porn addiction

Milestone #4 – Telling my sister

This weekend I told my sister about my addition. To me this represented the 4th milestone in my journey of recovery. Those milestones have been:

#1 – Admitting I was addicted to internet pornography and telling my wife

#2 – Going to see a therapist for the first time

#3 – Going to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting for the first time

#4 – Telling my sister

Deciding to tell her

Beating my addiction has had surprisingly little to do with day-to-day practicalities (i.e. how to physically not look at porn – although these have been very important), and instead has predominantly been about self-evaluation – understanding who I am, how I got here, what my life is like and how I deal with and respond to it, and how I use porn in relation to all these things. That’s an army of blog posts in itself, but the one aspect that led me to telling my sister was the idea of removing secrecy. Addictions thrive in secrecy and shame, and it became clear to me that I wanted to unify my ‘secret’, porn-watching persona with the public-facing persona everyone knows, so that I’m moving forward with more honesty in my life. That meant embracing the fact that I am an addict, and not hiding it; living a unified self that includes my addiction without hesitation and reservation.

And so it became clear to me that I needed to start telling people. Not immediately, hurriedly or insensitively,  but methodically and in a considered fashion that is conducive to my recovery and mental well-being. I spent a lot of time thinking about who I could tell. My wife already knew, so I started thinking of friends and family. I don’t have a lot of (any?) close friends these days so I couldn’t think of anyone that would share this journey with me – I didn’t want to just tell a friend and then move on and not see them again for 6 months; it would be a waste and wouldn’t really benefit either of us. I wanted to tell someone who was a significant enough part of my life that they would share this journey with me, for better or worse.

Last week, once I got home after a long evening with members of a London Sex Addicts Anonymous meet-up, I had a period of clarity of mind where it became clear to me that I should tell my sister. I had actually initially thought of telling her and my dad at the same time but due to the fact my dad has his own sex-related issues (totally unacknowledged but suspected by my sister and me), I decided to treat him separately – he may be in early stages of denial and so I’d need think of a very tailored approach to talking about this with him. So, putting my dad to one side left my sister. She is family, and she needs to know what I’m going through.

The call itself

I texted my sister: “So, I have something I’d like to talk to you about. Do you have an hour for a chat sometime?”. She lives in a different town so doing it in person wasn’t an option, and I couldn’t wait ’til we next met up. We agreed a time, and yesterday she rang me and I sat down on the sofa to explain the biggest secret of my adult life.

I told her that I’ve been assessing my life (we’ve talked about it quite a bit recently) because I’ve realised I’ve not been dealing with it in particularly healthy ways, and in one way in particular – porn. I explained how I had started looking at porn at school, and how 15 years later it was so woven into my daily life that I didn’t even realise there was a problem until I tried to quit, at which point it occurred to me I might have an addiction. We talked about the steps I’ve now taken to quit – seeing a therapist, going to SAA meeting, involving my wife, assessing my life. We talked about my childhood, our parents, my schooling and how my experiences may have led to porn, and we talked about porn addiction – what it is, what it isn’t etc. I recommended a film to watch (“Thanks for Sharing“) if she wanted to get an idea of the SAA meetings.

It couldn’t have gone better. Due to her slight resentment of my dad and his sex issues (he’s recently admitted to infidelity in his earlier days), I was worried she may have associations and not respond well. I couldn’t have been more wrong – she was totally unfazed, completely supportive and made it clear she was proud of me for opening up and that she thought I was really brave for telling her and for the general steps I am taking in my life. It was an incredible thing to hear – that this thing I’ve been doing that I’ve held on to so secretly is now known by someone and they don’t mind – she hadn’t fallen off her chair in disgust, she hadn’t disowned me – she was just supportive and encouraging. My sister is a very inquisitive person, and so she started asking loads of (non-intrusive) questions about addiction etc, which I was happy to discuss. Not that I had any doubt, but this call demonstrated a maturity of character in her that was awe-inspiring – I had handed her a piece of my self – my weakness – and she handled it perfectly and with such compassion and I was/am so grateful.

The call lasted an hour. I ended it by making it clear this is not a taboo subject. I encouraged her to ask me (as long as she is comfortable doing so) how it is going whenever she wants, and to not feel like she shouldn’t talk about it – it is important we all face this openly as the secrecy is the most dangerous aspect. I welcome questions and discussion, and I asked her to tell her husband who I get on well with, so at this point, a day later, he too now knows about this.

How does it feel?

