health therapy by clicking here **

Life Can’t Be Consumed By Work, Even if The Work Is A Good Cause

Sometimes you don’t plan on taking a week off. You just notice on a Sunday morning that your throat is a little scratchy and later that night you’re lying on the couch, writhing in pain with whatever hit the wife and son a few days earlier. Despite it not being a vacation, there is something to be said for Mother Nature stepping in and stopping you dead (or at least feeling nearly dead) in your tracks.

Aside from the obvious addiction to pornography this site is devoted to and my co-addiction with alcohol which also gets a lot of words on here, the third part of the unholy addiction triumvirate for me back in the day was work. I used it for the escape of stress alcohol gave me and the sense of control the porn provided.

I cannot undercut the role that work played in my eventual downfall in late 2013 and early 2014. If I didn’t want to deal with issues at home, I escaped to work. If I was feeling low, I’d do something at work to get praise from the public. When I didn’t have enough work at the magazine I operated, I started a film festival. I created a world where there was something “important” for me to always be working on.

While I spent plenty of time in rehab dealing with the porn and alcohol demons, I never went anywhere to deal with my work addiction. Once my life was steamrolled, the work disappeared. About six months after I was arrested, I started with a little freelance writing here and there, never more than a few hours a day. I did this for the next year until I went to jail.

When I got out, I didn’t feel like doing much work. I’d written the first draft of my book in jail and knew I wanted to edit it, but I didn’t start on that task for about three months, around the same time I returned to freelance writing and never worked more than six hours a day, usually not more than four. Thankfully, I have a couple of clients who demand quality over quantity, so I can make a livable wage and keep my hours low, something I knew that I’d have to watch because of my tendency in the past to get lost in work.

Very late last year, after I started this site, I found out when the book was coming out and I started working to identify marketing opportunities. I bookmarked a lot of podcast sites, media outlets and book reviewers who I knew I’d have to go back and track down later. This added a little bit to my workload, but nothing major.

Once the book came out in early January, though, I was starting to replace my regular work time with promotion for the book. I followed up on all of those leads and cultivated dozens, if not hundreds, more. I did the interviews and the guest blogs and sent copies off to reviewers and libraries.

After a couple weeks of this, I noticed a dip in my income, so I started pushing the freelancing back, but didn’t cut down on the book promotion. I noticed that most days, instead of being in front of my computer 4-6 hours, I was now in front of it closer to 8-10. I told myself that at some point, I’d be done with podcasts or have contacted all of the libraries, but I think that was a matter of justification.

Logically, I can look at the math of it. I can work for three hours for one client and make around $100. Or I can spend three hours and send out copies of my book to reviewers or libraries or participate in another interview. If any one of those things results in the sale of three books, well, I’m putting around $7 in my pocket.

It doesn’t have to be a matter of either/or, as I know I’m in the infancy of whatever the porn addiction awareness path I’m on is to become. But, it also can’t become an obsession. I do feel a strong calling toward it, but I also need to make sure the electricity stays on in the house and the kids are fed. But, me being me, I tried to take it all on from the middle of January up until about a week ago.

Floored with this horrible chest cold/pneumonia, I didn’t do any freelance work, nor did I do anything with the porn addiction side of things for about a week. I cancelled meetings and podcasts, opting to lay in bed and on the couch. When I sat up to try and even answer basic email, a coughing fit would hit and I’d be back in the horizontal position quickly.

While there was a little bit of withdrawal the first day or two, I have to admit that despite the physical pain, it was nice to only worry about the Showcase Showdown on The Price is Right and how long of an afternoon nap I should schedule. My body needed a physical break to recuperate, but my mind needed a mental break as well.

I now see that I need to balance things a little better. I need to make sure enough money is coming through the door for what I need, and I know there is still plenty of time to work on the porn addiction piece of my life without overdoing it. People can wait 24 hours for an email to be answered 99% of the time. The addiction will still be here tomorrow.

