Tag: Recovery

Stories from Jail: Realizing the Role Intimacy Plays in Sex and Porn Addiction

As a man of above-average means and intelligence, I was thrust into a world very unfamiliar to me with men I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to engage with when I served six months in the local county jail in early 2016.

There was the occasional outlier (I was in minimum security and in jail, not prison, so I admit I didn’t see the worst of the worst), but I would guess that 60% were there tied to drug/alcohol abuse, 25% for domestic violence and 15% for sex crimes. Maybe some were awaiting trial, while others were serving their sentence, or temporary locked up because of a probation violation, but in my non-ethnically diverse area, this is how it broke down with the 60-80 guys I got to know during my time there.

For someone on the outside who enjoys buzzwords of the day, they would have seen this group of men and immediately said, “This is the very definition of toxic masculinity.”

As somebody who, at the time of my sentencing, had just done nearly four months of inpatient rehab for alcoholism and sex/porn addiction, along with hundreds of hours of one-on-one and group therapy, I think I served as a bit of a de facto life coach/advisor for many of the men.

One of the reasons so many of these men trusted me with their stories was because they knew I sought help for my porn addiction. Despite being locked up for other reasons, the vast majority of these men had clear issues with both sex and pornography.

I recall one man (a domestic violence offender) who came to me off to the side one day and told me that he’d heard me talking to other guys. In his early 30s, he said if he did the math, he probably had slept with 1,500 women. When you break it down as two or three one-night stands per week over a little more than a decade, the number isn’t so unrealistic.

I remember his saying to me, “It sounds like a lot of these have only been with three or four women in their life. It makes me think I may have a problem.”

Another man, there for a probation violation because he was belligerently drunk in public (again), confided in me that he watched 5-6 hours of porn every day and even when he was holding down one of his rare jobs, he’d go to his car during his lunch break and watch porn on his telephone. It had never occurred to him that this could be an issue.

“Sometimes I watch with buddies, sometimes by myself and I don’t *Insert your favorite euphemism for masturbation* a lot of the time. When I’ve had girlfriends we’ve watched it together,” he said.

“Why do you watch it with other people?” I asked.

“I dunno. Cause it’s funny. Or sexy. It’s like a bonding thing I guess,” he responded.

“How else do you bond with people?” I followed up.

“It’s not like I only look porn. I meet a lot of people in bars,” he said.

“Isn’t that the reason you’re here?” I asked, motioning to nothing in particular in the room, about the same size as a doctor’s office waiting room we shared with 6 to 10 other guys.

“I’m gonna think on that,” he said.

Later that night, he came to me, asked to sit on my bunk (standard jail protocol) and said, “I feel good when I drink and I feel good when I watch porn. I don’t feel good too many other times. So maybe like you, my porn watching is just as bad as my drinking and I never knew it.”

“At least it’s not too late for you,” I thought to myself, yearning for the day in the near future I’d be released, hoping he’d get help before his porn problem ever become as critical, or depraved, as mine.

It was in that moment that I recognized while I thought I had real intimacy in my life, I wasn’t unlike many of those men.

I was surrounded by plenty of people in my real life, just like my fellow inmates were. It didn’t matter mine had better jobs, higher educations and could afford nicer things. It didn’t matter that I had two loving parents, a supportive wife and kids who thought the sun rose and set with me while they may not have been that lucky. None of us were willing to stick our neck out and create relationships that went deeper that what was on the surface.

They never felt unconditionally loved, trusted and cared for by any parent or guardian early on, or by any partner as they grew and entered into the world of adult relationships because they were unable to give what they were getting…and when I thought about it…it was my story, too.

Isn’t the physical act of sex and the visual stimulus of porn completely just on the surface? We all intuitively understand the difference between “having sex” and “making love.”

Intimacy is vulnerability, and it’s not just about being physically intimate. When those men came to me with their issues, they were being vulnerable. They shared things with me I never would have shared with anybody.

Despite being more than two years sober at that point, it dawned on me that my recovery had miles left to go and it had nothing to do with porn or sex.

How Many People Do I Know Who Have Overcome Porn Addiction Without Therapy? Zero.

Do you ever get so frustrated watching people figuratively bang their heads into a wall again and again that you’re not sure if you should bother pointing out that it doesn’t solve anything? I feel that way when I read message boards and forums from the “rebooting” and “NoFap” communities and their vast majority attitude toward therapy, or even refusing to call what they have an addiction. Maybe I’m the one banging his head.

