Category Archives: Porn

Status Update: Taking a longer view

I thought it was about time to write about where I am right now.

Since I begun my latest mission to quit porn, I have ‘relapsed’ twice. The first time I did the usual thing of berating myself for doing it, feeling completely miserable and deflated for a day or two.

Completely coincidentally, I happened to receive an email on the very same day by a twitter user @TheFapman. He was replying to an email I had sent him introducing myself and explaining my situation and goals. He is in the process of setting up some sort of support system and is actively trying to help people in my situation with daily email check-ins and motivational tips (I’ve not taken him up on these yet but am thinking about it).

One of the main points he made (which he happens to have tweeted about this evening), was that recovery from porn addiction can be far more effective if a longer-term view is taken. I don’t yet know the reasoning behind this, but he had an interesting way of looking at recovery.

The traditional view is to go cold turkey on porn. No more porn, no more masturbation. A potential problem with this approach is that if (and usually when) someone relapses, they consider it a huge defeat. It will be a distressing experience as the person will feel let down with themselves, angry, and a wide range of other emotions (at least, that’s my experience and that of many I’ve read about).

An alternative view seems to be instead of going cold turkey and considering a relapse as a failure to get depressed over, start to review your progress on a monthly basis in terms of ‘days clean’. The example he gave was of someone he liaises with who was 20 days clean in the first month, 21 in the second, and 23 in the third. The point is that assuming abstinence from porn is a long-term goal, then one relapse really isn’t that significant. The aim of the game is to reduce your porn consumption to zero, but it is ok for this to take a while. Of course, cold turkey is only one way of dealing with traditional addictions, so why be any different for porn addiction?

If I apply this to my own short journey so far, it looks like this:

Google Calendar showing days clean and days where I relapsed with porn

Google Calendar showing days clean and days where I relapsed with porn

You can see that over the period of 20 days, I have relapsed 3 times. It isn’t great going I suppose, but it is nice to see large bars of green and does put things in perspective somewhat – a relapse isn’t the end of the world and something to punish yourself for. As long as solid progress is being made in the right direction, that’s the important thing.

A risk of this longer-term view that I perceive is that it reduces the pressure to not watch porn. It would almost be like “its ok to watch porn three times this month” or something. And maybe that’s actually ok!? It must be a hard balance to find though of concentrating on removing these thoughts from your head, while at the same time giving a little more weight to the devil on your shoulder saying “its ok just once or twice”.

I’m very interested to hear more about how TheFapman recommends dealing with these challenges and how this method can be applied, and I intend to write back to him.

Onwards!

(P.S. If anyone is interested in the calendar above, I use Google Calendar and it is quite handy. You can also share calendars with others so I’m open to sharing with other people so we can see each others’ progress – get in touch if this is of interest to you)

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Facebook doesn’t want anonymous accounts

Addictions are hard to discuss in public and to be open about. Recovery is a long, multi-step journey, which may or may not include admitting the addiction publicly.

The internet has the potential to be an invaluable resource to those battling an addiction, in order to communicate with others in similar positions and seek help from professionals, but it requires even greater care with regards to personal privacy when using it for these purposes. Some sites seem to, perhaps indirectly, acknowledge and support this. Others, like Facebook I have just found out, less so.

For me, I have carefully created anonymous (I hope) Twitter, Reddit and WordPress accounts for this very purpose. I can blog, tweet, share thoughts and tips, ask questions, get motivation and seek support about porn addiction, all without worrying about sharing with the public who I really am!

One of the people I follow on Twitter (Feed The Right Wolf) linked to his Facebook page in order to invite people to join a proposed support network he was setting up. Sounded like a good idea, but I wasn’t going to connect using my real Facebook account now was I!? So I set up a new account, and I was required to enter my real name. Facebook even has some rudimentary fake name detection so it instantly rejected my attempt to use my “Healing My Brain” alias, however it did tell my I could change my name to an alias after my account is set up. Knowing Facebook’s track record in privacy, I wasn’t taking any chances so I entered “Dave Matthews”, a favourite musician of mine. Once in, I went straight to my account page to change the account name to purely Healing My Brain, only to be met with the message “you can only hide your real name after 60 days“. Thanks for telling me that after I had created my account Facebook.

Thank god I didn’t use my real name, as it would now be listed on Facebook against my porn-related posts.

The reason why social and other advertising-based websites want you to use your real name is that it increases the value of the profile they generate about you, which they sell to marketers and advertisers to fuel their business.

