My wife has known about my porn addiction for years, but during periods of relapse it always seems to fade from our collective awareness, which of course feeds the relapse. My most recent awakening came as a result of me confessing that I had gone back to porn yet again. I’ve confessed before, and I’ve had the difficult conversations so many times. Even so, I kept going back to this awful habit.
It was always easy for me to forget how hard it was to confess to her, how hard it was to be 100% honest, and how hard it was to accept her support.
But this time, it’s gonna stick. For the last three or four years, I’ve been see-sawing between periods of sobriety, and periods of relapse. When I’m sober, I feel amazing. Our relationship gets better. Our sex life gets better. My writing gets better. I feel better, I exercise more, and on and on. But when I relapse, I forget all of that. I forget how good it feels to be sober, and how shitty it feels to be using porn again. I get writer’s block, and I tell myself I don’t know why, but deep down, i know.
Well, it HAS to stick this time. I’m about to have a daughter, and I cannot let this terrible addiction define my relationship with her the way its defined my relationship with so many others.
I’ve been trying to stay 100% honest with my wife during this streak. And I’ve stuck to it so far. But today was REALLY hard. It started with me telling her I had deleted my Pornhub and Xhamster accounts, which meant I deleted my entire remotely-stored stash of porn. She tried to be proud of me, but in reality, simply learning of how much time I’d spent pointlessly gathering this crap really hurt her.
I was surprised to find out that she considered the pictures worse than the videos. She wasn’t able to articulate why, but from what she said it seems like she saw videos as me watching something, and pictures as me imagining myself participating in something. Also, much of my picture stash wasn’t actual porn, it was girls in swimsuits, tumblr photos, etc. the kind of sexy non-porn that triggers a relapse. To her, those were worse because those girls didn’t know they were making something for guys to jack off to. So in a way, I was raping those girls, by taking their nonsexual content without their consent, and using it for my sexual gratification.
I’ve never been more disgusted with myself. I’m so embarrassed about the lengths I went to in service of this compulsion. And it’s led to a lot of dark thoughts. I think back to all the ways this addiction has shaped my life, and how it’s subtly affected the lives of everyone around me. If it weren’t for my porn addiction, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into drugs. If I hadn’t gotten into drugs, my brother probably wouldn’t have either. If he had stayed away from drugs, his bipolar disorder might not be so bad, and it may never have triggered at all. And on, and on, and on.
Mostly, though, I feel guilty about how my porn addiction has affected my wife. I’ve been unintentionally gaslighting her for years. I always viewed her low sex drive as the cause of my porn use, when really it was just an effect. My PIED, and her knowledge of my porn use has gradually programmed her to have a lower sexual desire for me. That has transformed into an anxiety disorder inside her. She’s angry at me all the time, because she knows or suspects I’m using porn, and this stresses her out, and she’s started having panic attacks. And today, I realized that before she met me, she didn’t have a low sex drive at all.
I did it to her. My porn addiction made a significant contribution to my wife developing an anxiety disorder. And probably to my brother developing bipolar disorder. And those are just two of the dozens of people that have been affected by this.
Despite all the above, I’m not beating myself up. I know I don’t deserve all the blame. But the sheer enormity of what I’ve done is just starting to dawn on me. I am so thankful I’m catching this now, before it can hurt by daughter.
I look down on this tangled web of lies and misdeeds, and I feel shame and guilt, but I also feel a powerful motivation to change it. To undo the damage. There’s so much damage I’m not even sure what’s left underneath, but BY GOD I want to find out. I have hope. I want so badly to come back from this.
LINK – Just had a very difficult conversation with my wife.
UPDATE –I’ve been porn free for 15 months, and this is what I’ve learned.
I was a porn addict for 20 years. I tried to quit a few times, but I never had the wealth of knowledge this community has provided me with, so I failed. For me, the secret ingredient was learning about how porn affects my brain. That knowledge empowered me to quit, and helped me observe my own behavior with a more informed perspective.
Now that it’s been a year and change (I sailed past a year without noticing), here’s where I’m at.
Life is still complicated. And my sex life is still not perfect. There are a lot of people in this community (and a lot more over at r/nofap) who seem to view going porn free as a magic elixer that will solve all their problems. Even if you only look at it as a solution to your sexual problems, you’re still setting yourself up for disappointment. Staying away from porn is not a means to an end, it is an end in itself. If you’re doing this for the sake of some imaginary perfect future, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I still encounter temptation every day. Sex is everywhere, but I used to have a high tolerance for sexual imagery, like an alcoholic has a high tolerance to booze. Now that tolerance is much lower, and much more mundane things have become very exciting to me. This is good and bad. See, I’m married, and it’s not exactly great for me to be staring at other girls. A glance here and there is harmless and normal, but I have a genuine phisiological response to seeing a hot girl. And it’s become a new thing I have to resist.
Similarly, my imagination has become so vivid, it’s becoming a problem in its own right. I typically keep my fantasies centered on my wife, but I’d be lying if I said another girl didn’t slip in once in a while. Again, it’s a new thing that I have to resist.
Between the last two things, I’ve concluded that I have a very high baseline sex drive. Porn wasn’t helping, but it wasn’t just the porn that made me this way. Being porn free, I don’t waste much time on my sex drive. But I definitely still expend a great deal of mental energy on it, and it isn’t easily diverted to other tasks. In the anti-porn community, you often see guys acting like they’ve become super productive in the absence of porn. And I’ve definitely made improvements in other areas of my life. But I haven’t gotten “superpowers” as our NoFap friends say. That whole thing is complete juvenile bullshit. And it’s destructive.
One strange thing I’ve experienced: I can practically “smell” porn’s influence on others. I’ve developed a sort of sixth sense for sexual depravity. I have friends who use porn, and I’ve met dozens of people who claim to have very “adventurous” sex lives, and I can just smell it on them. There’s this air of desperation, of use about them. And I have such pity. I feel like they’re all looking for something, and they’re digging deeper and deeper into this swamp, and they’re covered in muck and shit, and they don’t realize that it’s not down there. It’s up here.
And I know it’s dopamine that’s driving the whole thing. They’re frantically searching for satisfaction, but they don’t realize that it’s the search itself that keeps them from finding it.
Overall, this porn free thing is like anything else. It has its ups and downs, its good and bad side. I don’t know why I expected it to be any different, because life is like that.
But one thing is for sure. I like myself a lot better. I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud that I have changed this thing that used to be wired into me. I feel like the master of myself.
Whatever led you here, whatever your reasons for doing this, keep your expectations realistic. Forgive yourself, and be sensible. Life is complicated, but it can be whatever you want it to.