I guess I’m not really fond of success stories. I have never posted in this part of the forum before and I have actually never even read the topics that are discussed here. I don’t really know why that is, perhaps I just don’t see the point of making a separate section just for success stories.
Besides that, I always found it more motivating to look at the path I was travelling and the steps I made on that path, than focusing on the destination. I guess in a way you might call that a mindful approach. About two months ago I made the following post:
37 days. Possibly this is longest streak My longest streak was somewhere around 37 days but I’m not certain what the exact amount of days was. Might have 38 days, but I have so much cool stuff to do this weekend that I’m pretty certain I will reach 40 days. In fact I don’t see why I wouldn’t reach 100 days. Things are going really well: the last couple of weeks I had absolutely no interest in porn and I have been changing my life in a really positive way. There are times I consider masturbating, but I don’t find it hard to discard that option. I don’t really like setting very long term goals like 100 days, but I definitely believe I can reach that and I decided that if do I will delete my account. Sometimes you just have to move on
37 days might not seem like a lot, but at that point my journal was getting rather boring. I made very clear progress and had hardly any trouble with withdrawal symptoms or urges. Today is that day 100. Although I have decided not to delete my account, I will be saying goodbye to this board hopefully for a long while. But before I go I thought I might leave some stuff I’ve learned while dealing with my addiction and that might help others.
Like I said I want to use this topic to show some of the stuff I’ve learned and that helped me to get to this stage where I believe I have substantially progressed and have to make a next step. It will include some views that are common knowledge, but also some approaches that have been criticized by other members. I guess the reason I put this down is that it might make you think about some of the stuff I did, make you see that there are other paths to reach your goals and perhaps even make you consider taking these paths.
Long term thinking
When I joined here less than a year ago, I had a problem with a PMO-addiction. It was not so much the PMO that I had a problem with, but the way that it influenced my life. The biggest reason was the impact it had on the relationship with my girlfriend. She might have never noticed any of it, but the effect it had on our relationship was bigger than I could accept.
The last few years I had a ‘mild’, but very stubborn addiction. I had been able to limit my porn-use to binging in the weekends, but every Sunday and sometimes on Saturdays I would get late to appointments with my girlfriend and be downright grumpy and irritated by pretty much everything. I used the job I had that was stressing me out as a scapegoat, but although it might have played a role what happened on Sundays was mainly due to my PMO-addiction. And it was not just what happened on Sundays, it was also the way it made me feel during the rest of the week. The porn-images that popped up in my head regularly, more irritation, the shame and all the other negative feelings I had until the weekend where I would have my short dopamine spike and after the repetition of what I described just now.
Something had to be done about this and my main way of doing this was something I had used for other problems before and that I knew would work. It was seeing what I did in relation to my long term goals or values. Thinking about your long term goals is seen as beneficial on this board in general, but why I think it is so important is that your short term goals (in this case that good feeling of PMO) often conflict with your long term goals and challenge them. For example: I want a good relationship with my girlfriend that leads to marriage and us having children and eventually to the two us being able to sit down on look back with a big smile once we’re all old and shriveled. However, me binging to porn and especially the effects this has on me had a serious negative impact on our relationship and besides that: me binging to porn every weekend will not really bring a smile to my face when I’m 80. The fact that PMO challenged my long term goals this way was a great motivator for learning to deal with it.
Furthermore, getting my long term goals and values clear, made me make some important changes in my life. Most important was a shift of jobs from a well-paid office job that was stressful and far from challenging to a setting up a career in design and creating furniture. Although this is still ‘work in progress’ it has really enriched my life, made it more beautiful, gave me awesome experiences and made me more happy in general. Besides that I started putting more effort into creating the relationship I wanted, started spending more times on doing things I really like (reading, gardening, cooking) and gave my thesis a boost that hopefully allows me to finish it this summer. And although I was already working on this I also stuck more to the things that generally benefit your life like working out, meditation and eating healthy.
Learning to deal with porn
When I joined this forum one of the things that struck me as odd is that very few people actually try to learn to deal with porn. The general approach seems to be to stay away from porn as far as possible. To each its own, but to me this always seemed like a very unhealthy way of dealing with your problems. Especially if you have problems with something that is always very near. To me it seemed more healthy to find a way to actually learn to deal with porn and minimize the effect it has on you if you would encounter it some form. In a recent post I more or less summarized my approach:
First of all: some background. I see porn addiction often being compared one-on-one with for example alcoholism or a drug addiction. While it can be very helpful to look into other addictions to deal with porn addiction, I think we should also be aware that they are not the same and that therefore not everything that applies to an alcoholic applies to a porn addict. One of the main differences with these addictions is the role of perception. When you take alcohol, drugs or even fat food you add chemicals to your body which it responds to. Perception in such addictions does influence the behavior, but it is not the main trigger. With porn this is very different: when you watch porn the trigger is a combination of things you sense and your perception of these sensations. Perception here has the same role it has in general thinking (see for example the ABC-model in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy): there is no one-on-one response between what you sense and what you do, there is a step in between which is your perception. Gary Wilson says something similar when he says:Quote
As odd as this may sound, there’s no such thing as porn. The brain knows exactly what alcohol or heroin is, but the reward circuitry has no way of recognizing porn. Instead, higher portions of the brain relay nerve impulses associated with sights sounds, smells and memories to the reward circuit. The strength of these very complex signals determine the excitement levels measured by your reward circuit. What really matters are spikes of reward circuit dopamine (and other neurochemicals), not what’s on the computer screen.
