Author: healingmybrain


One of the key concepts of the 12 step recovery program is the acceptance of helplessness. I.e. that you accept you are helpless to beat this addiction on your own. Or at least I think that’s what it means – it is quite complex I think and can be interpreted in different ways according to the individual and what best suits their situation and personal journey of recovery.

Either way, right now I feel helpless. I continue to act out on a regular basis (once or twice a week) using internet porn. Despite all the things I have done, habits I have changed, blocks I have installed etc, I still manage to find a way to act out. I have reached the point where I just don’t know what to do anymore, and that has led me to thinking about this idea of helplessness.

I accept that I cannot do this on my own. I accept that I may have to make drastic changes to my life in order to beat this. For me, accepting that I am not able to beat this on my own, i.e not in my control, is hard to do. I am generally a control-freak – I like knowing I am in control of things and I if I am going to beat addiction, I’ve always felt I need to be responsible for that and be the one to do it. Helplessness, to me, represented the giving up of that control; accepting that I can’t do this and I need more help than perhaps I was willing to admit.

But I’m there now. I have started going back to SAA, and I’ve spoken with a fellow member who may be willing to act as a temporary sponsor for me, getting me started on the 12 steps.

Something needs to change. Just to recap, if only for my benefit, here are the things I am doing:

  1. Going to SAA once a week and seeking out a temporary sponsor to help me get started on the 12 steps.
  2. Installed content blocks on all my devices that my wife has the password to.
  3. No devices in the bedroom.
  4. Always going to bed with my wife and not staying up on my own.
  5. Increasing therapy from once a month to twice a month, and possibly even going to once a week (that’s how often it used to be during my best period of sobriety)

What is incredibly frustrating is that despite the above, I still acted out today. Acting out really drains the motivation. It creates a little seed of depression and desperation inside me that is just bursting to grow if I let it. It wants me to give up, it wants me to accept defeat and stop fighting. It wants me to think I am worthless and that there is no point in trying to live a better life. The periods after acting out (like what I am in now) are hard, and I need to stay strong and motivated.

Here’s to the fight.

A Re-Commitment to Recovery

This post is copied verbatim from today’s journal entry

Day 1

I wonder how many times I have written “day 1” in my journal? It is probably not worth counting – too depressing? But here we are again, and like many times before, I’m hoping this time will be different, and here’s why.

I achieved my longest streak of sobriety by a country mile in January and February this year, before slipping up and slowly returning to a cycle of weekly acting out to porn. At the end of February I became a dad, and so my strict routines of recovery came to an end – I could no longer go to SAA or counselling as I needed to be at home to look after my daughter after work, lack of sleep meaning I wasn’t on good form, things like that.

For a while, the disruption to my routine due to fatherhood was ‘justified’, in the sense that it was kind of explainable and acceptable. But after a while, my sleep and evenings returned and the excuse grew thin. But I didn’t restart my recovery. Instead, I told myself I could do this myself without things like SAA and so I set to work trying to achieve sobriety through my own actions, like willpower, writing my diary, going to bed on time, turning off devices in bed, etc. All these things I tried at various different times as I thought was required to get sober, but every time I tried something new, I still slipped up. Looking back through the past few months, it is clear none of it has made any difference.

Something has to change.

Clearly what I’ve been doing, however well intentioned, is not enough. I came to realise that what is missing is a lifestyle change, like what I was achieving at the beginning of the year in my peak of sobriety. Back then, I was clear about my goals. I was applying empathy to situations and those around me. I was going to SAA and therapy weekly. Things were on the up, and that’s what I need to get back to. I need to live recovery, not just think it.


A Day One chip for a fresh start

On Monday I called a fellow member of SAA I used to have a connection with. We had a great chat and during the call I decided to go back to the SAA group I used to attend, which I did last night. I even collected my first “day 1” chip to represent a fresh start and a fresh commitment to recovery. I went for a meal with the SAA guys afterwards and continued to have good conversations. It was a great feeling to be back and talk openly again.

I guess what I’ve learned is that it is crazy how easy it is to slip back into the grip of the addiction, without even realising it. I thought that I was being productive in my recovery, but in fact I was just putting in half-hearted steps that always left room for acting out.

One thing I was asked was “why do you want to quit”, and whereas I usually have a solid answer for that, this time I stumbled. And that made me realise the addiction had regained its grip on me – I had allowed myself to forget why I even wanted to quit. If you don’t know that, you have no way of recovering.