However, Facebook is of such a scale that it can serve a higher purpose. Those of us who can hugely benefit from its service but must do so anonymously are currently not supported by Facebook. This is a real shame. I am effectively breaking Facebook’s terms of service by using a fake name, and I suppose they could shut my account down if they really cared, but I’m going with it anyway – do they really care about my details that much? They are already gaining all the info they need from my real account, so why not allow me to have an anonymous account that I can use to help beat my addiction by connecting with other organisations who are already active on the network? Its easy for these organisations to be public, but much less so for the addicts who are making their first tentative steps into the world of admission and support. Forcing people to do it with their real names is going to seriously reduce (or totally eliminate?) the numbers of people who will willingly seek support under their real identity.

Of course, the question of whether porn addiction should be such a taboo that people don’t want to share their identities is a whole other topic. Ideally we live in a world where porn and its risks are talked about openly, but we are not there yet, so let’s not force people down a path that society hasn’t even accepted yet.

Here’s a link to my new Facebook profile page, if you’re interested!

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A recent overview of my journey posted to Reddit

I recently discovered the sub-reddit r/NoFap. I did actually stumble across this a while ago but never gave it much thought, but actually I think this could be a really valuable resource for porn addicts in recovery. There appears to be a thriving and active community of users in similar situations, all willing to share their experiences and thoughts for the benefit of others.

Therefore I decided to write a post introducing myself to the community, which turned out to a be fairly lengthy background of my journey, where I am now and what I want to achieve. I’ve included the full post below:

 

Another recruit to r/NoFap, hello! Here’s my story.

Just thought I’d say hi here, as I think this sub-reddit could be really useful for me and I really like the community spirit that seems to exist here.

By way of introduction, I thought it would be worth giving a bit of background to my own personal journey with porn addiction.

My porn use started in my early teens when I was at an all-boys private school for ages 8-13 (magazines shared around secretly amongst the boys in the later years). This then quickly ‘went digital’ as I got access to a computer and internet at public school (also all-boys). It started with waiting half an hour to download a single image, slowly building huge collections on my computer of image sets, sorted by porn star. As bandwidth increased, I moved to videos, when ‘tube’ sites back then would release a free video in parts which you could join together once you had them all, one part a day. Then through to the digital porn experience we all know so well today – torrents and tube sites.

I’m now 31 and commonly my usage is daily or twice daily – often I will lie in bed in the morning waiting for my wife to go to work so I could watch porn before going to work. I usually get in 30-45 minutes late to work because of this on a daily basis (fortunately I have a pretty cushty job where my manager doesn’t care when I come and go). I’ll often not go to bed with my wife because I stay up watching porn. Its not every night, but very often. When left on my own at home, e.g. for a weekend, I’ll regularly go on porn binges, masturbating until I almost can’t any longer. I’ll download gigabytes of torrents which I instantly am bored of once I’ve watched them once. Fortunately I’ve never really moved on to harder/weirder stuff, and I’ve not had any problems with ED or anything like that.

So porn has been a permanent companion for all of my adult life. I don’t know life without it. I’ve managed to keep it a secret all this time, and currently I am married, with a newly pregnant wife, a mortgage and a good job and healthy work/life balance. Socially, I am actually pretty outgoing, but I have two extremes – I’m either the life of the party, able to talk to anyone, or I feel uncomfortable and just want to go home, often putting my foot in it when I try and talk to people. I haven’t quite worked out what makes me slip into which ‘mode’.

I think my porn use stems from a desire to escape – I love that I can switch off from the world and all my responsibilities and just disappear into this world of guaranteed, no hassle gratification. Funnily enough, I have the same thoughts about weed – once I discovered weed in my early 20s I was instantly hooked. It complemented my porn addiction well by encouraging me to get stoned in my room and stay up all night watching porn and smoking, and it aws another way to escape. I continued smoking daily for about 5 years or so until my girlfriend gave me an ultimatum to stop, which I did. Now I smoke occasionally when with friends – but I can’t own it – if I buy some, I smoke it constantly and lose all control over it – just like with porn. They both allow me to escape, but it must be more than that? I don’t know. I also happen to know that my dad has some sex issues – during my childhood I remember finding weird bondage porn mags and I’ve always suspected he’s got a dark side. I even found out recently he cheated on my mum many years ago with a prostitute and got an STD. I don’t know if there’s something in the genes therefore that could make me more inclined towards porn addiction? Who knows, this is something I’m interested to explore though.

So why am I writing all this? Well, I want to take control of my life. I am tired of feeling a slave to temporary impulses. I regret all the times that my wife is horny and I’m not because I masturbated earlier or the night before. I no longer want to feel down and de-energised because porn has sapped my energy. I want to stop being late to work because I’m watching porn. I want to stop having not enough sleep because I’m up late watching porn. I want to respect myself, my body and my family enough to take control over this. It is ridiculous to live as a slave to something so pointless and unreal.

