Today is my one year anniversary of being PMO free. I am 43 years old and have been addicted since I was a teenager. I had tried many times to get better but always found it too difficult to quit. I never understood why I failed despite trying so many different things. My wife knew I was watching porn but didn’t know how bad it was because I shut her out. I had been shutting her out our entire 17 year marriage. A year ago my wife had had enough and threatened to move out and take our children and tell others why if I didn’t change. That was my rock-bottom moment. That was also the night I quit cold-turkey.
I promised to change but the promises of an addict are worthless. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I was determined to do better. I had the goal of being a better person, husband, and father. I had seen a therapist about my problem years ago and started using some of those exercises again. I restarted a personal paper journal and pour out all my negative thoughts and feelings. I wrote about how disgusted I felt about myself and that I was finally going to take responsibility for my life and not be so out of control.
I had to finally tell the whole truth to my wife. It was not easy to break down the walls of secrecy I had built around myself. For the second time in my adult life I broke down and cried. She made an interesting observation that my asperger-like symptoms may have made my situation worse. It is much easier to deal with inanimate pictures than real life people. I never regretted telling my wife the truth. We talked a lot and we fought a lot. I discovered just how much I had hurt her over the years. I had to show that I was making changes before she was willing to pitch in and support me. I could have no greater cheerleader, counselor, or complement to help me get this far. Someday I hope to be able to repay her for all the patience and perseverance she showed me before I finally woke up from my porn coma.
On Day 4 of my reboot I started to research this problem. For the first time I discovered that his is not just a bad habit, but an ADDICTION. That single truth put my whole life and why I failed so often into perspective. I also understood that I had been medicating myself with porn for decades.
My detox period felt like going though hell. I was angry, irritable, an seething with raw emotions. I had no practical coping skills. I was angry at myself the most for allowing myself to get into this situation. I finally understood that it was going to take a lot of work to take accountability for my actions. For weeks I went through an emotional roller-coaster – highs and lows, normal to anger to depression, varying levels of worthlessness, questioning whether it was possible to succeed. I needed a few small successes to build on. Some people feel improvements in the first few days. I was miserable every day for months. I feared that I would never be able to be happy again. I was scared that I was too broken to ever get better.
I discovered that the biggest enemy wasn’t porn. It was myself – the addict version of myself. Addiction is a monster that will do anything to get what it wants. Sometimes it uses brute strength, sometimes it is subtle and deceptive. My addiction knew me better than I knew myself. It is an opponent that knows all of my strengths and weaknesses and knows just what to say to get past my defenses. The physical cravings are nothing compared to the mind games you play with yourself and last much, much longer. I had to get to know myself so that I could fight back more effectively. I had to continually analyze every thought, feeling, and motivation for everything I was doing. It was exhausting and tiring, but vigilance was necessary because it only takes one second of weakness to relapse.
I managed to get though my detox period but still felt depressed and empty. It was a phase I wasn’t prepared for and people didn’t write much about it. I was starting to feel worried that I was never going to feel normal again. But another Fapstonaut explained to me what I was going through, that it was normal, and to keep going. Only another addict could have empathized. I started to have faith that the path I was traveling would eventually lead me to a better place. Time was needed for my brain to heal.
I passed my 30 day anniversary, 60 day anniversary, and 180 day anniversary. Slowly the things I was trying were starting to be a part of me. I no longer felt like an actor pretending to be a normal human being. My wife was slowly starting to trust me again and our relationship was improving. I became an accountability partner to a few people and helped a few couples in the beginning stages of their recovery. I started to feel that I had something valuable to share. I no longer felt worthless and empty.
So here I am on Day 365. Am I cured? Not by a long shot. Every day is still a struggle. I was an addict, and now I am merely an addict in recovery. I will always be an addict in recovery. I will always have to keep my guard up. My brain will not allow me to forget how porn made me feel. Every time I get stressed or anxious I get urges. The monster is in it’s cage but I feel his arms reaching through the bars trying to get my attention.
Here’s what I’d like to pass on to others. (I don’t have the time or space to thoroughly explain each point but I’ll answer any questions).
