Tag Archives: porn blocking

Checking in – tough times

I haven’t posted in a while, and I don’t really want to actually, as it is a way of facing what’s going on, which I don’t really want to do. Such is the dilemma of the addict.

It’s also a new month, so let’s look at last month in a month-by-month progress chart:

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-19-57-00

As you can see, I really dipped in October, after two months of increasing sobriety. I had the worst month in a very long time, both from a sobriety and also a mental health perspective. I was struggling so much with addiction and it was a really dark time.

It wil sound trivial to say, but one of the biggest contributing factors to this was the re-implementation of software blocks on my devices. I’ve blogged many times about blocks, and struggled with them whenever I’ve used them. Every time I’ve tried blocks, my rate of acting out increases. Primarily this is because using blocks makes me think that I’m staying sober because I can’t act out, rather than because I’m choosing not to. When I inevitably find a loophole, I immediately give myself permission to act out, because I’ve come to learn that I’m only staying sober because of blocks. I’ve not found a way to maintain my usual tools of recovery and motivation, and have blocks. Partly this is because the restrictions on what I can do are so severe when using blocks (to the extent I couldn’t even use my laptop), that I feel that they must be seriously effective and so I should rely on them.

Anyway, I don’t really want to write loads about blocks. Recently, I’ve had a good chat with my wife and we’re talking about moving away from blocks again. However, this has to come with the reintroduction of a healthy, committed and regular pattern of recovery activities. I’m still acting out reguarly, and I need to get back on track.

One thing I’m doing is getting a sponsor within the 12 step SAA group I attend. I don’t do the steps, and never really have, but I think I might give it a go. They clearly work, or at least help, for a lot of people, and I thnk I owe it to myself and my family to see if the steps could help me. A member of the group has offered to be a temporary sponsor for me so I’m looking forward to chatting to him further and seeing where this goes.

Anyway, that’s that for now. I hope everyone else is doing well, feel free to comment and say hi!

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A Note About Porn Blocks

I’ve written extensively about porn blocks on this blog. For a time I thought they were the answer – a way of physically preventing me from watching porn, and therefore achieving the abstinence that it is of course the goal of this whole thing.

Unfortunately, for me at least, porn blocks have done more harm than good, in the following ways:

  1. They are not fool-proof, and I am very good at computers. Whatever solution I found, I found a workaround for. I would then figure out a technical way of preventing that workaround next time, but I would quickly find another. You would be amazed at some of the convoluted and complex steps that I went through to get even a single porn image to load.
  2. They divert focus from what matters. Instead of concentrating on improving my mindfulness and willpower and other mental exercises to strengthen myself against temptation, I simply sat back and relied on the porn blocks. This meant that not only was I not improving my mental stance at all, but as soon as I found a workaround, I would instantly relapse, as I had no mental strength to withstand it.
  3. I spent my whole time trying to break them. When you’ve given in and are looking for porn, it is already too late – you’ve lost that particular battle. The battle against porn needs to be fought at the temptation stage, not later. But with blocks in place, the process of finding porn became almost a game. I would spend hours trying to find loopholes and workarounds, which was almost more exhilarating than the actual payoff.
  4. They gave a false sense of security. Each time I plugged a workaround, I genuinely believed I had ‘found the last loophole’, and I would tell me wife this. But each time I found a way to act out, it caused additional stress on my wife and I as we went through the technical process of evaluating the loophole and her relying on me to block it. The blocks made me think like I was ‘beating’ the addiction, but I wasn’t, I was simply postponing, or diverting, it.
  5. It was too onerous on my wife. My wife held the keys to my digital life. I had set her up as the admin on my PC. I had installed blocking software which only she knew the password to. I had prevented myself from installing apps on my phone without her approval. All of this required her to enter a password, which she would do 10 times a night while I went about my normal computing activities. She didn’t enjoy it, and the continued relapsing made her feel it wasn’t worth it anyway.

So, in the end, we gave up and removed all the blocks. On the basis that I was always going to find some kind of workaround, the additional stress involved in managing the blocks, and the distraction they were causing by preventing me from focussing on mindfulness, wasn’t worth it.

I now have no blocks installed. For the first week I have succumbed quite a lot to times on my own due to the new-found novelty, but things are coming to a head and that now needs to change.

Status Update – more content blocking!

So September is nearly upon us and looking back, August has been probably the toughest month I’ve had to deal with in relation to porn addiction. My anxiety and stress levels have been through the roof, yet I’ve been relapsing at the same regularity as before, so all in all I’m finding it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But that hasn’t meant I’ve stopped trying, and one key change I’ve made, and continually refined upon, is implementing a holistic method to block my ability to watch porn on my laptop, tablet and phone. This is only addressing the means, rather than the motivation, but the aim is to help me get to a period of sobriety, which in turn will improve my mental state and increase my chances of a longer-term recovery.

