Recognizing the Warning Signs of Pornography Addiction in Yourself or Others

It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about this, and I always worry that some of the more important, educational articles get buried by ones that might be more entertaining, so I think it’s probably once again time to talk about the signs of pornography addiction.

As always, I want to mention that I am not a doctor, and this should only be considered a guide. If you see these behaviors in yourself, I urge you to do more research and schedule an appointment with a professional addiction therapist to establish your current condition and plot a recovery path.

If you see these behaviors in loved ones, remind them that they can always talk to you, that you are not there to judge them, nor shame them, but you’re concerned they may have a problem and if they ask, you’re there to assist them getting help.

These symptoms were taken from Addiction.com:

Early Warning Signs

  • Lying about, keeping secrets about and covering up the nature and extent of porn use
  • Anger or irritability if confronted about the nature or extent of porn use
  • Sexual dysfunction with real-world partners, including erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation and an inability to reach orgasm

Just because these are the early signs, it doesn’t mean that they ever go away. I was confronted by two women in I my life long before my addiction reached a critical point. One was a girlfriend when I was 20 who happen to see I had a pornographic video tape among my collection of non-porn tapes. She was very anti-porn, so I threw it away in front of her. She didn’t know about the box full of porn I had hidden elsewhere.

I gave that box of porn away before I met my wife. She discovered I looked at porn when I accidentally left it up on my computer. Because we didn’t have problems in the bedroom, she let it go, but I greatly underreported my use of porn to her and passed it off as a “boys will be boys” thing.

Ongoing Signs

  • Escalating amounts of time spent on porn use, with hours and sometimes even days lost to pornography
  • An inability to form lasting social and intimate romantic relationships
  • Intense feelings of depression, shame and isolation
  • Disintegration of relationships with family, friends and romantic partners
  • Loss of interest in non-porn activities such as work, school, socializing, family and exercise

The shame and isolation I felt was because I knew I had to keep my dependence on pornography a secret. Unlike my alcoholism, porn wasn’t something I engaged in around friends, so the feeling of isolation was certainly there. I never lost days to porn, but before I entered the critical phase, just as my life was starting to take a turn, my usage certainly increased. Instead of just looking at it late at night for 20-30 minutes, I was also starting to view it during the day, and I might look up at the clock and realize 2-3 hours had elapsed.

For as long as I can remember, I was never able to just sit and be with myself. Deep down I knew who I was – a scared little kid not built for the adult world who was faking his way through. As my world started to crash, I withdrew from so many people and activities, but porn was always there for me. Even if it was bad for me, which I knew on certain levels, it was always there and I could count on it.

Critical Signs

  • Viewing progressively more intense or bizarre sexual content
  • Escalation from two-dimensional porn viewing to use of technology for casual, anonymous or paid-for sexual encounters, whether in-person or via Webcams
  • Trouble at work or in school (including reprimands and/or dismissal) related to poor performance, misuse of company/school equipment and/or public use of porn
  • Physical injury caused by compulsive masturbation
  • Financial issues
  • Legal issues (usually related to illegal porn use)

And this is where it all went bad. Thankfully, I believe I was only in this phase for 6-8 months before the police intervention served as a major wake-up call and was the impetus to turn my life around. I made that move to webcams because I needed to escalate the addiction to the point of interacting with somebody else. Could that have eventually led to meeting someone in real life? I’ll never know, and for that I’m glad.

My business was falling apart, my finances were crashing and in the end, the legal issues hit me like a ton of bricks. All because I didn’t get help in time. I wasn’t aware of porn addiction and it’s a big reason I talk about it now. The more people know, the more likely they are to get help. I implore you, if you think you may have a problem, or even if this blog entry just raises a few red flags, seek help. A place to start can be the RESOURCES page on this site.

You Can’t Let A Loved One’s Addiction Become Your Obsession

I was fantastic at hiding my porn addiction. My wife knew that I looked at it on the computer “form time-to-time” and she never had an Amish approach to it. When it came to my drinking, though, that was not something that I was nearly as good at hiding.

In 2011 and 2012, when my drinking increased because I used it as a crutch for the increased stress in my life from my various professional pursuits, my wife became very concerned. Being the kind of person who believed he was invincible, I never saw drunk driving as a problem. It makes me sick to write this, but I believe between 2010 and when I was arrest in early 2014, I probably drove drunk twice a week at least, meaning well over 300 times.

“Josh, you know that if you’re caught driving drunk, you’re going to be on the front page of the newspaper,” she’d say, trying to find something that would get through to me. “You’ll lose advertisers for your magazine and people will ask you to leave the City Council.”

