Perspectives From 18 Months of Freedom

According to my counter I have now passed the 18 month mark since either masturbating or using pornography. As I write my emotions are a mixture of joy and solemnity. I am very happy to be free and don’t ever want to go back. The solemn emotions are the result of realizing how much time was wasted on this habit.

There is nothing frivolous or funny about a habit that destroyed 43 years of a man’s life. Addiction to pornography and masturbation damaged my life no differently than addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling would have damaged my life. One could argue that porn addiction does not have the health risks associated with alcohol or drug addiction but sexual dysfunction is certainly a health issue if there ever was one. Truthfully, my liver may be healthier than that of someone that had a drinking problem for decades on end, but my life was damaged by my addiction.

So; how does it feel to be at 18 months? Well, it is certainly a good feeling. It’s not new or unique anymore. Not masturbating is the normal state for me at this point and the learned reflex to masturbate is gone. What has happened, in my personal opinion, is nothing less than reorienting myself sexually. For 43 years I sought sexual satisfaction from myself; now I seek sexual satisfaction only if it involves a loving partner. The word loving is important in my understanding of this because I truly believe that the primary source of satisfaction from sexual intercourse is not the physical sensation or the orgasm, but instead, the emotional connection.
I have read the biographies of many men and one man’s biography detailed years of promiscuity. His conclusion, at the end of it all, was that he found no satisfaction even though he was able to attract numerous young women as partners. After several years of seeking sex from as many women as possible he realized that he would find more happiness and satisfaction if he found a permanent relationship and, decades later, the joy of his life is his family.
Reading the example above helped me to realize that the free sex I idealized during my years of porn addiction could not ever bring any lasting satisfaction. It could certainly provide excitement and novelty, but the aftereffects are loneliness, at the very least, and a very real risk of disease or fathering a child with a stranger. I reached a point, roughly nine months into the process of recovery, when I faced my sexual fantasies head on. I literally gave myself permission to do whatever I wanted, then I waited to see just what it was that I did want. As it turns out, after asking myself ‘what do you want right now?’ I concluded that I craved companionship, not a casual sexual encounter. Quite simply, given the choice between a roll in the hay with an eager stranger and a cup of coffee with a lady friend I would have chosen the cup of coffee. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like a roll in the hay, it’s just that I realized that the person had to mean something to me in order for the “roll” to have any hope of being satisfying.
This is a major revelation and a very important step in my long term recovery. Porn is a lot less appealing when you realize that the vast majority of it is completely phony. These aren’t people enjoying sex, they are actors going through the motions of sex for the benefit of the camera. The porn stud that beds several women during the course of the video is not sexually fulfilled by meaningless sex because meaningless sex cannot fulfill an emotional need, and sex is an emotional need.
Do I ever feel horny? Of course I do; and thank goodness for the fact. One big change in my behavior is that I have redefined the very meaning of being horny. For 43 years horny meant that I had to do something about it, hopefully sooner than later. Nowadays I see being horny as a positive thing in and of itself. It’s a sign of health and virility. I’m, literally, thankful that I get horny. Being horny means that everything is fine with me. It means that when the opportunity for intercourse with a loving partner arrives I’ll be able to do my part. The fact that I have to live with the occasional discomfort of not having any sexual release does not make me less of a man. I simply have to be in control of myself sexually and I am happy to have the ability to do so.
My problem was not simply one of porn addiction. My problem started when I was 14 and was exposed to hard core pornography in the form of photographs of sexual intercourse. I learned to masturbate from a neighborhood friend and spent many hours compulsively masturbating starting early in puberty. I expected that I would outgrow it, but I never did. When I became sexually active I was shocked that I felt compelled to masturbate and I ruined two marriages because of it. Two loving women that were willing to wager their futures on me as a life partner and I was so badly addicted to masturbation that I threw  away the lovely gift of being loved. Speaking only for my situation, I see this as compulsive sexual behavior which manifest itself in two different ways. First off, I masturbated compulsively for over 40 years and secondly, I found pornography to be irresistible and used it as a stimulant to bolster my masturbation habit.
