A Powerful Meeting

I’m getting settled in to the weekly SAA meeting I go to now in my new home town. It has a nice vibe to it, everyone is really friendly, open, honest and supportive. I even met up with some of the members beforehand for a coffee.

Tonight’s meeting was powerful, and has given me some things to think about. It reminded me of the damage that addiction can have on individuals, couples and families. It reminded me how the addiction can drive otherwise caring and well-meaning people to do selfish and harmful acts, and not even realise it until its too late. It reminded me how so many different aspects of our lives, beyond those we anticipate, become affected by addiction. It reminded me how destructive this addiction is, and how intensely difficult it is to beat. And it reminded me that no matter how long your sobriety, you can still slip up any day.

Hearing others talk about their experiences also helped me realise the reality of my latest acting out, where I was deliberately manipulative of events at home in order to leave me alone in the house so I could act out, while my wife was left to look after our daughter elsewhere. I should have been there with her, sharing the parenting and savouring every minute of my daughter’s life, but instead I was upstairs watching porn in the bedroom, counting the minutes I would have before her return.

I explained in detail the above process in the meeting, and saying it out loud made the reality of my actions hit home. When left only in my own head, it is possible to rationalise even the most extreme addictive behaviours, as the addict in me is able to dilute the perceived impact of my actions and convince me there’s nothing serious going on.

In fact, yesterday’s acting out was not only a relapse from sobriety, but a relapse from being a better person. I have prided myself in the last year or two of eradicating the outwardly harmful results of my acting out – such as how I would manipulate situations or behave nastily – so that all that is left is some occasion porn watching, and this has been an ‘acceptable’ level of addiction between my wife and I, so long as I continue to seek help and fight to get even better. Yet yesterday I reverted back to a type of behaviour that I thought I had banished, and not only that but I didn’t even realise how bad it was until today.

It is a never-ending, constantly evolving struggle. There is no room for complacency. I still feel I am yet to uncover the key to longer periods of sobriety, but it is possible as so many others have succeeded. I’ll keep fighting, for me, my family, and my future, and I’ll figure it out.

Thoughts on Keith Vaz, by a sex addict

This week UK politician Keith Vaz was outed by a tabloid newspaper for paying two men for sex, and offering to pay for their drugs and take some as well. The paper had met the escorts in advance and encouraged them to film the meeting, and gave them advice on how to do it, obviously in return for the tapes (and in exchange for a financial reward no doubt). It was entrapment pure and simple, although the paper denies that on some legal technicalities. A few days later Vaz resigned amid the usual media carnage.

My initial reaction was of sadness. The man has a wife and kids who will now have to go through hell understanding what he did and why. I just felt sad for him and his family. Their lives have been upended because an individual ‘journalist’ wanted to make a name for himself. I really don’t understand how some people sleep at night.

Glancing at the various articles about this on the web and from the news sources, I was actually encouraged by the amount of articles that took the stance that what a politician does in their private lives should remain private (after all, paying for sex is not actually a criminal offence in the UK so he broke no laws).

On the other hand though, there are the usual suspects exclaiming how shameful this is – “shame MP”… “sex shame politician”… etc. I thought that was an unnecessarily cruel (if predictable) portrayal, utterly lacking in empathy for another human being’s wellbeing, and propagates a judgemental and unsympathetic approach to the topic of private sexual activity. What on earth about what Vaz did was shameful? He had sex with sex workers… so what? Is that a shameful activity? As an addict, I obviously know too well how the feelings of shame can rule one’s sense of self-esteem and motivation, and much of the dialogue around recovery revolves around the abolishing of this sense of shame. It is therefore a pity that media outlets continue to throw this phrase around with no sense of understanding of, or care about, what it really means.