I am also considering finding a sponsor and doing the 12 steps. I was hesitant before because I was assessing so much of myself anyway through therapy, but that’s kind of stopped now and I think I need a way of maintaining a level of conscious self-assessment so I don’t take my eye off the ball, and I think the 12 steps might provide that. Besides, I am in no position to be setting boundaries for what I am prepared to do to recover – I must be willing to do anything, whatever the cost, and if the 12 steps might help, I have a duty to myself and those around me to try it.

I will be trying to blog once a week from now on, no matter how long or short, and writing in my journal (this post is a copy of today’s entry) daily, as well as attending SAA weekly and I am also going to start Yoga on a weekly basis. Add to that increasing my therapy frequency (currently its down to once a month) and reaching out to the SAA network, I hope I am setting in place some steps that will really make a difference to my recovery.

I hope you all are doing well in your recovery, and remember you are not alone. If you ever want to get in touch, for any reason at all, please do.

Checking in, and trying something new: “planned” acting out

[Update – I haven’t got round to writing a new post yet, but I have already put a halt to the below method of ‘planned acting out’. It wasn’t for me and felt really wrong. I feel much better now I’ve stopped. I don’t think porn recovery should involve watching porn!]

I’m trying a new type of recovery technique. One that involves watching porn… Before I explain, I’m going to take a minute to write a sort of status update, to provide context and a bit of blog documentation of where I’m at right now. My daughter is now nearly 3 months old. She’s doing great, and me and my wife are loving it, although it is not easy! Parenthood has been the biggest challenge my recovery from porn addiction has faced since I started to quit almost a year ago. In January and February this year I went 100% clean with no porn, but since becoming a dad, I’ve slipped up more and more and, when looked at purely from a statistical point of view, I’m acting out almost as much as I was when I was using just willpower alone at the beginning of the fight (essentially acting out every 1 to 2 weeks). I think the reason for this has simply been priorities. During my most successful periods of abstinence from porn, I was basically devoting my life to recovery. I was writing a journal every day, going to counselling and SAA every week, doing written exercises, reading books, doing meditation etc. It was a full-time job, and it worked. Unfortunately, fatherhood does not provide anywhere near enough time to keep doing these activities. The first priority is the baby – helping with the routine, bathing her, putting her to sleep, playing with her etc etc. Then comes my wife – giving her time to get stuff done (even basics like eating and showering), supporting her emotionally and mentally, encouraging her when she’s struggling, discussing all things parenting etc etc. Only when all of the above are taken care of do I get to think about my own time, so this is quite rare. I can probably count on two hands the number of times my wife and I have had simply a few hours of calm in the evening where all the above are ticked off and we can do whatever we want. When I act out, I as always tell my wife. The thing is, it just hasn’t been that big a deal these days. We have more important things to worry about, so we just accept it and move on. But it still takes its toll. It depresses me as it always has done, and distracts me from what is important in my life. Willpower alone is not enough to keep me sober, although it is enough to keep sober enough to get on with my life, so recovery isn’t getting much attention. However, talking to my therapist, who I now see every two weeks instead of weekly, I’ve finally accepted a proposed method that she’s mentioned a few times that I’ve always resisted – “planned” acting out. That is, agreeing in advance a frequency and duration of acting out, and sticking to it. For example, 30 minutes of acting out once a week. This seems a bit counter-intuitive but there is some logic behind it:

  • It converts my acting out from being something that is in control of me to something I am in control of. Instead of looking back at a month’s progress and seeing lots of acting out that I had no control over, I’ll see pre-agreed periods of acting that I was in control of.
  • This gives a baseline that can then be slowly improved. E.g. to once every 2 weeks, and/or reduce duration etc.
  • This is essentially ‘weaning off’ porn rather than going cold-turkey, the latter requiring a lot of effort which it seems I don’t have room in my life to fit in amongst my other duties.
  • By putting a cap on the time of each acting out, this removes the ‘binge’ element of the addiction by only giving myself a quick fix rather than allowing for the hours-long sessions of the past.
  • Something relatively radical is needed due to my extreme lack of time and ability to prioritise recovery
  • It can’t be worse than what I’m currently doing!

