porn addiction

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!

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!

A broken ankle and a lot of stress

A few weeks ago I broke my ankle in two places by falling off a hoverboard. I’ve since had an operation where they inserted metal plates and screws to hold the bones together and now I have a fun 6 weeks of ‘non weight bearing’, stuck on the sofa.

I have already seen some real challenges this is posing to recovery. Simply being entirely reliant on my wife for food, drink and anything else has put a huge amount of stress on us as a couple. This coincides at a time where she’s going back to work, I’m about to change jobs, we’re having a load of building work about to start and our daughter is starting nursery. There’s a lot going on and I can’t help at all around the house – my wife is having to do everything.

We’ve had some bad days. I’ve got stressed because I’m in pain and can’t do anything. My wife gets stressed because she has to be responsible for everything. We’re both anxious about how we feel about our daughter going into nursery, to the point where we may make some serious decisions about our employment to change that. However, we are talking through the challenges and doing our best to stay positive and motivated and help each other out.

And the result? Well, I’ve acted out once (well a few times, in one day, as is the way). I’m doing my best in terms of sobriety since the illness-fuelled December, and this is really a spanner in the works.

Being sofa-bound and home-alone for the next 4 weeks is going to be a serious challenge. I will get frustrated, bored and lonely, and all these things are triggers. So I’m going to work on a daily routine, including journalling, reading my pillars, general reading, doing some work, having a break, playing some music etc, to ensure I stay occupied and interested.

If I can make it through the next 4 weeks sober, that’ll be a great achievement.

Checking in for 2016

Its high time I wrote an update, so here goes.

December was a rollercoaster, and it triggered a revisiting of my approach to recovery (including temporarily giving up on recovery altogether).

To give some context then, a quick look back at 2015…

Here’s my complete recovery chart for 2015, which shows the %age days ‘clean’ each month:

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 22.11.13

As you can see, it isn’t exactly trending in the right direction. Actually generating this graph just now to insert here was saddening as it was the first time I’ve really looked back at the year, and I didn’t realise who clearly the trend is going in the wrong direction. This actually reinforces my latest approach perhaps, which I’ll come on to.

Recovery approach in 2015

So how did I approach recovery in 2015?

Jan and Feb were 100% clean. This was the height of my recovery, where I was excited by it, engaged, learning new things, and perhaps riding on the novelty of it all. I also had a pretty comprehensive set of routines I followed, including:

  • Seeing therapist and attending SAA meetings weekly (but not doing 12 steps).
  • Included a lot of psychological work on my childhood, reasons for addiction etc.
  • Active on Twitter/Blog/Reddit in recovery groups
  • Experimented with meditation
  • Increased my cycling (20 miles a day commute 3 days a week)
  • Worked on self-awareness and productivity
  • Wrote in my journal every day

At the end of February, my daughter was born. This was an incredible time, but unfortunately it completely de-railed my recovery. Overnight I lost the ability to attend SAA or therapy as I had to rush home to look after the family. I then stopped doing my other recovery techniques – I was tired, and lost focus as I was 100% focussed on fatherhood.

So then I started slipping up; acting out to porn. At first I hoped it was a one off, but then it clearly became routine. I actually sort of gave myself permission to do this, due to the pressures of fatherhood (“I don’t have time or energy to dedicate myself to both, so recovery will have to wait”).

Slowly I re-introduced therapy at a reduced frequency and started trying to get sober again, but I guess it wasn’t enough as the sobriety didn’t really improve, and so eventually, around September, I admitted I needed to re-commit to recovery.

I returned to SAA in September, with a renewed commitment to change. I even accepted that I’ll give the 12 steps a go, something I had always been reluctant to do in the past. I got a sponsor and started Step 1. Unfortunately, nothing changed. In fact, things got worse. Part of the recovery required I re-implement the ‘blocks’ on my various devices, and for reasons I’ve covered at length on this blog, I really struggle with these. This is basically because due to my technical prowess and love of problem-solving, there isn’t really a block in the world that I can’t find a workaround to, and so the blocks actually heighten the excitement of acting out, as they extend the ‘hunt’. However, in good faith, I persevered and kept refining the blocks, closing the loopholes as I found them.