(For those who sometimes ask, NoFap is short for No Fapping. “Fapping” has become a slang term for masturbation among the younger generation.)

As I’ve said before, if something works for you in recovery, stick with it. I appreciated the very early stages of 12-step groups, but beyond the foundation, my personality type let me know that I wasn’t going to thrive in that culture. Religion wasn’t the right route for me either and although I eat better and am more physically active than before, diet and exercise weren’t the secret. I like sitting around and eating Cheetos too much. But if any of this works for you, keep on going with it.

However, if none of it works for you, shouldn’t you try something else?

I don’t spend the time on Internet forums dedicated to overcoming pornography problems (too many won’t call them addictions) I once did, but I still feel reading their stories are interesting and informational. I’ve mostly stopped trying to tell them that based on everything they write, they meet the criteria for “addict” and that the addiction will only end when they get to the cause of it, which isn’t just a random joy for watching naked people go at it.

I see so many of these men writing about how weak they are, how they can’t stay away from porn or masturbation and how they feel completely lost…yet they aren’t addicts and are not going to seek help from a professional because it’s their problem to solve. Many of these men keep a “counter” as part of their signature that says how many days they’ve been sober. Most can’t get beyond 10 days without having to reset because their white-knuckle recovery method is failing them.

The pessimist in me says they don’t really want to stop, which is why they don’t seek real help. When I managed a call center, we sold a package of CDs and DVDs to parents who had defiant children. In a lot of cases, the parents didn’t want to spend the money, nor actually have to go through an 8-hour educational program to fix the problem. They just wanted to temper their guilt with the idea they looked into doing something.

If there’s one thing I learned from experience and from my time in rehab, group therapy and being around addicts, it’s that hiding an addiction is not difficult. Addicts are brilliant liars and manipulators. We even use the term “gaslight” to accuse others of what we’re doing to them.

Maybe these addicts see taking a short break and being “real” in an Internet forum as some brief form of relief. The only way that an addict can get better is to admit to themselves that they have a problem that rises to the definition of addiction and that they must traverse a series of options and obstacles to successfully battle that addiction.

Those options and obstacles are different for all of us and while I know someone will show up in the comments section saying they did it alone, with sheer willpower, I have never personally seen a true long-term addict recover without some form of therapy, usually intensive in the beginning of recovery.

Through therapy, we learn how we became addicted people. People sometimes doubt me when I say addiction started the first time I picked up a Penthouse magazine at 12 or the first time I got buzzed on champagne at 14. The reality is that the groundwork for addiction was laid even before then and I needed to learn about that time period.

Most addicts also have mental health issues and while medication does keep me at the same level of most of the humans, it was also important in therapy to learn how those mental health issues affected my decision-making and judgment throughout my life when I wasn’t medicated.

Once I understood these complex connections – which I never would have made without the ongoing help of professionals (I still see a therapist every 2-3 weeks) – recovering from the addictions became simpler. When you understand the problem, the symptoms are easier to address.

I’m a metaphor guy, so I look at it this way: If you’re hiking by yourself and you take a bad fall and break your leg, what are you going to do? Some people will stand up and try to walk out of there. They may take a few painful steps, but will likely fall down again. Then, they may try to fashion an amateur splint on their leg. They may get a few more steps on their next try, but they’re going to fall down again. Determined to get off the trail by themselves, they start crawling. Maybe they even get a little further than they did on their feet. People continue to walk by, many offering aid, but our hiker wants to save themselves on their own. What then?

Here are the options as I see them:

  • Continue to crawl, and die trying to get out of there
  • Open up your damn backpack, find your phone, call the rangers and get the help you need
  • Eventually, against the odds, miraculously crawl to the end of the trail, but have you really learned anything?

The “rebooting” and “NoFap” communities seem to believe that Nos. 1 and 3 are the answer. The “I got myself into this and I’ll get myself out of it” vibe is strong, be it out of shame, ego, stubbornness or some combination.

Recovery is the goal, not recovery the way one says it has to be. Believing things have to be a certain way is probably a big piece of what got them to this point in the first place.

Now excuse me while I go bang my head into the wall.

Q&A Time: Is it porn addiction if I’m not actually looking at pornography?

Question: I think I know the answer to this, but want to be sure. I spend a lot of time looking at non-pornographic video clips online that involve naked women, usually from movies, but they are not pornographic. If I’m not looking at pornography, can I really be a porn addict?

