addiction

My Values for 2017

As I’ve mentioned in my recent posts, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what recovery means to me and how I want to approach it. This is essentially combining some core, unavoidable principles of recovery with my own gut instincts of how I best operate, to build an approach that I can truly believe in and commit to.

To start with then, I took a step back from addiction and looked at my core values; the things that I consider to be most important, that I would like to live by. These are things that I want to take out into the world and practice, but I also acknowledge I need to learn to apply these to myself first. This is an important point, as I read once that “you cannot give to others what you do not have for yourself” (or something like that), and it really resonated with me – e.g. how can I offer love to others if I do not love myself?

So, here they are – my values as I see them at the current moment:

  • Acceptance (& unjudging)

  • Respect

  • Empathy

  • Listening

  • Kindness

  • Laughter

  • Calmness

  • Love

  • Discipline (& being present)

Whatever recovery programme I follow this year, I feel these must form a core part of it.

First steps into 2017 – DISCIPLINE

And so now I need to start applying this. One thing I’ve learned is that to achieve success, it is often best to start simple and evolve, rather than try to solve the entire problem in one go. Therefore, I have set myself three very simple commitments for January. They relate to one of the above values – discipline, which is the first principle that I want to focus on. The lack of discipline in my life is extreme – I am a slave to a wide variety of inputs in my life and I rarely take control of even those mundane decisions (see my last post about how I’ll even actively avoid doing things I want to do). I never do anything I say I’m going to do, I’m not productive despite having a to-do list, I get out my phone at the first opportunity to just kill time reading the news etc. I’m not present. Discipline to me means doing something because I’ve decided to, without being affected by mood or other variables. I think it is a muscle that needs to be trained, and will get stronger with use. If I can apply discipline to some small tasks, that will hopefully pave the way for applying it in other areas too.

So, at risk of setting myself up for failure, here are the three very simple commitments I’ve made for January in order to learn to practice discipline:

  1. I will get up at 7:30am every day and meditate. Meditation is something I’ve dabbled in and have really enjoyed, and something I’ve always wanted to do more of but never bothered to. This month, I’m going to meditate every morning, to exercise both the art of discipline and and also to give meditation a proper chance.
  2. I will go to bed at 10:30 every night, and only take my Kindle. I already do this, more or less, but I get sloppy and need to re-instate this without fail. As a dad to a second daughter, life it pretty busy and I need my sleep, and devices are banned from the bedroom as it is a prime acting out scenario.
  3. I won’t look at my phone to kill time. I will only use it when I have something specific I want to look at. Too often I sit on the phone when I could be spending time with my family, and I am allowing myself to be distracted to avoid being present. That needs to stop.

And that’s it. Those are the only commitments I’m making for January. Small changes to my daily life that will hopefully build a basis for further growth. I started today and it has been great. I meditated this morning and I’ve been focussed on my day and not distracted by my phone.

I fully acknowledge that stating intent is the easy bit – it is the doing that is hard. Time will tell how this goes, but I feel positive and motivated, and I have shared this with my wife so she can help support and encourage me.

Giving Myself Permission To Do Things I Enjoy

Something has been on mind lately, and that is the relationship between acting out and acting “in”. “In” being doing things that I actually enjoy and are rewarding/productive/fulfilling.

I’ve really noticed that when I act out, I’m very often doing it in the knowledge that there is something I’d rather be doing, but something compels me to watch porn instead. At the time, it feels like I just can’t quite face doing the thing I know I should be doing, even though I know I’d enjoy doing it. Doing that thing represents, at the time, embracing of my life, responsibility, being in control and making my own decisions, which all are things I use porn to escape from facing up to.

It is so much easier to withdraw into porn and pretend the real world doesn’t exist, than to live a structured, enjoyable and fulfilling life, even if I know those things would actually make me happier.

So as part of a refreshed assessment of what recovery looks like for me in 2017, I want to give myself permission to do the things I enjoy. I am entitled to it. I deserve it. I don’t need to use porn to punish myself; to ensure I live up to my feelings of disconnectedness, which are themselves only created by the addiction in a cruel vicious circle.

Struggling with the religion of SAA

Getting started with the Steps

I recently attempted to commit to doing the 12 steps of Sex Addicts Anonymous. For the last 2 years I have attended SAA meetings and met members, to gain benefit from talking about addiction with like-minded people, but I’ve never actually done the steps. After a month of unsuccessfully re-trying software porn blocks, I felt that I had run out of reasons (excuses?) not to try the Steps.

