Age 40s – 3 months clean after 4 years of periodic relapse

Smeagol is free! After spending years in a periodic pattern of not getting more than 30 days, I have had no porn, no masturbation, no edging, no “almost porn” and pretty much no desire to look at porn at all for this streak.

I’ve had an extraordinary experience with relapsing, and I guess I could say getting up and still trying anyway. I’ve felt at times like I am the one unique guy in the world who will just never get it no matter what I do and never be able to get free from porn, and that in that state my hopelessness oozes out of me and I fear it will infect other people around me who are working on this issue and feel jealous when everyone else seems to be high on the benefits of their great life and putting together so many days, months and years. Its so nice to be free from that feeling and know that I was engaging in wrong thinking and letting fear get to me. I know better at this point than to declare victory, but this has been a great streak for me.

A little background: I am married with little kids and in my 40s. I have been in recovery for sexual/porn addiction for 16 years. For that time I have been in 12 step recovery and I also spent a few years doing an outpatient treatment program. My background issues are depression and childhood sexual abuse. I have a garden variety profile of a porn addict of the type whose will power is completely ineffective at dealing with this issue and I have gone to insane lengths to bargain with this thing. There are two rules that seem to govern my porn use when I am in my addiction: 1. once I start looking at porn I cannot stop 2. Once I stop I cannot stay stopped. My longest streak of completely clean time lasted around 18 months. I started that off with about 6 months of hard mode. This was during my treatment program. My therapist suggested 120 days at the beginning and I wanted to hurt him, but I think this was very helpful. He also had me on psych meds which worked for a while.

I was able to set aside my PMO ritual (doing masturbation and porn at the same time) about 8 years ago around this time but still tried with varying success to do masturbation without porn in a non-destructive way, and have still been hooked on a habit of looking at porn that I have never been able to control. On finding this group and pornfree I decided to try not masturbating at all. I think that’s helping me.

What is really working well for me is that I have been applying myself to my recovery program over the last year and have had a better daily routine. One thing I’ve always hoped for is that I’d learn enough facts that this problem would go away and I’d know better than to give in to my urge and I’d be free to conquer life. It doesn’t work that way. As an addict I am never going to know better, and if I let my emotions get too off balance, those lower functions of my brain that they talk about in YBOP have been permanently fucked and I will look for porn and not care what it does to me, how my wife feels about it, etc. What my daily routine does is it helps me stay out of that zone. Essentially I need more than just a reboot. I need a software upgrade. Here is what I do: prayer (If organized religion has turned you off to the idea just think of it as affirmation, for example every morning I affirm my commitment to be in the flow of life and be helpful to other people), meditation, exercise and staying in contact with other addicts. I do a weekly meeting with people face to face in my SAA program. I have people I can call who will listen to me talk about pretty much anything.

I have used a visualization technique that I find very helpful. When I find myself thinking of a particular woman and feeling lustful reactions in my mind, I have been visualizing or praying for that woman that she has everything in her life, help with her problems, etc. I actually did that on my last relapse with every woman that I was looking at and my relapse didn’t go so deep in to the content that I always end up in.

I have to avoid getting in to excessive fear or resentment. This is something that is hard to control and I have had to do a significant amount of inner work to get a handle on this. I have learned that when I have problems in the world, and its the little things that I relapse over like having a stupid fight with my wife, the reason these things happen is because I am afraid of something. For example I am stuck in traffic. I am stressed because I am afraid of being late. I am afraid of being late because I am afraid of looking bad. I am afraid of looking bad because I am letting instincts run my life and thinking that I can somehow control everything. There is nothing I can do to get anywhere quicker but instead of just enjoying some unplanned me time alone in the car, I let stress levels go high and create discomfort in my brain. I’ve learned that all these thoughts are choices and that choosing to get in to fear is eventually choosing to relapse. I need a fundamental level of trust in life. There are no guarantees in life, but I can’t afford to worry about things that are beyond my control.

One thing about my day count. I am prone to compare myself to others, and I was so beaten by my string of relapses that I stopped counting my time. I am counting my time now, in hopes that I can show other lepers who never get it that this is possible. I’m talking complete freedom.

I am grateful to everyone out there, especially people that honestly share their struggle. Reading about it always helps me because I know that I am not alone. It takes courage to ask for help and to talk about this issue and I am inspired by all the honesty out there and courage people have.

Since I first wrote this, I have been feeling uncomfortable. I am expecting difficult emotions to bubble up more as I pass 3 months, and I think trying to interact with this group is stirring up social issues for me. This is good news, because I get to work through another thing that I’ve medicated with porn and masturbation. Specifically I have often felt alienated and like an outsider and not relating to people around me, and these feelings scare me because rejection taps in to a primal fear. That’s something I experienced as a child but I never do now because I can choose to hang out with nice people or at least non-dicks, but that experience is there and can get triggered sometimes.

One thing is that I really want to connect here and not see this as a popularity contest. Its nice to be excited if my post gets upvoted but I think that could just be more dopamine. I truly hope that I have helped somebody.

Life is good today, and thanks to this forum. Thank you for reading.

LINK – 3 months clean after 4 years of periodic relapse

by sir_tom