Then, regardless of opinion about his actions, there’s the topic of conflict of interest. By engaging in prostitution, is Vaz able to maintain his political position in charge of a committee who were conducting a review of prostitution and drug laws? Most people are saying that his position was untenable and he was right to step down. But his actions were legal… so so what if he has a bias? Everyone has a bias, and all that can be asked is that when representing a company or public body, they make their decisions publicly to be accounted for. We surely do not know the bias of all public officials who are responsible for law-making, and I’m sure plenty out there have done far worse than Vaz in their private lives. If a politician cycled to work instead of driving, should he be prevented from being involved in any decisions regarding transport because of his ‘bias’? Of course not.

For the sake of a thought experiment, let’s assume he was biased and shouldn’t remain in his job on that basis. Think then, what do we know about addiction? What if he was suffering from a compulsive sexual habit – we know full well that our acting out as addicts often runs completely contrary to our values. We know this but we still do it. When we make decisions with a clear mind, we are true to what we believe; it is only when under the control of the addiction that our values go out of the window. So what if Vaz was struggling like us; would we expect his decisions as a politician be influenced by his private behaviour? Probably the opposite! Not only would I expect him to make decisions according to his true values, unaffected by his private affairs, but it is more than possible that his convictions against his own actions would be even stronger, as he would have the ability to ‘fight’ his addiction through legislation. When of a clear mind, would he not actually try and make his private acting out more difficult, not easier? I know I’ve gone to great lengths, when of clear mind, to make acting out harder for myself.

Of course, we have no idea about the context of Vaz’s indiscretion. Does he have a sexual addiction? Is he struggling with psychological issues that he has found escape from in sex? Is he just a gay man who hasn’t yet found the courage to tell his wife? Who knows – the above is not to impose my own interpretation on him, but more as a thought experiment to apply what we know about addiction to how we treat people whose actions touch on this realm of sexual activity that so many of us struggle with and sympathise with.

I hope Keith finds the right path forward, and I wish his family strength and fortitude as they unravel what will no doubt be a complicated and painful story for them all.

Acknowledging my relationship with porn / saying farewell

The other night I acted out, but this post isn’t about that. I became aware of something… a feeling… while and after the fact, that I don’t think I had really acknowledged before.

What I felt was, for lack of a better word… friendship. I realised I have feelings for these porn stars. Not in the typical sense that we would use the word when referring to ‘real’ relationships, but there was something there that I have built up over the years, that I think is bringing me back to porn, and I feel I need to acknowledge and understand it in order to deal with it and move on.

Think about it – I’ve been watching these people for almost 20 years. It is impossible that I haven’t built up some form of connection with them. I have watched them do different scenes, with different actors and production companies. I know how some of them have progressed, or retreated, from the industry. I might have opinions about whether they should have got that boob job, or whether that particular production company’s style is flattering for them or not. I’ll know which positions, techniques or other activities they are better or worse at, and I’ll know all of my favourite scenes of theirs. Some will even give the appearance of glimpses into their personality through their ‘acting’, which I slowly have started to become familiar with. Perhaps I even think I understand them, or know them, a little bit.

I started to realise that there is a huge amount of emotions going on when I watch porn that I hadn’t acknowledged. If these sorts of connections exist in my mind, then it makes sense that if these are lacking in my life, I would continue to turn to porn. This further emphasises the theory that the opposite of addiction is human connection.

I wonder if what I’m saying sounds crazy. As an example, imagine your favourite actor, or singer. You’ve never met them, but you have opinions about them. You might even feel some sort of connection to their acting style, or feel that somehow they operate on an emotion level that connects with you and that you relate to. Why would it be any different for me with pornstars? I’d just never though of it that way before. I always knew that watching porn was a comforting activity for me, but I never quite fully understood the extent of why that is. Perhaps I’m getting the sorts of emotional energy from it that most people would get from friendships and relationships; things that have hugely suffered in my life as my addiction has continued. Its like I’m swapping one type of human connection for another, just where the replacement isn’t real.

Which leads me to the second part of this post, which is to somehow try and obtain closure. I need to accept the relationship I have with these porn stars, and I need to accept that it has come to an end. Until I do that, I will no doubt continue to seek them out.

