Porn

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.

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!

Blocking porn in my house: how to do it right

When I first started taking my porn addiction seriously, one of my first steps was to implement a content block in my household, to prevent me from being able to watch porn, even if I wanted to. I wrote about the various technical steps in doing this in this post. The basic premise was to apply content blocking at the ISP level (e.g. your internet provider like BT or Sky), rather than at a device level, as this applies the block holistically to the entire house and all devices automatically.

The problem was that I found a workaround, and after a while I just reverted the block as it wasn’t working because of this workaround. Additionally, I felt that simply blocking porn without addressing the underlying desire was just a plaster – it wasn’t addressing the root issues.

However, during my second therapy session, my counsellor advised that although I am right – blocking alone isn’t enough and is just a plaster – it is a good way of helping to achieve a period of abstinence from porn, which is a key step in the recovery process. He advised revisiting the content block solution and so I have done, and this time I’ve plugged the workaround and am pleased to say I now am entirely unable to access porn at home.

The following is a bit technical, but may serve as a useful guide for any others wanting to block porn at home

There are two ways of blocking porn at home. One is by installing software on all of your devices that monitors what the user is doing and prevents any pornographic images or websites from being shown. The second is to apply a similar block higher up the chain, at the ISP level (Sky, BT, Virgin Media), that blocks all porn to all devices in the house. The problem with the first option is that most mobile devices, certainly Apple devices, don’t allow for such software to be installed in the first place.

So my preferred method was to implement the block higher up the internet food chain, so that my any device in my house, regardless of make or model or software, could not access porn. This method is known as a DNS-level block. DNS is a standard method of locating websites over the internet. When you type in a friendly website name like google.com, your ISP takes that name and performs what is known as a DNS lookup, which essentially converts that friendly name into a specific IP address on the web where that website content can be loaded from. When you enable a DNS block, your ISP essentially adds some rules to that lookup service that ensures that if a porn site is requested, instead of looking that site up and showing it to the user, it simply does nothing (well actually it redirects to an information page saying the page has been blocked).

It looks a bit like this:

ISP-level porn block

The tricky bit is that there are many different DNS lookup services out there that all do mostly the same thing, and it is very easy to re-configure your laptop or phone to use them instead of the one that your ISP uses. Google operate a public, free DNS service for example. So for example, if I change the DNS lookup server setting on my laptop to use Google’s service instead of my ISP’s, when I type in a porn website’s name that my ISP is blocking, instead of asking my ISP for the website and receiving a blocked warning, my laptop simply asks a different company for the website address, bypassing my ISP’s name lookup service and gets the full site in return.

So how to fix this? Well I discovered that it is possible to block non-ISP DNS lookups. You do this by reconfiguring your router, and this means that your router can detect if you are trying to use a DNS service other than your ISP’s, and block the traffic completely until you remove the bypass. To do this, you first need to identify your ISP’s DNS service IP addresses (Sky’s are 90.207.238.97 and 90.207.238.99). You then need to add port forwarding rules to your router to block access to port 53 to all public IP addresses other than these IPs. So for me, I created three block rules in my router:

1. 0.0.0.0 to 90.207.238.97

2. 90.207.238.98

3. 90.207.238.100 to 255.255.255.255

This means that the only two IP addresses that my router will allow port 53 to be accessed, which is the port used by all DNS lookup services, are the two provided by my ISP.

The final step was to allow my wife to change the admin password on my router so I can’t log in and remove these rules! This is now done, and I am now unable to bypass my ISP’s content block!

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like more info on this or some help on how to set this up in your house. The only drawbacks is that it doesn’t block porn on your laptop if you connect to a different wifi network, so if you think that is a risk for you, you may want to consider also installing blocking software on the laptop itself. It won’t help for your phone or tablet though but for me blocking at home is removing 90% of the chance of me watching porn.

Monthly report: July 2014

I have been recording in a Google Calendar my daily progress. A green :) goes if I did not look at porn that day, otherwise it gets a red X. At the end of each month, I total up the number of days clean as a percentage of total days in the month, with the goal being to see this percentage increase as each month goes by. This is a slightly longer-term view of recovery, rather than just trying to go cold-turkey and then feel like a failure when you slip up (see post Status Update – Taking a longer view for more on this).

So here’s the summary for July 2014:

Porn Recovery Progress - July 2014

The stats

Month Total Days Day clean % of month clean
July 31 21 68%

Thoughts

I generally don’t think I did that well in July. It started off well, which was my best streak from when I first restarted my drive to quit officially (which was on 30th June), but then it started declining throughout the month. Still, it is a line in the sand and something to build upon.

Private therapy session #2 take-away

Today I had my second private therapy session with a sex addiction counsellor. I had decided to go down the counselling route for two reasons: 1) self-motivation wasn’t working and 2) I started to appreciate that to fix my addiction, I’d have to really understand the underlying psychological reasons for it; something I would likely not be able to work out on my own (for more on this, see my previous post).

I’m not going to go into detail about these sessions but I do want to share any interesting topics of conversation, tips or techniques (let’s call them ‘take-aways’) that arise, that may help others in similar struggles as me.

The first take-away, from my first session, is already described above – that trying to just quit porn without addressing the underlying causes of the addiction is like putting a plaster on a wound that needs stitches. It will help in the short-term, but until you address the root problem, you’ll never fully heal.

My take-away from session #2 is:

Getting into a period of ‘sobriety’ is an important early step on the road to recovery.

I’m sure this sounds pretty obvious, but there is a reason why this was significant for me. To explain some background, I had previously tried many steps to force sobriety from porn – for example enabling content blocks through my ISP and phone providers and having my wife change the passwords to my router (see past post Stage 2 – Implementing the content block). However, I quickly found technical workarounds to some of these blocks and so they didn’t really work in the end. I eventually gave up, with the reasoning that these blocks were only the plaster – they prohibited me from watching porn but they didn’t stop me wanting to watch porn, which to me was the more important element that needed to be addressed.

Counselling is going to help me this element of understanding the root cause of my addiction. However, one of the things my therapist told me today was that getting into a period of abstinence from porn is a very important step in getting towards the improved mental state that will be vital to the recovery process. And so, if that means using temporary methods like content blocks etc, to help get to that period of abstinence, so be it. They may not be the end-game solution, but they help you get there.

So tonight, with my wife, we have re-enabled the content blocks from our ISP (broadband provider) and 3G networks. There is still a way for me to bypass the ISP block but in order to plug that gap I am going to need to replace my router. I’ll write more about this in a separate post once I’ve made the changes and tested them.

Take-away #2:

If there are triggers you are aware of that you are able to prevent, then do it

Another obvious-sounding piece of advice but only by really thinking about it did I realise something obvious. I have always known that the day after heavy drinking or smoking weed leaves me really horny. I don’t know why, but I love watching porn when slightly hungover from either of these drugs. So my therapist advised – stop drinking and smoking! Obviously these are only pieces of advice (he can’t force me to do it), but depending on how serious I am to be with this, I can take steps to remove certain activities that I know lead to increased likelihood of temptation. So this would mean no more drinking or weed smoking, which should be interesting! I haven’t quite committed to this yet, but am going to have to think about it. My motto these days is “whatever it takes“, so on that basis I am probably going to have to consider these options very seriously.

The journey of discovery continues…

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.

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!

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.