Crunch time

Something wasn’t right though. My sobriety wasn’t improving and I quickly lost motivation towards doing the step work, and that’s when it all came crashing down. In early December my sponsor directly challenged my commitment to recovery, essentially asking me if I actually wanted to quit. He implied that I needed to make some hard decisions and he may not be the right person to be my sponsor any more.

It hit me really hard, harder than I expected. It made me question everything. Initially it was that feeling of rejection. I had struggled with the concept of ‘someone being there for me no matter what’ for ages, probably as a result of the usual lack of self-esteem that is typical in addicts. Just as I was coming to accept that someone was willing to be that person in my life, that very person says actually they might not be. It wasn’t great news.

He was right to say it though. The thing is, my acting out had reached a point that could easily be considered ‘normal’ – once every week or two, with little to no tangible negative consequences. I wasn’t displaying any of the truly destructive tendencies from when I was in the depths of the addiction – I no longer take it out on my wife etc. But, I’m still addicted. When I do act out, it is from a compulsion to do so that I cannot control. It takes me over physically, and requires a lot of being sneaky and manipulation to get myself into a position where I can act out at home. These are not things I can accept and therefore need to stop.

As a result of this conversation with my sponsor, I took a break from SAA and recovery altogether. I was fed up with it, tired that nothing I did was working, despite feeling that I was putting in loads of effort. I was also moving house which was giving me enough to think about. Then I got ill with a sinus infection over Christmas for 3 weeks. I found more loopholes on my devices while I was bed-ridden, and acted out loads. Hence the big dip in December on the chart.

So, what now, for 2016?

Anyway, now, I am recovered from the illness and ready to get back to the game of recovery. Again…!

I’m constructing what approach I think I will take now, and the main difference right now is that it will almost certainly not involve the 12 steps, and possibly not even SAA. That topic is probably a whole post in itself, but deep down I have felt unable to mentally connect with the SAA approach, and I just don’t think it is for me. This is not for lack of trying!

So I’m heading back towards an approach that stems, funnily enough, from what inspired me to start recovery in the very first place in 2014, and that is to blend an understanding of the specific physiological nuances of porn addiction with leading a healthier, more positive and productive daily life. While the delving into my childhood has been really interesting, I think there’s an element of just needing to be present and get on with things, rather than over-thinking how my actions are influenced by my past. I also intend to tailor my approach specifically to the challenges of porn addiction, rather than the more general ‘sex addiction’, which I have found to be one of the things that distanced me from SAA.

Starting simply then, I’ve started re-implementing some of the original activities:

  • Reading my ‘pillars of recovery’ daily
  • Write in my journal daily (including one thing each day I am grateful for)
  • Reading porn addiction-specific books (e.g. currently Your Brain On Porn)
  • I will probably contact a new therapist in my new town
  • Reduce my gaming to max 1 hour a night
  • Start learning the piano
  • Ensure I remain present each evening, including doing at least one productive thing that contributes to my home/family life
  • Write a post here twice a month
  • Return to and engage with Twitter and Reddit porn addiction communities

In honesty, these are feel a bit loose and not that structured yet, but that might actually be a good thing;I want to find a natural way that I believe in. Also, the blocks will stay on my phone and tablet as they are actually pretty solid now, but my laptop is fully unblocked and always will be due to the inherent insecurity of computers that I can workaround.

In Conclusion

I’m disappointed that despite putting in what I thought was a lot of hard work, I didn’t really make any progress in 2015. I’m still doing brilliantly compared to 2014, where I experienced my ‘rock bottom’ moment of being kicked out of the house, but I’ve failed to break through to the next level of sobriety.

I’m also disappointed that SAA hasn’t worked out. I have been aware of a disconnect I’ve felt with it since the beginning, and I think that just grew until I couldn’t ignore it. I will write more about this probably in my next post.

It would be a stretch to say I’m feeling optimistic, and in fact I’m quite nervous that I may be doing this all wrong and I just need to do SAA, or something else similarly rigid, whether I like it or not.