I admitted it to my wife about 3 years ago and while she was shocked, hurt and just didn’t understand it, she appreciated my honesty and that I was trying to do something about it. I started a blog and a twitter account, and for a few short weeks she helped me by making sure I got out of bed in the morning and other things like that. It didn’t last though and I know she found it easier to stop asking when she knew I was reverting. Since then I’ve tried numerous times to quit on my own without telling anyone but just lacked the motivation as there is no real immediate consequence of giving in.

But this time I’m going to make it work.

I am potentially going to be a father. I don’t want to be a creepy father like my dad, as much as I love him. I feel a renewed sense of motivation. I know that I am better than this, and that I can beat it. I’m scared of the prospect of seeking professional help as that would mean admitting defeat – surely I must be able to conquer my own life? Currently I’m only on day 6 of nofap, and I’m acutely aware of how hard it will be, but I’m putting everything into this. At some point, when I feel I’ve made significant progress, I will tell my wife again. I just want to be able to tell her I’m making progress, not just that I still have the problem. (She is aware of my healingmybrain online identity so could easily find this post if she wanted and I’m ok with that).

So I’m engaging more on Twitter, and now here, am keeping a journal and will hopefully write some more blog posts. Reading about others is really helpful and there must be so many more out there. I think strong mental positivity and re-affirmation of values is important so I constantly remind myself of why I’m doing this. I am taking pride in taking control over the urges. When I get an urge, I think of how I’m better than porn and I’m kicking its ass. I remind myself that the urges and fantasies are part of the old me, a mis-aligned brain that is now being repaired.

One thing I don’t believe is that porn is “evil”, “bad” or any of the other blanket statements that get applied to it. I think it is like any other addictive substance – dangerous if not controlled or used in excess, and requires education to ensure it is used responsibly. I dislike people, especially religious organisations, who jump on the porn bandwagon to proclaim it as evil and that it should be banned etc, usually just to promote their own beliefs and recruit others. It distracts from the core problem – a lack of education at puberty of the dangers of porn. No-one knew of the risks when the internet first came out, and like tobacco companies, we certainly can’t look to the porn companies for help. Our understanding is still evolving, so I encourage reasoned debates based in facts and science. While I am pleased for anyone that beats this using religion, as an atheist I see that as swapping one false reality (porn) for another (religion), but I don’t judge others if it works for them.

So there we go. If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and generally get involved with the community, as together we can beat this thing.

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Still here

It has been a long time since I’ve blogged or tweeted, and that only means one thing… I’ve been back on the porn. If I go silent, that’s what it means, as if I’m succeeding, I’m going to want to talk about it!

But I’m re-energised and re-motivated to try again. I’m engaging a lot more with people on Twitter, to keep the fight at the forefront of my mind. I am reminding myself to not get complacent. I am telling myself truths throughout the day to remind me why I’m doing it, that I’m a better person for it, and what to watch out for.

So far so good. Tomorrow morning will be 5 days in. Sounds like nothing, but feels like a lot. Its been ok so far though – I’ve been having plenty of fun with my wife so the physical urges are being kept at bay – I am prepared for when we don’t have sex for a while – that will be the hard part. But I’m ready for it. It’s time to take control of my life and stop being a slave to urges, routines and impulses. There are bigger things at stake.

Easier said than done perhaps. I have said this before.

We’ll see. I’m feeling mentally empowered. I feel counselling is close if I don’t beat this on my own, and that is a real sign of defeat, or at least a direct acknowledgement that I am unable to beat this on my own, and I hate that thought – the thought I am totally not in control of my life and need someone’s help. I MUST be able to do this on my own, surely….?

Previously I tried internet blocks etc. Those were distractions. They didn’t address the core issue of my desire to watch porn; they just made it harder, avoiding the problem and not dealing with it. This time there’s no blocks or anything. Temptation and gratification is just a few taps away all the time. Wherever I am, there is the potential for porn – such is the life of an addict in the 21st century. 

The one thing I haven’t done is talk about it with my wife. It is so hard on her and she clearly prefers avoiding the subject. She must know I still watch porn and accepts it. That is the level of love she has for me and she deserves better. But I want to make progress on my own. I don’t want to tell her I have a problem; I want to tell her I have a solution. Or at least that I am addressing it and making progress. If I can get to 1 month, maybe I’ll tell her. She knows about this blog though but I have no idea if she reads it – I don’t mind if she finds out through here.

Onwards!

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Stage 2: Implementing the content block

Today I finally received the text message from my mobile phone provider that I’ve been waiting for for ages… confirming that their server-side adult content block has been activated on my account.

