Q&A Time: How do you live with yourself?

QUESTION: How do you live with yourself with what you did? How do you look at yourself in the mirror and who made you the voice of every porn addict out there?

ANSWER: Your autographed 8X10 is in the mail.

Two questions in two days…wow. For anybody who wonders why I’m posting this question, you should have read the rest of the email this came from. I believe it was from somebody who discovered me during my ill-fated sojourn onto Facebook last week. Yeah, the email was full of bile, but when you strip it away, as I have, I think those are actually legit, rational questions.

I don’t think those questions are really the ones that person wants answered. I doubt they even wanted answers. They just wanted me to know they thought I was a bad person. At this point, all I can say is, “Noted.”

If I read between the lines, I think this person is first asking why I don’t spend every waking minute groveling and repenting. I think the follow-up question is about why I don’t just disappear into the darkness.

I am absolutely embarrassed and ashamed of what I did. The fact that I was able to let my mental health (and rest of my life) slip to a point that I encouraged women to perform sexual acts on their webcam is, in a word, gross. The fact I didn’t have the sense to somehow make sure no female under 18 ended up on cam is negligent at best and sinister at worst.

I don’t think that I’ll ever not feel embarrassment and shame for what I did. I don’t know if it had a lasting negative effect on that girl, or any of the other women I got involved. I do know it had a negative effect on my family and they never asked for that.

But here’s the thing, I’m not a disciple of Brene Brown, the shame guru. Perhaps this is narcissistic or means I’m denial, but while I did an embarrassing and shameful thing, I don’t think that makes me a person who has to define himself as ashamed or embarrassed. I did a horrible thing, but I haven’t let it affect my self-worth. I actually feel better about myself now, 5½ years into recovery than I ever have. There’s no defense for what I did, but I’m not ashamed of who I am. Those are two different things.

I think that there is a segment of the populace who, when they first hear my story, or are reintroduced to me for the first time since my arrest in 2014, they are shocked that I’m not on my hands and knees, begging for forgiveness from them and the world in general.

I went through that period. You just weren’t there. I believe at some point, you have to stand up, dust yourself off, and move on because, really, what else can you do? I think it’s like a lot of traumas that way. You deal with it and you move on or you let it totally consume you. I’ve seen people who get consumed and I didn’t want to be like that.

I had a deep emotional reaction to what I did that was on display for all early on. The amount of times I cried to my wife, or in therapy, were plentiful. If you need a show from me to believe that I will forever be deeply, deeply aware of what happened and what it means, the show’s over.

Finally, I’ve never claimed to be the voice of all porn addicts. Many never understand they are addicted. Even more never confront it or try to do anything about it. Very few have the law involved as I did. I’m critical of some of the online communities of men based on their methodology in trying to tackle the issue. I’m not trying to be anybody’s voice but my own.

I tell my story because I didn’t hear anybody’s story when I was in the same situation. There were few resources when I was going through this. I felt completely alone. I hope that telling my story makes a few other people feel less alone. I might not only help some addicts, but help prevent some victims this way.

I also want to raise the idea with people who don’t think of it, or don’t believe it, that porn addiction is a real thing and can have real consequences. If they can walk away understanding it’s not a moral failure, but an illness, that’s one more person in the world who might move us toward a place we can accept a national dialogue on the matter.

Finally, I tell my story because I don’t think I’m the stereotype people conjure when they think of a porn addict. If I can break the mold, and explain there is no “typical” addict, perhaps we can dump the stigma that a porn addict is a specific kind of a person.

I’m not trying to win fans, I’m just trying to make the best of what was a bad situation. I understand most people slink away and don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine, it’s just not the cloth from which I was cut. Much like my advice if you stumble across a TV show you don’t like, just turn me off if I bother you that much.

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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.

Q&A Time: I failed to get better. How do I live with porn addiction?

 

QUESTION: I’ve read your site for a while, I’ve tried to follow your advice. I saw a therapist until I couldn’t afford it anymore, but porn is just part of my life and I don’t think I’m ever going to get better. What’s the best way to just live with the addiction?

ANSWER: If that’s your reality, I’d say don’t do anything illegal, but it’s impossible for me to accept giving up and succumbing to your addiction.

Here’s a truth that is sometimes hard for people like me who are trying to help others to face: There is nothing that rehab, a therapist, your partner, or I can do to change your addiction. We can offer help, encouragement, tips, support, punishment, boundaries, motivation, etc., but we can’t get you to stop. That’s on your shoulders.

