Hey, Non-Addicts: Want To Better Understand What Addiction and Recovery Feels Like? Try This!

Just about every addict will inevitably be asked what it feels like to be an addict. For the non-addict, understanding the pull of a substance or behavior is mystifying. Further, the idea of stopping something seems easy to them, but in addiction it’s not. Recovery is tough. While I can’t make you feel exactly what it’s like to be addicted to pornography, or what the recovery has been like for me, I think I have a two-day model that can help get some kind of a handle on addiction and recovery for the non-addict.

Day One

You’ll probably want two days off in a row from school or work to run this experiment. Do not let anybody know you are doing this experiment as it could taint the experience.

The first thing that you’re going to do in the morning is to take your cell phone and turn the volume of the ringer and all of your alerts for texting, social media, etc. to the maximum level. Make it loud! Do not look through your phone. Just turn the volume all the way up.

Then, take a Post-It Note and put it on the face of your phone so you can’t see the screen. You could tape a piece of paper to it as well. The point is to not see the screen, but not make it difficult if you decide you want to see it.

Keep your phone next to you all day. Don’t put it in the other room. Don’t put it in a drawer.

Do not use the phone. The phone is the drug or the addictive behavior. You may not call or text or Tweet or Snapchat or whatever. You may not use the phone.

Every call…every chime…every bell…every whistle that comes from someone else; you must ignore them. No excuses. No “good reasons” to interrupt the experiment…NONE!

You may not borrow another person’s phone, nor try to skate your way around the rules. If you feel like you’re bending or going around the rules, you are. Do not participate in any activity that you would normally use your phone for.

That’s it. Sound easy? For some it may be, but I think for the vast majority willing to try it’s going to be much, much harder than you think.

If you use your phone during the day, you fail. You succumbed. Welcome to the world of the addict.

Day Two

Keep your phone in the same state as Day One. The rules to your phone apply exactly the same as they did yesterday.

Today, though, you can figure out a way to do the things you normally do on your phone…you just can’t use your phone.

If you’re going somewhere and don’t know the way, you can’t use Google Maps. You’ll have to use a real map, or get on another computer and print out a map or write down directions.

If you need to talk to somebody on the phone, find a landline. Find somebody else’s cell phone. Go to the gas station and see if they laugh and ask you “What’s a pay phone?” when you ask to use one.

Need to keep up with social media? Facebook started only for desktop computers. Use that, or a tablet. Like to read books on your phone? Pick up a real book. They’re not that heavy. Want your news? Watch TV like we did in the 1990s.

Today’s exercise is about doing everything you would on your phone, just finding out a different way to do it. Were you able to get through today or did you find it too frustrating and resorted to using your phone? That’s tantamount to a relapse.

Results

Day One should be difficult if you’re like most people who don’t realize just how tethered to their cell phone they really are. I think anyone under 30 or 35 will really have some issues as they’ve been raised in a world where the cell phone is almost an extension of the hand.

The reason I say not to tell people you’re embarking on this experiment is because you want completely normal conditions. You need to get the calls, texts, etc., that you’d normally get. After all, the addict lives in the normal, real world. They can’t tell people not to bother them for two days.

I think most will find it easy at first to leave their phone alone, but by that second phone call, or third text, or fifth snapchat chime, it’s going to feel really rough. You’ll wonder if it’s something important, even though you know it’s a 99.9% chance it’s not. You’re going to want to rip that Post-It Note off the phone to see what you’re missing. There’s a whole world living in that phone that you can’t touch.

That’s the feeling for the addict. There’s a whole world in our addiction that we feel like we have to get our hands on. For those of you who cave and look at your phone, which I think will be most, that relief you feel when you finally give in is the relief the addict feels when they give in to their addiction. You know it’s wrong, you know you lost the battle of wills, and sure there is some guilt and shame, but you just feel so much better.

Day Two is about developing the tools and problem-solving skills to still live your life as richly as possible, but without your cell phone. This is what the addict has to learn to do in recovery. We have to develop a set of tools and skills to cope with the real world without the crutch of our addiction. Some of us use to quell anxiety and stress. Some use to forget trauma. Some just want to escape everything. Now, we have to figure out how to get relief and live life on life’s terms in the real world without our addictive behavior.

Every time you pick up your phone on Day One, you’re active in your addiction. Every time you pick up your phone instead of figuring out another way to do things in Day Two, you’re relapsing.

If anybody reading this is bold enough to try this experiment, I’d love to hear about your results and find out if you better understand what addiction is all about come the morning of Day Three.

Trading One Addiction for Another is Not Recovery

As many of you know, I have a sister site, where I offer advising services to those who have pornography addiction issues and their partners or family who are trying to learn and cope with the situation. I’ve done this for about a year now and after working with many people, I’m seeing a trend of pornography addicts trading their addiction for another.

In most cases, it’s either a sharp increase in drinking or many additional hours spent playing video games. While you may be able to rationalize that there aren’t as many moral issues (objectification, debate about cheating) with alcohol or video games, they are still addictions with side effects that don’t necessarily exist with porn.

I’m not suggesting for a second to stick with porn. I’m saying that simply moving on to a different addiction is not going to fix anything in the long run, as the addicted brain doesn’t really parse the difference between addictions. It just wants those pleasure chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.

Why do people drink? When it came to my alcoholism, I can tell you that it was for the exact same reason I used porn: As an escape from real life. I don’t pretend to understand the physiology of how alcohol leads you to getting buzzed or drunk, but that feeling of numbness was what I was after.