As I look to next week, I do so with a renewed focus. I cannot get obsessed with my work, whether it’s completely self-centered money-making tasks or strictly altruistic-based opportunities. Life is about balance and thankfully I’ve been able to spend the last week recalibrating the scales.

Spoiler Alert: Relapse is NOT a Part of Recovery

I hope this doesn’t upset too many people, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Relapse is not a part of recovery. You’ll get professionals and others who care telling you it is, but that’s only so you don’t give up and get back up on that horse and keep going. Relapse is actually the opposite of recovery. Relapse is a break from recovery.

Once the relapse has started, I think people will tell you anything to get it to stop. I understand that. If the behavior doesn’t stop, it’s no longer a relapse. It’s called “using again” and I think we rationalize the relapse to the addict as a minor slip to get them back on the right path. At that point, I get it. But is there more we can do to not reach that point?

I wonder how many relapses would actually be preventable if “Progress Not Perfection” and “Relapse is a Part of Recovery” were not mantras I heard throughout rehabs, group therapies and 12-step groups.

While it’s technically illegal if you’re using a scheduled drug like heroin, relapse isn’t the kind of thing that you’ll be thrown in jail for in 99.9% of the cases. Yes, you may do something stupid while you’re in the midst of your addiction if it alters your behavior to the point you are violent, miss work or make other bad choices, but let’s be honest…except for the guilt of failing and resetting the clock, most people get through a relapse unscathed.

I was reading a well-written entry on a recovery forum I frequent earlier and a guy was talking about his relapse. He had certain phrases that struck me as:

  • Part of every addict’s journey to a new life is trial and error, aka relapse.
  • If you do find yourself using again; don’t give up, rather give yourself a pat on the back, you are just like everybody else that has successfully beat their addiction.
  • Realize that in order to relapse you must have been trying to stop, and that honestly is the biggest step in this battle.
  • Learn from each relapse…as long as you take something away from it then you are moving forward towards recovery.

This all just sounds like rationalization to me, and if you’ve ever met an addict, you’ve met someone who is not only a master manipulator and liar to those close to them, they’re able to convince themselves of anything.

Recovery is about not indulging in your addiction. It is not about indulging in your addiction only a few more times. Rationalizing that it’s OK because everybody does it and as long as you learn something from it was OK is dangerous.

One of my favorite concepts taught at my second rehab was the idea of the “prelapse.” It asserts that long before you actually indulge in your addiction, you’ve set the wheels in motion. As most addicts can tell you, there is a way of thinking and there is a way of behaving leading up to the relapse. It can be minutes, hours or days. In most cases, it’s all three.

I’m not talking about massive red flag triggers. Those should be easy enough to spot. I’m talking about things like having a bad day, seeing something that causes a certain change in thinking or slacking off from your usual recovery diligence. It’s just as important that recovering addicts understand the little, subtle things that lead them toward relapse than the massive things. We see the massive things coming a mile away.

There are rituals involved with addiction, prior to the substance or behavior actually happening that many addicts never recognize. I had to pour the Red Bull and Tequila a certain way. The conditions for looking at online porn had to be exactly as I wanted. I hadn’t started drinking or looking yet, but had I relapsed when I began preparing? In many ways, yes. I never recognized any of these routines until I entered treatment. Identifying them is a great way to stop dead in your tracks.

Knowing what’s going to happen before the relapse is the best tool for stopping it before it happens. You don’t just blink your eyes and suddenly you’re on a porn website, or sitting in your favorite chair with a tumbler of vodka, or standing at the roulette table or looking at an empty pint of ice cream you’ve devoured. There was a series of thoughts and actions that led you there.

Relapse sucks, but it doesn’t happen to everybody (it actually doesn’t happen with about 40% of people) and it doesn’t have to happen multiple times. Giving ourselves permission to slip up is the surest way of reintroducing addiction back to our lives. Stay vigilant.

 

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