Today I am one year sober. I feel like my whole life has changed. I can’t explain it easily, but staying pornfree has made a huge difference to many different aspects of life. If you told me 4 years ago when this journey started that I would go an entire year without porn or masturbation I could not possibly have believed you.
I thought I would try and recall what had to change in my thinking before I was able to live porn free. The following are some of the big shifts in my attitude that I think we’re significant. I’ll try and link posts that really spoke to me around those ideas. Feel free to ask me anything, happy to share my limited experience with a taste of sobriety.
Don’t Give Porn to much power When I am consumed thinking all the time about stopping and avoiding porn I give it power over me. Annoyed with myself about doing things that don’t support my sobriety or constantly talking about a particular fantasy that just keeps coming back, I am sometimes giving porn too much power. So rather than trying to actively spending all my time avoiding porn or other activities that don’t support my recovery, instead I leave porn out of my life by filling it with behaviours that support my recovery.
It is a subtle change, but was a big one for me. Focus on recovery rather than absence.
When I first visited this subreddit I realised that most of the items I was adding to my day for recovery were listed in this awesome collection called Concrete Tips.
Willingness to accept the pain of the past All my life I have been numbing out any uncomfortable feelings with my drug of choice. Masturbating to Pornography, as numbing out goes, it is an amazing drug. No matter how sad or angry or afraid I could make it all just go away. It was magic.
It is only expected that if I stop taking my drug then these feelings would come up. A willingness to face this discomfort was necessary to be able to live porn free.
Acceptance that most women hate pornography I always thought it was because of my wife’s “Issues” that she had such a problem with pornography, it took me a long time to realise that many, if not most women, have issues with their partners pornography habits. This was a big motivation for me when I realised I was greatly limiting my chances of satisfaction in a relationship by engaging in behaviour that is known to be distasteful.
Only worrying about today I was, and still am to some extent, full of fears and anxiety of both the past and future. I can’t stay sober from porn when I am consumed with shame from past acting out. Neither can I stay sober if I am consumed with fears of what the future might hold. As an active addict I lived in shame, fear and anxiety. Living in the past or the future is lethal for me. I try and remember to just do the next right thing to stay away from porn today.
Hate Porn It is very difficult to stop doing something if you really like it. For at least the past 20 years I thought it would be a good idea if I stopped watching porn. I really didn’t like what it did to me and I thought I should stop watching it. That was never enough, because I kinda liked it, a lot. Today I hate porn, I hate what it did to me, I hate the sex industry it represents and I hate the wreckage of broken families it leaves in its wake. Today I don’t want to watch porn. I don’t watch porn. This post on becoming pornfree also hit this point for me.
I can’t tolerate lust This is a hard one to explain, but possibly the most important change of thinking before my last streak. For me lust is a greedy selfish attitude towards sex, it is all: I want, I “need”, I will take. Me, me, me. When I was watching porn it was about one thing only, getting off, getting a sexual hit. It didn’t involve anyone else, it was just for me. If I allow any of that attitude into my life I am on the slippery slope to relapse. I cannot objectify women on the street, I cannot indulge sexual fantasies, I cannot have sex with women I don’t love, all of those things are lust. They are only about satisfying my needs there is no union or connection with another. I am both allergic and addicted to lust, other people maybe able to have sex purely for their own gratification, I cannot, I am allergic to lust. EVERY time I have indulged the attitude of lust I have slipped.
Long story short I just can’t go there any more, no where near pornography or the attitudes of pornography, I thought this post summed it up nicely: “Autobiography in Five Chapters” by Portia Nelson
The opposite of addiction is connection This was a more recent eureka moment, after reading this post, I realised I already had this covered simply because I was doing as I was told in my SA program. My sponsor told me to ring 3 other members of the fellowship every day, I was doing it because I was told to and I was desperate to stay sober, not because I understood why and I certainly hate asking for help.
Now I can see that if all addiction is about disconnection, how much more so is pornography addiction, I had taken a part of normal human life which is supposed to be all about connection and intimacy and twisted it into an isolated act of getting a sexual hit sitting on my own in front of a glowing screen. It was the very opposite of connection. Talking to others everyday in real life about the reality of the withdrawals, living pornfree and being truly vulnerable about my fears, worries and other challenges is rewiring my brain.