It does feel like a weight has been lifted, but not the usual storybook type weight you’d imagine, just a feeling of reassurance that I’ve made a little (or big?) step further into recovery. The most significant thing I feel is that by each step like this I take (e.g. the milestones above), I feel like I’m putting my old acting out days further behind me, and putting more of a space between the old addict-me and the future in-recovery me. Each step makes it harder and harder for me to imagine slipping back into dark days of my addiction.

The next milestone?

What’s the next milestone? I think probably telling my in-laws. That’s going to be harder – they are emotionally attached to their daughter, are of an older generation, and are extra-protective of her right now as she is pregnant. Telling them that their daughter’s husband is a porn addict may be tough for them to hear, so my wife and I are mulling this one over to figure out the best way. We think they need to be told something because my wife is finding it harder and harder to hide the fact I’m going to SAA and therapy – she is close to her mum and she doesn’t like hiding things. We could perhaps tell them I’m getting help for an addiction, or just personal issues, but not be specific, but for me that’s just more secrecy so I think we’d have to go all the way. Watch this space.

So there we go. My wife, my sister and my brother-in-law now know about my addiction – that I am a recovering sex addict (specifically porn, but I think sex addict is the correct term as porn addiction is just one form of sex addiction). I feel more people are going to find out soon enough. I’m excited and scared at the same time, but I know I’m doing the right thing.

Some general views on porn addiction

Every now and then I search twitter for things like “porn addiction” and “sex addicts anonymous” to see who’s talking about what. Generally the content seems to break down as follows:

  • Idiotic, insensitive jokes about sex addicts (e.g. “SAA must be the best place to get laid”) – 80%
  • Religious groups and others proclaiming how evil porn is – 15%
  • People opening or having genuine discussion about porn addiction – 4%
  • Sufferers talking about their addiction – 1%

Why is the last one so small? I think because porn addicts on twitter rarely tweet the words “porn addiction” – we talk about all sorts of feelings, motivations and other views, but don’t waste each tweet with self-evident phrases like that.

Anyway, I came across one guy, who actually works in the porn industry, asking about people’s views on porn addiction (WARNING: his twitter account is NSFW – if you are struggling with sex addiction DO NOT VISIT!). He gave me his email address, and I sent him the following (minus introduction and a bit about my own addiction):

Email to Naked Truth Podcast (a.k.a. @nakedtruthguy), 08/01/2015:

What is porn addiction?

I define an addiction as compulsive continuation of an activity in spite of the negative consequences that result from that activity. I.e. even though someone knows that they shouldn’t do something, and actively don’t want to do it for that reason, and they know that doing it will have negative impacts on their life, they still do it. It is a compulsion that overrides their sensibilities.

By that definition, there can be no doubt that porn is addictive. The numbers of people on twitter, on Facebook, attending 12-step groups, visiting therapists, going on tv, all show that there is something serious here that needs to be acknowledged, and that these people are desperate for support that is not readily available.

Why porn?

From what I’ve learned, I believe the following is true:

  • Porn is just one type of sexual activity that falls under the Sex Addiction banner. When talking about porn addiction, you’re really talking about one aspect of sex addiction. Often porn addicts are just sex addicts at an early stage of acting out. Like most addictions, the addict often needs a ‘bigger hit’ of the drug, so it is common for porn addicts to progress onto more serious and impactful activities like fetishes, prostitutes and cheating on partners.
  • Porn does something to the brain. There is a growing amount of research on this that I’m not close enough to refer to in detail, but essentially it refers to the dopamine hit that users get when watching porn (proven to be almost identical to the hit a drug user gets), and how the addict develops an immunity, requiring a bigger hit and therefore an increased level of ‘acting out’ with the addiction.
  • Sex addiction is a means of dealing with pain. It has very little to do with sex. That pain can be physical, emotional or otherwise, but acting out with sex addiction is a way to escape from pains and stresses of reality in an intense form of ‘self-love’. Of course, once the acting out is over, the temporary soothing effect is replaced by depression as the addict realises they’ve let themselves, and others, down once again. Often they will act out again just to escape from that refreshed pain, and so the cycle continues.
  • Porn is not a physical addiction, more a psychological one. The Your Brain On Porn site, and other research, talks about the hunter-gatherer caveman side of it. A porn addict will watch porn for hours and hours, constantly hunting for a better scene or the perfect scene to climax to. This is the mental equivalent of your brain seeking out the right partner, but the chemicals in your brain can’t tell the difference between real-life dopamine hits and those from porn, so it seeks out porn as it is easy. I’m probably not explaining this one very well – have a watch of this.