You can do it. I’m proof of it and I’ve seen it happen with others. Some still struggle staying sober after 10 years, some lick this in a couple of months and never go back, but in every single case, they decided the most important thing in their life was doing what they needed to do to kick their habit. I believe you simply haven’t reached the point that defeating this addiction is your No. 1 priority.

I only reached that point after intervention from the law. It’s not how I would have wanted it to be, but more than five years later, I’m grateful it happened.

Back then, I was a magazine publisher and city councilor who worked 90 hours every week and ignored my family. I snuck a couple hours of porn watching and chat room trolling in the middle of the night. I was sick and didn’t see how to get out of it.

I now work about 30 hours per week and spend all my time with my family. I would have said my current lifestyle was impossible, but when forced into certain situations, you figure things out. Nothing is impossible, but excuses make it seem that way.

If you can quit, and do it on your terms, it will make your future much easier and you’ll have more control. I fear based on the brevity and tone of your question that you are in a critical phase of addiction and whether it be in 2 months or 2 years, it’s going to lead somewhere you don’t want it to go. Make it a priority — THE priority — to take care of it before that happens. I wish I would have.

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

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

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

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

Q&A Time: Did He Come into Our Relationship as a Porn Addict?

QUESTION: My husband says that he became a porn addict only in the last couple of years. I have a hard time believing that. I think he was a porn addict long before I ever met him. What do you think?

ANSWER: Depending on how long you’ve been together, he either was already there or the pieces were in place and it just hadn’t blossomed into something terrible yet. I maintained my addiction for over 20 years without recognizing I had an addiction and once it was brought to my attention it still took six months and hundreds of hours of therapy before I was willing to truly accept it.

Reading between the lines, you could be asking the question “Is this my fault?” and that answer, even if he’d never seen porn before meeting you (which is unlikely in 99.99999% of cases) is that none of this is your fault. This isn’t a blame situation for you…or him.

If he’s an addict, it means he’s sick and he doesn’t have to come to terms with it to actually be sick. Just because I came to accept my porn addiction as a mental illness did not mean it began in that moment of revelation. It means I saw it was there with clear understanding for the first time. Denial or acceptance has little to do with his condition.

I’ve seen statistics that say 90 to 95 percent of people with sexually focused addiction issues had some kind of trauma from abuse that took place early in life. It doesn’t have to be sexual in nature, but it often is.

I was not in the critical stage of pornography addiction when I first met my wife in 2002. I had long been in the ongoing stage where usage would cyclically spike and wane for at least a decade by that point. I don’t think I reached the critical phase, when things started to go off the rails until 2013.

Were the pieces all there when I met her? Probably, but like a stew, they needed to be mixed and boiled to the proper temperature. I think we’re all capable of a lot of negative things, but never reach that breaking point.

Looking at it objectively, I can’t point a finger at her for any of it. These were my issues and she is to be commended for keeping the family together not just during the first 11 years of my marriage before I entered recovery, but even today deserves a medal for shepherding her flock through those years when I was at inpatient rehab or doing my jail time. Life is probably as easy for us as it ever has been now, but through it all, none of my addiction issues had to do with her.

He probably was that way when you got together and it’s just that other influences have let it get out of hand. You didn’t cause any of this, even if he claims the exact opposite.

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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: 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.

Q&A Time: Should I Go to Inpatient Rehab for My Addiction?

QUESTION: I have been told by my girlfriend that she thinks I should go to rehab for my porn addiction. I don’t think I need to leave for a month because it’s not that bad. What should I do?

ANSWER: This is probably worth a conversation with a professional so they can weigh-in. Assuming they don’t see losing you for a month or two as lost revenue, they’ll probably guide you in the right direction.

I probably urge people to go to inpatient rehab quicker than most, but that’s because my two stints, first for alcohol and a year later for porn, were the most transformative experiences of my life. Both times I walked into the facility as one person and walked out somebody else.

It’s easy to make excuses why you shouldn’t go. You have a job, help with the kids, have other responsibilities. I would counter that needing a break to take care of one’s health is just as important as all of those things.

My wife ran the house when I did my 10-week and 7-week stints at inpatient rehab, respectively. Thankfully, we were in a financial position where that was possible, but even if we didn’t have savings, I would have found a way. I would have asked for help from family and friends. People don’t want to do that, but people generally like to help people who are helping themselves. Insurance can help and many of these places will consider payment plans. If finances preclude you from one rehab, keep shopping around. I had horrible insurance for my alcohol rehab. I just flat-out couldn’t go to most, but eventually, I found one and I can’t imagine it being a more positive experience if the amenities had been better. I haven’t had a drink since I went there. Isn’t that the point?

