What did it feel like to be a porn addict?

As I was reconfiguring my home page yesterday, feeling it was time to freshen things up by giving the book promotion a less prominent place, while still feeding my ego by listing all of the podcasts and radio shows I’ve done, I recognized that unlike Playboy magazine, people actually do come here for the articles and one I’ve never written about is what it felt like to be a pornography addict. Yes, that run-on sentence was 71 words.

It was shameful and lonely.

During most of my recovery, I’ve operated under the idea that I got some very mixed messages about sex and sexuality when I was a kid, and while that’s true, all of the messages were received in a negative way. Whether it was the conservative Catholic attitude of my parents or the inappropriate actions of my caregiver, I was left feeling like sexuality was a bad thing at about the age of 5.

Knowing that, on the surface it seems odd that I would have had such a visceral positive reaction to seeing pornography for the first time as a 10-year-old. You’d almost think I should recoil in disgust. Instead, for the first time, I found a “safe” outlet for my sexuality and although it would be many years before I regularly had my hands on the stuff, but I was an addict the first time I saw it.

Once I had the resources and ability to regularly consume porn, I knew it was an activity that you don’t talk about, pretend you’ve never heard of it, and talk down about the people who do use it or treat it all as a big joke. In essence, you’re denying who you really are.

Why? Because of the shame. Because you desperately don’t want to feel the humiliation or distress that comes from being judged not just by others, but by yourself. You know you’re doing something society has deemed as abnormal and wrong that’s rotting your soul, but you can’t stop. You can’t stop because you’re weak and that weakness is another reason to be ashamed.

It’s also a solitary addiction. My alcoholism was much more of a social addiction. It’s OK to drink. It’s even OK to drink too much from time to time. How many stories in this world have started with, “There was this one time that I was totally wasted…” I think a real argument can be made that my alcoholism was more critical for a longer time than the porn. I don’t feel nearly the shame about that. Maybe I should, or maybe the porn has vacuumed it all up, but I think it’s about how society views alcohol vs. porn.

While the very end result of indulging a porn addiction, a three-second orgasm, obviously feels good, there is nothing to enjoy about being a pornography addict. It’s a search for something that you can connect with because you can’t connect in usual ways to the outside world. It’s a search for intimacy and it’s a way to just block out all of those things that have happened to you that were out of your control when you were younger. It’s a lonely, lonely path.

I think one of the biggest reasons for writing my book, maintaining this website and offering advisement/support is simply because I wish somebody would have told me, “You’re not a freak. You’re not a bad person. You’re not the only one. It’s OK, you’re just ill and need to deal with some painful things and there are people who will help you in a safe, non-judgmental environment out there. It’s going to be OK.”

These days, I feel like a pornography addiction expert. I can quote stats all day long, have met dozens of people in real life and hundreds online with the issue, I read about it like there’s no tomorrow and of course, what porn addict expert isn’t complete without his own tale. But just because I may be a pornography addiction expert doesn’t mean I don’t still think about that dark place I was many years before I knew porn addiction was a thing or anybody else was dealing with the same thing.

You don’t have to live with the shame and the isolation of pornography addiction. Yes, it’s going to take society a long time to come around to treating pornography as an addiction, but you can do the research on alcohol and see how they treated alcoholics in the early 1900s. You’d rather be a porn addict now than an alcoholic then. It may not be in our lifetime, but society will come around. But you can’t wait for that.

You’re OK, and you can be much better. You’re not alone. Just reach out for help.

Preparing Those Close to Me For the Release of My Book

The final edit of my book is taking longer than I thought it would, but that’s OK. I’d rather the publisher take his time and go through it with a fine-toothed comb than put something into the world that is full of mistakes or sentences that make sense to me, but is incoherent to others.

One of the things that this extra time has allowed me is the chance sit down with a couple of people close to me who I haven’t really spoken with in the last few years and give them a chance to ask any questions they may have and fill in the holes between what they heard vs. what they think they know vs. what they actually know.

I don’t want them reading something troubling in the book they had no idea about. It’ll probably be rough enough without surprises.

They didn’t know much about my addictions, both alcohol and porn, because neither involved those who were close to me. The porn was all online and when it involved people, was total strangers. The only time anybody saw me drink alcohol publicly was at professional social functions and while I often had more than I should, nobody saw a falling-down drunk.

With close family and friends, they were mostly kept in the dark. At the extended family Christmas party, there is routinely a bottle or two of wine and a case of beer available. In the 20 years it’s been legal for me to drink, I believe I had a bottle of beer once, about 15 years ago.

I knew that at the core, my drinking was shameful and I didn’t want to put it on display. I couldn’t only have one or two and be satisfied, so why would I start, especially in front of the very people who I wanted to hide my dysfunctional relationship with alcohol from the most. Instead of getting the machine in my head going, it was better to wait to get home and get hammered on the hard stuff, alone.

It was the same way with the porn. I think it is for everybody, but even social events like going to a strip club were things I did solo. If buddies ever brought up porn or anything like that, I took steps to not be part of the conversation. I didn’t want to suddenly blurt, “But I prefer Jess Franco’s style of directing Italian porn films from the late 1970s” and be outed at someone who clearly had a problem.

I was never a Casanova or a guy who hit on the girls, going back to being a child. If a girl showed any interest in me, I tried to steer her toward a relationship, not a one-night-stand. I don’t think there was anything in my demeanor that would suggest to anybody close to me that I had an unhealthy fixation on porn.

Maybe those close to me simply don’t want to accept that I have these addictions and prefer to see the destruction of my life as the result of an isolated incident. I’ve written, re- written, edited, re- written, re-edited and re- written my book so many times, it almost feels like I’m deal with a character and not me at this point. Maybe that’s how they prefer to view it.

Nobody asks graphic or detail-oriented questions. Most don’t know where to start with their questions. I let them know that I was very ill and tell them what I did. I talk about starting the book during the six months I was in jail and how the recovery process has changed me.

I know that they see somebody different, but I think they’re still having trouble assimilating that – despite their belief at the time — they never really knew the person I was.