I’ve always resisted this as I’ve felt that since the goal is to not watch porn, and total abstinence seems to be the common approach that is acknowledged in the recovery community, agreeing a plan that involved watching it would be too strange. However, what I’m currently doing isn’t working, so I’m up for trying it. If it doesn’t work, so be it, but at least I will have given it a shot. So, in reality this means that once a week, I have to find 30 minutes to watch porn, whether I want to or not. I then must not watch porn in between these times of course, and I will try and re-introduce meditation during the week to manage any urges that may come up. Once I’ve got 4 weeks under my belt, I can then start to reduce the frequency and duration – perhaps moving to every 2 weeks, or reduce the time to 15 minutes, for example. Today was my first day. It was day 7 of sobriety and while I was feeling a bit urged, I was on top of it and didn’t actually want to watch porn! But, I had to, if I’m going to give this method a shot. I explained all this to my wife who continues to be amazingly supportive. I found 30 minutes to myself when my wife was sleeping, and watched porn. 30 minutes is shorter than I would usually watch it so it wasn’t as satisfying and I felt terrible afterwards. I struggled to stay positive when I wanted to not watch it but did just to stick to the program. But my wife encouraged me, reminding me that it is healthy I’m feeling a bit down about it, rather than being pleased I watched it. I’m feeling better about it now, and now I get to focus on a week of sobriety until next week. Finally, to pick up on an earlier point – I mentioned that my ‘statistical’ levels of acting out are back to what they were in the old days, but if I remember that back then I had no child to look after and life was much simpler, to be on the same level as then even though I am dealing with much greater stresses and pressures, shows I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve also made loads of progress mentally – I no longer spend my time trying to escape from responsibilities and instead I try to embrace them (not perfect, but much improved), supporting my wife as much as I can. I’m now much more connected to my feelings, and happy to share them with others in public when usually these would remain hidden. Even my wife has noticed this and has even started doing it herself – being more open when she is out socially. I’ve also thought long and hard about who my true friends are and am trying to focus on those relationships rather than spread myself too thin. I’ve realised I only really have one or two friends, and between them and my family, I’m happy with that and am going to use that as the building blocks for my future. So in this regard, I know I’ve made loads of progress too, so while I’m still acting out on a semi-regular basis, I feel my actual outlook on life is far improved, and I’m proud of that.

Fatherhood and addiction

Since becoming a dad, my addiction has taken a back-seat in my life. It is no longer something I focus on each day.

Unfortunately the arrival of a newborn isn’t in of itself sufficient for the addiction to disappear, much as I would like it to, and the combination has meant I’ve started acting out again.

What is weird is that the acting outs haven’t been that important to me or my wife. Neither of us seem to have time or energy to worry about them. I admit to my wife I acted out, we acknowledge it is bad and talk about a few things that I could do differently or what may have caused it, but then we have to get back to feeding, settling, sleeping, bathing or whatever other baby-related activity needs doing. We don’t have time to wallow in the addiction.

This is good and bad, but mostly bad I suppose. I need to be still focussing on the addiction and trying to beat it, but I genuinely have no idea how to do that when I can’t devote the amount of time and effort that I think is needed.

Still, I am doing a few things now – I write in my journal every day, I read my pillars 3 times a day, and I use an app (“Balanced“) to softly track and motivate me to do various other activities like meditation, cycling, being thankful etc.

I do feel I am living a better life – I am not trying to escape into porn like I used to or stay up all night long. I’m giving my wife and daughter my full attention and being a loving attentive father. I just keep slipping up on random moments I get to myself. Part of me is starting to think this is ok – just watch some porn every now and then as a way to destress! I don’t have time to go on the long binges of the olden days. This is probably dangerous thinking – any porn use that is compulsive is bad.

Anyway I’m keeping up the fight. Although I think the term probably needs to be changed from fight to flee! If porn or urges get too close, don’t fight – run away! Get out of that situation, away from the computer, out of the house, whatever it takes to remove you from temptation.

I hope everyone else is doing well in their recovery.

The Struggle Continues

It is time for another blog post.

March has been a really tough month. Becoming a dad has changed everything, and unfortunately those changes haven’t all been supportive of an addict’s recovery.

After 66 days of sobriety since 1st January 2015, I have relapsed 3 times during March. After my first relapse, I assessed the reasons, and these are mainly still true – not enough sleep and not finding the time to continue with the tools of recovery I had spent January and February putting together.

Unfortunately, while I was able to logically see why I slipped up and what to do about it, actually putting those steps into practice has been harder than I thought.

I’ve found that the constant tiredness from fatherhood has not only sapped my ability to focus on the steps required for recovery, but it has allowed significant negativity and depression creep in – I’ve regularly felt completely demotivated and depressed. I’m acutely aware of some of the aspects of my life that have resulted from my porn use, such as the fact I essentially have no close friends anymore, and the a feeling of loneliness has strongly arisen in me.