Not everyone is going to get addicted to porn

Because porn is used to deal with pain and get various mental highs, different people are affected differently. Just like many people can drink socially and not get addicted, so too can people watch porn and not get addicted. They probably have healthy ways of dealing with their pains, or perhaps unhealthy ways! Perhaps they don’t have a predisposition to addictive materials. Either way, because some/many/most people don’t get addicted to porn is not in itself proof that others can’t get addicted to it.

Beating sex addiction

Once you understand that you are addicted, you need to look into yourself and understand your own personal circumstances. On the basis porn/sex acting out is being used to numb and escape from pain, the addict needs to identify that pain and where it stems from, as well as what day-to-day triggers exist that may encourage acting out (arguments, feeling depressed/stressed etc), and start to rebalance their life. I.e. instead of using porn to escape stress, find other more healthy ways of dealing with that stress, and identify it earlier so you can avoid acting out. This is very hard to do alone, and is why 12-step groups and therapy is so useful. Others can help the addict identify things they may not have been able to do themselves. Some pains are buried deep.

The deniers

I admit I don’t quite understand the position that people like David Ley take. My cynical view is that they have simply found a controversial opinion that the masses enjoy hearing, and have built a career out of voicing it. My main concern is that regardless of whether porn is or is not addictive, these people are actively diverting attention away from the people who genuinely need help. They are quick to dismiss, and very slow to assist. There is no doubt in my mind that porn can be used as a method of dealing with pain and that people can become addicted to it. It is not physically addictive, like alcohol or drugs, but it is addictive nonetheless.

Our society and sex addiction

I feel our society is way behind in terms of comprehension, compassion and assistance regarding sex addiction. It is a taboo subject. Alcoholics and drug addicts can relatively easily admit to their addiction and expect support and general encouragement. There are plenty of public resources to help them beat their addiction. However, porn is generally a taboo subject regardless of addiction – so for those suffering from it, admitting this in public is drastically more difficult. People you tell will not even understand what you’re addicted to, or even know that porn can be addictive. The fact that I had to create anonymous accounts just to express my thoughts on the addiction speaks volumes – I genuinely worried about keeping my job and general social dignity by admitting this addiction (although I am preparing to start telling people in my life this year as I want to remove the shame and secrecy).

Just look at the 2014 stats from PornHub. 78.9 billion porn videos viewed in the year!! 18.35 billion total visits. That’s 35,000 site hits a minute. Let that sink in, then think about how many people actively talk about porn in daily life. There is a HUGE discrepancy. People don’t talk about porn, but clearly far more people than are letting on are visiting and watching porn regularly. So how can we possibly have a good understanding of the levels of porn addiction if we can’t even talk about it? You can be addicted to porn in secret. You can’t stay up all night getting drunk or taking drugs without eventually some exterior signs showing.

How can people like David Ley possibly assume to have a good understanding of porn addiction, and go so far as to make judgements and assertions, when there are literally billions of people looking at porn who aren’t admitting it!?

The industry is not taking responsibility

I feel like the porn industry is on course for the same wake-up call that the tobacco industry had. Remember that internet porn is only 20 years old. We’re still in generation 1 of porn addicts – i.e. those like me who started getting hooked right when internet porn first started existing. Who knows what level of openness and impact our society will experience regarding porn over the coming generations? Either way, I think, or at least I really hope, that the porn industry is legally forced to take more responsibility for its output. I am by no means a porn-anti – I don’t think it should be banned, but I think the potential risks must be made clear. Just like the cancer ads on cigarette packets, I see a future where porn websites require you to state that porn is addictive if not used carefully.

Unfortunately, just like the tobacco companies, the porn industry itself is going to not only deny any addictiveness, but they are going to actively fight against any progress made on this front. This site says the porn industry is generating $2.8b a year. This seems low to me, but regardless, if that number is threatened, the people earning the big bucks are going to do whatever it takes (think lobbying, lies etc) to protect their revenue, regardless of the impact on people’s health. It is really sad, but there’s no way we can look to the industry to ‘do the right thing’ – they’ll need to be forced by law.

Our schools are not educating

Sex education currently does not include talking about the risks of excessive porn use. It needs to. Our society needs to wake up and take responsibility for the biggest elephant in the room that we’ve ever seen. Education is our strongest defence against future addicts being created. If I knew that porn was addictive when I started looking at it nightly as a teenager, would I have been more careful? I actively avoided smoking because I knew it was harmful, things may have been different if I knew the risks. Regardless, if the risks exist, our schools and parents have a responsibility to educate against them. What’s the harm? It can’t hurt to say “porn can be harmful if used in excess and can become addictive” – we aren’t we telling our kids this?