Answer: You seem to have decided you’re some kind of addict, and that’s more important than anything else. Whether what you watch rises to the level of pornography is less crucial than you getting help. If you’ve done your research and believe you are an addict, I would urge you to book an appointment with a therapist very soon, or visit my RESOURCES page for more information about getting help.

As far as the question about what rises to the level of pornography, I think it’s two-fold. First, we can agree that there is an industry that caters to the explicit visual sexual gratification of its customers. Whether it’s movies, magazines, strip clubs, etc., I think we can largely agree as society that this falls under the umbrella of pornography. Even this industry wears that label proudly.

The second kind of pornography, from a producer standpoint, I believe falls under the category of “unintentional pornography.” I’m guessing the kind of video clips you’re watching, if they’re from mainstream films, would fall in this column. Yes, I understand Hollywood can make things too sexy and there is almost never any nudity that is actually needed in a movie, but they are hardly making pornography. Unintentional pornography becomes pornography based on your manner of using it.

Another example would be women’s fashion/lifestyle magazines. They are created with the intent of selling advertising and sharing stories to a female audience. Can they be used for a cheap thrill by men? Absolutely. There are more sexual titillating photos in some of those magazines than things like Maxim, geared at men.

Yes, there are some materials out there that operate in a sort of gray space between intentional and unintentional pornography. You can’t tell me that Sports Illustrated is doing anything other than creating sexually visual material when their swimsuit issue comes out, especially when they just use body paint on some of the models. The same goes for some of the “independent” films made that show non-simulated intercourse or feature their actors naked through large sections of the movie. Let’s face it, sex sells. Always has, always will.

As I mentioned above, if you have to ask if you’re really a porn addict, that ship has probably sailed, even if you’re only watching National Geographic specials or looking at ESPN Magazine’s body issue.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to being labeled an addict, but you should start examining the behavior – and reasons behind the behavior – for why you need to ask in the first place.

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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’s a Good Time to Talk to Your Children About Pornography; A Lull for Porn Addiction Information?

I guess being away a couple of months really did recharge my battery as I have 101 pornography addiction-related things I want to talk about. Seems like a good time for one of my multiple-subject articles.

Keeping Kids in the Loop

First, it’s back-to-school time. There is no better time to talk to your children about pornography since their peers are the most likely people to introduce/distribute pornography to them.

Keep the discussion age appropriate. I don’t think any kid under 10 needs to be told more than, “If you see naked pictures of men or women, let mommy or dad know about it, OK? Just like we’d want you to tell us if you found a cigarette.”

I think you can step it up for ages 10-to-13 and let them know that pornography addiction is a real thing, just like drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, etc. Recognize that a lot of the power is in their hands as you can’t police them 24/7. Let them know you’re there to talk and that you believe they’ll make the correct decisions.

With the 13-to-18 crowd, which I think is the most critical, I believe your message has to be two-fold. First, with the boys, it’s time to introduce them to the concept of porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED). Explain that there are many guys their age – and now in their 20s – who grew up looking at so much Internet porn, it has negatively affected their ability to have a normal physical relationship with a partner. Second, for both genders, it’s good to remind them that the moment they take a nude picture of themselves or someone else, even if they think it’s safe, there is no such thing as safe when it comes to cell phones, the Internet or trusting your “friends.” If they wouldn’t pull their pants down in school, they shouldn’t be doing it in front of a mirror because it could end up being seen by everyone in school, and countless others. It’s also good to remind them that looking at such pictures, along with making them, is against the law and people do get in trouble. Sadly, the biggest producers of child pornography are actually the children. They need to know it can come with dire consequences.

Where’s the New Information?

I don’t know if it’s just a natural lull, but since returning from my hiatus, I’ve been searching for articles, studies and blogs about pornography addiction and it appears there are fewer new ones than ever. I hope this isn’t an indication that porn addiction is becoming either normalized or talking about it has just been a passing fad.

My life, and the lives of so many people I have met in the last 5-6 years, have been radically altered by pornography addiction. Some, like mine, have endings where the user became a happier, healthier person with a family that stuck by them. Most however – especially those who are unable to conquer their addiction – are tales of woe, where the addict lost everything and was largely shunned. Both groups have to rebuild their lives into something new, but it can go in very different ways.

I think both stories need to be told. I know mine is more of a success story that the addict early in recovery can strive for, but I also think we need to hear those stories of broken lives to serve as a warning to people who are debating getting help.

With my PornAddictCounseling.org site, I deal with many people who after talking to me for a few weeks or months will throw up their hands and say they are the unique specimen for whom recovery is impossible. This is when I’ll have them read both the success and not-so-successful passages I’ve seen out there.