So here’s the current setup (following one from my previous posts on the matter):

  • Enabled Sky’s (my broadband provider) content filter by enabling through their admin panel. As I have a Sky login (to use their services like remote record), I technically can disable this filter, but if I do, my wife automatically receives an email. By enabling this filter, all porn served to any home device via my broadband connection is blocked, and the filter works very well. There is one workaround to this though:
  • Using a VPN/proxy server. A VPN is a way of bypassing your ISP’s content block, by requesting web pages via a different domain service than the one your ISP uses. I happen to have a VPN to my work network setup on my personal laptop, so I can easily work from home, and my company does not filter porn on their network for some reason. So the only way to block porn delivered via the VPN is to install software on my laptop which will block porn locally, regardless of what internet connectivity has been used. I have opted to use K9 Web Protection, which does a very good job. My wife owns the password and it blocks all porn and also image searches, unless you use its own safe image search. I am still an admin on my laptop, which means I am technically able to force-delete appropriate system files to disable this block, but it is laborious and combined with the steps below, I’m hoping removing my admin rights won’t be necessary.
  • Enabled Apple’s adult content restriction on my iPad and iPhone. This is a very strict block that prevents a lot of websites from being shown on my phone, but better to be safe than sorry. Again, content is blocked regardless of whether I use a VPN or not, and it applies to almost all 3rd party apps as their built-in browsers essentially just use the  built-in Safari engine. In addition, I have deleted all apps on my phone that can access images or porn, like Reddit and Google Search, and have disabled the App Store so I can’t download 3rd party browsers.

So I am at a point where it is basically impossible to look at porn on my phone or iPad, and the only way to do it on my laptop is to force-delete the K9 software and use my work VPN (where all my access is recorded) to watch porn. There is a huge risk of me using my work VPN, in that I could lose my job.

In addition, I have put in place two additional safeguards into my daily routine. As the most common times for me to watch porn, or try to, are in the morning after my wife has left for work and in the evening after she’s gone to bed, I’ve suggested to her that from now on I get up and leave the house with her (no more lying in bed as she leaves) and go to bed with (no more staying up late). These steps should hopefully compensate for the fact that technically there is a workaround, albeit a laborious and job-risking one, still available.

One key thing I’ve noticed is that the more I implement technical blocks of porn, the more I rely on these blocks as my method of abstaining. This has meant that each time I find a workaround, I go full on and relapse immediately to take advantage of it, then afterwards I plug that workaround and the process continues. By relying so much on the blocks, it has reduced the emphasis on building up my own mental fortifications against temptation. My most successful periods of abstinence have been in the past before I implemented a single block, and now I’ve got blocks enabled, I’m relapsing more frequently as I spend my whole time trying to break them (and often succeeding), rather than spending time building my mental strength and strategies. Now I have basically got the blocks sorted, I need to revisit these original mental techniques to start focussing on resisting temptation and improving my mental well-being, rather than just focussing on the technicals.

I must mention my wife as well – she has been hugely supportive. My stress levels have been borderline depression during my recent relapses and she’s been open to all my suggestions and has supported me all the way. She’s 4 months pregnant and so I feel terrible to be putting her through this but I don’t see any other way – she has to be involved. It is so hard to admit to her when I fail because I know how disappointed it makes her, and it is embarrassing for me, as well as being genuinely hard to do because after I relapse I tend to be at my lowest mental point – depressed, deflated, disappointed with myself, so to then admit this to someone else who will add to the disappointment is hard. But it needs ot be done and she hasn’t let her disappointment flow over into negativity – we always discuss why it happened and what can be done to prevent it again.

So there we have it. This is probably a few blog posts wrapped up into one but I just wanted to get a few things written down. I’m hoping this will be useful or interesting reading for someone at some point in the future!

Enable Adult Content Block on iOS 7

I’m in the process of locking down my ability to access porn, both at home and away, on all my devices. Each time I think I’ve cracked it, I find another loophole, but I’m getting closed to having a holistic block.

See my last post for my current setup, but I’ve since found another workaround and so I’m investigating further blocks, and one I’ve come across which I think is essential for any Apple device owner to implement is the iOS adult website filter. Enabling this filter does three things:

  1. Prevents certain adult websites from displayed on the device
  2. Removes the ability to enter ‘private browsing’ mode in Safari
  3. Prevents the device’s internet history from being cleared

Numbers 2 and 3 are really clever inclusions, as it means even if a particular adult website can be accessed, it cannot be done so in private and so will show up in the history, which itself cannot be cleared. Any porn sites you visit will be there to see for eternity, which is a very strong deterrent.