Christmas Eve 2014

Its Christmas Eve and I’m full of thoughts.

I suppose it is inherently a time of reflection but for me my current situation in life has left me to perhaps be more reflective than usual.

I went to my second 12-step meeting yesterday, and the majority of people who shared expressed worry about getting through the Christmas period. I remember thinking at the time that this doesn’t really apply to me as I don’t consider Christmas to be a time of weakness, but I’ve been unexpectedly hit by it in a different way.

My mum died about 14 months ago. Last Christmas was pretty terrible but at least my sister, brother-in-law, wife and gran were here with me and my dad. This year, it is just me and my dad. We’ll be having Christmas Day at my 96 year-old grandmother’s house as she has become too frail to leave the house.

So I’m feeling pretty down. Thoughts about my mum, my gran and also some clarity over the relationship I have with my dad. He harbours his own secrets. Cannabis and sexual activity (porn, maybe more) I think, but we’ve never spoken about it. Just like my days of old, he lives a successful and social life, but I suspect he has secrets that no-one knows, and he appears to be ok with that. I think he’s probably past the point of having a desire to reflect and change his ways, and I have no desire to visit these areas of his life with him.

However, I am currently in the process of trying to understand how I can remove the shame and secrecy from my addiction and my life. This means formulating a plan to start telling people about my addiction, and living a singular, honest life that includes my addiction, rather than keeping it secret. Unfortunately, being at home with my dad has made me stare into the face of someone doing the opposite – unable to share any form of honest emotion with their son and content to hide secrets and keep up appearances. I don’t see any way I can further my relationship with my dad while this dynamic remains, and taking it a step further I could say that interacting with him may actually be a detrimental activity for me. That’s a strong thing to say so I’ll sleep on it.

So what’s next? Well, my predictions / goals for 2015 are:

  • I will become a dad in February
  • I will continue going to 12 step groups, become more familiar with the programme and start to see some tangible improvements in my life, especially in the duration of my periods of abstinence
  • I will start to tell people about my addiction, including my sister

I feel like I am going through a mental upheaval – revisiting almost all areas of my life to assess the state I am in today and who “I” really am. The goal being to restore balance to my life and adjust specific areas in order to compensate for the loss of my addictive behaviour. I don’t think I fully appreciate the extent to which this will change my daily life (for example, I received two phone calls today from 12-step attendees I met last night, just checking in on me. That could be a daily occurrence for the next x months or years…!). But change is good and I will embrace it.

I don’t know better. There is so much help out there if I seek it out and allow it into my life. It will just take commitment, courage and humility, and if I can’t offer those things in my life, what sort of life will I really be living?

Happy Christmas everyone. I wish you all a wonderful holiday and a fulfilling and empowered 2015.

The Identities of an Addict

Recently I have become more and more aware of the separation I feel between the ‘outer’ me – that people see and interact with – and the ‘inner’ me, that is constantly aware of my struggle with porn and the fact that those I am speaking with have no idea about this secret of mine.

Despite being regarded as a very outgoing and socially capable person, I often feel very isolated internally when I am with other people, because I am so conscious of this secret. I have also started to slowly admit that despite my ‘socialness’, I have actually very few, if any, close friends. At least not any that I see with any regularity. I have good friends that I see maybe once a month, but that’s about as good as it gets.

In thinking about why this might be, (and credit to a new therapist I have been visiting), the notion arose that I may be subconsciously struggling to build these relationships because of the knowledge that no-one is really getting to know the ‘full’ me – they are always shielded from the fact I have an addiction (because I don’t tell them).

One of the benefits I think I will get out of going to a 12 step group like SAA is the ability to meet people who, for the first time in my life, will be able to get to know all of me – warts and all. They’ll know what I’m going through and vice versa, and there will be no hidden agenda or pre-occupation (hopefully).

I’m quietly quite excited about this prospect. Of being able to speak to another human being without permanently having to remember I’m hiding something from them and worrying about saying something that may give away my secret.

Merging the two identities

Leading on from this, I now need to consider what my life will be like in recovery (not that I’m doing very well at recovery at the moment). I.e. I think I need to start defining myself as an addict, rather than as a normal everyday person with a dirty secret. I need to stop living two lives – one being the normal guy that people know and like, and the other being a shameful and embarrassed porn addict.

So I think I’ve decided I’m going to start telling people, with the goal being to, at some point in the future, be living a relatively open and honest existence whereby people know I’m a porn addict and it isn’t something I actively try to hide from people.

