[Update – I haven’t got round to writing a new post yet, but I have already put a halt to the below method of ‘planned acting out’. It wasn’t for me and felt really wrong. I feel much better now I’ve stopped. I don’t think porn recovery should involve watching porn!]
I’m trying a new type of recovery technique. One that involves watching porn… Before I explain, I’m going to take a minute to write a sort of status update, to provide context and a bit of blog documentation of where I’m at right now. My daughter is now nearly 3 months old. She’s doing great, and me and my wife are loving it, although it is not easy! Parenthood has been the biggest challenge my recovery from porn addiction has faced since I started to quit almost a year ago. In January and February this year I went 100% clean with no porn, but since becoming a dad, I’ve slipped up more and more and, when looked at purely from a statistical point of view, I’m acting out almost as much as I was when I was using just willpower alone at the beginning of the fight (essentially acting out every 1 to 2 weeks). I think the reason for this has simply been priorities. During my most successful periods of abstinence from porn, I was basically devoting my life to recovery. I was writing a journal every day, going to counselling and SAA every week, doing written exercises, reading books, doing meditation etc. It was a full-time job, and it worked. Unfortunately, fatherhood does not provide anywhere near enough time to keep doing these activities. The first priority is the baby – helping with the routine, bathing her, putting her to sleep, playing with her etc etc. Then comes my wife – giving her time to get stuff done (even basics like eating and showering), supporting her emotionally and mentally, encouraging her when she’s struggling, discussing all things parenting etc etc. Only when all of the above are taken care of do I get to think about my own time, so this is quite rare. I can probably count on two hands the number of times my wife and I have had simply a few hours of calm in the evening where all the above are ticked off and we can do whatever we want. When I act out, I as always tell my wife. The thing is, it just hasn’t been that big a deal these days. We have more important things to worry about, so we just accept it and move on. But it still takes its toll. It depresses me as it always has done, and distracts me from what is important in my life. Willpower alone is not enough to keep me sober, although it is enough to keep sober enough to get on with my life, so recovery isn’t getting much attention. However, talking to my therapist, who I now see every two weeks instead of weekly, I’ve finally accepted a proposed method that she’s mentioned a few times that I’ve always resisted – “planned” acting out. That is, agreeing in advance a frequency and duration of acting out, and sticking to it. For example, 30 minutes of acting out once a week. This seems a bit counter-intuitive but there is some logic behind it:
- It converts my acting out from being something that is in control of me to something I am in control of. Instead of looking back at a month’s progress and seeing lots of acting out that I had no control over, I’ll see pre-agreed periods of acting that I was in control of.
- This gives a baseline that can then be slowly improved. E.g. to once every 2 weeks, and/or reduce duration etc.
- This is essentially ‘weaning off’ porn rather than going cold-turkey, the latter requiring a lot of effort which it seems I don’t have room in my life to fit in amongst my other duties.
- By putting a cap on the time of each acting out, this removes the ‘binge’ element of the addiction by only giving myself a quick fix rather than allowing for the hours-long sessions of the past.
- Something relatively radical is needed due to my extreme lack of time and ability to prioritise recovery
- It can’t be worse than what I’m currently doing!
I’ve always resisted this as I’ve felt that since the goal is to not watch porn, and total abstinence seems to be the common approach that is acknowledged in the recovery community, agreeing a plan that involved watching it would be too strange. However, what I’m currently doing isn’t working, so I’m up for trying it. If it doesn’t work, so be it, but at least I will have given it a shot. So, in reality this means that once a week, I have to find 30 minutes to watch porn, whether I want to or not. I then must not watch porn in between these times of course, and I will try and re-introduce meditation during the week to manage any urges that may come up. Once I’ve got 4 weeks under my belt, I can then start to reduce the frequency and duration – perhaps moving to every 2 weeks, or reduce the time to 15 minutes, for example. Today was my first day. It was day 7 of sobriety and while I was feeling a bit urged, I was on top of it and didn’t actually want to watch porn! But, I had to, if I’m going to give this method a shot. I explained all this to my wife who continues to be amazingly supportive. I found 30 minutes to myself when my wife was sleeping, and watched porn. 30 minutes is shorter than I would usually watch it so it wasn’t as satisfying and I felt terrible afterwards. I struggled to stay positive when I wanted to not watch it but did just to stick to the program. But my wife encouraged me, reminding me that it is healthy I’m feeling a bit down about it, rather than being pleased I watched it. I’m feeling better about it now, and now I get to focus on a week of sobriety until next week. Finally, to pick up on an earlier point – I mentioned that my ‘statistical’ levels of acting out are back to what they were in the old days, but if I remember that back then I had no child to look after and life was much simpler, to be on the same level as then even though I am dealing with much greater stresses and pressures, shows I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve also made loads of progress mentally – I no longer spend my time trying to escape from responsibilities and instead I try to embrace them (not perfect, but much improved), supporting my wife as much as I can. I’m now much more connected to my feelings, and happy to share them with others in public when usually these would remain hidden. Even my wife has noticed this and has even started doing it herself – being more open when she is out socially. I’ve also thought long and hard about who my true friends are and am trying to focus on those relationships rather than spread myself too thin. I’ve realised I only really have one or two friends, and between them and my family, I’m happy with that and am going to use that as the building blocks for my future. So in this regard, I know I’ve made loads of progress too, so while I’m still acting out on a semi-regular basis, I feel my actual outlook on life is far improved, and I’m proud of that.