Today is my 4th birthday. It was 4 years ago March 25th that I watched porn, and masturbated, for the last time. Seriously: The. Last. Time. Back then I was 47 and overweight. I always had plans to get up early and exercise, but getting up early and doing anything typically turned into getting up early and looking at porn.
Staying up late looking at porn didn’t make it easy to get up early and do anything – except look at porn. I was also afraid of everything. I felt like a complete failure so I was afraid to try anything new – I might look dumb, I might not be the best, I might not be perfect, so why even try. I was doing okay in my job, but nowhere near my potential. People knew I was knowledgeable – but I pretty much met expectations. I always knew I could do better and be more than I was – but that would involve taking risks. Taking risks involves stress. Stress leads to PMO – and the cycle continues. I would be stressed because I couldn’t stop PMO, and that stress led me to more PMO so it became a vicious cycle. I was withdrawn. My sex life was non-existent. I felt bad that I was ignoring my wife but didn’t know what to do about it. I considered suicide – I figured she would be better off without me. I angered easily. I went to church and sat in the front row and doubted God. I would look around groups of guys at work, at church, at the store, wherever – and I’d think “none of these guys do what I do. If they knew what I did they’d call me a pervert and kick me out.” I’m pretty sure I spent 32 masturbating – with porn whenever I could get it.
Sunday March 25th, 2012 is a day I will never forget. Intentionally. I try to keep pretty close to the surface, because I never want to feel this way again. It was the worst day of my life. About 8:00am I was in the living room. My wife was watching cable, I was reading the Bible on my iPad, and I decided I would go to Home Depot before Church. I made a shopping list, then headed up to shower an get ready for the day. Somewhere in there I decided it was time to PMO. In my bedroom. With the door open. With my wife downstairs – at least at first. As I was ‘finishing’ she walked in an saw me. Even now my stomach churns as I think of the look on her face – and what I must have looked like. She flipped. I panicked. I was cleaning up and getting dressed. She was screaming – most if it I don’t remember, but I know she said this was grounds for divorce and she was ready to do it. I took off and drove to church – and for the first time ever I told someone. I had to tell a couple of guys there (that were part of the recovery ministry) “I just got caught looking at pornography” – that was the first time I had admitted this to anyone, ever.
They helped me write a couple of texts to my wife. They told me I needed to move out asap. They told me to join their weekly meetings starting on Wednesday. I found a spare bedroom with a friend and lived out of the house for about a month. Eventually my wife (with the help of the women at church who knew about addiction) offered me a deal. I had to agree to what was basically a contract if I ever wanted to move back into the house. If I relapsed, I had 24 hours to tell her or I was out of the house again for a week. I had to attend meetings for 2 years. I had to install filters, etc. A bunch of stuff that was primarily for her to feel safe. I agreed to everything, not out of sheepishness or cowardice – in fact it might be the first bold thing I’ve ever done. I knew at that moment that it was my LIFE or my HAND. In the midst of all of this I loved my wife – and she loved me too. Well – she loved who she thought I was but she had just been confronted with the fact that who I really was, was nothing like who she thought I was. She is an amazing woman – who stood by me through all of this and who I now have a better relationship
Since then, I have not looked at porn. I have not even allowed myself to glance twice at things like magazine covers or cheerleaders on football games. I take a really hard line here.
When I gave up porn and masturbation, one of the first things I realized was that I was also addicted to binge drinking while on work trips. Video games. TV, food, and cold cereal. Yeah – I know cold cereal is food, but it falls in a separate category because it was part of my whole porn-watching ritual.
Giving all these things up simultaneously – cold turkey – was a major shock to my system and I had no appetite for about a week. I mean literally – between moving out of the house, having my secret known by so many, and quitting so many addictions I was a mess emotionally. After a week I started coming to my senses a bit and realized that a week without food was probably a good start on a diet. So I started running and eating a little more. Those first days I couldn’t run a mile – being 70lbs overweight. Eventually I lost the weight and now I’ve run 3 marathons.
Losing the weight, eating better, sleeping better – all because of no PMO, has made me a much more energetic person in general.
Having no secrets, especially disturbing sexual secrets from my wife, has freed me up from overwhelming fear as well. I would never have taken the job I have now if I was still a porn addict – I would have been afraid to. As a result, I’ve doubled my income (not a thing a lot of 50-year olds do) and I’m able to travel the world with my amazing wife – fit – healthy – even look halfway decent in a swimsuit!