This is obviously a huge step but I think it will be a powerful one that could really deflate the shameful feelings associated with the addiction and allow me to continue to tackle it in a healthy way and start growing a single identity of who I really am.

The question is who to tell! And when. I rarely get the time to spend with any of my friends one-2-one for a period of time, so I don’t have an answer yet, but I’m working on it.

A pretty detailed account of my (porn) life

Today, while browsing r/NoFap, I came across a video called “Share Your Story” by a guy (supposedly) called Noah Church. Watching his other videos, he’s an articulate and charismatic ex-porn addict who is spreading the word about addiction and providing help to those still struggling with it (here’s probably his best video – a 20 minute entertaining speech about his journey).

In the comment of the video, he recommended r/NoFap and also the Your Brain Rebalanced forum, as great places to share your story, and actively encouraged doing so.

So, I headed over to Your Brain Rebalanced to see what’s what. There I found a very active community of people so I set to work writing my ‘introduction’. This turned out to be a ~3,000 word account of my life from a porn perspective, from school, to adulthood, to the admission of my addiction to both myself and my wife, through to the present day and my thoughts and current actions regarding recovery.

I may post it separately on this blog as a record, but for now, here’s a link:

By way of introduction, my story so far

Trauma, Self-Esteem and a Hypothesis

There are two aspects to beating porn addiction – the physical process of abstinence and the methods of doing so, and understanding the psychological background and context that has led to the addiction. They say that to really explore the latter, you need to achieve the former. This post is about the latter.

Ever since reading Paula Hall’s excellent book Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction, and having a short conversation with her skype-to-skype, I’ve been very interested in exploring my childhood and other environmental factors of my youth that may have led me to porn addiction – factors that hadn’t previously occurred to me.

Trauma

One key area to explore is trauma. Trauma comes in various guises, from the obvious (e.g. child abuse), to the more subtle (e.g. lack of the required dosage of love and affection as a child, separation from parents, etc). Having spent most of my pubescent life in boarding school (from age 8 to 19), the concept that this itself could be considered ‘a traumatic event’ was intriguing to me. I have always told anyone that would listen that I wouldn’t send my kids to boarding school, primarily because I want to be the person they come home to and talk to about their day. For me, for 11 years, that person was a House Master, Matron, or most often no-one. I had a very formal relationship with my parents and we did not talk about anything too personal, and still don’t. They were masters of ‘keeping up appearances’ at the expense of honesty and emotion, but I never judged them for it – they are from a different generation.

Self-esteem and self-worth

So what has any of this got to do with porn addiction? Well, the last few weeks have revealed other areas of my psyche that relate to this and provide further context. Firstly, my wife sent me packing for 2 days to do some thinking, and one of the key things that dawned on me is that I have pretty low self-esteem. I genuinely don’t consider myself that interesting a person, and am confused as to why, for example, a daughter would look up to me. I don’t think I’m worthy of being a father, and generally consider my contribution to this planet as minimal. Low self-esteem is a good recipe for destructive behaviour, so this is an interesting area for me to explore in terms of understanding my porn addiction.

In addition, as a soon-to-be dad, I have been reading Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph, and one of the first things he talks about is how the most fundamentally important thing for a child is to receive copious amounts of love from its parents. Babies are by default in a state of ‘panic’ and need constant re-assuring and calming, so they know that everything is ok and they are loved, which gives them the future confidence to go out into the world and explore. Without that love, they will not have the same levels of courage, and an inner doubt can manifest. Now I’m not saying I wasn’t loved as a kid, but it is interesting to consider whether living away from my parents for 11 years may have had an impact on my own self-worth.

False confidence

People who know me regard me as confident and outgoing, able to strike up a conversation with anyone. My wife envies that in me as she is ‘shy’ in social situations (she’s actually just got a lot of self-confidence and so doesn’t feel the need to make small talk – something I envy in her). I, on the other hand, have always considered this confident persona quite artificial and fake, and not the ‘real’ me. Quite what the ‘real’ me is I’m not sure, but I feel as a result I have lots of short-term and shallow conversations/relationships and hardly any long-term deep ones. As an example, I don’t really have a single friend who I see regularly, or who would notice if I wasn’t around, at least not for a month or so. This reinforces my opinion that I’m just not that interesting, or nice, a person.

So to tie it all back to porn addiction, what I am exploring here is the sort of person I am, the upbringing I had, my view of myself, and my interpretation of my relationships with others, and how all of this could fit together to create a state of mind that may lead to addiction. If addictions are a way to numb negative emotions and escape from personal troubles (consciously or unconsciously), then I owe it to myself to understand what it really is that I’m trying to escape from or avoid with porn. I’ve always thought it was general adulthood responsibility, but I’m starting to think I may have deeper issues with my own self-worth that may be encouraging me to seek solitude in porn.