Why do people play video games? I’ve never been a video game guy, but it seems to me that the appeal is two-fold. First, like all other addictions, it’s an escape from real life. You’ll never be a cowboy, gangster or professional football player, but today’s games can get you virtually closer than ever before. Second, I think gaming comes with a false sense of accomplishment. Being able to say you finished a game is great, but how does that positively affect reality?

Switching addictions is not recovery. It’s simply falling further into the pit. I’ve talked to a couple of female partners of male porn addicts and while they all seemed worried about the new addictions, especially when it was alcohol, they universally seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that the porn use was gone or greatly dissipated.

I can understand that feeling. I would bet my house that the instances of a partner’s betrayal trauma with alcohol or video game addiction are exponentially lower than they are with sex or pornography. They may still feel neglected by the addict who is drinking to excess or sitting in front of the TV at all hours with a video game controller in his hands, but these addictions don’t feel like the personal attack pornography does.

Addiction is addiction is addiction is addiction. Individual addictions all have their specific physical and psychological side effects. You’ll rot your liver far faster with alcohol than any other addiction, but what’s going on in your mind is largely the same as pornography or video game addiction (or for that matter drug addiction, gambling addiction, food addiction, etc.)

I say congratulations if you’re taming the beast of addiction. I know first-hand that it’s not an easy road, especially in early recovery. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The time I spent with my addictions is now spent on healthy behaviors, but I constantly have to make sure that I’m not slowly and quietly forming other addictions.

Be wary of swapping one addiction for another. At best, it will only slow, not stop, your one-way ticket to rock bottom.

Revisiting the Connection Between Porn Addicts and Those With Eating Disorders

While the right side of this website highlights the more popular articles are by people clicking “Like”, it isn’t an accurate depiction of what the most read articles are, what the most commented on happen to be or which ones generate the most private messages. Only a few fit into all four categories, and I think if you had some kind of point system, the article I wrote about the connection between pornography addiction and eating disorders would be in the Top 5. This has encouraged me to revisit the topic.

If you haven’t read the first article, I’d urge you to look to the right and find it. I have information in there that I’m not repeating in this one. Can’t find it? Click Here.

Early in life, I never had experience with people who dealt with eating disorders aside from rumors about certain girls in high school or college. I don’t recall anybody ever disclosing to me they were anorexic, bulimic or had any issues with food, but then again, I wasn’t exactly open and sharing about my problems with alcohol or pornography.

In 2015, when I found the Santé Center for Healing in Argyle, Texas, I was just happy to find a facility that would allow me entrance despite my pending legal issues. Most inpatient rehabs in the US are just drugs and alcohol, much like the first place I attended in 2014. I noticed there was an eating disorder program on the website, but I was just scrambling to find a place that would take me and gave it little thought.

With sex and food, it’s healthy to want and need both. You’re taught from a young age to stay away from drugs and get a lesser, but still present message about alcohol. For the most part, that message is abstinence. With food, the message you get is to eat healthy or you’re going to get fat. With sex, it’s to fall within traditional boundaries or you’re a pervert and a freak. Both try to keep you in line with the threat of shame and embarrassment.

Many of the women in the eating disorder program I spoke with began to experience their addiction in their mid-teens, just as I did with porn. I should mention when I arrived, there was one man in the eating disorder program, but he left shortly after my arrival. The rest of my experience, there were only females in that program.

Unfortunately, those ideas of youth about what is healthy become warped and twisted so quickly and society quickly applies the embarrassment and shame that porn addicts and eating disorder patients suffer with silently. I’ve never met a porn addict who was a sex maniac, much like I never met someone with an eating disorder who blamed Barbie or pictures in magazines. I’m sure there are porn addicts who are sex maniacs and there’s got to be some women who developed bad eating habits after looking at magazines…but I’ve never met them, and yet mainstream society continues to use these crazy excuses/reasons for why we are the way we are.

“Stop looking at porn!” or “Just eat your dinner!” seem like simple directives when you’re not coping with the kind of problems that we were. I promise you, if you think you have the solution to addiction, you don’t even have an understanding.

I think in the not-too-distant future we’re going to see an increase in the number of people who have an addiction to electronics, be it video games or smartphones. If you want to experience addiction, put your phone on the other side of the room and don’t touch it all day. No matter who calls, or texts or whatever beeps, vibrations and weird Law & Order-like clunking sounds you hear, don’t touch it.

You’ll have excuses/reasons why you can’t keep it up. What if somebody is dead? What if somebody needs you? What if somebody liked your cardio routine or commented on your new shoes? Addicts have a lot of excuses/reasons.

I think electronics addiction will be like eating disorders or sex/porn. Those who aren’t addicted won’t be able to understand it. There’s a healthy and appropriate time to use your phone or play a video game. There’s a healthy and appropriate time to stop. Those people who can’t? Well, I guess I’d say welcome to our little club. We’re the non-drug/alcoholic addicts.

We’re “The Others” and while I have nothing but compassion for drug/alcohol addicts (my addiction to alcohol is fairly well documented on this site) prepare to defend yourself as an addict in a way they never have to because they get the most attention.

Those of us with “fringe” addictions that don’t demand healthy use, not total abstinence, need to stick together and defend one another. I wouldn’t want to play Fortnite Battle Royale for 12 hours, but I get why some do. And I don’t relate, but I understand why some women who were close friends at that rehab couldn’t have a healthy relationship with food.

And addict is an addict is an addict. The brain chemistry is off.  Recognize that we are far more alike than we are different and be kind to one another.