Internet filters are not for everyone

I was reading somewhere that some recovering porn addicts were finding it too difficult to use their computers and not look for porn, so they installed some software to block porn websites and filter out inappropriate search results. That got me thinking…maybe I should do that too.

I was about 9 months into my reboot and feeling good, confident, strong. But I was still concerned about the possibility of a relapse, so I went ahead and installed K9, a popular free porn filter. I set the password to something totally random, emailed it to a friend and asked him to guard it for me. Then I deleted all traces of those emails so I couldn’t find the password. I felt even better about my reboot.

But for me, doing this was a big mistake. It’s not that porn filters are a bad thing. In fact, they’re necessary on computers that kids have access to. Many innocent search terms will produce totally inappropriate results, especially images. The last thing you want is for some random image of hardcore porn to show up when your kid is doing research for a school project…’nuff said.

As soon as I installed this thing, I began wondering what it was doing for me. What would it filter out? How safe was I? So I began testing the filter to see what it would and would not let through. I wanted to see how smart it was. Soon, I noticed that, while it did a pretty good job of taming the search results, there were a few cracks in the armour. The more I probed, the more weaknesses I found. This process stimulated my hunting impulse in a big way. You see, internet porn addicts aren’t the type to sit and stare at one image, admiring it. They move from one image to the next, often looking for the next image before even really having seen the one that’s in front of them. Always hunting for something new, something better. This process of testing the filter got me into that mode.

At first, the things I found were not so intensely hardcore, so I wasn’t alarmed. But the better I got at finding ways around the filter, the more I progressed to images that were pushing my boundary of what I thought would be acceptable for me to look at (i.e. would looking at this image jeopardize my recovery). The truth is, my recovery was at risk the moment I began down the road of testing the filter. I hadn’t realized it yet, but I was already in a relapse.

As this process progressed over the next few days, I spent a little more time doing this, then a little more…it was a gradual progression. By the end of the week, I had figured out how to get hardcore images to show up in search results in spite of the filter. How clever was I? At that point, I wondered if it was possible to disable the filter completely without having the password. I figured out how to do that. Then, I began watching a video. Then I began locating some of my favorite videos, downloading them and storing them on my computer and masturbating to them. At that point, I was done for. I was in a full-blown relapse.

I knew I was doing things I shouldn’t be doing. I knew I was harming myself, but I did it anyway. I told myself, well I’ve already relapsed, so why not just enjoy it? This is what addicts do. Fortunately, I snapped out of it pretty quickly, deleted the videos and stopped testing the filter. But then I started testing it again, in small ways. Finally, I asked my friend for the password so I could uninstall it from my computer. Since having done that, I’ve been back on track and porn-free.

The ubiquity of porn makes it unique as far as addictions go. It’s always just a click away. You can’t run out, you don’t have to go anywhere (like a liquor store) or meet with a dealer. You don’t have to spend money. You can access it any time, anywhere (on your smart phone now) 24x7x365. You can even access it in your mind when you’re not actually looking at it. All of this makes getting away from porn a special kind of challenge. To be successful at avoiding porn requires that I make the choice over and over, every day, every moment, constantly…always choosing not-porn. As time goes by, that choice gets easier and easier. But it’s still a choice, and all it takes is for me to make the wrong choice once.

Porn blockers are good for some people, and necessary in some situations. But for me, they make choosing not-porn a little bit harder, so I avoid them. I’m not saying you should too, but if you do decide to use one, be clear why you’re using it, and make sure it’s actually working for you, not against you like it did for me.