So – that’s a little about where I was. And what happened. Now – here’s what I did:
- I quit looking at porn and masturbating
- I got myself into a recovery group where 100% transparency was required. Believe me, addicts know addicts, so if you ever want to be in a place where you have to be honest – get into a recovery group. We all know when you’re lying
- I re-organized my life around recovery (rather than trying to fit recovery into my life). Even so much as to tell my HR department I needed some time off and to stop traveling for a few months.
- I raided the bookshelves of a couple of friends and read everything I could about men struggling with porn. They are still here on my shelf as I type this. “Every Man’s Battle” – “Wild at Heart” – “A Grace Disguised” – plus I bought the curriculum to the mens’ group at church which was called “Pure Desire” – they weren’t all awesome, learning how the brain works proved key to my success.
- I put my future in the hands of people who had been down this path before me. I had screwed up thousands of times – I finally realized that I didn’t have the answers to how to fix this, but the guys in my group who had been clean for 10 years, 4 years, 3 years, even 1 year knew what they were doing. There were a lot of times I didn’t believe what they said, but I had no choice but to go along with it. They told me that there was hope for my marriage, but I didn’t believe it – thinking “I haven’t talked to my wife for 10 days, I’ve moved out, and you’re telling me there is hope?!?” (Note: there was hope – I just couldn’t see it).
- Over time I learned to identify that voice in my head – the one that wanted me to fail. I call him my Tempting Voice – my TV – and he is now who I spend most of my time ignoring. He’s still there, and still doesn’t want what’s best for me, but he’s weakening and pretty shy at this point. He knows I’m better than he is.
- I set some long-term goals. I mean LONG term. All based around making up for the time I lost. Like going on a diet and starting to exercise so I can give Mrs 419er a lot of healthy, productive, PMO-free years. Like being transparent no matter how embarrassing it would be. Like taking risks instead of being afraid.
And now – What do I suggest you do?
- Listen to the voices of those who have successfully gone down this path before you. If you think something they’re saying doesn’t make sense, remember that unless your 90+ days since your last relapse, you are till under the influence of the brain-fog that comes with porn use. You can’t fix it yourself. You need help – and the people who have done this before can help you. Don’t know where to find them? Take a look over at the 2016 year-long challenge thread. There are currently 50+ of us there who have not relapsed in 2016.
- Make recovery a priority. It won’t always be a priority, but it needs to be one for the first year or so. Rearrange your life so that recovery is the top priority.
- Learn to ignore the voice in your head – your TV. He lies. He only wants you to look at porn again. He doesn’t care if you get fired, divorced, arrested, hurt, ruin relationships or go bankrupt – all he cares about is convincing you to give him his next does of dopamine.
- Set goals – but not ‘badge’ goals. The badge is valuable so you can evaluate where you are in the recovery process, but if that is your goal you’re destined for failure. Are you going to try for a new job? lose weight? read a book? record music? finish school? learn a programming language? become a wine snob? run a marathon? – It doesn’t matter a whole lot what it is – as long as it’s going to make you a better person. Then you can evaluate each action you take against that goal.
Note: I a not a neuroscientist, nor do I play one on TV. I am simply the owner of a formerly mis-wired brain who has done a lot of research and reading on it.
I forgot to mention that I call this my “Birthday” (as well as my anniversary) because I was a 47 year old little boy 4 years ago. I wanted my toys and my pictures of boobies.
Lastly – what am I going to do?
I’m going to answer any questions you have about all of this. Thanks for reading all of it.
UPDATE – Why 2k?
Today is day 2000 for me. Depending on how you choose to count, 2000 days ago either marks the last time I PMO’d, or the first time I didn’t.
So why 2000 days? Why did I quit? Why do I remain abstinent? Here are some reasons (in no particular order):
- Because I got caught red handed.
- Because it’s the right thing to do.
- For freedom from bondage to an addiction.
- To save my marriage.
- To save my family.
- To become a contributing member of society.
- Because it’s a sin.
- To take responsibility for my actions.
- Because it was draining my strength.
- Because I was a shell of what I could have been.
- Because I was tired of being insecure.
- Because the secrets were becoming too much to bear.
- Because my wife deserved a better husband.
- Because my kids deserved a better father.
- Because my employer deserved a better employee.
- Because living a life with no integrity is a painful existence.
- Because I was tired of being afraid what people would see on my computer.
- Because I was tired of being afraid what people would see on my iPad.
- Because I was tired of hiding.
- Because I hated myself.
- Because I went to bed every night imaging a gun pointed at my head.
- Because what I looked at was getting worse and worse.
And probably others. For those of you who want more details on my recovery, check out my 4-year anniversary AMA. This is probably the last milestone I’ll celebrate. Now it is all about looking forward, except when something occurs in my relationships that require looking back. What sucks is that there will always be a back – but I own my mistakes – and will continue to own them whenever they come up.