To feel more acutely lonely is on one hand strange considering I have such a new purpose now in my daughter, but also understandable if you think that most of my home life is now occupied with caring for both my daughter and wife, with very little time left for ‘me’. I desperately want someone else who I can call just to say hi to who knows me (I believe these are called friends!), and the fact there is no-one I can call is really getting me down.

The problem is, that isn’t going to change any time soon. I can’t magically create overnight the sort of connections with people that take years to make, so I need to focus on living my life the way it needs to be lived.

So I’m slowly trying to focus on and commit to doing the steps I need to do. Reading my pillars every day, meditating every day, writing my journal every day, and most importantly, waking up in the morning and remembering that I am better than this addiction, that it is behind me and that I am going to accept myself, embrace the day and the live the life I deserve to.

In addition, I’ve also suggested to my wife that we abstain from sexual activity at least for one month. I have noticed that my acting out over the last month has been heavily related to sexual excitement and anxiety relating to when I think we may next have sex or other sexual activity, which is sporadically unpredictable due to the fact we have a baby! Eliminating the possibility will hopefully allow me to avoid sexual distraction and focus on the tools of recovery.

Day 67 – Relapse

Yesterday, after 66 days sober of compulsive porn and masturbation, I relapsed. This post is to allow me to get into writing what happened, why it happened, and what I can do to prevent a future re-occurrence.

What happened?

Either the day of the relapse or before, when browsing the ‘controversial’ filter of my reddit homepage, a pic of a model appeared. The pic itself wasn’t nude, but the comments section contained plenty of links to nude images (and I knew they would). I was in a state of mind where, with 66 days of sobriety behind me, I was feeling pretty confident about my ability to handle triggering images, but later on I came back to the post and clicked one of the links. It was a bit of excitement, just to see the forbidden fruit and ‘test’ myself. At the time, I remember feeling that it didn’t actually do anything for me – I didn’t really get turned on, in fact I remember feeling the opposite – I felt “this is behind me now, this is an artificial representation of female sexuality and I don’t need it anymore”.

However, clearly there was more going on in my head asI came back to the links a second time later on, and looked at a few more. Then, my wife went to bed and I was up on my own. I clicked another link, which went to a non-porn video website that had associated videos which were softcore porn. I put my phone down to resist, knowing full well the territory I was now entering. But a few minutes later I came back and watched a few of them. Then I put my phone down again. By this point the prospect of watching porn was getting pretty real in my head but I was still resisting. Then something gave way, I opened up my laptop and watched porn – “edging” (where you watch and masturbate to porn but don’t orgasm) for about 45 minutes. Then by chance my wife called me to bed and I closed my laptop and went upstairs.

I was battling in my head about whether what I had done counted as a relapse, as I hadn’t climaxed. Deep down, I knew it did, and that my counter of 66 days needed to be reset, but I was trying to think of a rational way of not resetting my counter and not counting it as a relapse. I knew that I would have felt very differently (both physically and emotionally) had I actually climaxed, but I also knew that whenever I discuss this topic with other addicts, my opinion is consistent: edging is relapsing.

My wife then got up to breastfeed our newborn daughter, and I suggested I go to the spare room to get some sleep (we each take turns to do this so we aren’t both tired at the same time). Probably about 10% of me knew I was suggesting this as way of putting myself back in a position where I could look at porn again, and perhaps finish off what I had started. This is known as a cognitive distortion – justifying putting yourself in a situation where you know you may watch porn.

I went to the spare room and almost instantly started watching porn on my phone again. I quickly decided that I had clearly relapsed and that I needed to get it over and done with. In my experience, edging then stopping leaves me in a weird state of emotions for days (usually leading to more edging and an eventual climax), and I usually only get back on track once I have actually climaxed as there is just too much going on in my head. In the past, I have often just decided to climax once I’ve found myself edging, just to get it out of the way and back to recovery (this has been a valid technique in my experience, not an excuse).

So I watched porn. For hours. Climaxing three times, getting about 2 hours sleep. This is known as binging. The preferable method of relapsing, if there is one, is to watch porn briefly only once then get back to staying sober, but so often when I’ve watched porn once, and I know I’ve failed for that day, I tell myself I may as well watch more until the night is over as it won’t make that day any more ‘failed’ than it already is. Again, a cognitive distortion.