A working hypothesis, based on the above

How about this:

A prolonged period (11 years) of separation from a loving family home, combined with life in the bullying culture of a boarding school, contributed to the formulation of an overly confident persona that allowed deeper emotional shortcomings to remain unresolved. This, combined with the usual teenage desire to rebel against authority (which in my case was the school regime of being told what to do from waking ’til sleeping), the perfectly-timed arrival of the internet and the porn it contained, and the on-set of puberty, was the perfect storm of escapism, allowing me to find solace in staying up at my computer for hours after ‘lights out’, watching porn and feeling superior in my rebellion, while unintentionally prohibiting the emotional development that I needed in order to avoid what has resulted in a low self-valuation and the continued regression into addiction.

Lots to digest! And who knows I may be barking up the wrong tree, but this feels like an important process to go through.

Now what?

And then of course, the question is – how to resolve it!? One idea I’ve had, to counter my low opinion of my impact on this planet, is to to volunteer in my community. My two main skills are guitar and IT, so if I could give kids free guitar lessons, or go round people’s homes and fix their computers, I think that would make me feel like I am making a (albeit small) contribution to other people’s lives. Sure, its a bit of a selfish reason, but better that than not helping at all right?

I think I also need to truly accept that I am loved, and that I am not inherently a bad of worthless person, but that perhaps I’ve just not made the right choices and prioritisations. Addressing the emotional connection with my parents will be the hardest part, as my mum died last year and my dad has his own issues to deal with, and I really have no desire to try and have any form of emotional conversation with him about any of this.

Seeking support from others though will be crucial, either via a 12 step program, an admission to a friend of family member, or private therapy. I am booking a couple therapist to go and see with my wife, as the group therapy course I had pinned my hopes on isn’t starting now until January.

A Note About Porn Blocks

I’ve written extensively about porn blocks on this blog. For a time I thought they were the answer – a way of physically preventing me from watching porn, and therefore achieving the abstinence that it is of course the goal of this whole thing.

Unfortunately, for me at least, porn blocks have done more harm than good, in the following ways:

  1. They are not fool-proof, and I am very good at computers. Whatever solution I found, I found a workaround for. I would then figure out a technical way of preventing that workaround next time, but I would quickly find another. You would be amazed at some of the convoluted and complex steps that I went through to get even a single porn image to load.
  2. They divert focus from what matters. Instead of concentrating on improving my mindfulness and willpower and other mental exercises to strengthen myself against temptation, I simply sat back and relied on the porn blocks. This meant that not only was I not improving my mental stance at all, but as soon as I found a workaround, I would instantly relapse, as I had no mental strength to withstand it.
  3. I spent my whole time trying to break them. When you’ve given in and are looking for porn, it is already too late – you’ve lost that particular battle. The battle against porn needs to be fought at the temptation stage, not later. But with blocks in place, the process of finding porn became almost a game. I would spend hours trying to find loopholes and workarounds, which was almost more exhilarating than the actual payoff.
  4. They gave a false sense of security. Each time I plugged a workaround, I genuinely believed I had ‘found the last loophole’, and I would tell me wife this. But each time I found a way to act out, it caused additional stress on my wife and I as we went through the technical process of evaluating the loophole and her relying on me to block it. The blocks made me think like I was ‘beating’ the addiction, but I wasn’t, I was simply postponing, or diverting, it.
  5. It was too onerous on my wife. My wife held the keys to my digital life. I had set her up as the admin on my PC. I had installed blocking software which only she knew the password to. I had prevented myself from installing apps on my phone without her approval. All of this required her to enter a password, which she would do 10 times a night while I went about my normal computing activities. She didn’t enjoy it, and the continued relapsing made her feel it wasn’t worth it anyway.

So, in the end, we gave up and removed all the blocks. On the basis that I was always going to find some kind of workaround, the additional stress involved in managing the blocks, and the distraction they were causing by preventing me from focussing on mindfulness, wasn’t worth it.

I now have no blocks installed. For the first week I have succumbed quite a lot to times on my own due to the new-found novelty, but things are coming to a head and that now needs to change.

Reflections

I am writing this post from a hotel room. My wife asked me to spend time alone to reflect on the current situation that we are in. Things are, as you can imagine, getting pretty tough. To be asked to spend a few days away from home by your wife is a startling reminder that the addiction has a tangible and serious impact on her.