I think both stories can be very meaningful, but I’m not seeing much out there that’s new. Searches through Google and WordPress are just turning up what I’m already familiar with.

If you’ve had an experience with porn addiction, please consider sharing your story. This can’t be something we don’t talk about. There are too many people suffering out there who need to get help and feel that they are alone. Too many of them mistakenly think they’ll be ok in the long run because their addiction isn’t to drugs or alcohol.

Communication and education are key. Considering being one of the voices.

A Final Request

Finally, if you see some kind of article, blog or study out there that is relatively new, I hope you’ll let me know about it. As I’ve mentioned, my next book is coming out later this year (or early next year) and I’m starting to stir ideas around in my head for the third one.

The concept of the new book – a professional and a former addict answering questions for partners of addicts – came directly from reading blogs on WordPress. I’m always looking for inspiration and education, so let me know if there’s something out there I’m missing.

And of course, if you’ve got an idea for a book that you’re not planning to write, I’d love to hear it. Ideas can come from anywhere and only a fool thinks theirs are the best.

Back to School, err, Back to Blogging

Well, I’ve just renewed my domain name, so I guess you’re stuck with me for another year. I’m back from my blogging sabbatical. I probably made it sound like I just wanted to sit around the pool, and I did plenty of that early on, but I was a busy man this summer.

A long, relatively not strange trip

Two days ago, I returned from a massive road trip that was basically the entire month of August. I left Maine and drove west, then south with my daughter. We met my son and wife in San Francisco (they flew in) then traveled to Los Angeles where we met my brother’s family (they live there) and my parents (they flew in). We all went to Las Vegas, then just my father and I drove back to Maine. I was extremely lucky to spend so much time with people who helped me through my legal ordeal and recovery over the last six years.

In a way, I looked at the trip almost as a victory lap, or end of the legal part of the journey (I’m no longer on probation…read about it HERE) and sort of a way to hit the reset button before beginning the next chapter of my life. I drove, without help, 8,800 miles in 27 days, with 6 days not involving any driving.

I am also proud to say that I didn’t succumb to my porn or alcohol addictions. You want difficult? Try not to drink in Las Vegas. This is why I believe we face our triggers, not run from them.

I didn’t mention the trip on here because I didn’t want 101 suggestions of where to go since the 13 months planning the trip was a kind of solitary therapy. I tried to build the best trip for my family, depending on who was with me at the time. In the next week or two, I have to write my reviews for Trip Advisor, and I’ll include them here. I also didn’t talk about the trip because advertising your house is going to be empty is stupid.

Here are a few photos of my travels the last month through Grand Canyon, White Sands National Monument and the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

Read All About It

My other big news is that the manuscript of my second book, titled “He’s a Porn Addict…What Now? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions” is going through the late stages of editing, the cover is being created, marketing plans devised, etc. at the publisher.

I’ve written the book with the brilliant Tony Overbay, and if you don’t follow his site or listen to his podcast, I urge you to subscribe. Get all his info HERE.

You’re going to get sick of me talking about this book in the next year, so I’ll save the long-windedness for another day. I don’t have an official release date yet, but I imagine it will be late 2019 or early 2020.

One quick mention I should make is to all of the ladies on WordPress who have had to deal with their partners’ issues with sex and pornography. You were both the inspiration to write the book and many of you were helpful when I needed something explained.

Thank you for sticking with me through my absence. I added a few new followers and was surprised that I managed more hits than David Bowie’s later years over the summer. I promise that I’ll be contributing much more in upcoming weeks and months and look forward to hearing your stories as well.

Guest Blog: How Prayer Can Help You to Overcome Your Addiction

Note from Josh: While I take an extended break this summer, I wanted to provide some kind of content, so Patrick Bailey was once again nice enough to contribute several entries you’ll read over the next few weeks.

By Patrick Bailey

The work of treatment centers is to get you sober, but staying sober is a lifelong process. Holistic therapy provides various mechanisms for coping with addiction. While holistic therapy is a great way of addressing the root of the addiction to prevent a relapse, inspiration to overcome addiction is necessary for overcoming it for good.

But how do you find a lasting inspiration in a world full of fleeting motivational speakers who inspire you for just one hour? When they leave, you are left with the same if not worse struggles for days, months or even years. The solution for lasting inspiration lies in prayers.