So, here goes…

I acknowledge that I have feelings for these pornstars. Not in the usual sense, but feelings nonetheless, and I acknowledge that these aren’t real and they don’t bring me any real satisfaction or emotional security. Not only that, but continued acting out will only serve to further draw me away from regaining connections with real people in my life.

So I accept I will put an end to this, and I won’t watch them again. I won’t know what scenes they do anymore. I won’t know who they act with. I won’t watch any of my favourite scenes to ‘get back in touch’ with them. I won’t care who is knew to the industry. I am leaving it all behind. I am acknowledging that I am ending my relationship with them, and that is not a bad thing – it is a positive thing. I am moving on with my life. They have served a purpose, but now I am seeking a new purpose. I won’t miss them, and I won’t regret. I am taking positive steps to improve my life, and I am going to have such a brilliant time in the process, despite how hard it may. If I seek comfort in porn, I am forgetting everything I know to be true. I may not even know how to recreate that level of self-soothing yet, but I will in time, if I allow myself the freedom to find out how.

I will allow them to fade into the past, and slowly I will forget them. This will free up space in my mind for new, healthy, enjoyable and rewarding emotions, relationships and memories.

Farewell, porn, and farewell to my old pornstar friends. I wish you all the best, and I hope you life out a healthy life and don’t live to regret your decisions. You unknowingly contributed (and continue to contribute) to a great deal of pain in a great number of people, but I don’t resent you. I don’t know your life, who you are, or why you do what you do, and I don’t need to. All I know is that my happiness is no longer tied to you and to porn. I am now separate and free, bearing all the risks, scariness and joy associated with that.

Here’s to a new, porn-free life!

July Retrospective: The Elusive Wagon

Its that time of the month again! Into a new month so time to reflect on the month before.

Here’s my updated sobriety chart:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 21.23.10.png

July was basically the same as June. I had one long period of sobriety (11 days), and then after a slip the rest of the month was failing to get back to sobriety again.

My biggest failing of the month was my inability to re-commit do doing my daily routines. Mainly writing in my journal and reading my affirmation statements. These help me keep my motivational reasons for staying sober fresh in my mind, so I can recall them when triggered and use them as a weapon against the temptation to act out. If I don’t keep them up, I simply lose the strength to fight the urges when they come around.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve now finally got back on to the routines. I’ve started journalling again (3 new things I’m grateful for each day, and 1 detailed account of something positive that happened to me), and have started writing a new personal affirmation statement. I think this may become something I eventually record, and turn into a video, with photos and other snippets to be a short but concise hit of positivity and motivation. I’ll write more on that separately once it has progressed a bit.

So let’s see how I do in August. I hope that the routines will help me maintain my positivity. I’m still dealing with some stress around my dad getting re-married, which is actually less about his marriage and more about my relationship with him (or lack thereof), and the marriage is forcing me to be involved with him in ways I’d rather not be. Work stress continues but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Either way, stress is normal and I should accept it; it doesn’t mean I get to act out, which won’t really help the stress go away in any meaningful sense anyway.

I hope everyone else is doing well and keeping up the good fight!

Hello tiredness and stress my old friend

…I’ve come to deal with you again.

Its amazing how quickly I can go from being positive, connected and energised to acting out, and then dealing with the resulting bout of being tired, disconnected and unmotivated. I mean really, it can happen in the space of a few seconds. I can genuinely be feeling great, then be in a position where I can act out, I let me guard down, and then I’ve gone past the point of no return and I’ve ruined sobriety, and ruined the next few days while I climb back out of the post-acting out funk.

It really emphasises the importance of the tools of recovery. Simply being fantastically motivated isn’t enough, as forces outside of my control can overwhelm me at a moment’s notice. The tough thing is accepting this, as when I’m feeling good, I feel like I’m in control and I can do it. I have to accept that no matter how well I am doing, I’m never completely safe, and I need to always be following the routines I have set myself.