1. Identify ALL your physical, emotional, and environmental triggers.
2. Write down a detailed abstinence recovery plan.
4. Do not fight this alone, get others involved – a therapist, wife, girlfriend, accountability partner, parents, etc.
5. Don’t trust yourself to be alone with your electronic devices during your detox.
6. Recognize when you are vulnerable and take drastic action to avoid a relapse.
7. Stay out of ‘the trance’ or ‘auto-pilot mode’ at all costs.
8. Challenge every excuse or justification to return to PMO.
9. Educate yourself. Know yourself. Apply what you learn to yourself.
10. Be willing to sacrifice ANYTHING for a better life.
11. Be patient. It takes a long time to see progress. It takes time to reclaim your humanity.
12. Be kind to yourself but do not tolerate failure. It is NOT impossible to quit.
13. PMO leaves a huge void in you so find ways to substitute as much as possible such as a hobby or new interest.
14. Keep using NoFap as an affirmation to stay clean. Pay what you learn forward.
15. Be humble enough to seek professional help if you need it. It is not a weakness to ask for help.
16. Reach out to others. The emotional satisfaction we get from others nourishes the soul and makes porn less appealing.
17. Repair whatever damage you caused to others around you.
18. Forgive yourself for the person you once were. Start living a new and improved life. You are now a person who is worthy of love.
19. Our problem is an emotional problem. Find an anthem song that makes you feel better.
20. It is okay to admit how much you loved how porn made you feel. Accept that nothing will make you feel the same way. And be content with living a calm, balanced life. It will make you feel happier.
Here are my final thoughts. Addictions are a nasty thing. Our addiction is much tougher than others. It takes one second to feed our addition and throw away all the progress we made. Addiction invades every corner of our brain and corrupts it. It is not easy to break free from it. You have to look inside your heart and find a determination to fight back that is greater than the addiction itself. It boils down to this – JUST DO IT. It’s easy to say, but it’s hard to do. But it encompasses everything an addict in recovery must do to stay clean. I hope all of you can join me and share with us your one year anniversary story.
So today I’m 90 days PMO free. Prior to this venture one of the hardest things I ever had to do was pass pole climbing school. One week of leaving the safety and security of the ground to climb poles. I hated every second of that class and I was afraid to fall and hurt myself.
But I was determined to pass because I wanted a better position in my company. I just had to put my fears aside and just do it.
90 days ago I had to leave the safety of my PMO world. I had hit rock bottom and had to change. Beneath all the fear, anxiety, anguish, and turmoil that I felt on that that final day was a determination to just do it and never go back. I’ve wanted a better life for myself but never had enough motivation to change. This wasn’t going to be a halfhearted, at-least-I-tried attempt. I had to be fully committed to real and lasting change.
‘Know thyself’ is an ancient Greek saying. Before my PMO addiction I thought I knew myself. But my addiction closed off more and more of my awareness. I thought less and less about the short and long term consequences of my actions. I became an animal… thinking only about today… never about the past or about the future. This journey has reawakened the desire to know myself again. Every thought, every inclination, every feeling, impulse, desire, and intention had to be monitored because this addiction will look for any weakness in my resolve and exploit it.
I’ve had to own up to many weaknesses to which I turned a blind eye. I’ve had to acknowledge a lot of dark thoughts and actions that I have kept secret. Now I see myself as I am, not as I tricked myself into thinking I was. I see the broken things in myself… some that can be fixed and some that might never be fixed. But I also see my strengths. Things I can use to fight more effectively. Things that I had been doing all along that made others smile. I want to make others around me happy and proud of being with me.
Those who go through this process are Warriors. Every day, every hour, or even every minute we battle. It’s hard to be proud of any accomplishment we might have because we never should have gotten ourselves in this situation to begin with. Nor do we feel like a victor, because our fight never ends. And we feel beat up and bloody at the end of the day. There is no finish line, final bell, last pitch, whistle, or horn that sounds where we can finally let down our guard. It’s just get up in the morning and start fighting again. Progress might not be felt every day, but unseen progress IS being made. The results might not be seen until later in your recovery. There is a NOBILITY in the battle against this addiction… we are fighting against very long odds, we fight when no one else can see, or when no one understands us. Somehow we find a way to JUST NOT DO IT for another day.
What has helped me to get to 90 days? I have a vision: to be a better husband, to be a better father, to be a better servant to my God and Maker. Having a no-going-back attitude and that failure is not an option. I got others involved in my recovery. This addiction is too strong for one person to fight alone. I needed a community for me to learn from and to draw strength from. I needed to disclose my secrets because secrets kill intimacy which kills relationships.
I constantly monitored my thoughts and channeled my negative thoughts onto paper. I have faith that I would not always feel like crap. I distracted myself whenever I get urges. I’m starting to exercise and hope the endorphins I get will help rewire my brain and make me happy. Just seeing the sun and feeling the warmth of spring is making me feel better already.
Most of my other posts list the benefits, but I’ll reiterate some of them for you. First off… I’m a married man with children so the ‘superpowers’ don’t really apply to us. But immediately the shame and guilt I’d been feeling has gone away. I feel more self discipline and have pride in myself. I no longer feel like a piece of crap. I no longer feel like I don’t deserve anything good. My marriage has improved. My sex life has improved. I’m no longer scared of being discovered. I no longer try to ‘sneak’ around trying to find time to be alone. I’m more engaged with my family. I enjoy the time I spend with my children.