The Power of Prayer

Whether you are religious or not, mantras or prayers can be a valuable practice for positive affirmation. Prayers bolster a holistic therapy when dealing with pornography, or any other addiction for that matter.. For examples, the serenity prayer, which was created by Reinhold Niebuhr is one of the routine prayers in the recovery process. The prayer provides an insight into self-realization by showing that you cannot control everything in life while also acknowledging the struggles that you face daily as you seek for a way towards recovery and serenity. Such prayers are effective in reinforcing positive thinking when repeated daily to ward off cravings.

Abby Willowroot also came up with one of the most inspirational prayers in the path to recovery from addiction. The Recovery Prayer is a reaffirmation of your awareness that it takes strength to recover. Such an affirmation can remind you to keep pressing on, in spite of the difficulties and temptations that come your way on a daily basis. Remaining positive in the fight against addiction is crucial if a person is to avoid relapsing.

Addiction is perceived as spiritual warfare in the Christian faith. It is seen as temptation, which leads to sin when you succumb, however, it leads to glory in eternal life when you remain strong and overcome the cravings. The Easter story in Christian faith is centered on the goodness of God in choosing to become human. The pain and suffering that Jesus went through allow a believer to turn to Jesus because he understands your afflictions based on his own suffering on the cross. The total healing of a person from the chains of addiction is linked to the wounds of Jesus at the cross, which is a message of hope for anyone battling addiction.

Sheer willpower can take you far when fighting addiction. Inspiration towards being a loving father or mother and a devoted spouse are crucial elements in the recovery process but willpower will only take you thus far, as you may have learned in your battle against pornography addiction. When life stresses kick in, it is easy to find yourself back in the same boat facing the same problems and struggles. That’s why turning to greater power for inspiration is crucial. In a world full of judgmental people, revealing your secret to everyone can be counterproductive. This is why turning to God with all your secret struggles is such a reassuring gesture especially in your time of desperation.

Holistic Therapy

Prayer provides a holistic therapy in that it focuses on making you whole again from a spiritual perspective that addresses the roots of your addiction. Like a holistic treatment approach, which is often used alongside other conventional treatments, prayers should be incorporated as a daily practice and a source of strength especially when addiction urges are strong. In conventional medical facilities, medication is provided to ease withdrawal symptoms. Such an approach may not work when addressing addiction because some of the medications used in conventional treatment, such as fentanyl, cause addiction. It is crucial to find a holistic treatment approach that does not expose you to potential-addictive substances to prevent other addictions. When you emerge from these treatment and recovery centers, you are armed with the knowledge that will help you to stay sober, but the ups and downs of life may bring you down to where you began. Hence, inspiration through prayer should be incorporated as a daily practice towards maintaining positive thinking and clarity to fight addiction.

Secrets weigh down on you and can hold power against you when they remain hidden. Any pornography addict can certainly relate to a world of secrets. It is a solace to know that you cannot keep secrets from God. When you empty the secrets of your struggle to God in prayer, the weight of these secrets subsides. This is why mantras and prayers have been widely used in recovery and treatment programs. Science supports prayer as an effective tool for lowering blood pressure, relaxing the body and uplifting your mood. Therefore, prayers can be highly beneficial when recited in high tension or stressful situations.

The effectiveness of different prayers depends on beliefs and faith of the person. Addiction can blind a person from the goodness inherent in them. During such times you can find it easier to believe in eternal goodness. A spiritual awareness through prayer can help you begin to recognize the external goodness, which instigates the reconnection to the inherent goodness inside of your whole being. Some prayer can help you to separate your individuality from addiction, which is causal in letting off the burden of addiction.

Prayer and forgiveness work in tandem. During times of addiction, turning to prayers and feeling God’s forgiveness can be powerful tools for overcoming addiction. The warmth and acceptance that someone feels through forgiveness from God and other people who are hurt by the addictive lifestyle can be astonishing. Not only does it help a person to find forgiveness from God, but it is also a powerful weapon for personal forgiveness, which acts against self-blame to uplift you towards revisiting your life choices. The effects of fentanyl addiction such as seizures, slowed breathing, euphoria, drowsiness, headaches, and itching can be a thing of the past when one embraces a powerful method like prayer to beat addiction. Forgiveness can help you achieve a feeling of love, abiding peace and assurance in life.

One Day at a Time

Beating addiction is a struggle that you need to take one day at a time to avoid the pressure of surviving the whole process. Some prayers remind you that it is important to approach the problem one moment at a time so that you can manage the anxiety that comes with the early stages of recovery. Through such prayers, you are reminded that the problems you face are temporary and that they will subside, which helps with focusing on one issue at a time. Thinking far ahead is a major source of anxiety. The daily practice of prayer reminds you of taking a day at a time until you reach a point of complete recovery. The rest of the Serenity Prayer is a reminder that living one day at a time is a crucial factor in finding peace. The prayer can give you a different perspective for approaching addiction not as a problem meant to limit you but as a challenge raised to strengthen you.