I had hoped that willpower alone would have been enough to beat this thing, but it hasn’t been the case, as I have still been watching porn occasionally. I’m still far improved than when I started this journey, but success means total abstinence so I need to take it a step further, as hinted at in my previous post.

I have implemented porn blocking which works on my mobile and my home internet. I have not yet found a solution to block porn when connected to other people’s wifi, but my current solution addresses the main times that I have failed (i.e. on my mobile or when I’m at home). I have done this in two ways:

  1. Configured my home router to use OpenDNS FamilyShield. This means that any traffic that passes through my home router is filtered automatically and any porn sites I try to access are blocked. This will work on all computers and phones using my home broadband.
  2. Enabled the Content Lock that is offered by my mobile phone service provider EE. This means that, like above, there is a server-side filter in place for all traffic I access over my phone’s 3G/LTE connection.
  3. Enabled the content lock that comes with my iPad’s data connection provided by GiffGaff.

My mobile is provided by my company so I had to ask our helpdesk to enable the block for me. I told them I had young family members using my phone and wanted to hide any adult content. This also makes it very hard for me to disable the lock as I’d have to go through them again.

For the personal 3G account and the home wifi, I had to ensure I couldn’t revert the changes. Therefore I allowed my fiance to set a new password that only she knows on both my home router and on my GiffGaff account.

So now it is significantly harder to watch porn. It is actually quite a fundamental change in the dynamics of dealing with the addiction so we’ll have to see what impact it has. I’m conscious that this is only a plaster; I still need to be addressing the root cause by training myself not to want to watch porn, not just making myself not able to watch it – there is a big difference.

The only bit remaining is when connected to other people’s wifi. You can’t change the DNS settings on other people’s routers so the only way to block porn in those scenarios would be to either a) have some form of system-wide DNS setting on the phone/computer that I couldn’t override, that would apply no matter what wifi I’m using, or b) use a specific porn-blocking browser. A browser would also mean that porn would be blocked regardless of my internet connection, but the problem is that I’d have to restrict my phone so I can only use that browser, which isn’t realistically possible (at the moment). Therefore my fiance and I are agreed that we know this is a weakness and we discuss it before I go somewhere with wifi. A phone-wide DNS setting would be great but I doubt you can do that on iOS. I would consider switching to Android if that was possible.

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The porn fix vs the sex fix

One side-effect of porn that is widely discussed is that it can interfere with your enjoyment of real sex. Generally speaking, this, fortunately, has not been a problem for me. My sex drive has always been really high and so I always enjoy sex with my girlfriend, and porn rarely enters my mind during it.

However, the last 24 hours have given me cause for concern that this may be changing.

Yesterday, day 9 of the latest porn-free stint, I returned home from work and looked at porn. I didn’t go any further; I just looked. It was like I was trying to get my fix while pretending I was avoiding the repercussions. After 5 minutes I’d close the browser and go back to whatever I was doing, only to open another private browsing tab a few minutes later. This lasted about an hour, and as you can imagine I was a bit worked up by the end of it.

My girlfriend returned home and I didn’t tell her. I did, however, make it quite clear I was in the mood that evening and as events transpired, I ‘got lucky’. However, despite achieving what should have been the cure to my woes that evening, I was still not satisfied. I still wanted to look at porn. Which I did, and this time I gave in, and the urge was gone.

Obviously this is just an utter mess of irresponsibility, manipulation of my girlfriend, and setbacks regarding the journey of quitting. It was almost promising that I was able to restrain myself from physical action when initially looking at porn, but the rest of the events of the evening proved that was irrelevant.

Today I admitted all this to her as I can’t keep it a secret. And now she’s gone to bed without me and I’m here blogging about it on my laptop, feeling utterly ashamed, embarrassed, angry and a cocktail of plenty other emotions.

So, to get back to the title of this post “the porn fix vs the sex fix”, what was most interesting was how sex did not satisfy my urge to look at porn. I think that previously, while I was looking at porn regularly, I never noticed this because the urge was always under the radar. However, having gone 9 days without porn, that urge was stronger and I think that highlighted how relieving it seems to satisfy a different part of me/my brain than sex.

This is of course quite worrying, but arms me with some more knowledge I can hopefully use to control this addiction.

As the days without porn have continued, I’ve felt stronger urges to look at it. This made me realise that by simply not watching porn, all I’m doing is using willpower to restrain myself, but I’m not actually addressing the core issue. I need to be training myself not to want to look at porn. Do I do this just by not looking at it for a sufficiently long period of time, or do I do it via other means? Reading & education as an example. A commenter of this blog godtisx suggested reading stories from ex-porn stars speak out against the industry, to encourage me to break the fantasy, and I’ll certainly consider this.

