I have used porn since the very inception of my sexual awakening in adolescence. My birth-date is 1989, so the internet was really coming of age at around the time I started to get those first chronic erections that just won’t go away. What’s a shy and embarrassed 13-year-old attending a Victorian-era all-boys school to do in that situation? Shut myself away at the computer at every opportunity.
In the beginning I looked at pictures: topless models, pop-stars, actresses… anything I could get my online ‘hands’ on. If for whatever reason those weren’t available, I had highly sexualised music videos constantly circulating on television and a pin-up supermodel calendar under the bed, so my options weren’t exactly limited. I never had to invest even a little bit of energy, nor face any discomfort whatsoever, in accessing this stuff. Needless to say, very little was left to my then-childlike imagination. Once I found out how to stream porn videos for free, without leaving any trace of culpability on either my Mum’s or Dad’s computer, my addiction was in full swing – well before I had even held hands with a girl.
Even before I entered into puberty, I had fallen hopelessly victim to two of the most prevalent (but culturally-sanctioned) addictions for children today: refined sugar and video-game consoles. These two behavioural addictions were essential in making my life bearable – even enjoyable – from very early childhood, to the extent that I was never able to live without them for prolonged periods. And society never obliged me to.
I was unable to save money as a child because all of my allowance would be impulsively splurged on sweets on the way home from school or wandering through town on Saturdays. I used to start fantasizing 6 months in advance about Christmas and birthdays, and what video-games (or even consoles) I would ask for as presents. It’s no wonder then that porn went on to become an addiction, given how far past the point of return I already was with these other two dependences.
As previously mentioned, I was naturally introverted as a youngster: I wasn’t the best-looking, fittest nor the most confident of my peers by any stretch of the imagination, and the very limited opportunities I had to meet girls were mostly squandered through my own insecurities – some of which were down to my tumultuous family situation. Most frustratingly however, once by some fluke I did finally manage through a friend of a friend to meet a special girl and began magically conjuring various incentives for her to be my girlfriend seemingly out of thin air, we weren’t able to copulate.
The first few times, the alcohol and the excitement mostly covered up any sense of disquiet – but when we just couldn’t make it happen over a course of several months, I started to have severe doubts about my manhood: “am I secretly gay?”, “do I not love my girlfriend?”, “is there something wrong with me?”, “is my member too small?”… “am I just a complete f**k-up in general?” At that age, the peer pressure to lose one’s virginity as quickly as possible – and my inexplicable failure to do so, even when given a clear-cut opportunity – put a tremendous strain on my teenage psyche. Somehow the one question that never entered my mind was “am I a porn addict?”, and it wasn’t until some 8 or 9 years later that that question became a real fixation for me.
Once I had left home for university and began doing something I was truly passionate about (music), I was at great pains to discover, quite early on, I just didn’t have sufficient self-exploration tools for devoting myself wholly to my craft. I didn’t know how to abandon all irrelevant concerns and give myself over to practicing my instrument, because I had always been so distracted as a child. Situations like the sheer boredom and automaton-like social programming of school, not fitting in with my peers, the phobia of girls detesting me and the often rocky dynamics of my family had led me always to crave distraction rather than mindfulness. Once at music college, away from childhood memories and in my own element, I saw that I had a way out of all of that, but it required a focus that I just couldn’t find anywhere inside myself.
A few Hermann Hesse novels, books on Oriental philosophy and inspiring talks with my Dad later, I gave up alcohol and began meditating most days. I was able to curb video-games and porn whilst at music college, though my sugar consumption was as bad as ever: away from home and with no knowledge of (nor willingness for) cooking. When I came home from University I would eat better, but old habits would flood straight back: in my old bedroom, away from prying eyes, I would revert to those tried and tested methods of satisfying my starved dopamine receptors – inevitably leaving me depressed and estranged from the new self I had slowly started developing as an adult.