As I aged the problem did mellow to some extent and became a stress-relief mechanism. I was still hooked, mind you, but I acted out less frequently and even managed to stay away from masturbation for over 900 days at one point. A key point here, I abstained for 900 days, but I was still helpless in the face of addiction to compulsive sexual behavior. I still yearned for porn and still idealized it. I knew that masturbation had caused harm in my life and wanted to stop, but I still felt that I was missing out on something. I no longer feel that way. I no longer want pornography at all.
In the end, after 900 days of abstinence I reverted to masturbation and damaged my marriage. I struggled along, but when the Internet came along the lure of porn proved to great and I went back to using porn and masturbating, especially in times of stress. Eventually I found marital sex to be bothersome and I all but abandoned my wife sexually. Predictably, we ended up divorced. Once that happened I started to masturbate many times per day and spent some years masturbating frequently. I decided that I didn’t want the hassle of real sex and isolated myself for nearly a decade. Eventually my porn use and masturbation moderated a bit but I was still hooked and still used Internet porn frequently.
I used it the way an alcoholic uses liquor. It was a stimulant that I used to lift myself out of depressed moments and a depressant to calm anxiety. I would, at times, spend many hours seeking porn on the Internet and have 20 – 40 browser tabs open at the same time, searching for the perfect clip. Masturbation became secondary to novelty seeking and I would follow any thread of imagination in pursuit of the ultimate clip. Fortunately, my tastes were tame, but towards the end I was escalating to some extent and viewing lesbian porn.
I once knew an alcoholic that had a special weakness for a very certain kind of liquor. He would, and did, consume many different kinds of alcohol, but, when he really wanted to go all out, he chose one specific distilled liquor and told me that it gave him a very complex high. I don’t know what to make of this in specific because my knowledge of alcohol is fairly limited, but I think it is a revealing look at addiction. My guess is that he used his very favorite type of liquor to reward himself. He didn’t always go for that type of liquor, but when he felt truly deserving he would buy his favorite and indulge himself completely.
I include the above information because I think it serves to illustrate a very important point about addictive behavior. Addicts continually bargain with themselves concerning their substance of choice. A drug user may consider marijuana a lesser evil than other types of drugs and maintain his habit in that manner. Occasionally this user might indulge harder and more dangerous drugs, but this person can rationalize that they are in control because they are using a lesser drug than their ultimate drug of choice. An alcoholic could do the same thing living as a maintenance alcoholic using beer while refraining from distilled spirits, which is their favored indulgence.
The same holds true for porn addiction and compulsive masturbation. I would masturbate quietly and without porn in the morning before getting out of bed, rationalizing that this was somehow less problematic than using porn as a stimulant. But I was fooling myself. I was still seeking sexual satisfaction without involving my wife; which is why we are no longer married. This leads me to a very strong opinion I have formed regarding both porn and masturbation; you can have make-believe sex or you can have real sex, but not both. Which do you prefer? This does not come from a moralistic point of view. I am not here to moralize or judge in any way. People have moralized masturbation and porn for a very long time and it has done no lasting good. I see this matter in purely practical terms; we function in a certain manner and this manner dictates that stimulation has a lasting effect upon us. If we choose the stimulation of non-real sex we will have difficulty responding to the stimulation of real sex. It’s that simple.
Sexual intercourse is a highly stimulating activity. It is highly stimulating for several reasons. The genitals of both males and females are sensitive. There is a high density of nerves in the genitals and we respond rapidly to any contact that our genitals experience. Any man that has ever caught the skin of his penis in a zipper can attest to this at some length.
But there is another aspect to sexual stimulation that is equally important and that is the emotional aspect. Now, even from a strictly biological point of view this is very important to the survival of most of the species on the planet. It’s entirely possible for animals to masturbate and it is not unknown for this to happen. Anyone that has ever had a male dog hump their leg knows this. But animals, to the best of my knowledge, do not masturbate all that often. In fact, other than a handful of times that I have observed dog to leg action I can’t think of any time I have ever seen an animal stimulating themselves sexually. This is a vital aspect of animal behavior. If they could satisfy their mating instinct by masturbation there would be little reason to compete for mates, little reason for male animals to risk injury by fighting over receptive females and little reason for male birds to master a mating song, but they always do.