Surrender and humility I stopped trying to do this on my own. No matter how hard I fought to stay away from porn by my own strength, I could not. So I gave up. One day I genuinely said I cannot do this, I have tried and tried and tried and I cannot. So I begged God in prayer to help me. I listened to my sponsor and did as I was told whether or not I understood or I thought it was a good idea I just obeyed. This was a game changer for me, I was a big believer in individual sovereignty, only do something if you understand it and if you know it is the right thing for you. What I didn’t realise was often the right thing is not obvious and others have made mistakes already so that we don’t have to if we are willing to listen.
Now surrender is a big part of my life and I find great freedom in just letting go, if I have a fear for the future I just admit that I can’t control what happens tomorrow and let go of that fear. If that doesn’t work I pray about it and ask God to take the fear away. Or I speak to another and I say honestly I am really worried about such a such and I am finding it really hard to let go of it. If I talk about it enough, eventually the fear passes and I no longer hold on to it. I have surrendered it.
Tightly clenching my fists, with the white of my knuckles showing and repeating fervently: “I will not watch porn”, “I will not watch porn” , just did not work for me. The magic was when I said I can’t do this, I need help, and completely and genuinely gave up on fighting this alone.
Sex is optional I thought that I had a very high sex drive and I needed to masturbate frequently. I needed to orgasm, almost as if I would die if I didn’t experience it regularly. I was afraid of stopping masturbation. I don’t know why, but the was a very real fear of not experiencing sex with myself or another for any period.
I was told that sex was optional. I heard the words, but I didn’t believe it. I met others in real life, in SA, who claimed they had not had sex with themselves or others for years, I was skeptical. I don’t know how or when my thinking changed but now I really believe sex is optional.
I have no desire to be celibate for the rest of my life, but right now I choose to be completely abstinent, and it is ok, I haven’t died, at least not yet :).
There are a few things in things in life I am really passionate about, skiing is one of them, I love skiing, I go as often as possible every winter. If for some reason I could never ski again for the rest of my life it would be ok. I don’t want that, but it would be ok. I think there are loads of things in life that I don’t want to do without but it would be ok if I had to. Now Sex is one of them.
None of this is about sex I rationalised that I watched porn because I had no other sexual outlet. What I realised only by trying to stay sober was that EVERY time I was tempted it was because of some internal disturbance, often it was because I was Angry, Lonely or Tired. Resentment is one of the biggest killers for me. Holding on to internalised anger about some perceived fault turns on my desire to watch porn like nothing else. Today if I start to harbor resentment I will often spontaneously get a sexual fantasy pop into my head, as if out of no where. It seems that this is my brains default defense mechanism trained through many years of ardent porn use. Any discomfort can be numbed out with sex. I trained it that way and it is a fantasy ninja.
I try and remember that holding on to Resentment is like slapping yourself in the face and expecting someone else to feel the pain. If I surrender resentments I am far less likely to get euphoric recall.
I am ok Counselling really helped me to realise that I was very hard on myself. Consumed with shame around my pornography habbit I believed I was a bad person and I didn’t have much to offer.
Today I kinda like myself, I am proud that I have acheived 1 year today, but long before that milestone I started to realise that I was not a bad person trying to be good, I was a sick person trying to get well.
Sometime last summer I was beating myself up for watching pornography every 1 or 2 weeks, when I suddenly realised (probably after something I heard in a meeting) that I had been more sober from pornography than I had every been in my whole life. Watching porn every 10 days was far different to binging for hours every day. That subtle shift to look at the progress I had made so far and to stop beating myself up for not being perfect seemed to be a game changer.
Well that is an awful long read.. I will be amazed if anyone reads this through.. but was kinda helpful to myself in getting it down on paper.. wow I learned a lot in the last few years.. Well done me!
I’m 38 years old.
LINK – Reflections on 1 Year Sober – Changes in Attitude – AMA