It is also probably not a coincidence that each of these times I act out coincide with periods where I’ve let the routines slip. Its the same old story for me – I have to maintain the consistency of the routines, but I’m really bad at it. Why? Because there are few big consequences to me acting out. I can act out and essentially ‘get away with it’, so there’s less incentive for me to maintain arduous routines every day. But I know they are worthwhile and needed, and I just need to keep focussing on them.

Meanwhile, I’m generally dealing with a lot of stress that makes it a bit harder. At work I’m dealing with a change in role that is exposing my areas of weakness, which in turn plays on my self-doubt and anxiety. My dad is also getting married, a few years after my mum died, which is a bit hard to get my head around, and my relationship with him is something I really struggle with, and I don’t think I’m dealing with it very healthily.

Anyway, I think I just need to relax a bit and allow myself to get back on track. Firstly I need to get some sleep, as this has not been happening (my daughter is ill and waking up early). If I can do that, then get back to doing the routines, hopefully the positivity will come.

Here goes…

June Retrospective: Progress not perfection

Its the 1st of July, so time to take a quick look at my recovery in June.

Here’s the updated sobriety chart:

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 22.02.09.png

As you can see, the graph has gone downwards from May to June. That’s the wrong direction! Indeed this is true… I acted out 10 days in June and 9 in May, but there’s a big but.

In June, I went 10 days without watching porn; the longest streak since January this year. That is a massive improvement for me and one that I’m really pleased about. It shows that I can do it; that it is possible. I just need to keep working on the details that keep me sober and avoid the slips.

Two things of note for June:

  1. I achieved the increased sobriety streak by re-connecting with my therapist, committing to some daily routines, and implementing porn blockers on my devices. The combination of preventing me from acting out technologically, with improving my mindset through reading and writing on a regular basis, had a demonstrable affect.
  2. The slips were almost always because I hadn’t stuck to one of my routines, for example going to bed at 10:30pm without fail. If I stay up too late, I inevitably end up watching (or trying to watch) porn. If I am staying up late, it is a sign that my mindset is slipping – that I’m losing focus on the goals and slipping back into escapism. The answer is simple – I need to stick to the routines without fail. If I can do that, I’m confident I’ll start to build up more mental strength.

I still fight the blocks in my low points, and if I find a loophole I’m powerless to withstand it. That’s the drawback of blocks for me; they represent a possibility of something, the pursuit of which becomes as exciting as the actual result.

So now it is July and a chance to put this into practice. Day by day. I often look forward a few days or weeks to imagine what sobriety would feel like, and as nice as that is, it is more important to focus on the present and the current day. One day at a time. One day at a time. Look after the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves… that sort of thing.

The importance of having, and sticking to, a routine

Last night I slipped. Today I am dealing with the usual mental repercussions – depression, anxiety, tiredness and horniness to name a few.

As always, each time I act out I ask myself why and how it happened and what I need to do differently to prevent a similar situation happening again.

This time it was easy to understand – I didn’t stick to my routine. I have a number of things I must do each day, and one of them is going to bed at 10:30pm without fail. Most of the time I act out is when I stay up late procrastinating – watching YouTube videos etc – until my mind leads me to porn, almost as something to do to postpone the having to go going to bed. (Why I feel the need to avoid going to bed is probably the more interesting question and I have a few ideas).

It is so interesting how powerful routines and rules can be in recovery. My rule of a 10:30pm is responsible for countless sober porn-free nights, and after only a few days of slipping into a slightly later and later bedtime, I acted out. The challenge is that without any form of accountability on whether I go to bed on time, it is very easy for me to start slipping in this way.

The other aspect to my acting out was that I remembered a major loophole in the blocks of my computer, which today I have closed. There will always be loopholes but for me they should only be ones that are hard to put to use; the one yesterday was just a few clicks, so I closed that off.

Anyway, just writing this post as a form of checking in and acknowledgement of the slip. I feel a bit down about it but that’s ok – I’m going to accept how I feel, learn from it, and carry on. This was my best sober streak since January so I’m really pleased about that, and I’m confident I can do the same, or better, again.

Hope you’re all doing well too!