One of the most powerful prayers against addiction is St Jude’s prayer, which perceives addiction as an illness and that the addict is not alone in the battle against addiction. The prayers affirm the messages of God’s unconditional love. It further asserts on the message of self-awareness to help you gain control of your life through acknowledging that God is always available to help you to realize the best state of health. Many treatments and recovery options are available for the addicted person but a holistic approach to address the root of addiction should incorporate the power of prayer.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

 

The Legal Ordeal Sparked by My Pornography Addiction is Finally Over

I know that I said I wasn’t going to write this summer, but allow me this one indulgence as I celebrate coming off of probation after three years. It is the end of the road for the legal part of my porn addiction fallout.

On March 20, 2014, as I was sitting in my parents’ house just hours after being arrested on a charge of possession of child pornography and subsequently bailed out by my wife, I uttered a sentence that has stuck with me straight through then to the day I write this, July 27, 2019: “The only thing we know for sure is one day this will all be over.”

Today, at least as far as the law is concerned, I will complete paying my debt to society. This is my last day of probation and closes the book on this chapter of my life.

I won’t go into the last five-and-a-half-years of my legal saga or even talk too much about the addiction or recovery here. Lord knows there’s enough of that all over this site, which will have its second anniversary at some point next month.

I guess what I want to let people know is that whatever hardship you’re going through in life, whether you created it or not, if it affected your entire circle or just you personally, if it caused the destruction of relationships or public humiliation, believe it or not, it will one day be over and there’s a likelihood – however hard to believe today – that you’ll be a better person for it.

Obviously, in the year or so leading up to my arrest I was not a healthy person, but I can look back over my entire life and see a mentally ill person, driven by ego and fear, who was a shell of the person I am today. Perhaps I don’t have 1/10th the friends and acquaintances I once did and I’m not a participating member of my community (both things that I do miss), but the trade-off is a healthy body and soul, and deeper relationships than I could have imagined with the family members and friends who did stick around.

The life I led back then seems like 40 years ago. Once in a while, I’ll stumble upon a box in my garage that contains trophies and plaques recognizing the work I did professionally, politically or otherwise. I’ll stumble on the box that has a stack of magazines I was the editor/publisher of or a box full of briefing papers from when I was a city councilor. It’s like these things are written in a foreign language. The person who cared more about this stuff than his family has long since left this Earth.

What probation did for me

Three years ago tomorrow, to the day – ironically on my wife’s birthday – I walked out of jail after 27 weeks, into fresh air for the first time during that stint (which was disappointingly underwhelming), understanding that while the worst of it was over, I still had three years of probation to follow.

After about six months, the minimum time allowed, my probation officer was transferred from a sex offender specialist to a regular PO because they’d long earlier established I was almost no threat for recidivism. They recognized I got sick and had been doing everything to get better and maintain my health. I was treated with great respect and understanding by both POs. I think they knew that there were other people they needed to keep much closer tabs on.

I credit probation with being the section of my ordeal that allowed me to put the period at the end of my addiction. Six years ago, I couldn’t have told you what it was going to take to stop me from using alcohol or porn. Certainly not a dorky intervention. Today, I now know it’s the law. The specter of returning to jail for a slip-up helped put my recovery in a place where I’m almost positive it’s permanent.

It became clear to me a long time ago they were not going to check my computer or test my urine, which they had the right to, but by that time, I had tasted this better life and wanted more.

Looking ahead

Tonight at midnight, I can go buy all the tequila and dirty magazines I want. But I’m not going to do that because it’s the roadway to a life that I never want to visit again. I probably wouldn’t have purchased either three years ago, but probation gave me the time – and the potential scary consequences – to really build my “new normal.”

The reality is, tomorrow – my first day of legal freedom in 5½ years probably won’t be all that different than today or yesterday.

When I said, “The only thing we know for sure is one day this will be over,” in my parents’ living room in March 2014 I was specifically talking about the legal ordeal.

I didn’t realize that was actually the day my previous life was thankfully over. The last three years have been practice for this new, better life…and the one thing I hope for sure is that there will never be a day that this life is over. I mean, I know I’ll die someday, but until then, this is the ride I want to be on.

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