It was a well-reasoned attempt, but fell on deaf ears. I tried to rationalize my drinking to her. I was never the guy who could have one or two. It seemed like a waste of time and money if you’re doing that. If you’re drinking for the flavor, there are plenty of other non-alcoholic beverages that taste fine at half the price. I was the guy who drank either as a social lubricant to calm my imposter syndrome and anxiety in crowds, or I drank at home to simply dull all my nerve endings. But that took at least 5 drinks.

She started begging me to call her when I was out and had a few too many, which was every time I was out. When I wouldn’t do this, she started calling me when I was out. I learned fast not to ignore her call or it would just keep ringing. Most of the time, she let me drive myself home because I guess I put on a good enough act, but after coming home slurring a few too many times, her strategy changed again.

She just started coming to the professional and social events. I know that attending art gallery openings or fundraisers for various local causes were not her thing, but she wanted to make sure that there somebody sober to drive me home since I wouldn’t seek anybody out.

As my drinking (and porn use, and problems at work, and lack of self-care) increased, my relationship with my wife became fractured. I wasn’t helping around the house at all, except to provide money to keep things rolling. I rarely spent time with my kids if it wasn’t in concert with something that served me professionally.

She never officially sat me down and said this at the time, although it was quite obvious. At some point, to protect herself and make sure the kids had one functioning parent, she basically let me go. She stopped nagging me on the phone and going to events she hated just to make sure I got home OK. She knew that I was bringing her down with me and she made the decision to detach and watch out for herself and the kids. She has confirmed this to me in the years since I’ve entered recovery.

I think looking out for herself was one of the smartest moves she ever made. It allowed her to be the mother the kids needed and keep herself in a safe place. She had tried with me, and knew me well enough to recognize an intervention was not a good idea and I would have laughed her off had she suggested AA. She busted her ass for a long time to make sure I was safe, but at some point, she had to make sure she was safe.

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Ten days after I was arrested – 10 days of dealing with the police, my lawyer, the media, CPS, my PCP, and a new therapist all while still trying to keep my shit together in front of my wife, kids and parents – I went off to rehab for the drinking in California.

I thought I’d be there for four weeks. It was 10. When I returned, I still had so, so far to go in my recovery, but I noticed things had started changing around the house. The kids were on schedules that they weren’t before. The house was in order and everybody seemed happier than I remembered. My wife even went to individual therapy for several months.

Eventually, I went back to rehab for sex/porn addiction after understanding that was just as much a problem as the drinking in my life, perhaps even more. When I returned from there seven weeks later, everybody at home seemed so healthy and my wife had begun the process that would result in her getting lap-band surgery and losing over 100 pounds.

After years of caring for me and the kids, she finally made the decision to care for herself. She got a new job and was happier than I ever recalled. Today, I think we’re all in the best place we’ve been. My daughter is thriving in college after two aborted attempts, my son is doing well as a high school junior and is uttering things like “Do you think I could get into an Ivy League school?” and my marriage is stronger than it ever has been.

My wife asks about my recovery, makes sure everything continues to be on track, and is always there for me to talk to her when it’s needed, but she also understands that she’s not my accountability buddy nor my keeper. She’s an active observer in my recovery, but doesn’t mistake it for anything but my journey. She had to do her weight loss journey alone, with my support from the sidelines, and my recovery is the same.

I’ve seen many ways partners, parents, friends, etc., handle a loved one’s addiction. You must remember that it’s not your problem to solve because it’s not your problem, not matter how much you try to make it out to be. You will never be the one who has the final say on fixing things or descending further into addiction, regardless of any ultimatums. Unfortunately, in recognizing they have no control, many people try to exert more control. Zero + Zero = Zero.

I’m not suggesting you don’t support the person, let them know you’re always there for them and check-up to make sure that they are taken care of, but you can’t do that at the expense of your own health. Had my wife not detached and if I hadn’t entered recovery, I can’t imagine where we’d be today. If still both alive and together, I can’t paint a healthy picture.

You need to be there for the addict, but more importantly, you need to be there for yourself.

Progress and Evolution Always Win, Even When it Comes to Your Addiction

I was flipping through the news/political channels on the TV this morning and a rush of thoughts came to me, and of course because of who I am, I started overanalyzing them in terms of addiction.

As you may know, I stay away from the news as much as possible these days and my political leanings are dead center. I’d be a registered Libertarian if I ever decided to vote.

Conservatives really don’t want things to change, or at least want them to change at a much slower rate than they ever do. Liberals want things to change today, right now. It occurred to me that in the end, the liberals will always win not because they are correct in their beliefs, but simply because time marches on. Given enough time, slaves are freed, women get the vote and homosexuals are allowed to get married. It’s not even that the liberals win. It’s that progress wins because progress is just time measured by milestones.