Therefore, in November I found a sponsor and advised them I’m ready to get started. I had a set of routines I was already following, so the sponsor’s advice was to simply carry on until I had 30 days of sobriety, after which I can start step 1. I was quite disheartened by this as the reason I was trying to start the steps was because I’m not currently able to achieve any decent length of sobriety, so I was presented with a catch 22 – start the steps once you’ve been sober for a month, but you might need the steps to help you achieve that.

I then had very little communication with my sponsor. As I found myself becoming distant from the programme, I was secretly hoping my sponsor would pro-actively reach out to me and pull me back in, but they never did. I suppose a principle of recovery is that it has to come from within us, but even so I was sure a sponsor was meant to take more of an active role and not just sit back and watch as I fell back into acting out.

Disillusionment and religion

This all led me to feel a bit unenthusiastic about SAA, and I prompted me to start exploring more about it, and alternatives. I have always struggled with the religious terminology of SAA. The concept is that you have to “give yourself over” and pray to your “Higher Power”, often referred to as “God”. The literature goes to great lengths to say God can be defined anyway you see fit and doesn’t need to be the god of a religion, and says it can simple be a concept for what you get your strength and purpose from in recovery.

My issue with this is that I feel this is a compromise. SAA’s origins (via AA) are in religion, founded by members of a Christian fellowship known as The Oxford Group. They believed all the usual things religious people do, but also had a seemingly decent view on morality and values that they thought could be used to structure a support group for addiction. As the world evolved and AA/SAA spread, so the need to adapt for a secular audience became apparent, so clearly the existing religious terminology used was re-defined so that non-believers could also join in.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that, and I know non-religious members who are fully embedded in, and benefitting from, the programme. What bothers me is the question of what a recovery programme would look like if it hadn’t originated in religion. What would the terminology be? Would there even be the concept of a Higher Power? Not only do I not like the compromise that has been made in broadening the definition of unavoidably religion terminology, but I suspect that these religious words are entirely unnecessary in recovery and only exist because of the religious origins of the programme.

Put it this way: I accept that I cannot recovery on my own, and that I need help. That help would come in many forms – contact with others; a set of daily routines; meditation and a review of internal emotions, history and pain to gain a more healthy and positive outlook on life, to name a few. That could be indeed be known as a Programme, and so far this is consistent with SAA. What I struggle to get behind is the need to take an addition step and start referring to this recovery approach as a sentient being – a Higher Power or God. Why the need to “turn myself over to” and “pray” to this set of routines? When things go well, that’s not my Higher Power “speaking to me” or “at work”, it’s just that I’m successfully following the programme I’ve set for myself and it is working.

Part of this resentment comes from my desire for responsibility and control. I completely admit that I need help and cannot do this alone, but I don’t feel comfortable absolving all responsibility and accepting I need to “turn my will and my life over to the care and will of God“. It is phrasing that is too religious for me to feel comfortable adhering to.

This leads me to question whether there are alternative approaches to recovery that don’t have their roots in recovery. What I’m learning is that it doesn’t matter how well a particular program can work, if you aren’t committed to it and believe in it, it won’t work. There are a few other approaches I’ve come across, which I’m going to do more research on, and try to find a way that works for me.

Why does it matter if SAA is religious?

It’s just a personal thing. When I talk about my objection to the religious aspects of SAA with people, they say that I just need to get over it and trust in the process, and I have tried (although no doubt in some eyes not hard enough). The fact is I can’t get past it. My views on religion are one of my strongest principles. Obviously I do not believe in a creator or any sentient being who has any interest in our existence, but that’s just scraping the surface – there is so much wrong with religion, and so much damage caused by it, that I simply cannot abide by something which is even remotely associated with it. Tolerance, respect for my fellow man, and a responsibility towards open-mindedness means I don’t mistreat other humans for their beliefs in any way, but I find the ongoing prevalence of religion in an era of such knowledge of our world bizarre and infuriating.

That is not to say, by the way, that I have anything against spirituality. Far from it. I’m very interested in the idea, and have read books specifically targeted on how spirituality can exist outside of religion. I want to start meditation and doing yoga again, and I firmly believe the mind and body should be treated with respect to one another to form a healthy whole.

So what next?

Right now, I know I need to a follow a structured and well-conceived programme to recover from my addiction. I don’t think the 12 Steps of SAA is the programme for me, due to its inherent conflict of interest with my views on religion, but I aim to find or create a programme that I can believe in (for lack of a better secular phrase!) and commit to. There are some core principles emerging that I feel are the key to my success, such as discipline, routine, mindfulness and being present, and these will likely form the pillars of my approach.