The thing is, a few times in my life when faced with a decision or challenge, I’ve felt something in my gut, and I’m slowly learning to listen it. I remember times when I consciously didn’t and I regretted it, and right now my gut is telling me that SAA isn’t right for me. I think I fit into a different box, and I’m going to give that a go.

If you got this far, thanks for reading! Sorry it was so long; brevity is not my strong point. I hope you all have a fantastic 2016!

Telling a friend about my addiction

Today will probably go down as a very significant day for me. I told a friend about my addiction; the first time I have told a non-family member.

To date, the only people (other than those who I have met in SAA) who know about my addiction are my wife and my sister (and her husband). All three have been incredibly supportive.

Since learning more about addiction, and understanding that addictions thrive in secrecy, I’ve always wanted to tell people, I just wasn’t going to rush it. I want to remove the shame and secrecy from being a porn addict, and that means unifying my secret addict persona with my public persona. Until I do, how can I really know who the ‘real’ me is?

I relate to plenty of commonly-documented traits of various addiction that make telling people hard. I have low self-esteem, so I don’t think other people will care to hear my story. I have low self-worth so I don’t think I should waste other people’s time having to listen to me. I have developed a solitary approach to life which means I distrust others and that in turn makes me fearful of their reaction, expecting the worst at all times.

However, as part of breaking down the above pre-conceptions I have of myself and the world, I knew I wanted to tell the important people in my life, and slowly remove the secrecy. Having told my sister and wife, it felt natural to tell close friends. Unfortunately, and as a specific and cruelly ironic by-product of my addiction, I don’t really have any friends any more. I did in the past, but I’ve been unable to maintain those friendships, as I unconsciously prioritised my addiction, and the personality traits that enhanced it, further and further disconnecting me from other people until it was too late. In fact, the loneliness is by far the single biggest pain I feel, and the single biggest impact of my addiction. It only further enhances my feelings of inadequacy, as only the other day I caught myself thinking, “if I have no friends because of my addiction, why would my wife still choose and love me?”.

Anyway, back to the point. Having thought long and hard, there are really only two friends who, despite only seeing them a few times a year, I consider to be special and who I think will always remain part of my life. One is my best friend from school, and the other my best friend from my post-school life, met the year after I left.

It is she, the second friend, who I told today. We met up and spent an hour walking the banks of the River Thames, where I told her everything. She was so incredibly supportive. I shouldn’t have doubted it. She hugged me, told me how brave I was for dealing with it and telling her, and offered her unconditional support.

Not only that, but she was able to share stories about times in our lives together that relate. She could provide feedback on my personality and other traits as I talked about how they related to my addiction, and it was really interesting to hear her take on it.

For example, when I met up with her about 6 months ago, I was at a stage where I was starting to talk to people about emotions more, as a way to break down the secrecy without going the whole way and admitting to the addiction. So I had talked to her about my father and my relationship with him, and about self-confidence. Today she told me that after that conversation, she left realising that was the first time she had heard me talk about emotions. Obviously she only told me that today because of what I had now confided in her; otherwise I doubt she would have mentioned it, but it was interesting to hear. She essentially confirmed my understanding of my past, in that I had built up a very successful persona that was in no way connected to an emotional capability. I have partly attributed this to 10 years of boarding school from the age of 8, where I was basically taught that the priority of life is survival at all costs, and that emotions, weakness and honesty are not only irrelevant but detrimental to that goal (kids, don’t go to boarding school – your parents should be the ones tucking you in at night, not a matron).