Porn Addiction vs Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction, according to Wikipedia, has been around since the 1970s, but porn addiction (specifically internet porn) is a far newer concept, not least because of the relatively recent development of technology to make online porn so available and therefore powerful in its addictiveness.

During my early days of therapy for my porn addiction, I was quickly and eagerly referred to Sex Addicts Anonymous, or the more relationship-orientated Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. These programs follow the tried-but-not-that-tested[1] 12 step approach to recovery conceived by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Upon attending, it was immediately clear to me that my personal addiction was a bit different to the addictions of some of the others in the room. I was hearing stories of infidelity, prostitution, exhibitionism and worse. My habit was solitary masturbation to internet porn, and the more I thought about it, the more I came to think that not only was porn addiction different from sex addiction in the nature of the harm it causes to the sufferer and others, but also in the reasons why it is addictive.

I settled on a compromise that porn addiction must be a sub-set of sex addiction. It shares plenty of characteristics to sex addiction, but it also has some specific nuances that make it different. Without a specific place to go for porn addiction, it seems SAA and SLAA are still the best option for porn addiction sufferers.

Similarities

Let’s start with the similarities. Porn and sex addiction both share the same broad definition:

For an individual to be compelled to compulsively continue with certain sexual behaviours in spite of the known or unknown negative consequences that those behaviours bring to their life

That isn’t a formal definition I copied from somewhere; it is just how I perceive it and the two key elements are the compulsivity and the negative consequences. So by this definition porn and sex addictions are the same. I’ve related to all shares of others in the groups when they refer to the anxieties and struggles regarding the above – the destruction of self-esteem, the inability to say no, the self-loathing, the harm caused to others, to pick just a handful.

I think they are also similar in that the 12 step program is probably equally appropriate to each of them. Both sufferers will benefit from the introspection, self-understanding and life changes that the 12 step program encourages.

Differences

What I find to be the most interesting difference is in their actual addictive nature, or addictive properties.

(Internet) porn addiction by its nature only exists due to the prevalence of online porn and the technology available to view it. By providing a limitless supply of instantly-accessible visual stimulation, online porn does, in my opinion, something different and unique to the human brain. I’m always a bit wary when treading on the science turf as I haven’t researched it enough to confidently support or resist the claims, but my gut instinct is that this is true – that porn triggers dramatic, recordable chemical reactions in the brain similar to those well understood in other highly addictive drugs. For a bite-size overview, watch this video:

 

So it is this constant hit of sexual stimuli, tricking the brain into going into mating overdrive, that makes porn unique. I can’t see how ‘traditional’ activities that sex addicts suffer from activate the brain in this way, as experiences tend to be with real people and therefore far less varied in such a short space of time.

A unique approach

That is of course not to say that the end results aren’t similar, or even identical. The addict, regardless of the type of sexual behaviour, still ends up exhibiting the same compulsive and destructive characteristics. But, if we are to accept the premise that the nature of the addictions are different, does that not then suggest that we should take a more specific approach to the treatment and recovery of porn addiction?

Again, I’m not an expert in therapy or recovery so I can’t really answer that, but in my experience with both subjects, while I’ve seen huge benefits, I’ve also been conscious that so far I’ve received very little help that is specifically tailored to porn addiction.

For example, the use of internet blocks is commonly recommended in the SAA program, but the context is very different. For many sex addicts I’ve spoken to who act out ‘in person’, porn is not in itself addictive, and doesn’t tend to be included in their inner circles. They may fall back to it if the real hit can’t be achieved, but to them porn is more of a trigger or a prelude to the real thing. This means that for them, internet porn blocks are useful to help prevent journeying into their addictive behaviours, but they aren’t actively and directly preventing their inner circle behaviours.

For porn addicts, however, internet blocks are one of the most primary and fundamental tools to physically prevent an addict from acting out. This elevates the importance of blocks a huge deal, but this distinction is rarely made in recovery programs. Of course, blocking porn is only a way of helping to achieve sobriety, it is not the solution to recovery (which involves introspection and life changes), but that sobriety is a vital ingredient to recovery. It saddens me to see so many porn addicts ambivalent towards blocks. Blocks are, without doubt, not for everyone, but the implications of using or not using them must be considered by each individual before deciding on a recovery strategy.