There are two things that she feels I need to focus on:

  • My battle with porn addiction and what I am going to do about it
  • My lack of support when it comes to her pregnancy

The first one we all know about. The second one is where I have avoided the day to day tasks and other pre-fatherhood responsibilities that I know I have to do, like researching, reading, planning etc. Instead I just play computer games, or generally do anything that doesn’t involve facing the upcoming change in my life.

Looking back at the last few months, it is clear I haven’t responded well to the idea of becoming a father. I think this boils down to a few key reasons:

  • I doubt my ability to be a good father
  • I don’t think I was ever really ready to be a father (having a child was 95% my wife’s idea that I supported because it made sense – I knew I wanted to have kids, and I didn’t think I’d ever grow up enough to pro-actively make that choice, so I was happy for my wife to lead the way)
  • Due to my porn addiction, I do not feel I deserve to be a father

That last one is interesting to me. The continued battle with my addiction has generally made me feel like an inferior human being. I feel that I am a slave to an external force that I have given in to, and as such I have surrendered my dignity and rights to consider myself a self-sufficient, responsible human.

There are a few other truths that I want to focus on.

  1. My continued use of porn is no longer a solo activity – it is having a direct and significant negative impact on the mental, and potentially physical, wellbeing of my wife.
  2. My marriage is in jeopardy
  3. If I want my marriage and future family to survive, I have to quit for good, once and for all.
  4. I need to face the responsibilities that lie ahead of me as a father
  5. I must provide more support for my wife

On reading them, they sound so obvious, but it is so easy to get into a rut of denial. My constant inability to quit porn has demoralised both me and my wife, to the extent that I regularly do not feel I will ever quit – that I can’t quit. This isn’t true. I can, and I will, but it is so easy to think that just to ‘go back to how things were’, looking at porn, would be so much easier. But that’s not an option.

So I need to get back track with a pro-active plan to beat porn. I’m just so afraid of saying this because of how many times I’ve said it before. How do I know if this time is for real? What if it is for real but it isn’t enough? That’s what scares me – that I will never succeed.

Anyway, my initial plan is:

  • Remember that watching porn is a CHOICE. Nothing is more important to remember than this fact. I CHOOSE to watch porn, which means I am choosing to risk my marriage, choosing to hurt my wife, choosing to live as a slave. I must remember this every waking minute of my day. I can choose not to watch porn. It won’t be an easy choice, but I am in control of my life and able to make that choice.
  • Maintain constant awareness and mindfulness of my addiction. Spend a lot of time on WordPress blogs and Reddit’s NoFap section. Engage with others on twitter. Write blog posts. Write in my journal. Keep the fight at the forefront of my mind, as slipping into ‘normality’ is where the dangers lie.
  • Listen to my wife and support her. She is going through a lot and needs my support. Do my chores, don’t be difficult, and just stop being a lazy, self-interested slob.
  • Attend the group therapy sessions that I am booked in for, starting next week. This should be a significant milestone as for the first time ever I will meet other people in my position, and be able to talk to them. Dealing with this on my own has been really, really hard.

Two quotes come to mind that I’ve always remembered throughout my life, that ironically both are well suited to my life right now:

You’ve only failed once you’ve stopped trying

No-one else will regret what you don’t do

Status Update – more content blocking!

So September is nearly upon us and looking back, August has been probably the toughest month I’ve had to deal with in relation to porn addiction. My anxiety and stress levels have been through the roof, yet I’ve been relapsing at the same regularity as before, so all in all I’m finding it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But that hasn’t meant I’ve stopped trying, and one key change I’ve made, and continually refined upon, is implementing a holistic method to block my ability to watch porn on my laptop, tablet and phone. This is only addressing the means, rather than the motivation, but the aim is to help me get to a period of sobriety, which in turn will improve my mental state and increase my chances of a longer-term recovery.

So here’s the current setup (following one from my previous posts on the matter):

