Tag Archives: Porn

Taking the next step – professional help

One common theme amongst most people who have made significant progress in their porn addiction recovery, especially from those who have beaten it, is that they have all had professional help.

So acknowledging that self-help, while beneficial, was not delivering the results for me that I wanted, I contacted a professional sex/porn addiction psycho-therapist, and today had my first Skype conversation/assessment with them.

It was really interesting and I’m really glad I did it. I will almost certainly join a group therapy session of some kind off the back of this.

Here are some of the most interesting ideas that I took away from the call:

  • There are (at least) two elements to the beating of porn addiction (“think” and “do” I made up just for the sake of articulation):
    • THINK – Exploring your background and childhood to understand why you look at porn. It is unlikely to just be “because porn is addictive”. You may be using porn as a means of dealing with something subconscious, a past trauma, or in my case (maybe) a means of escaping from responsibilities and a relic of childhood rebellion from a prolonged period of living under a tight regime of authority.
    • DO – Practical methods to stop – Having understood why the individual is using porn, understand their personal triggers and put in place the tools to break the addictive cycle, as well as finding new things in your life that compensate and help the brain adjust.
  • Self-help methods (blogging, tweeting, online porn gurus etc) are all useful, but they only operate at a generic level. Without in-depth knowledge and assessment of an individual’s specific background and circumstances, it is impossible for online resources to truly get to the bottom of why you look at porn, and so they can only (partially) help at the DO phase – helping you quit using porn, but even then they can’t apply tools tailored to your own personal triggers and situation.
  • Actually quitting using porn is almost pointless if you don’t simultaneously understand the THINK phase – why you are using porn. If you don’t understand this, you’ll simply find something else to satisfy whatever it is that was driving you to porn.
  • You can’t put fixes in place for things you aren’t aware of. Hence the need to uncover all the sub-conscious goings-on that are making you use porn, in order to remedy them.
  • Your addiction might not have anything to do with porn! Porn is an addictive entity just like many others, and you may simply have found porn at the right time to fill whatever psychological issue was developing inside you at the time. This is very apparent with me as I used to use cannabis in almost exactly the same way as I did porn – as a means of escaping from responsibilities. I’ve just fortunately managed to have controlled that addiction by avoiding it, which is impossible to do with porn.
  • Triggers are more than just stimulating images. Triggers can be moods, experiences or other influences in your life that may push you towards addictive behaviours. You won’t fully understand these triggers until you fully understand why you are addicted to porn.

I think I was lucky in my first session in that the counsellor, within about 15 minutes, had honed in on a part of my childhood that had probably triggered the porn addiction process. I’m not going to go into detail as it was only an initial chat and I don’t want to jump to premature conclusions, but it really highlighted the importance of allowing someone to delve into your past and your present on a personal basis, rather than just approaching porn addiction in a generic ‘let’s try and quit porn, regardless of why you are using it’ way.

All I can say is, if you are really serious about quitting porn, you should talk to a professional. They work with people like you every day and can recognise things in you that you probably don’t even know yourself, and they can help.

It is not nearly as daunting as it seems.

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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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Considering options to block porn on my devices

I am considering, and very likely going to implement, some form of porn-blocking method that I could implement across all devices I use. If I could successfully do this, that would be a massive helping hand in the effort to break my porn habit, as I literally would not be able to watch it, even if I tried.

The options I can think of, from the top of my head, are:

  • Install specialist porn-blocking 3rd party browsers/plugins on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air
  • Install a router-level blocking technology on my Airport Extreme
  • Employ a DNS-level blocker

Each will have their pros and cons. A router-level block won’t stop me from switching to 3G to circumvent it, so that’s out. Browsers are a good option, but obviously mean I lose all the functionality I get from using my current browsers. DNS-level blocking is also interesting but I’m not sure what the implications are – my phone is provided by my company and I’m not sure what impact changing these sorts of settings would be.

Obviously in addition to the above, I need to ensure that any methods I could use to undo any restrictions is locked down, most likely by letting my girlfriend choose the password.

If anyone has had any success with any of these options, or any other method, I’d be interested to hear about it.

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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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Here we go again

It has been a few months since I last blogged on here, and there’s a pretty obvious reason for that; I started watching porn again. I’m not going to be blogging about progress if there is none. I can’t even blog about the fact I’m watching porn because I was hiding this relapse from my girlfriend.

One of the things I’ve learned is how ridiculously easy it is to slip back into old ways. No matter how long it has been, when that old urge shows itself, it is as hard to resist as it was on day one.

It started as maybe looking at porn once a week. Only on weekends. Then maybe I had a day working from home and then it started to be during the week. Then more regularly. At what point do I tell my girlfriend? Even I was surprised by how quickly I let myself slip back into the old routines of near-daily porn use, in the space of only a few weeks.

Weirdly, the difference this time was that I was actually feeling less guilty about it than previously. Somehow I had managed to completely ignore all the previous discussions and thoughts my girlfriend and I have had about it, and just carried on without a care in the world.

Well two days ago my girlfriend asked me, for the first time in a long while, when the last time I watched porn was. While I can not mention it to her, I can’t lie to her, so I admitted I’d slipped back. She was quietly supportive but clearly hurt, and said as much. The fact that porn use is actively damaging my relationship is the single biggest fact that I manage to completely ignore, or even deny, when tempted by or using porn. I have a lit of more tangible reasons why quitting is beneficial, but I think I need to add these more long-term emotional reasons too.

Anyway, obviously the chat means I have quit again. I’m not going to be foolish enough to think that just by doing so I’m going to succeed. I’m fairly worried about my chances of success to be honest, but am constantly trying to remind myself of these reasons and think about my girlfriend. She is without a doubt the most important person to me (other than my family!) and it is unthinkable that I could allow porn to ruin what we have.

To compliment willpower, I’m also now thinking of what other daily tools I could use, like restricting the physical ability of my devices to watch porn. I may install porn-blocking software on my Mac and let my girlfriend set the password (or shut my eyes and type in gobbledygook). But then there’s my iPad and iPhone. Will need to think. I’ll probably write a different post on this topic (“How to block porn on all your connected devices”)

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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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