Anyway, I don’t want to get into a debate about blocks, but the point is that there are distinctions to be made between sex and porn addictions, which I feel could be further considered by recovery programs and therapists.

So, do we need a PAA (Porn Addicts Anonymous)? I’m not sure… there are probably more similarities than there are differences so grouping them together makes a lot of sense, but I can’t help but feel a little under-catered for when I attend and share. For now though, I will continue to explore SAA and SLAA meetings, as they provide a unique chance to talk to others in my situation, as well as provide the potential for a more formal recovery program.

Footnotes
1. I say “not that tested” because I haven’t yet actually read any studies on the success rates of SAA 12 step programs. I imagine this sort of data is extremely hard to collect due to the anonymous and secretive nature of 12 step attendees, especially for sex-related programs. This lack of validation of the success rates is a big contributor to my ongoing cynicism of, and reluctance to commit to, the SAA 12 step program.

May retrospective. “Motivation”

Today is the last day of May, so time to reflect on the month.

In terms of sobriety, I improved a little, but not much. In April I acted out 10 days and in May 9 days (although bear in mind there is 1 extra day in May). The % chart looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 21.50.09

In terms of how I’m feeling, I am pretty conflicted. One one hand, I am loving life. I’m settling down in a new town (my old home town), I get to look after my 15 month old daughter 2 days a week which is an incredible experience, we’re expecting another(!) and I have a pretty decent job (although not one without its own set of stresses, but nothing out of the ordinary). I’m even starting to feel comfortable with my friendship status (i.e. I don’t really have many), and slowly building the few friendships I still have and appreciating them for what they are.

On the other hand, I continue to act out regularly. I really thought that improving my quality of life in so many ways would naturally reduce my desires to act out, but this has not happened.

The theme of May for me is clearly motivation. I simply haven’t found the drive within myself to not act out. I have acted out only hours after having a great time with friends or family, or when I’m bored, or when I’m horny. All the old culprits of temptation are still there and I give in to them almost without hesitation. Somehow I have lost touch with the mental strength and techniques I learnt to resist, and it saddens me to admit this.

At a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting I went to 2 weeks ago, one guy admitted he “just didn’t want to quit enough”, and I totally relate to that. One aspect of porn addiction that makes it especially troublesome is that the repercussions of acting out are less obvious – they are more long-term rather than immediate. It becomes very easy to just accept acting out, because the moment I do, nothing tangible has changed. I don’t have to admit to my wife I cheated on her, I don’t have a big hole in my wallet, I don’t have the risk of an STD, I don’t have some strange explaining to do anyone. I can watch porn and get away with it every time. I find this means that the motivation to not act out has to be really strong otherwise the urges win.

Obviously the truth is that I am harming myself and others, just in a less obvious, and longer-term way. I am avoiding handling my emotions maturely. I am reducing the chances of intimacy with my wife. I am setting myself up to be a dad with a secret. I am not getting enough sleep. I am not working as efficiently as I could be. I am not a master of my mind or body and therefore I am a slave to impulsion. What sort of man does that make me?

So what next? Well, I need a plan for June. So far, this is:

  • I have reached out to my old therapist to see if she will do Skype calls with me.
  • I am going to investigate SAA/SLAA meetings in my town and pick one to go to weekly.
  • I need to find a way to stick to a few basic daily routines. I think this should be two things: reading an affirmation statement in the morning – reminding myself why I’m doing this, what to watch out for during my day, and how to live my day – and then writing my journal in the evening, writing things that I am grateful for and things that I did that day that would have been worse or not done if I had acted out.

And the theme for June? Empathy. This is a really key part of recovery, and one that I found really interesting, so I’m going to focus on that topic in June, and try and re-integrate a sense of empathy into my daily life. I will do this by including it in my morning affirmation reading, and in my evening journal entry.