This is exactly why perception is so important and very worthwhile to look into.
Being a rational person I think the first question we should ask ourselves: is our perception of porn ‘true’? Does it make sense? I believe most of us found out by now that it makes very little sense at all. What we want when we watch porn is not the thing we get. In fact: for most of us addicts the thing we want and believe we will get when we surrender ourselves to porn comes pretty close to heaven, but does it feel like that after you came? No! Even after the 10.000th time you masturbate to porn heaven still did not open up and you are left with a rather disappointed (if not depressed) feeling.
What I believe is very important to deal with porn is getting grip on the expectations and the perceptions you have about porn. To do this you have to analyze what your expectations and perceptions about porn are in the first place. You might not want to do this while watching porn, but you can also learn about this when you feel triggered and have urges. Just take a step back and analyze what’s going on, sense what is happening to you, acknowledge what you are thinking and write it down (you might realize that this approach actually comes quite close to mindfulness). The next is step is comparing the expectations you have to what actually happens when you PMO. You will find that there is a wide gap between this.
Although not everybody thinks this is beneficial I think that (if you think you are able to) you should really try this while watching porn: watch porn in a mindful way. Just sit down and try to be as observant as you are when you meditate. Let the thoughts you have about porn come and go. After a while the bubble will simply burst, because you will see that porn is absolutely not what you have been telling yourself it is for years and years. If you think this is a rather stupid: cool, just work on it while you feel triggered. And the fact that you feel triggered very often gives you all the more opportunities to practice this. Or as Johan Cruijff put it “every disadvantage has it’s advantage”.
Because porn addiction largely stools on perception, altering perception is one of the greatest weapons we have to fight it. The fact that we have actively pushed perception and turned porn into mythical proportions for so long enables us to adjust our perception to a more realistic vision. And that is why I believe this works. It is not just about changing perception, its about learning to see porn for what it really is, turning the mythical beast we created ourselves back into an ugly puppy:) And besides this long term advantage of changing your perception, by learning to take distance from (or perhaps be mindful about) porn you also have a hands-on way to deal with porn at times while you are ‘weak’ and porn suddenly becomes appealing again.
This approach has worked for me and is without a doubt part of my current successful streak which I actually consider more than just a streak. Porn in itself has become pretty much uninteresting to me. Although if I would put on a porn video right now it is very likely that I will have both physical and neurochemical responses, these will quite quickly diminish and the after-effects like urges and withdrawal symptoms are very minimal. Especially this last part makes me very confident that this approach has been very successful to me and enables me to deal with possible setbacks in the future more effectively.
The road more bumpy
Another part of my approach that has been very beneficial is the way I see the path of recovery. The common use of the word relapse implies that you either are an addict or you are not. I think this view neglects the fact that recovery is a very gradual process: it’s more like a stage between addiction and non-addiction. I therefore prefer to use words like slips or setbacks. Perhaps some of you might read this and see it as a merely semantical debate, but I don’t think it is. The way people experience, describe and deal with their ‘relapses’ clearly points to a more black and white view. I think this is a very unrealistic view and plays a major role in keeping people in the vicious cycle. I therefore prefer a view where I see recovery as a bumpy road where every slip is seen as a bump: it sucks when you slip, it’s uncomfortable, but as long as you continue on the road of recovery there really is no reason to make more of it than that. But don’t get this wrong, I don’t take these slips any less serious than other guys take their relapses. Recently another asked me the following question:
If not looking to seriously on relapses… dont you think there is a risk that one would allow oneself to relapse in a weak moment, thinking that relapses aren’t that serious after all? Im afraid that is how I would reason.
I understand that someone might think that I’m just being too kind to myself for the fact that I allow myself to ‘relapse’ and don’t really beat myself over it when it happens. I don’t think this is the case though and my answer explains why:
‘Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness’ The fact that I have a different view on relapses/slips than most people here, does not mean that I take them less serious. As you might see from my counter I haven’t made a slip in quite a while. The reason why I prefer not to slip is perhaps not because I view these slips as the end of world, but because I take my addiction and especially the effect it has on my life very serious. I might accept slips, but I will no longer accept this addiction. A lot of people seem to be more preoccupied with not relapsing, than they are with dealing with their addiction. I think that’s where the main difference in perspective on slips comes from.
Well, this has become quite a long post, longer than I wanted it to be. I don’t think that my approach has been the ultimate approach. I think the success of an approach is at least partly based on the perspective a person has or takes. Some of the things I’ve said might make sense to you, some of them might seem like complete nonsense. I do hope that this post might at least help one or two of you to deal with your addiction and recover. I would like to thank all of the people that have helped me on my road to recovery or discussed issues and approaches with me. I hope all of you will find a way to get out of this addiction. Perhaps I will be back some day because my approach utterly failed or to give an update on my progress.
Until then: good luck and farewell!
LINK – The road more bumpy
BY – MrFish