And lastly I thank my wife who has loved and forgiven me and has waited oh so patiently for this new man to emerge… the man she had to wait for because he was in a porn coma. She has challenged me and chased me when I wanted to hide. She makes me want to be a better man. How can you disappoint someone who is working with you hand-in-hand every day?
Someday I will look back on this journey and view it as the hardest thing I ever succeeded at. Someday I won’t need a journal to empty my negative thoughts. Someday I won’t have to fight to be normal. Someday I hope to be fully healed. Today I’m 90 days closer to that goal.
I posted this in my journal in the 40+ folder this morning but if you’re not over 40 then you’re probably not looking for it.
So today marks my 180 days being porn-free. Six months ago I would have thought this was impossible… I thought I was going to die with this addiction. When I was a teenager I would sometimes hide my porn in the garbage can so that my parents wouldn’t discovery my porn if I died. For a long time I envisioned myself dying of old age lying in bed with my pants down and a movie still running on the screen. After decades of trying to get better I had given up hope.
Six months ago my wife had had enough. She was going to walk out and take our children with her. That was my rock-bottom moment. It was the only thing that cut through all my delusional thinking and scared me straight. My wife didn’t think I was capable of change because I had been an a-hole for our whole 17 year marriage. Porn turned me into a stinking piece of crap and she was ready to kick me to the curb. I deserved it, but I was determined to be a better person.
I resolved that day to stop watching porn cold-turkey. I restarted writing in my journal that I had started 12 years ago when I first tried to get clean. I researched my addiction and finally understood what was happening inside my head and why it was so difficult to stop. Once I admitted to myself that this was a full blown addiction then I could apply the right tools to the job of getting clean.
Some of the tricks I used were: stay out of autopilot mode by constantly distracting myself, never being alone, never being on the computer while tired, going for walks, hot showers, journaling my negative emotions, and going to safe places online like here.
My username is taken from a song by the Bleachers – I Wanna Get Better. It has helped me through a lot of dark days. Our addiction is an emotional problem so it helps to fight back with positive emotions which we feel when we listen to uplifting music. Find your theme song… find your anthem… use it when you feel vulnerable.
My emotions were all over the place the first few months. Some days I was intensely angry for no reason. Some days I was depressed and hopeless. I grieved for what I had to give up even though it had zero value in my life. Some days I was completely empty of all feeling. There were days that I felt faker than a Rolex you’d buy on the street for $10. But I had faith that I wouldn’t always feel like this. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and believe that tomorrow would be better than today.
I committed to talking to my wife every day about how I felt, how she felt, how I hurt her, and how I could make it better. I took responsibility for my recovery, for my mistakes, and for making things better. Slowly I started healing my damage and soothing my wife’s pain. Our marriage has never been better. Nothing destroys a relationship like porn does. Nothing kills love like porn. Love dies unless you cultivate it. PMO is anti-love.
Today I am six months clean, but I am not totally healed yet. I still have urges if I see something I shouldn’t but it’s not overpowering. The emotional triggers still cause me to crave porn – boredom, frustration, and rejection. There are lots of things I miss about it. I even still dream of it. I hope that feeling eventually goes away, but right now I have to choose to be clean every single day. I know that I am an addict, I will always have that capability within me. I hope that one day I won’t think about it anymore or have to reject it dozens of times a day.
One of the benefits has been improved self-esteem. This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. I can be proud of that. I am no longer that steaming piece of crap I was six months ago. I am worthy of being loved again and deserving of good things. I no longer feel like a slave. Addiction is about controlling your emotions with an object… in this case porn. But now I have seized control back from my addiction. I am back in control of what I do and how I feel.
Along the way there have been numerous people who have helped me. We need others to help us because our addiction is too strong to fight on our own. I failed to make any progress when I fought silently in the shadows by myself. We are not simply a community of addicts, but there is a body of knowledge and a true source of support that resides in this community. This community taught me that I am not alone. So I am resolved to pay it forward and share what I have learned about this addiction with others. If a 40-something year old guy who’s been doing this for over 25 years can get better then anyone can beat this addiction.
So to all the readers who made it this far in my story… remember, there are no shortcuts, tricks, or secrets to achieve victory. You get out of it what you put into it. Know your enemy. Know yourself. It’s hard work learning to become a human being again… this addiction has turned us into mindless animals. If you’re the kind of person who whines, who gives excuses, gives up easily, who begs others to do the work for you, who does things half-way, who cheats, who is intentionally ignorant of your disease, or is blind to thoughts and feelings in your own head then you are destined to fail. Others can help you succeed, but no one else can do this work for you. If you want something better then you have to make it better.