In my experience telling people, I have learned two things about how others react, no matter how supportive they may be:

  1. Even if I tell them that they can ask me about how my recovery is going at any time, and that this should not be a taboo topic, it is very hard for people unfamiliar with addiction to pro-actively raise this in conversation. Where I have hoped those I have told would pro-actively ask me how I was, that hasn’t materialised, yet when I raise the topic myself, they are really engaged in the conversation and continue to be supportive. I have accepted that this is simply a very difficult thing for some people to introduce into a conversation and I accept that, so I make an effort to bring it up.
  2. Perhaps caused by my ability to rationally articulate my struggle, it is possible for people to not realise quite how sensitive the information I’ve provided is. One example is when I told my brother-in-law about one theme of my recovery (being cynical), and the next day he made a joke when I said something he thought was cynical, and joked that he should prod me every time I am. I wasn’t prepared for a topic of my recovery to be used as a joke, and I took it really personally and was really offended. I blew up, but apologised the next day. Reading the above, it may not seem like that big a deal, but trust me, the exposing of the fundamentals of who I am is a difficult and sensitive thing to do, and while of course I actively encourage discussion on it, making jokes out of it, perhaps not quite with my own interests at heart, is not ok. So, when I told my friend today, I told her this – i.e. don’t be flippant with this information.

So that’s it. One more person in my life now knows about my addiction, and is a step closer to knowing the ‘real’ me, or even to helping me find out who that really is.

Cannabis and porn addiction

These days, the only addiction I struggle with is porn, but for a long time, I was a big time weed smoker. That is not to be understated; I was at least as addicted to smoking weed as I was to watching porn, but there are a few differences in how I used these two drugs, and how I was able to quit one of them.

My porn use started at school, so it had a head-start of about 4 years before I discovered weed. I left my oppressive public school to the freedom of a gap year (I moved to a Surrey town for a year to do a 1 year musician course), and almost immediately fell in with a group of weed-smoking locals who to this day I still consider some of the most welcoming and friendly people I have ever met, who taught me so much.

For that year, I became a heavy, daily weed smoker. I even got arrested once for smoking with some friends in a local park. While porn remained an activity I conducted in secret, weed was a social drug for me. I had no paranoia and was extremely sociable, making loads of friends and generally having a blast. This was my first year of independent adulthood since 10 years in the public school boarding system, and I was loving it – learning who I am, and how I am with other non-schoolboys (“real” people!).

The porn continued but didn’t have a destructive influence on me (that I could tell). I remained social and didn’t isolate myself the way I did with porn in later years.

After that year was up, I went to University (that I had already been accepted to before my gap year), and that’s when things changed. Despite making some friends who shared my constant weed smoking passion, my weed use quickly became increasingly solitary, combined with staying up all night watching porn. Smoking and watching porn became my primary hobby, all other things secondary.

I look back at University and do have fond memories. Hell, I even met my now-wife there! But due to my solitary behaviour, I never made the friendship bonds that would endure the years after University. I see the groups of friends all staying in touch and sharing more experiences with each other, but I have drifted away.

It interests me, therefore, to recognise the different roles weed has played in my life. Within a year or two, it went from being a social grease to a solitary enabler. It is like it amplified how I felt about my life. In my gap year, it made me socially relaxed and open minded, but at University, it allowed me to withdraw and fall deeper into my porn addiction. I wonder if perhaps my feelings of distance at University were due to it being something prescribed for me, and an interruption to what I now look back on as the best year of my life. I long for the days of that first year of independence, and then I was back in the education system, resenting and rebelling from it.

A few years after University, my girlfriend (not knowing about the porn at that time) gave me an ultimatum – weed or her. I chose her, and overnight quit weed. This was pretty easy actually, because weed is hard to obtain – it requires making calls to dodgy dealers and meeting them at unsuitable times, and it costs money. Also, I still had the porn. I hadn’t considered that I was addicted to porn at that time, but no doubt quitting the weed would have further increased my reliance on porn.

It is hard to separate the two addictions, to see which was more influential on me, but there are two key differences I am aware of:

  1. Weed is far easier to quit than porn, as it wasn’t immediately available to me without some effort;
  2. Weed can be a force for good if used in the right mental state. It enhanced my life for a period of time. Similarly, it can be destructive if allowed to enhance negative feelings of isolation. Porn, on the other hand, is a purely solitary activity, that will never enhance sociability. There are no long-term benefits to watching porn.

So now I’m left with just the porn addiction. One down, one to go I suppose! This one is proving far more resilient than my weed addiction that’s for sure, but I’m confident I’m taking the right steps to eventually overcome it.

Thanks for reading.