In the morning, I told my wife. I have never lied to her since I started my recovery in earnest, and so I explained briefly why I think I did it (see below) and what I need to do differently. She was very upset, not just because I had relapsed but because she is suffering from extreme tiredness and felt hurt I had been given the gift of a solid 6 hours sleep in the spare room (something she’s not had since the birth) and I just used it to watch porn. She also was hoping since the birth that the addiction was in the past. She had a cry, we talked a bit more, had a hug, and we’re ok now – we’re in this together.

Why did it happen?

I think this one is quite easy to answer. About 1.5 weeks ago I became a dad. Since then, sleep has been a thing of magical fantasy, as has ‘me time’. I’ve been constantly on duty for 10 days – changing nappies, cuddling the baby while my wife sleeps, supporting my wife, cooking etc.

I had started to feel a bit claustrophobic and constricted – ‘cabin fever’. I hadn’t seen any of my friends (the few that I have), but had played host while my wife had plenty of her friends round, and I hadn’t really left the house. I needed to vent; an outlet just to give myself some time to myself. Nothing serious, I don’t want to escape from my responsibilities or anything like that, but I started to feel like I just needed to give myself some time to explore my own mind a bit and relax. My wife recognised this days ago and encouraged me to do so, but I didn’t do it. I think the addict in me knew that if I didn’t give myself some time, I would continue to get more worked up and increase the chances of watching porn, so I resisted doing something ‘wholesome’ for myself (e.g. read a book, go for a cycle, play guitar etc).

In addition to not devoting time to myself, since the birth I had stopped doing all the recovery activities that I had put in place. This included:

  • Writing my journal each night, including listing 5 things I am grateful for or have achieved
  • Reading my pillars
  • Going to SAA meetings and therapy
  • Meditation
  • Healthy activities (cycling, guitar, reading etc)

These are all activities that I have added to my life in order to counteract specific aspects of my addiction. Since the birth, I’ve completely stopped doing all of them. Why? Well, a mixture of being too tired and distracted by new routines, and also a bit of hope that I’m over porn and I don’t need to anymore. Clearly that isn’t true.

So, the combination of not having enough sleep, feeling mentally constricted by not giving myself any space, and not performing any of my recovery activities, led to an unmanageable build up of stress and anxiety, leading me to watch porn to self-soothe. I did it as I needed an escape, and porn is the most efficient escape I know. Funnily enough, I wasn’t really feeling ‘triggered’ in the usual sense – I wasn’t full of urges to watch porn. I just wanted to have some time to myself. This is something I have identified a while back as part of my addiction, hence the need to introduce healthy activities to replace porn, but as these were not being done, porn became the go-to solution.

What does this mean?

I asked myself how significant this relapse was. There are those on the internet that think that a sober ‘streak’ is all that matters, and totally berate themselves for slipping up. I am not in that camp. Statistically speaking, my measure of success has so far been monthly trends of % clean. I started at 68% sober in July 2014, slowly rising until I got to 100% in January and February 2015.

It is really easy to lose faith and motivation from a relapse, but it is very important to avoid this. There is an inner voice of desperation that I hear when I relapse, which tells me to give up and stop trying to quit because I never will be able to. I have to silence this voice with determination and positivity. Therefore, my stance on this relapse is that I did amazingly well to get to day 67 and have made so much progress not only in abstinence but in understanding who I am and how to reconnect with my life. Having assessed why I slipped up, I feel I can accept this relapse on the basis that a) it is understandable given the change my life is going through becoming a dad and b) I am going to learn from it and commit to putting in place steps to try and avoid a recurrence in similar situations.

If anyone reading this is now thinking that I’m giving myself an easy ride, you may be falling into the shame trap. Addictions are fuelled by shame, self-doubt and negativity. Dwelling on a relapse, kicking myself, telling myself how much I’ve failed, are all logical reactions but entirely counter-productive to recovery, so I will not be doing any of these things. But, make no mistake, inside I am saddened by my relapse and it is not easy to re-motivate. But I will.

What will I do differently / what can I learn from this?

