I feel a little hesitant at posting under the success stories section – partially my desire to not be viewed as boastful, and partially my hesitancy at proclaiming victory prematurely. I hope that you don’t perceive my post as either, rather a testament to the power of persistence (it has taken me over 20 years to get to this point) and more importantly the power of this forum, which is the real success story and has without shadow of a doubt been the piece of the jigsaw that I have been missing for all those years that I struggled and kept falling. I am deeply grateful to all here for sharing their wisdom, humility and companionship and supporting me.
My motivation in writing this is twofold – to provide some hope and practical advice to those who are new to the forum or struggling – I have tried to distil the key learnings that have enabled me to get to my 90 days clean, many of which have been gleaned from conversations here. Secondly, it is to document and act as a reminder to myself of the progress that I have made – a crutch perhaps in time of my future need.
Rather than bore you with historical details about my own journey here, if you want to find out more about the specifics of my situation, please feel free to look at the first post in my journal:
The good news that I have to share with you is no matter where you are in your journey, and no matter how long you have been trying, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, I believe that change and success is possible (defined as a release from the addiction of PMO – Porn Masturbation Orgasm for any newbies). We were not born with this affliction…it has been learned…and therefore it can be unlearned.
The second piece of good news is that based on the last 90 days, I can tell you that life without PMO is significantly more enjoyable and rewarding without it. Better mood, better sleep, better emotional stability, better behaviours – more exercise, better diet, less anger and frustration. I have become a better husband, parent and human being. In the last 90 days I have reinvested what I would estimate to be 13 weeks x 10 hours a week = 130 hours or 5 ½ FULL DAYS of edging, chatting, masturbating…time where I’d normally be hidden away in shame from my wife, daughters and friends….from myself even. I am 47 years old. If I live to 90 years and keep this up, I will have gained back a further 932 days or TWO AND A HALF YEARS of my life (Can you seriously imagine PMOing for two and a half years…solid?!…add 8 hours daily sleep back in and its nearer 4 years!). Plus I’ve significantly enhanced the quality of the time not spent PMOing, but when I’d otherwise have been suffering the after effects of PMO that are all too familiar. [My thoughts on why chatting is a particular problem.]
BUT….it is not an easy journey. This is an addiction, and the very nature of addictive processes make them very difficult to break. But not impossible. The fact that we are here illustrates that we have recognised that we have an issue and want to do something about it. That in itself vastly improves our statistical success. Most guys unfortunately suffer this addiction in silence and denial, without recognition of the issue, and certainly not the help and support of others that is open to us here. We are fortunate.
So, what of the learnings? Below, I have tried to summarise what have for me been the key lessons that I have accumulated over the years (and in particularly the last 90 days) that have helped me:
1) ACCEPTANCE. You must accept that you have a problem, an addiction, and that in your present state, you are largely powerless to overcome it. Without the humility of this acceptance, change is not possible.
2) MOTIVATION. You must do this for you, and you alone. Your motivation to change cannot be based on others, or pleasing others for the simple fact that when your relationship with those people comes under stress, your motivation is directly impacted. This does not mean that part of your motivation cannot be to be a better husband/father (mine certainly was), but it is for YOU to become a better husband or father for the benefit of YOU primarily. For me, I got to the point where I was utterly sick of living a duplicitous life, and the cognitive dissonance that this was causing me was eroding my sense of identity. The external me did not match the internal me. I was a fraud. I knew it, and that was a big burden to carry. It made me depressed, ashamed, guilty, lacking confidence.
3) LEARNING AND UNDERSTANDING. Once you have the acceptance of a problem and the motivation to change, learning as much as possible about the science of the addiction is key. You are not your brain processes. Your brain and its processes are a tool given to you. When they are not serving you as they should, understanding why is the first step in correcting them. This understanding can also be extremely helpful in reducing shame. Watch the videos on here (Gary Wilsons Ted talk is my fave), invest in your recovery. Understanding and shining a light on what is going on in your brain can be so empowering.
4) SUPPORT OF OTHERS. I said earlier that this forum had provided the missing piece of the jigsaw for me and I can not overstate that point. Living a lie in secret causes shame. Same causes pain. Pain (for me at least) causes PMO as a soothing escape activity. For any newcomers, read the journals that are being updated regularly in your own age section (you’ll find more relevant content here), start your own journal. Share your story, show an interest in others, build some relationships. They are truly enriching. Coming here provided the following benefits for me:
a. I learned that I was not alone in my struggle, nor the underlying human condition that leads to addictive behaviours and that reduced my shame.
b. I learned from the experiences of others, and that helped me build my plan of attack.
c. I was able to receive help and in turn help and encourage others, and that built my self-esteem.
d. Coming here at the start of each day got the day off on a good footing, building good habits and focussing on positivity rather that forgetting about my commitment to myself to change.