In nature, it’s a similar game called evolution. The strong survive and the weak – even if they are monster lizards who roamed the Earth for millions of years – eventually disappear. And even those who in the strongest category die because everything living dies eventually. You can’t slow evolution, even if you’re one of the people who refuses to believe in it. Evolution doesn’t care.

Thinking about progress and evolution made me think of some of the people I met in rehab. While I went once for alcoholism and another for porn/sex addiction, I look at them as two completely different successful experiences. Many of the people I got to know had nothing close to that success record.

There was one guy who must have been about 22. He was handsome, a bit of a jock and a genuinely sweet guy. He was at rehab for the eighth time. The guy he was roommates with, who was very similar, except he wasn’t a sweet guy, was in rehab for his 10th time. Both just couldn’t kick their heroin addiction and both went because they were told repeatedly they’d get cut off financially if they didn’t attend.

Today, more than four years later, one of them seems to be thriving as an EMT. The other has been dead for two years. You can’t tell which one is which based on my description I bet. I wouldn’t have been able to tell who would be successful and who would succumb.

The guy who worked for the rehab and lived at the small motel-like property that I was stationed at in my first stint was probably in his late 20s. He went to rehab 14 times, but for some reason, that 15th time did the trick. Except for the first two times, all of them were ordered by a judge between his short stints in jail or on probation. When I checked up on him a year ago, he’s still sober and working at a ranch that focuses on recovery somewhere in the Dakotas or Montana.

I can run through a motley crew of characters – there’s the 50-year-old former Hells’ Angel and his 18-year-old girlfriend who was pregnant and couldn’t kick her heroin habit; he was hiding out in rehab from the law and wanted to get her straight before the baby was born, or the beautiful former major-market newscaster who relapsed three times in the two weeks I knew her before deciding rehab wasn’t for her – and unfortunately with most of these people I have no idea what happened.

These people are either healthy, dead, or much, much worse off if they happen to still be alive. Yes, most of them had drug-related issues, but I’ve followed up with some of my friends who had eating disorders, sex or gambling addictions and everybody seems to have similar stories.

My point is that there’s a shelf life for an addict. They’ve abused themselves for years and always get away with it. A life continuing to go down the toilet? Ironically, that’s called progress. They’ve tried to be conservative and keep things as they are with their use, but progress escalates things. Progress never lets things stay the same. If they’ve tried to quit immediately, it’s almost always a failure because they immediately demand too much from their mental or physical health in too short a time, almost like a liberal mindset.

Then there are those who are much worse off if they still happen to be alive. They’ll either eventually see the light and walk the long, grueling path to recovery. Those who don’t will die. That’s just evolution.

The message to me was that you keep going to rehab, or at least seeking help, until you get it right because the alternative shouldn’t be anybody’s alternative. If you aren’t one of those people who can stop on your own, get the professional help from people who know how to help and what speed. Recovery is like a dimmer switch, it can go brighter or darker, but it doesn’t just turn on or off. Professional help are the electricians who can try to help before you short circuit yourself to an early grave.

Progress and evolution – they are forces of nature. We have to work with, not against, them.

 

 

Recovery Today did a Story About My New Book!

Seeing this got published this morning was a nice way to start the day. I also saw Dunkin Donuts is doing their Halloween-themed donuts again, so all is good with the world. If you’re interested in pre-ordering the book, and getting 25% off, visit here. I think the deal only lasts until Nov. 1. The publishers makes those calls not me.

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Question for the Ladies with Sex or Porn Addicted Partners…

As many of you were the early inspiration for my new book that will be coming out soon, I have a question that I was asked on a podcast that I recorded yesterday. I’ve got a lot of other podcasts coming up to promote the book and I’m guessing I’ll get this question again, so if you want to lend any expertise or opinions, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to share the question with any ladies who may not subscribe to my site but are in similar circumstances.

We talked about how the addiction is never the woman’s fault and how the husband/boyfriend usually comes to the relationship with the addiction, even if it’s dormant at the time. We also talked about how many women want to give it a go and see if he can get help because they don’t believe on quitting a marriage, don’t want to see their family pulled apart or want to reconnect with the man they fell in love with.

This led to a really good question:

“If the guy came to the relationship with these problems, whether they were dormant or he was just gaslighting from the beginning, how can the woman say she wants to reconnect with the man she fell in love with if that guy already was an addict and potentially already a liar?”

I had no answer. And if you know me at all, you know I like to have all the answers 🙂

Help?