So, now what? Based on the reasons for my relapse, what I will do now is:

  • Re-instate a program of healthy recovery activities that I had unwittingly abandoned, at a level of regularity that fits in with my increased levels of responsibility and duties as a father. I haven’t yet defined this specifically, but something along the lines of:
    • Perhaps a nightly journal is too ambitious and I should reduce this to weekly.
    • Re-dedicate 10 minutes a day (or every other day?) to meditation (I started using – “meditation for dummies”)
    • Try harder to replace my unhealthy time-filling activities (mindlessly browsing reddit etc) with healthy ones like reading, playing guitar or exercise. Going back to work from paternity leave will re-introduce the exercise as I commute on a bicycle.
  • Learn to identify when I’m feeling too constricted and need time to myself. I’ve identified that sometimes, due to feelings of urges, I may not be pro-active enough to make myself do an activity, and so I’ve asked my wife to remind me of this and essentially force me to go and do something productive.
  • Learn to reach out for help. When I’m struggling, there are so many people I can call upon, but I don’t do it. I’m not quite sure why not, but I need to try.

What am I not going to do differently?

Whenever abstinence from porn is discussed, the topic of content restrictions and blocks must always be considered, but it is something I’m not yet prepared to go back to. My wife and I tried it for one month last year and it was the worst month of my entire recovery – trying to break the blocks became more of a game than actually watching porn, and I felt that I was training my brain to rely on blocks rather than self-control. So for now I’m going to continue to use reddit etc, as I believe the risk of stumbling across NSFW content is worth it compared to the myriad of troubles (and lack of success) I experienced with a content blocking approach.


So there we go. There’s my account of my relapse, what it means to me and what I’m going to do to try and avoid a further relapse under similar situations next time. Maybe this will be interesting to others, but it at least serves as a reminder and documentation to myself.

As they say in the 12 step program, “we seek progress not perfection“.

Becoming a dad

Last week I became a dad for the first time, to a healthy beautiful daughter. I never expected at the age of 32 to start feeling new emotions I’ve never felt before, but here I am, in a world of besotted love for another human like no other (and a level of enhanced love for my wife!).

I’m so glad I caught my addiction before she was born (I am 62 days sober currently). I can’t imagine how I’d be dealing with this if porn was still something I had in my life. How would I be providing my wife with the support she needed? How would I be caring for my daughter? The thought of ‘the old me’ having the responsibilities of being a dad scares the hell out of me!

I haven’t managed to make it to the last 2 weeks of SAA though, and I’m conscious that while I am in a good place with my sobriety, complacency is a dangerous thing and I need to remember that I am still an addict and the urges could come back any time. To that end, I’ve called a fellow SAA member to meet up next week for a coffee just so I can chat through all this and keep myself grounded. That was one of the biggest benefits of going to SAA – it was a weekly reminded that this addiction is real, and of the damaging effects of it.

I really hope I stay sober. For her. Right now I feel strong, but I know the urge is always there deep down, ready to come back if I let my guard down.

The Inner Anguish

This post is about the voice in my head.

I’ve come to know this as my inner anguish or struggle, and it encapsulates so many important aspects of my personality that it will be hard to summarise here, but I’m going to give it a try as I’m struggling to figure this out.

I have a lot of self-doubt, and I have a lot of anger. Not nasty anger, but just a feeling that I am always unhappy with the actions of others and am quick to judge them and be annoyed with them. I am very critical of everyone and everything, including myself. Despite an outer confidence, I lack a true inner self-confidence.

One way this manifests itself is in a permanent worry about everything I do and how it could be perceived by others. I analyse everything and if I can think of any way that what I did could be perceived negatively, I immediately assume that anyone who witnessed that action will be the type of person to take this negative opinion. I start to play over in my head endless variations of a potential confrontation about the thing I just did. I seem to immediately assume that everyone around me is out to get me and that I’m always a single mistake away from an argument with a stranger.

The reality is that all these things I worry about never come true. Never have I ended up in an argument with someone who I was playing through in my mind. I have no reason to assume the worst of everyone yet I continue to do so.

One root cause of this is this lack of self-belief. If I doubt myself, and am not confident in who I am, then it makes sense that I would always be worrying about my actions and how others may interpret them. I am also a perfectionist, and I may be applying a standard of perfection to my actions, and therefore constantly be disappointed with myself when I don’t act perfectly. I lack true self-confidence and conviction in my own actions, so I doubt them, question them and worry about them, instead of just accepting that what will be will be.

I guess perhaps that because I immediately jump to conclusions and judgements about others, I assume that others are immediately jumping to (negative) conclusions and judgements about me. We project our own view of the world onto others as that is the easiest way of making sense of the world – by assuming everyone sees it the same way we do. The problem is they don’t, and I’m doing others a disservice by assuming the worst of them.