My point here is that over-stimulation, whether physical, emotional or both, can have a negative effect upon one’s ability to have a stable relationship with a significant other. Have you ever petted a cat and been bitten? That happens frequently with cats because they are emotional little animals and a good petting can be overstimulating. They aren’t angry nor are they trying to get you to stop; it’s just that it feels so good they have to do something and nipping at the hand which pets them is their solution to the problem. The same thing can happen with sex. Too much stimulation can actually be detrimental to the relationship. Karezza is a practice of foregoing orgasm in favor of a deeper emotional experience during sex and is widely reported to be preferred over orgasmic sex by those that practice it. Whether you choose this direction or not the very existence of the practice, which has resurfaced in various forms throughout history, illustrates some vital points regarding the nature of sexual satisfaction. There’s much more to sex than two bodies providing friction to one another in hopes of trading orgasms.
Which, in a sense, leads me back to where I started; the joy and solemnity of having come to a much greater understanding of sex and its role in my life. In my decades of compulsive masturbation and addictive use of pornography I saw sex in very stark terms. Not only was sex frustrating, it was empty and devoid of meaning. I loved the women I was married to and they loved me but, having a very immature and incomplete view of sex I did not recognize the emotional element and put it in its proper context. I know from experience that as loved drained out of my marriages our sex life got worse and it became ever easier to masturbate instead of making love. A vicious cycle ensued and I ended up with no sex life whatsoever in the real world and a very frustrating sex life grounded in unreality. I can recall being compelled to seek out porn and/or strip clubs as a way of spicing up my sex life, but it was, at heart a pointless pursuit. Ultimately, I could never be satisfied by porn and masturbation because no one can truly be satisfied with sexual activity without the emotional element.
I’m 18 months in and my life has never been better. I am finding areas of improvement that go well beyond sex. I am more in control of my emotions and less given to frustration and anger. My appetite is much more balanced and I find it easier to eat smaller portions and to include enough variety in my diet that I am achieving better nutrition. I seem able to take life in my stride and I am happier overall. I find myself less concerned about material things. (I still have things of value and still seek such, but I am not nearly as likely to be troubled by not being able to attain some certain possession or another.)
Perhaps the most important of all, I feel that I deserve to be loved. This is a HUGE development! It impacts my approach to relationships. I feel more confident and I am absolutely certain that I can do my part to be a good man, capable of winning the love of a good woman. And what more could anyone ask for?
I will end with a metaphor that, I hope, will illustrate the value of being free from my compulsive sexual behaviors. Suppose that it is the day of Thanksgiving and you are driving some distance to the home of a loved one to share in the Thanksgiving feast. Waiting ahead is a roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, corn, dinner rolls, cranberries, salads and there are a number of lovely dessert choices that you can enjoy afterward. As you drive towards this feast you think about these delicious items that await, but you still have one and one half hours to drive before you get there. Your mouth is watering and your mind revisits the delights of Thanksgiving dinners past. You see a gas station with a convenience store attached and pull in, your appetite at fever pitch. There’s not much to choose from but you buy a bag of flavored potato chips, a giant sized Snickers bar and a 24 oz Mountain Dew. You consume these as you drive onward and eventually reach your destination having consumed well over 1,000 calories of junk food along the way. Dinner is served as soon as you arrive and you take very small portions, so small that the cook is concerned that you don’t like the food. After a lackluster attempt at eating dinner you retire to the TV room along with everyone else but you really aren’t feeling all that well and you don’t get involved in either the conversation or the big game on TV. When dessert is offered you pass on it and you take a couple of half-hearted sips from the coffee cup before allowing it to get cold and unpalatable.
Your hosts are concerned that something is wrong but you aren’t about to hurt their feelings by admitting that you pigged out on junk food along the way so you leave them with a sense that something is wrong, but they don’t know what it could be. You excuse yourself and are the first one to leave. You drive home and find that you are hungry again, but your stomach is upset and all you can imagine consuming is another soda. The next morning you wake up feeling lousy and with a dull headache. Eventually, in the early afternoon you decide to find some nourishment but, not feeling well you seek out foods that would seem comforting and easy to digest. You realize that your relatives are somewhat offended and justifiably so, but you don’t know what to do about it. By Saturday you have regained your digestive equilibrium but the opportunity to truly enjoy a fine meal with your family has passed. You hope that you are invited again, but realize that you have some fence mending ahead of you because of your mistake.
Now, which would you prefer, pigging out on junk food or a meal carefully prepared by a loved one? You can apply this to the subject at hand without my leading.