I’ve encountered so many people who make excuses why they can’t go to rehab, and while they are almost always valid, I also bring up the point that my wife ran the household for six months while I served my jail sentence. In that case, I did have to ask my parents for help, and it wasn’t a surprise when they were there for us.

With jail, I didn’t have a choice to go or not. We had to adapt. What would happen if your partner was caught for drunk driving and sentenced to 30 days. Would your world implode? Probably not. You’d figure it out and you’d get through it. My wife is proof of that. You can adapt when you HAVE to, and since this is your health we’re talking about, it makes sense to adapt.

I actually think the time that I was away was like a rehab for my family. They needed time away from my energy and my illness. They needed to reconnect instead of hovering around me like satellites. I actually made the comment to my wife shortly thereafter that they all seemed to be far more functional and healthy when I returned both times because they didn’t have to deal with me.

I know people who have had successful recovery having never stepped foot into rehab and I know plenty of people who have never been able to get into a recovery groove despite having gone to rehab five or six times. Like anything, it’s the level of commitment one puts into their recovery. It’s hard, really hard some days, but rehab was the foundation upon which I built my recovery.

I truly believe I would not have had the strength to maintain recovery as well as I did had I not gone to recovery and begun the process of understanding how I became the person I did. Maybe I would have reached the same place over a longer time period with just one-on-one and group therapy at home, but I know just how much inpatient rehab did for me.

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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: 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.

Q&A Time: My husband has a porn addiction – Should I tell other people in his family and see if they can help?

QUESTION My husband has a pretty bad porn addiction and knows it, but doesn’t seem to want to do much about it. If this is a real addiction, would an intervention work? Should I at least tell other people in his family and see if they can help?

ANSWER This is another tough one there is no easy answer for. I want to immediately say no, but in my case, it was helpful.

When my story hit the media, everybody knew about my addiction overnight: family, friends, neighbors and even people who had no idea who I was.

I was in and out of therapy for years in my 20s and early 30s and never once mentioned my porn addiction. I was married for a dozen years and it never was addressed. Short of being publicly outed at age 37, I can’t fathom a scenario where I would have sought the help of anybody else, be it family, friends or professionals.

Why? Because it’s about sex. It’s about naked people. It’s about what turns you on, which may be kinkier than most. And let’s be honest…any conversation about sex is still socially frowned upon. Viewing pornography is a behavior most people pretend they don’t engage in. People won’t admit to looking at pornography despite statistics proving the vast majority do, so how can somebody openly admit to having a problem with it?

The day after I was arrested and my lawyer asked me (with my wife and father in the room) if I had any addictions, I immediately admitted to my alcoholism, which they both suspected. It took me another six months before I stopped blaming the alcohol for the mistake I made, finally recognizing I did have a porn addiction problem.

Looking back now, I don’t think I would have progressed to the point that I’m now at in recovery if not for my family. They have been a non-judgmental safe haven in a world where many either don’t view pornography addiction as a “real thing” or condemn those who suffer with it.

That said, if I was a part of many families I know, I would have been disowned, not helped. While my immediate family has been wonderful, there are pockets of my extended family who I have basically ceased to have relationships with. You’ve got to have a solid barometer on how the family will react before you bring them into the mix.

I believe this question can best be answered by looking at his relationship with his family, looking at the history of their values, opinions and behaviors and if they are likely open to being part of the process of recovery.

I know how helpful my family has been, but I have talked with so many people where their family’s intervention had a different outcome.

Support doesn’t mean his mother or sister sitting down and working out with him why he became the way it is. It can be as simple as just letting him know that they love him and have faith he can overcome his addiction. It’s about love and support.

If you make the decision to seek help from his family, I would start with the male relative he is closest to and allow them to have input on if, and how, the family should be involved. They may have insight about the family you don’t possess.

I don’t think a mass intervention is a good idea. People usually don’t do a good job of hiding being a drug addict or alcoholic. When an intervention happens, the family has known for a long time, and the target of the intervention is well aware the family knows about their addiction. Imagine your husband walking into a room of family members and learning they all know about his addiction. I would think that would just be too overwhelming. Even though my family was supportive, it was embarrassing when it all came out.

As for friends, I wouldn’t get them involved. Friends talk. If he wants help from a friend, leave that up to him.

In the end, I never would have asked my family for help unless it was forced upon me. Thank God it was, but don’t base my experience as what always happens.

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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: 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.