So I need to learn acceptance, both of myself and others. Probably if I learn to accept myself, accepting others will become easier. The problem is, addictions thrive on a lack of self-belief, so I need to try hard to re-instil a feeling of self-worth.

For example, I have long found it impossible to understand how a future child of mine could look up to me, or like me. I don’t like me, so how could someone else? One of the fellow SAA people I spoke to at my weekly SAA meeting tonight talked to me about his experience as a father, and he said that even though he doubts himself in so many ways, he is constantly amazed by his daughter’s proclamations that he’s the best dad ever.

I can learn to love myself. I can accept that others love me, and I can accept that I have worth. The addict in me tells me the opposite, as this helps to fuel the addiction, but now I have to stop beating myself up and start loving the world.

If I can do that, I hope I can stop playing out endless negative theoretical scenarios in my head, and learn to be at peace with the world. If something bad happens that bothers me, I need to assess it, understand it, deal with it if appropriate then move on. What I must not do is to take it with me for the rest of the day, stress about it and play it out again and again in my head (“if only I had dealt with it like …”). It is not all about me – someone who steps out in front of me on the bike is not doing it specifically at me – I just happened to be there when they did it. They will move on, I need to as well.

Apologies that this is probably a bit rambly. It is a topic that is new to me and also quite wide-reaching and is going to take some time for me to get my head around and start to resolve.

Applying Empathy

I am learning to be more empathic. I have, for various reasons, grown up with a focus on self-reliance and independence, at the expense of building connections with others. The solution to this is to start to act more empathically, thinking of others over mysel.f

I’ve been trying this a lot, and today was a good example I thought I’d jot down.

I was in a cafe with my wife. It was very busy and a lot of used mugs etc was left on the tables as the staff weren’t keeping up. My wife and I sat at a table and I cleared the table onto a tray and took it to the counter. The guy behind the counter seemed surprised and thanked me.

When we left, I decided to clear up our stuff and once again take it to the counter. The guy again thanked me quite profusely.

This act could be seen as so trivial and probably second nature to many, but to put this in perspective, my default response to this situation would usually to take a very non-personal, entitled approach, simply thinking that this is a company who should be delivering a service and it is not for me to do their job clearing things away. It is a harsh view on the world that I have grown comfortable taking as it makes me feel I’m more in control. However, if I see past the corporate stance and actually remember that there are people underneath, just like me, and think about them instead of me, I can act differently.

I’ve been trying to be more empathic in everything I do. I’m being a kinder driver – letting more people out and not being pushy (quite an achievement in London!). I have been asking people more about how they are and trying to remember what’s going on in their lives and bearing it in mind when I address them. I guess it is basically a question of prioritising how a situation affects other people, rather than how it affects me.

How does this relate to my addiction? The theory goes… if I act empathically towards others, I will start to form better connections with others and start to fill the hole of human connection that I was using porn to ignore and mitigate against. I am distant in my life, which leads me to acting out, which makes me more distant, and the cycle continues. I am now breaking the cycle by reawakening an empathic perspective that will help me face the world and stop trying to distance myself and escape from it.

One Month Sober – Reflections

Today, February 1st 2015, marks the first full calendar month that I have stayed sober from pornography. Throughout my efforts to quit last year, the longest I ever went was 13 days, and that was once – generally I would relapse on average after about 7 days, so I’m pleased to have made it to one month. Here’s my progress month-by-month since July 2014:






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The first chart is from a Google Sheet with a simple table containing each month, number of days in each month, number of days clean that month, and what that is as a percentage. The second image is from my Google Calendar, into which I mark each day with a red X or a green :) depending on whether I acted out or not. As you can see, January is all green!

Ironically, this milestone comes at a period of time when I’m feeling a bit down and unmotivated. I’ve had a tough few days over the last week, in terms of urges, and it has left me feeling a bit embattled, so I thought it would be worthwhile as a motivational tool to reflect on the positive changes I’ve seen over the last month.

Before I start, two caveats:

Firstly, I’ll tell you now that this is not going to be a revelatory-filled I’M LIVING A NEW LIFE-type experience. I’m actually a bit put off by the expectation set by many ex-porn addicts that you should settle for nothing less than a total revitalisation of your life, a fresh view on the world, spiritual enlightenment, etc etc. I think it is slightly irresponsible to be preaching these things without proper context – everyone has different experiences and is at different steps of the journey and I’ve definitely felt disappointed with my progress when compared to these ideals. So now I’m learning to be content with the progress I’ve made in relation to my own life and goals.