Whoever enables the restriction on the device gets to choose a password, which can be different from the device lock passcode (so the phone owner can still lock the device and use it as normal).

I will be incorporating this into my latest setup, as I have decided that device-level blocks are required as well as ISP-level blocks, as described in my last post.

You can see a good walkthrough of how to enable to adult site filter here.

Now unfortunately, there’s one big gotcha. A user can simply install a 3rd party browser such as Google Chrome and simply bypass the above content block! I’m in the process of investigating how to prevent specific apps from being run on the phone, to prevent any 3rd party browsers from being run. I can’t see an immediate way of achieving this without restricting the ability to download apps without the ‘supervisor’ entering the password.

Blocking porn in my house: how to do it right

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looks a bit like this:

ISP-level porn block

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

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

1. 0.0.0.0 to 90.207.238.97

2. 90.207.238.98

3. 90.207.238.100 to 255.255.255.255

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

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

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

Private therapy session #2 take-away

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

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

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

My take-away from session #2 is:

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

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

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

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

Take-away #2:

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

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

The journey of discovery continues…

Stage 2: Implementing the content block

Today I finally received the text message from my mobile phone provider that I’ve been waiting for for ages… confirming that their server-side adult content block has been activated on my account.

I had hoped that willpower alone would have been enough to beat this thing, but it hasn’t been the case, as I have still been watching porn occasionally. I’m still far improved than when I started this journey, but success means total abstinence so I need to take it a step further, as hinted at in my previous post.

I have implemented porn blocking which works on my mobile and my home internet. I have not yet found a solution to block porn when connected to other people’s wifi, but my current solution addresses the main times that I have failed (i.e. on my mobile or when I’m at home). I have done this in two ways:

  1. Configured my home router to use OpenDNS FamilyShield. This means that any traffic that passes through my home router is filtered automatically and any porn sites I try to access are blocked. This will work on all computers and phones using my home broadband.
  2. Enabled the Content Lock that is offered by my mobile phone service provider EE. This means that, like above, there is a server-side filter in place for all traffic I access over my phone’s 3G/LTE connection.
  3. Enabled the content lock that comes with my iPad’s data connection provided by GiffGaff.

My mobile is provided by my company so I had to ask our helpdesk to enable the block for me. I told them I had young family members using my phone and wanted to hide any adult content. This also makes it very hard for me to disable the lock as I’d have to go through them again.

For the personal 3G account and the home wifi, I had to ensure I couldn’t revert the changes. Therefore I allowed my fiance to set a new password that only she knows on both my home router and on my GiffGaff account.

So now it is significantly harder to watch porn. It is actually quite a fundamental change in the dynamics of dealing with the addiction so we’ll have to see what impact it has. I’m conscious that this is only a plaster; I still need to be addressing the root cause by training myself not to want to watch porn, not just making myself not able to watch it – there is a big difference.

The only bit remaining is when connected to other people’s wifi. You can’t change the DNS settings on other people’s routers so the only way to block porn in those scenarios would be to either a) have some form of system-wide DNS setting on the phone/computer that I couldn’t override, that would apply no matter what wifi I’m using, or b) use a specific porn-blocking browser. A browser would also mean that porn would be blocked regardless of my internet connection, but the problem is that I’d have to restrict my phone so I can only use that browser, which isn’t realistically possible (at the moment). Therefore my fiance and I are agreed that we know this is a weakness and we discuss it before I go somewhere with wifi. A phone-wide DNS setting would be great but I doubt you can do that on iOS. I would consider switching to Android if that was possible.

Considering options to block porn on my devices

I am considering, and very likely going to implement, some form of porn-blocking method that I could implement across all devices I use. If I could successfully do this, that would be a massive helping hand in the effort to break my porn habit, as I literally would not be able to watch it, even if I tried.

The options I can think of, from the top of my head, are:

  • Install specialist porn-blocking 3rd party browsers/plugins on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air
  • Install a router-level blocking technology on my Airport Extreme
  • Employ a DNS-level blocker

Each will have their pros and cons. A router-level block won’t stop me from switching to 3G to circumvent it, so that’s out. Browsers are a good option, but obviously mean I lose all the functionality I get from using my current browsers. DNS-level blocking is also interesting but I’m not sure what the implications are – my phone is provided by my company and I’m not sure what impact changing these sorts of settings would be.

Obviously in addition to the above, I need to ensure that any methods I could use to undo any restrictions is locked down, most likely by letting my girlfriend choose the password.

If anyone has had any success with any of these options, or any other method, I’d be interested to hear about it.