It has been nearly 2 years since I started recovery, and although I do feel I have a lot to show for it, sobriety isn’t one of those things. I really hope I find the strength and motivation to get on top of the acting out, as no further mental or emotional progress will take place until that happens.

Can a porn addict have legitimate sexual desires?

I had an amazing conversation with a very close friend of mine today. She is the only non-family member who knows about my addiction, and she has been incredible supportive. Not only that, but she’s been able to provide some really insightful thoughts, as she has had friends who have suffered from addiction, she too also struggles with an addiction, and some of the areas of her life that she has spent time considering overlap with those relevant to my recovery.

The thing we talked about today was sexuality. We somehow ended up on this topic, and we talked about the importance of acknowledging one’s own sexual desires, and ensuring one (and one’s partner) has a satisfying and fulfilling sex life.

This was a can of worms for me. Of all the investigation I’ve done into myself as part of recovery, I’ve never actually thought about my own sexual desires and my sex life, but upon speaking about it, I instantly realised this may be a very important area for me to consider.

It comes down to this: can a porn (or sex) addict like me have legitimate sexual desires? In other words, how do I know which of my sexual desires are created by my addiction to porn, and which are ‘genuine’ and should be acknowledged and, hopefully, fulfilled. I genuinely have no idea how to answer that question. Every time I think of something I might like to do in bed with my wife, I just put the idea to the back of my mind because I think obviously I only want to do that because I saw it in porn and therefore I have no right to want to do that in reality.

This ties in with the other theme of self-esteem and self-worth. A classic ingredient of addiction is low self-worth. I often don’t think I am worthy of friendship/affection etc, and I can see how this could be applied to my sexual desires. I find it easy to dismiss my own desires and simply tell myself that they don’t have value and just to be happy with what I’ve got.

I suppose if I was wanting my wife to get fake boobs and act like a porn star, that might be an obvious example of where my desires have been negatively influenced by porn, but that’s not the case for me. I just like the idea of relatively simple things in the bedroom, which I happen to have also seen in porn (I’m not sure which came first)… so should I acknowledge these?

While the overall objective is to have a fulfilling sex life, this must be true for my partner also. So, if I was to explore this part of me, I’d need to involve my wife too; understand what she wants and how I can make her sexual experience better. I definitely have felt a lacking in our connection in the bedroom. Don’t get me wrong – we have good sex, but we don’t have great sex, and sometimes it can be quite stale. In fact, very often I act out after sex because it didn’t provide the fulfilment I hoped it would, and so I suppose I turn to porn to try and fill the gap.

And here’s where I got blindsided in this conversation… if I’m using porn to compensate for a lack of fulfilment in the bedroom, I HAVE to explore and understand that, AND rectify it in order to get sober and recover. That would mean involving my wife, so my recovery no longer is just about me doing it and her supporting me, but her actively being a part of it, which isn’t a responsibility she has had to have so far.

It is quite a daunting prospect… what if she doesn’t want to explore her sexuality? What if she is happy with the way things are and doesn’t want to try new things, for either of our sakes? I’d be asking her to prioritise something higher in her life than she currently wants to, and so that’s something I would need to be very respectful and sure about.

I’m sure that sexual fulfilment isn’t the only reason why I watch porn. However, I have generally been confused recently, because I’ve made a lot of changes in my life for the better, yet I still watch porn. I am generally extremely happy now, with low stress levels, wonderful relationship with my family, living once again in my home town which I love… everything is great, and yet I am still acting out, and I am surprised at this. I really did think that by improving so many aspects of my life, my acting out would reduce. Because it hasn’t, it has been making me ask myself “have I missed something?”. Is there something else I haven’t thought of that remains an area of dissatisfaction that could be continuing to fuel the addiction, and then I had this conversation about sex and sexuality, and it seemed to fit perfectly.

So I will spend more time thinking and reading about this. I don’t want to involve my wife in this without knowing it is the right thing to do, but if it is necessary, so be it. Who knows, it could (should) have some benefits for us both!