  • Enabled Sky’s (my broadband provider) content filter by enabling through their admin panel. As I have a Sky login (to use their services like remote record), I technically can disable this filter, but if I do, my wife automatically receives an email. By enabling this filter, all porn served to any home device via my broadband connection is blocked, and the filter works very well. There is one workaround to this though:
  • Using a VPN/proxy server. A VPN is a way of bypassing your ISP’s content block, by requesting web pages via a different domain service than the one your ISP uses. I happen to have a VPN to my work network setup on my personal laptop, so I can easily work from home, and my company does not filter porn on their network for some reason. So the only way to block porn delivered via the VPN is to install software on my laptop which will block porn locally, regardless of what internet connectivity has been used. I have opted to use K9 Web Protection, which does a very good job. My wife owns the password and it blocks all porn and also image searches, unless you use its own safe image search. I am still an admin on my laptop, which means I am technically able to force-delete appropriate system files to disable this block, but it is laborious and combined with the steps below, I’m hoping removing my admin rights won’t be necessary.
  • Enabled Apple’s adult content restriction on my iPad and iPhone. This is a very strict block that prevents a lot of websites from being shown on my phone, but better to be safe than sorry. Again, content is blocked regardless of whether I use a VPN or not, and it applies to almost all 3rd party apps as their built-in browsers essentially just use the  built-in Safari engine. In addition, I have deleted all apps on my phone that can access images or porn, like Reddit and Google Search, and have disabled the App Store so I can’t download 3rd party browsers.

So I am at a point where it is basically impossible to look at porn on my phone or iPad, and the only way to do it on my laptop is to force-delete the K9 software and use my work VPN (where all my access is recorded) to watch porn. There is a huge risk of me using my work VPN, in that I could lose my job.

In addition, I have put in place two additional safeguards into my daily routine. As the most common times for me to watch porn, or try to, are in the morning after my wife has left for work and in the evening after she’s gone to bed, I’ve suggested to her that from now on I get up and leave the house with her (no more lying in bed as she leaves) and go to bed with (no more staying up late). These steps should hopefully compensate for the fact that technically there is a workaround, albeit a laborious and job-risking one, still available.

One key thing I’ve noticed is that the more I implement technical blocks of porn, the more I rely on these blocks as my method of abstaining. This has meant that each time I find a workaround, I go full on and relapse immediately to take advantage of it, then afterwards I plug that workaround and the process continues. By relying so much on the blocks, it has reduced the emphasis on building up my own mental fortifications against temptation. My most successful periods of abstinence have been in the past before I implemented a single block, and now I’ve got blocks enabled, I’m relapsing more frequently as I spend my whole time trying to break them (and often succeeding), rather than spending time building my mental strength and strategies. Now I have basically got the blocks sorted, I need to revisit these original mental techniques to start focussing on resisting temptation and improving my mental well-being, rather than just focussing on the technicals.

I must mention my wife as well – she has been hugely supportive. My stress levels have been borderline depression during my recent relapses and she’s been open to all my suggestions and has supported me all the way. She’s 4 months pregnant and so I feel terrible to be putting her through this but I don’t see any other way – she has to be involved. It is so hard to admit to her when I fail because I know how disappointed it makes her, and it is embarrassing for me, as well as being genuinely hard to do because after I relapse I tend to be at my lowest mental point – depressed, deflated, disappointed with myself, so to then admit this to someone else who will add to the disappointment is hard. But it needs ot be done and she hasn’t let her disappointment flow over into negativity – we always discuss why it happened and what can be done to prevent it again.

So there we have it. This is probably a few blog posts wrapped up into one but I just wanted to get a few things written down. I’m hoping this will be useful or interesting reading for someone at some point in the future!

Enable Adult Content Block on iOS 7

I’m in the process of locking down my ability to access porn, both at home and away, on all my devices. Each time I think I’ve cracked it, I find another loophole, but I’m getting closed to having a holistic block.

See my last post for my current setup, but I’ve since found another workaround and so I’m investigating further blocks, and one I’ve come across which I think is essential for any Apple device owner to implement is the iOS adult website filter. Enabling this filter does three things:

  1. Prevents certain adult websites from displayed on the device
  2. Removes the ability to enter ‘private browsing’ mode in Safari
  3. Prevents the device’s internet history from being cleared

Numbers 2 and 3 are really clever inclusions, as it means even if a particular adult website can be accessed, it cannot be done so in private and so will show up in the history, which itself cannot be cleared. Any porn sites you visit will be there to see for eternity, which is a very strong deterrent.

Whoever enables the restriction on the device gets to choose a password, which can be different from the device lock passcode (so the phone owner can still lock the device and use it as normal).

I will be incorporating this into my latest setup, as I have decided that device-level blocks are required as well as ISP-level blocks, as described in my last post.

You can see a good walkthrough of how to enable to adult site filter here.

Now unfortunately, there’s one big gotcha. A user can simply install a 3rd party browser such as Google Chrome and simply bypass the above content block! I’m in the process of investigating how to prevent specific apps from being run on the phone, to prevent any 3rd party browsers from being run. I can’t see an immediate way of achieving this without restricting the ability to download apps without the ‘supervisor’ entering the password.