The second caveat is that many of the things I’ve noticed are not directly because I’ve stopped watching porn, but more because of the self-exploration I’ve been taking myself through. This month I’ve really focussed on revisiting my childhood, my parenting, my schooling and other factors throughout my life that have led me to be who I am today and led me to addiction. Exploring these, and exploring how I deal with emotions and other daily life events, has been the single most significant factor in improving my life and achieving success with sobriety in the last month.

So, here’s what my wife and I have noticed about my behaviour over the last month:

  • I’ve started to face up to my responsibilities. I’ve stopped thinking they are things to avoid at all costs, no matter how trivial, and started to embrace them. My wife is pregnant and I’ve been very slow in stepping up to the duties to take care of her, but she’s noticed a marked improvement now – she no longer notices resistance when she asks me to do something!
  • I’ve started to become more aware of my emotions as they happen, and therefore been able to take appropriate action to ensure I respond to them in a healthy way rather than my default negative self-soothing and destructive behaviour. For example, if I’m feeling especially tired on the cycle home (I commute about 10 miles on the bike) and I can feel grumpiness setting in, I make a plan to eat food and consciously relax as soon as I get home, and don’t allow my stress to get the better of me.
  • As a consequence of being more aware of my emotions, I’ve been able to stop taking out my withdrawal-induced frustrations on my wife. Many times in the past I would blame her (in my mind) for the anxiety I’d feel when the urges struck, simply as a way of deflecting responsibility, but now I have been able to rise above that and not allow my own struggles to spill over as resentment, anger and frustration directed towards her.
  • In line with my recent appreciation of the importance of empathy in the recovery process, I’ve been trying hard to think about others and not put myself first. Also trying to do more selfless things – actions which help others at no benefit to myself, in order to learn how to connect better with others.
  • I’ve been going to bed with my wife nearly every night, when in the past I would stay up playing games/watching porn almost every night of the week.
  • I got to a place of understanding where I felt confident enough to tell my sister about my addiction.
  • I’ve noticed similarities to porn addiction in other behaviours, such as mindless computer gaming or other means of escapism. I may not be ‘addicted’ to them, but I still use them for the same purposes as porn – namely avoidance, reclusion and escapism. I’ve stopped playing games for hours just to pass the time, and instead limit my time so I’m only conducting these behaviours for shorter periods, with a healthy mindset (i.e. not trying to escape!).

It has been a really pivotal month for me. It has also been really hard. A self-conducted character assassination, whereby I pull apart as many elements of my personality as I can and explore where they came from and how they fit into addiction, has been a pretty intense activity, and sometimes leaves me feeling a bit deflated. It can be hard to know what areas of myself are just normal fluctuations of an average personality and how many have strayed too far from the norm into unhealthy or addiction-tempting realms. It has also led to some less than favourable appreciations of the role my parents have played in my life, which has led to its own set of challenges as I still have a strained relationship with my father to put into its place in my new ‘healthier’ life.

I’ve also had some incredible support from others, without which I probably wouldn’t have made it. I’ve been going to weekly Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings and spent time before and after each gathering meeting fellow addicts, sharing stories and getting inspired by their tales. I’ve connected with loads of fellow addicts on twitter, such as @MattNoFap, @Neverfap and @NoFapCyclist, who have all shared their experiences and motivations and together we’ve become a pretty good team!

If I was to give any advice to others in the same boat, trying to hit their own sobriety targets, I’d say:

  • Connect with other addicts and non-addicts as deeply and honestly as possible, be it on the internet or face to face. Everyone’s journey of public admission is different so only do what you feel comfortable, but don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone – you’ll be surprised what you might find.
  • Understand why you use porn. What pains or realities is it helping you to deal with? I can’t stress enough how important this is. Just abstaining from porn but not learning about yourself achieves only sobriety, not recovery.
  • Listen to yourself. Learn to respond to your own emotions in a healthy way. Spot when you get stressed, tired, annoyed etc and make sure you do something healthy in response.
  • Think about others and try putting them first for a change. Ask how others are. Pro-actively offer help without having to be asked.

I remember when I simply couldn’t imagine staying sober for a month, so I’m really grateful to all those who have helped me get here – thank you all of you, you amazing people – but also to myself, for putting in the effort. It is certainly a rewarding feeling. Now for month 2! I’m certainly not complacent about my ability to stay sober another month but I know it is possible – if I put in the work I can do it.

Here goes!