I always knew recovery would be hard, but I had no idea that the aspects I would struggle with would so often be the fundamental principles of what recovery means, and how I can find an approach that works for me.

I also maintain that this resistance could be just another symptom of some damaged part of myself, and a way of avoiding giving up the illusion of control that I think is my strength but is actually supporting my addiction. It is entirely possible, and I remain open-minded to the outcome of this exercise. I may even find myself back at SAA; that is not ruled out by any means. I am simply following my gut instinct and seeing where it takes me. As a friend once told me, “no-one else will regret what you don’t do”, and I have always remembered it. Sometimes I just have to trust my instincts and do what I feel is right.

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…

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.

Normality resuming, what about sobriety?

It’s been over 2 months since I last posted, and its time to check in.

In the last few months, I broke my ankle, moved house, changed job, my wife changed her job, our daughter started nursery, and we had decorators in for two months. Its been pretty manic to say the least.

I previously blogged that the broken ankle, and the resulting 2 months stuck on a sofa, was starting to affect my sobriety, which had started to improve. I am sad to report that it just got worse and worse, with last month being the worst month ever, sobriety-wise, since I started recovery almost 2 years ago.

What happened was that I basically started giving myself permission to act out. I had spent almost an entire year beforehand developing a routine that would keep me sober, and being sofa-bound prevented me from doing any of those things. My routine was out of the window, and I didn’t find the energy to keep fighting. So I basically gave up, and for at least one month allowed myself to act out freely. I found that it became more stressful to constantly try and resist, and deal with the inevitable constant failure, than to simply ‘postpone’ recovery efforts until I was better and in a position to be able to actually do something about it. Rightly or wrongly, it was a form of justification.

I haven’t passed judgement on myself for the above approach. It was a really difficult situation to be in as an addict, and I don’t blame myself for giving in or not finding the fight within me.

However, I’m now getting better. I am walking again without a crutch (albeit in pain), the decorators have left, my job is settling down and I’ve even gone part-time to look after my daughter two days a week. Life is finally settling down and it is becoming pretty great. We’re in a new town we love, I’ve got family around and even starting to make contact with some old friends. I’m getting to spend quality time with my daughter, and I have a job where I am respected and valued. In other words, I’m all out of excuses to not put my efforts back into recovery and get sober again.

So I have started recovery efforts again, but being honest I’m at about 40% effort. I need to get back to 100%. It is time to get serious about this again. I know I can do it as I’ve done it before.

The thing is, it has never been more obvious that I don’t need porn. I’m a subscriber to the belief that addictions are fuelled by more than the tangible addictive properties of a drug, but also due to deeper pain and lack of addressing subconscious issues or a lack of happiness/fulfilment, and I’m really at a point in my life where things are really great and there are very few reasons for me to still need porn. In fact, I’ve found that a lot of my acting out in the past month hasn’t been due to urges/stress etc, but due to habit, where I’ve just felt I might as well.

This makes me optimistic. I feel such elation on a regular basis. Be it staring out of the train at the rolling hills of the countryside (whereas it used to be a crowded London tube) or walking around the town with my daughter in the pram, free to enjoy our day as we see fit, I’m so regularly aware of how lucky and fortunate I am to have finally achieved a quality of life that I’ve been seeking for years. It brings a tear to my eye.

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Views I get to enjoy from my new hometown

So what can I do to really push through now and connect these two polar opposite perspectives of my brain? On one side, I have found so much natural and genuine joy in my life, while on the other my brain is stuck in a cycle of habitual porn-watching, even when it doesn’t enjoy or need it. I need to break the cycle and allow my actions to connect with, and represent, my feelings.

Some of the tangible steps I will take/have already started taking include:

  • Leaving phone downstairs at bedtime (only Kindle allowed in bedroom). Have re-instated this.
  • Writing journal daily (not doing this fully yet)
  • Engaging with recovery WhatsApp group (need to pluck up courage to do this)
  • Visit new therapist (I have contact details, now I am mobile I need to book this in, if I can still afford to)
  • Blogging more regularly
  • Reading addiction-related books
  • Possibly visiting a local SAA meeting
  • Possibly re-locking down my mobile phone (could be tricky due to work)
  • Finding an accountability partner

One significant thing I think I am lacking is another person who I can be accountable to. I’ve had sponsors and other people in my life in the past, but do not have anyone currently, and I think this is an important ingredient, so I will think more on how to achieve this.

I hope all of you are doing great in your journeys, be they recovery-related or otherwise. I’d love to hear from you in the comments, so let me know how you are doing!