5) HAVE A PLAN AND KEEP IMPROVING IT. Recovery will not just happen by accident. It is an iterative process. You will fail many times before you succeed. Even when you have succeeded, you may still fail in the future. It is key that you have a plan, and every time you stumble you identify the learning from that fall. Failing is not a bad thing. It is an opportunity to improve. It is only a bad thing if you then fail to extract the learning for next time.
6) UNDERSTAND YOUR EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS. These are central to your plan. What are the emotional triggers that usually proceed you PMOing? Focussing on the physical ones (see an attractive woman) are only the tip of the iceberg. What are the emotional circumstances that lead up to your undesirable behaviour? Mine include loneliness, boredom, stress, conflict (argue with wife = PMO for sure), failure (self soothing), even sometimes success (self reward). I know that when I am tired, hungover I am at risk. The power in identifying these triggers is awareness. The conflict one with my wife took me years to identify, but once I did and was aware of it, it started to lose its power…I could see it coming. Ensure that every time you fall, you identify the trigger. Dig deep within – get to the real truth. Be honest with yourself.
7) CHOOSE WHERE TO BUILD YOUR WALL OF RESITANCE. For years I would vow not to PMO. I defined PMO as going to a porn or chat site. Therefore that was where I had defined (or built) my wall of resistance. And sure enough, it worked, in the sense that I never woke up and thought ‘Hey, I’m going to go to a porn or chat site’. BUT, and here’s the but…my brain, in search for dopamine always came up with lower level activities to indulge in that I could justify to myself as OK (or I was just oblivious to). These included fantasy (my thoughts – often at night, I would actively choose to think sexual thoughts whilst dropping off to sleep), the next day I’d find myself visiting ‘innocuous’ sites but where I knew there was content that would arouse me (FB, Insta…whatever). The issue is, once my brain got a sniff of the dopamine with these ‘lower level’ activities, I was away….I would ALWAYS end up at the porn or chat site I had specifically wanted to avoid. My resolve had been lowered by the ‘softer stuff’. My learning?….I now build the wall of resistance in an appropriate place. For me, that’s before fantasy. If I can stop that happening, I am 90% less likely to go to an innocuous site. If I don’t go to the innocuous site, then I’m a further 90% less likely to go to porn/chat. It works. Try it.
THE 6 POINT PLAN (EMERGENCY TOOLKIT). There is a great guy in here called ShadeTrenicin who posts in Ages 30-39. He is one of the kindest most selfless people I have never met. Shade adapted and built on some wisdom from Traveler32 in coming up with the 6 point plan. To be used in emergencies when urges are strong. It speaks for itself:
1. Recognize the urge
2. Allow that the urge is there (you cannot will it away, let it be and analyze it)
3. Investigate why the urge is there (is there something inside of you that makes you resort to PMO?)
4. Realize that the urge is temporary
5. Recall the feeling of emptiness after a PMO session
6. (optional if the urge is really strong) Resort to an emergency activity such as coming to the forum, sports, anti-sexual activities, other hobbies.
9) BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Life isn’t easy. We have a tendency to compare our view of ourselves (usually negative) with our view of the rest of the world (who usually portray a positive image). This is a flawed comparison. I’ve noticed in a lot of guys stories that PMO plays a role in self soothing and escaping from ourselves, or our view of ourselves – not worthy, a failure, inadequate. I have certainly been there, and still go there. Battling PMO without addressing these underlying issues will only be partially successful. I am not a psychologist and won’t pretend to have all the answers. In struggling to overcome my own challenges however, kindness to myself has been key. This starts with watching our own thought processes. If you struggle from negative thinking patterns, read ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’ By Richard Carslon. It pretty much saved my life. I also found mindfulness to be extremely useful and in addition really helps with things like understanding your emotional triggers (point 6 above).
10) FIND YOUR OWN 10 TIPS! Some of the above may be relevant to you, some less so. There is much that I have not covered. This is a self learning process – the great thing is that there is so much accumulated wisdom and desire to help on this site. Whether it’s practical advice around internet filters, or sharing an aspect of yourself that resonates with some of the other guys who in turn help you develop your perspective, this is a brilliant site. Use it, contribute to it, and watch yourself grow, helping others along the way.
Thanks to anyone that made it this far, please feel free to build on, critique or query the above. Sending you all brotherly love and good thoughts as you traverse your own paths both in PMO recovery and life itself. Take care.
PS: Big thanks to Gabe, Ite, PursuitOfUnFAPiness, Gracie, rainforth13, Androg, Charlie Marcotte, malando, Spangler and anyone else who hosts, moderates, and supports the effective operation of this site. Much appreciated.