Age 30 – Real evidence of so many others in my predicament flipped a switch in my head

Like many people on this sub I actually found it by accident, in the middle of a relapse in fact. Apparently that was one year ago today. So much has changed in the last year that in all honesty I couldn’t tell you what kind of place I was in back then.

I’ve actually been on this journey for about 7 years now. I first realised I had a problem at 23, when I suddenly became conscious of the fact that I prioiritised looking at porn to being intimate with my own girlfriend. I’d sneak my laptop into the bathroom to do it. Pathetic. I eventually told her I thought I had a problem, and that sticks out in my memory as the most shameful night of my life. She was heartbroken and I was just a wretched mess. After some time to process it she came to me and we started mending. But it’s not so easy. We broke up (for unrelated reasons) later that year.

At 23 years old I’d been looking at porn regularly for ten years. I started when I was 13. I used to sneak into my parents bedroom when they were out and rifle through the mags my dad had in his bedside cabinet, or under his bed. Years and years of the stuff. I used to spend hours just searching and looking on the internet, which was slow going back then. But even then there seemed to be an infinite supply. I remember getting home from school once and watching porn while my brother watched TV in the next room. It’s surreal thinking back to that. It really does feel like my mind was poisoned, like I had an infection growing inside me, but I didn’t even know. “Everyone does this”, I’d think. If I thought about it at all.

So it took ten years to realise I had a problem. And I’ve spent seven since trying to fix it. I tried all sorts. Going cold turkey alone, didn’t work. Replacing it with ‘non-porn’ substitutes – Instagram, hentai, cosplay, celebrities – but it always, inevitably led to full relapse. And as you’ve probably read on this sub already, using a substitute like that isn’t fixing the problem – it’s still activating the same neural pathways, the thrill of the search, finding the ‘perfect’ photo, etc. I used to spend hours on that shit. Time out of my day when I could be doing so much else, constructive stuff, better stuff.

I actually started keeping a little log of my progress. Looking back at it now, it’s sporadic.

“Nov to March 128 days and then I cheated”

“14 days having one of my worst on 21 Apr”

“40 days no problem then utter disregard after a night out. Shameful.”

“A stressful week and then another conscious relapse.”

“A month, then bad lapse after Halloween party. Same old shit.”

I was trying. But it’s like I expected it to just happen? That I’d just stop at some point? I dunno.

A year ago I found this sub. I was in the midst of one of those ‘same old shit’ relapses. I read a few posts and saw a lot of people struggling like myself. Something about it stopped me in my tracks. I don’t know. Of course I should have known that I wasn’t alone but seeing real evidence of so many others in my predicament… Reading a few posts of people struggling, of people succeeding, people lifting each other up… I read the sidebar, I watched some of the videos, I don’t know, something about it almost flipped a switch in my head. Like,

  1. This isn’t a stupid, superfluous goal, this is a real thing, a real problem – an addiction

  2. I don’t have to deal with this alone

  3. I can’t expect it to ‘just happen’

Looking at my log for one year ago it reads

“Gone truly pornfree on 17/11/19. Joined the Reddit communiuty. Deleted Tinder and unsubbed from all pornish subs. Treating it like a project, head on.”

If you’re confused by that date like I was, this is a leap year, we had a Feb 29th so we’re a day off. But fuck it, 365 ^days.

I made a post at the start of my journey as well. You can see from all this a few key changes I made –

  1. Joining this community

  2. Treating it like a project – a conscious thing that I have to think about and put real effort into!

  3. Deleting Tinder (a trigger point), unsubscribing from all my porn substitutes, cleaning that shit out so I could start afresh

If you’re here you’ve likely already done (1). I see this as one of the accidentally smartest things I did – replacing my routine of

  • feel an urge

  • log into secret Reddit account

  • view my porn substitutes

with an almost identical but crucially different routine of

  • feel an urge

  • log into secret Reddit account

  • browse and respond to posts from others struggling with the same problem

just helped me snap out of that fuzzy, noisy headspace and refocus on what actually matters. Why I’m doing this. What it’s about.

(2) is a weird one and I don’t know if this’ll work for anyone else, but it was a real mindset change in me. Hard to describe. But changing from ‘this is something that can happen with time’ to ‘this is something I am going to make happen” – just approaching it differently helped me a lot. Especially early on, I’d think about where I was at every day. I’d make note of my feelings in my head, so that I could take action to steer myself away, distract myself with something else. head out, whatever – pre-empting it and planning for it (because urges and triggers are inevitable) rather than trying to be reactionary. That helped a lot.

And if you haven’t done (3) already I really strongly advise it. All those years I was fucking kidding myself thinking that because it wasn’t actual porn it “didn’t count” and that somehow I was cheating the system – absolutely fucking not. Me keeping that shit around was an admittance that I didn’t really believe I could do this, that I was going to, that it would happen. If I well and truly really believed that I would never look at this shit again, why would I still have an account for it? Just in case? Of what?! Just to make it easier for when I do relapse? Fuck off! Delete it. Delete it all. It’s serving no purpose other than to make your moments of weakness all the easier to give in to.

This post is a lot longer than I intended but I figure hey, everyone gets one, right? Big milestone. And this isn’t really something I can chat about with my friends or family. This is a huge achievement for me, but I am not gonna be shouting about it. The problem is still a secret shame. And I still have periods where I have to fight it. This year has been… so tough. I’m lucky I chose that day to take action. Any later and I don’t know whether I would have gotten through this fucking pandemic situation without just self destructing entirely.

I’ve had near misses. More than my fair share. It’s not magically smooth sailing for me just cos it’s been going for a while. But it does get easier. The pre-empting and conscious clocking of my feelings that I had to do at the start happens pretty much subconsciously now. It’s routine. Only when things are really bad (which is admittedly rarer and rarer) do I have to really think about and fight it – but, thanks to that early practice, I can do that. I have done it before and I can and will do it again. Every time. An urge is just a feeling, and feelings can be ignored. Focus on other shit. Do other shit! The urge surfing clip is really good, give it a listen! Use these resources. Use this community.

On that note, thank you. To every single person here. Every post I’ve read, every reply I’ve written, every response I’ve received – thank you. I could not have done this without this community. I know it, in the core of my being. Actually getting emotional writing this. I couldn’t have done it alone, so from the bottom of my heart thank you. I hope that many others will manage to get from it what I have. You’re not alone. None of us are. We have each other. Read these posts. Respond to people. Writing out a reply can give others the insight they need AND helps reinforce for yourself the reasons that you are on this journey too. We help each other by helping ourselves.

This isn’t the end of my journey. Far from it – it’s only been one year. And it took a lot of false starts and hard work just to get to this point. But I’m gonna keep going. I won’t let my guard down, I won’t take it for granted. I will remain vigilant every day for the rest of my life.

If I can get here, you can too.

Thank you, and good luck.

LINK – One Year – and I couldn’t have done it without this community

by AltF4Play