I’m really worried about the damage I may be causing our relationship. I don’t know how much my girlfriend can put up with and I don’t really know what effect this is having on her deep down. I just know that I’m not improving as fast as I need to be, and need to start thinking of more pro-active measures.

The fact that things have been great between us for 7 years while this was a secret, and are difficult now I’m being honest, is the cruelest of ironies.

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Rediscovering myself

This weekend my girlfriend is out of town. I was faced with the prospect of two days on my own, obviously with the goal of not watching porn. This is my first major test.

To provide some context, in a similar situation in the past I would have earmarked the entire weekend for porn watching. This would mean I probably wouldn’t go out and do anything productive or meet any friends, and I would revert and escape into the self-indulgent world of porn.

Fortunately, I had already been invited to spend the day with some friends for a birthday bash, which meant I avoided the hours of temptation I would have faced if I spent the day at home in front of the laptop. And that, I suppose, is one thing that has changed; instead of seeing a weekend alone as an excuse to plan long and elaborate porn-watching sessions, I am spending it out and about with friends.

In doing so, I feel I am almost having to rediscover who I am. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what I mean by that, but the fundamental drive of my daily activity has now changed. Before, when out with friends, I would always have in the back of my mind when I would next be able to watch porn. I would more than likely cut the night short to achieve this. Now, the night feels natural and I am in no hurry to get home. I feel like I am re-learning what it is to be me, when out with friends.

There are a number of unexpected and deeply subtle effects that going ‘clean’ is having on me, and I am learning about them as I go. It is not as simple as I thought it might be, and there are some fundamentally important issues of self that I am being forced to think about that I had never considered before.

While my girlfriend has been, and continues to be, amazingly supportive, the strain is beginning to show as the longer-term impacts of this addiction start to be felt. I am not feeling particularly hopefully or complacent right now, and I hope more than anything else that my relationship can survive this.

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Animated explanation on the science of porn

Similar to my previous post of Gary Wilson’s excellent TED talk, here’s an animated explanation of the same scientific view of the process within our brains that makes porn so addictive.

Not only was learning this the single most influential factor in my newly-found drive to quit porn, remembering it when I get the urges is a powerful way of inspiring me onwards, as I can take pleasure in the knowledge that I literally healing my brain.

Source: The Golden Vanguard / AsapSCIENCE

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Status Update: Week 2

Day 8.

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • Generally, as long as I’m occupied, I don’t suffer too many withdrawal symptoms.
  • However, very often I get an impressively strong urge in my loins. It is almost a physical pain in my bladder area, and all I can think about is how watching porn and relieving myself is the only cure. This often happens in the morning, and in the afternoon when I get back from work; times when I’m less occupied and when I am used to watching porn.
  • When I get that urge, it is a pretty miserable time. It requires constant self-motivation to not succumb, and it also generally depresses me a bit as it reminds me how out of control I am with my body and that I have a long road ahead.
  • My expectant attitude to sex with my girlfriend has been replaced with a newfound respect for her sexual moods. I used to get genuinely annoyed when I was in the mood and she wasn’t, as I think perhaps I was so used to instant gratification. Now, I am far less expecting and in return she has been very sympathetic to the situation. I feel terrible about what a bastard I was.
  • Sex itself is fantastic, for the simple reason that it will have been longer between orgasms (as previously they would be daily or twice-daily) so they are more intense. I am also valuing it more. I have been replaying these great sexual encounters over in my head; something I never used to do.

So, in general, things are going ok. Having to control the urges is difficult and stressful, but manageable. I’m not using any techniques other than willpower and attempting to banish any intruding images from my mind and just get on with my day. My respect for my girlfriend and undeniable need to fix my addiction are, so far, sustenance enough for me to keep the urges at bay.

However, I’ve not yet had the true test – a day alone at home. I will need to prepare psychologically for that day in advance.

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The Science Behind Porn Addiction

This video has been doing the rounds lately and for good reason. It is a TED talk by Gary Wilson, founder of www.yourbrainonporn.com (the site which pretty much is responsible for my current drive to quit porn).

In it he discusses the various scientific, behavioural and physical changes that occur in a porn addict, as well as explaining the evolutionary background that could lead to porn addition. It really is extremely enlightening.

As a firm atheist and science-fan myself, this approach obviously suits my view of the world, and has acted as an inspiration  Brian’s objective tone, lack of judgement and approachable manner have made him a bit of a hero for me.

Check out the video for yourself, you won’t regret it:

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