It took me a good few years of meditation and self-discovery – and, more recently, a steady loving relationship – before I was really able to take on the three-headed Hydra of sugar, video-games and porn that had so routinely sabotaged my life. Sugar was the first to go as I learned how to cook and eat healthily. I still fought long battles of attrition with porn and video-games however, abstaining and abstaining for what felt like long periods but then, when unable to deal with some mood swing or troubling news, reverting to the only ways I knew of easing the pain, or tragically congratulating myself for my self-control by indulging in the very things I was trying to avoid.
6 months ago I was on my way to a gig when some friends and I started to discuss porn. One of my closest friends and I had begun a dialogue a year earlier, culminating in an agreement that masturbation to porn was an insidiously self-destructive habit. He’d had a difficult break-up with a girl who he really loved because he couldn’t get over the feeling of wanting a ‘fitter’ girlfriend. I’d asked him about porn and he told me he was masturbating to it once a day throughout the relationship. By this time I was in a serious, sexually active relationship of my own and had started trying to wean myself off porn for the sake of my girlfriend and our mutual sex-life. He had managed to quit streaming porn videos, but was still prone to looking at pictures of girls on Facebook. I would go through weeks, sometimes months without porn, but something would always come up and it was always just way too easy to relapse. I had cut my porn consumption down significantly but just couldn’t seem to cut it out. It started to become like a bad smell or an infestation in one’s house that’s impossible to get rid of.
One of our friends in the car mentioned NoFap. It was around the time that I had started taking cold showers every day, writing my dreams down every morning and getting into a fixed schedule of meditation; I decided “If I can get all these things together, I must be able to quit porn.” and with that in mind I proceeded to check out the site. I found the all of the advice and background research enlightening and helpful in the extreme, immediately subscribed and found myself reading out segments of the newsletter to my girlfriend every week, meditating on the concepts and even trying to apply them to other aspects of my life. Since then, I admit I have relapsed a couple of times, but it never resulted in an all-out binge. This is because after the act was done I was able to forgive my awareness for being outfoxed by the formidable combination of dopamine cravings and high-speed internet. Then it was just a matter of pulling my trousers up, observing what had led up to that and getting on with my day as best I could.
I can safely say now that I am done with watching porn, and I owe my thanks in no small part to Mark Queppet, the NoFap Academy and the Sacred Sexuality project – all of which have combined to help me in viewing my addiction to porn in a serious and pragmatic way. The power-journaling and methods for overcoming discomfort have proved immensely helpful to me with other addictions too.
Since quitting porn I have been on a steady incline towards downloading a new – one could say Alpha – operating system for myself. I feel more alive, and the small things – whether it’s taking a walk, cooking for my girlfriend, listening to music or something else – all make a big impression on me. My life-goals have also changed: from wanting to get certain things to wanting to be a certain way. I realise how, intrinsically, I have everything I need to live every day fulfillingly.
I don’t want to ‘escape’ from life into porn anymore. I have in fact been striving to escape from porn back into life, and that means no more objectification of women. No more relying on digital images for sexual arousal. No more spying on the intercourse of other people (we wouldn’t feel right about it if they were in the room, would we? so why is it OK through a computer screen?). No more comparing 8-10 different pornstars in order to get off. And most importantly: no more instant gratification; a gratification so instant that the urge is satiated before you even have the chance to notice it. That certainly was the case with me: before I even knew I was entering puberty, masturbating to digital prostitutes online became a primary reflex to stress.
In the words of Aldous Huxley, “Conditioned reflex: – it seemed, I remember, to put the lid on everything. Whereas actually, of course, it merely restated the doctrine of free will. For if reflexes can be conditioned, then, obviously, they can be re-conditioned. Learning to use the self properly, when one has been using it badly – what is it but re-conditioning one’s reflexes?” NoFap has helped me to restate my free will, re-condition my reflexes and start conforming to my ideal vision of myself, and I’m eternally grateful to them.