The beginning is the hardest part… if you can make it past the first 30 days then things will get easier. What does the Nike commercial say? Just Do It! Find what works for you and conquer! Don’t give up! Recovery is possible for those who work for it!
In a couple days I will reach my 2 year no PM anniversary. Two years ago I was unhappy, miserable, and hopeless. I made others around me unhappy and miserable too. I was clueless about how to get better and I had no motivation to change. Two years ago my wife had the courage to kick me in the butt and wake me up from my porn coma. She was sick of being treated like garbage. She threatened to move out, take our children with her, and tell anyone who asked the real reason why. What little joy I had left was about to get blown up.
I faced a decision. On one hand, I could continue my behavior and lose everything… or I could be a man and try again. I thought I had all the answers, but I was so wrong. I started to research my problem and realized that I didn’t just have a habit, but I had a full-blown addiction. That understanding alone reshaped everything that happened to me up until that point. I understood what it felt like to be compelled to do something I knew was harmful. I understood the need to escalate in order to keep myself medicated. And I felt the withdrawal symptoms whenever I tried to stop.
But I had to do more than simply research my problem. I had to execute a plan. I wrote in my paper journal A LOT. I talked to others. I talked to my wife. I talked to the elders in my congregation. I got new hobbies. And I reconnected with my family. Looking back, I can’t believe how much I have changed.
One year ago I wrote my Success Story here which contains a lot of tips and tricks for getting clean. So, you may ask what I went through during the past year and how do I feel.
One major thing that I did was go see a therapist. For years my wife has said I had a condition that I refused to admit I might have. I swallowed my pride and went to the doctor and got diagnosed with Aspergers. I have a very mild case, but it is a major source of discomfort for which I turned to PMO for relief. The ‘Porn Addiction 101’ page stated that many of us have “poorly treated, untreated, or subclinical” mental health issues. Turns out I was one of them.
Earlier this year I faced a major test. My young teenage daughter got involved with sex chatting online. I was crushed. I continued to dig into her activities and the reasons why she turned to that behavior. It caused me to feel depressed and deep despair. I could see her repeating a pattern similar to mine that would lead her into a life of addiction as well. It caused me to feel real physical pain. And sure enough, the temptation to PMO returned with a vengeance! I learned that this addiction will always be lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to pounce. I have thrown everything I could at my daughter’s situation and time will tell if it will pay off.
I also want to paint a realistic picture of what recovery looks like two years down the road. Am I happy? Am I urge-free? Is life better? The answer is mixed. I still must CHOOSE to be clean EVERY SINGLE DAY. There are no days off. There are no days where I don’t feel triggered or feel an urge to take a peek. But I am MUCH stronger now and I have tools that I can turn to in order to resist the pull to self-medicate with porn. Some are blessed to be able to walk away, but I am not one of them. However, I have felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and most the physical symptom that comes from the stress of living a life of secrecy is fading away. I am PROUD of what I have accomplished!
Another major thing I did this year was share my story of addiction with my extended family. For years my mother saw me suffering but couldn’t figure out why. She kept blaming my wife! But finally, I had to explain that her perfect son was the one with the problem. We also had to address my father’s drinking problem. I ended up talking to my brother and sister and finally my father about my own struggles with porn addiction and how it relates to alcoholism. The shame and stigma of my struggle was fading away and the lessons I learned was now being put to good use in the real world. I was amazed with how un-ashamed and un-embarrassed I felt when I told the truth.
One of the things that has helped me this past year is to be deeply involved with others in their reboot. The 12th and final step in AA is to bring the message of sobriety to others. I have found great joy in finding brothers who have the same faith as mine and assisting them. There is no greater joy than to get back down into the mud, help another person stand back up, and conquer this addiction too. In turn, they have helped me to keep walking on the path of sobriety and inspire me to be a man worthy of imitation. If any of you are wondering, “How can I cope with my own problems?”… part of the answer is HELP SOMEONE ELSE. Go to YBOP, educate yourself, and then step up and volunteer to help someone who is just starting out. “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” Be a friend. Be a person who can motivate. Be a person who can encourage. Be a person worthy of imitation. No one should have to go through a reboot alone. Pass on what you have learned to others.
Finally, I just want to say to the newcomers who have just signed up is that there is HOPE for you to get better. How does someone get to two years? One day at a time. Just stay clean for today. Worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Be honest with yourself and with others. Make the difficult sacrifices. Even though there may be no ‘cure’ for addiction, it is possible to feel joy and happiness again. Above all, DO NOT GIVE UP.