Like many other people who watch pornography, I did not realise that I had an addiction until fairly recently. I think it began when I was very young, at that stage of early adolescence. Of course I had hid it from my parents, and I continue doing so even though I have committed myself to going clean. I think I do not want to discuss this openly with my family because I do not want to experience the disappointment that I might face from their reactions, and I think that this opens one of the critical reasons to quit pornography. But before I get to that, here is what happened:
I think that my story is very similar to others, in that I had been watching pornography for a few years and I thought it was natural because sex is natural. I have gone through life fairly well despite not being able to keep myself away from soft-core pornography for atleast one week straight (but within that statement there are huge problems as well). But in the back of my mind I always knew that there was something wrong with this sexually explicit content, whether it be soft-core or hard-core. I made a promise to quit pornography one year ago, but throughout that one year I was constantly relapsing. The reason for it was because I did not have solid-enough reasons to quit it. Back then I only thought to myself that I should quit pornography because it was pathetic to continue living in virtual fantasies. It was only in the past few months that I really found the reasons why I should quit:
Pornography perpetuates a cycle of sexual abuse as the pornography stars featured in sexually explicit content are often from backgrounds of trauma, neglect or abuse. By indulging in pornography, I was essentially giving the sick pornography industry an audience through which they could propagate their content.
Pornography sucks your time as you constantly feel urges that you have to “itch” if you have spent some good time watching it, and you feel drained after watching it. I have experienced this many times, and while I say that I went through life fairly well, that is an overstatement in certain ways. I have many regrets throughout my life. For example, although I have helped my family with major chores around the house, had some good conversations with them and met some of their expectations, there are a lot of expectations that I did not meet and a lot of things that I did not finish because I was too indulged in this sexual media. I could have finished my homework on time everyday when I was going to a tuition centre, but instead I often missed the deadlines and there would be a few times per month where I would have to give excuses for not handing in my homework. I could have spent more time reading worthwhile online articles and books to have more to talk about during conversations, but instead I was like a lifeless zombie during some family chats. I could have spent the time learning new skills or gaining helpful knowledge such as learning a language. Now, I have to scramble to learn the languages my family had expected me to learn to fluency because I wasted all that time on pornography. And the list goes on.
Pornography ruins your dopamine-reward system. Since watching pornography, I have always noticed myself to be down and gloomy. It also sucked away my motivation to do any worthwhile work or learning because of this disease. For instance, in retrospect, I could have done better on my studies if I had gotten clean earlier and I could have had more time to spend with friends. But since my pornography addiction was ruining my dopamine receptors, I had to spend a lot of time studying at the expense of relaxation and spending more time with friends and family. Also, because of the way it affects endorphin receptors, I have lost many of my memories. While they are not entirely lost and I am regaining them through meditation, it can be a very depressing or soul-wrenching feeling to feel that you are nothing more than an individual who feels as if you have just been plonked onto Earth from the heavens with no recollections of where you came form.
Pornography can ruin your internet or desktop security if you are viewing internet pornography. While pornography websites are often in the “yellow-zone” of internet safety, not safe but not entirely dangerous, all it takes is one virus or one piece of aggressive malware to ruin your computer. And in recent times with the advent of ransomware, the threats are becoming more frightening. I have not run into any such problems (probably because of the use of ad-blocking addons, sandboxing software and anti-malware scanning and removal software), but I think it is better to err on the side of caution than to keep on playing Russian roulette with your computer or your family network.
While this point relates more towards male pornography addicts, I still think it is a valid one to make in that every woman was born into a family (it could have been a loving family, it could have been a broken family). In watching pornography, what am I programming myself to think about women? Do I think of them as real human beings, or simply as sexual objects to fulfill my lustful desires? Would I wish that any female members of my family would become like those women in pornography? I have realised that pornography can have some very startling implications when one sits and thinks about it.
Pornography programs the mind to get bored with the most beautiful of bodies. With the increasing dopamine rushes that one gets from watching harder and harder pornography, often featuring beautiful women (for male viewers) or beautiful men (for female viewers) one will soon get bored with them because of the same desensitisation effect that occurs in the dopamine receptors. Because of this, we no longer see the women or men around us as being beautiful and this causes us to have unrealistic expectations of the looks of our partners. This also, in a subtle way, causes us to only view people solely by their appearances, not in terms of their personality, interests or other profound qualities. By indulging in pornography on a compulsive basis, we are putting a filter on our minds which inadvertently programs us to only think of the opposite sex in terms of how they would look in bed.
Compulsive indulgence in pornography addiction causes an upset in sleeping cycles because of dopamine receptor damage. This often translates into feeling less motivated to get out of bed earlier and thereby sleeping for longer. If you are someone who wants to carry on with their morning ritual or you want to increase the length of your day to get more done, indulging in pornography will be devastating for you. It can also be devastating for those who have to wake up early to get to school or university.
This brings me to my final point, in that by watching pornography I am essentially wasting the time and money that my parents had invested to bring me up. This is what keeps me going clean, by remembering this one statement. It is said that being grateful for what you have can assist with overcoming addictions. While this does not work for everybody, this has certainly worked for me. Whenever I have the urge to relapse, I always think to myself about how I would be wasting my parents’ efforts to raise a healthy and successful individual. Do I want to thwart all that that they have given me?
I must say that quitting pornography has never been easy, but I guess that if it wasn’t an addiction, it would be easy to quit. Especially when I am feeling depressed, thinking about my wasted time, the urge to relapse grows greater, and I have indeed relapsed due to feeling depressed. But I believe that there is hope, even if it is a bitter-sweet hope, by taking the stoic approach. That is the following: your future is not always determined by your past actions, but by how you react to the past. Will I keep brooding about the time I had wasted, or will I spend my time better in the future through proactive action?
I have read that watching videos on Youtube about the dangers of pornography and listening to rehabilitating pornorgraphy addicts talk about their experiences can be an effective deterrent. However, I have found that these videos may actually do the opposite if you watch them compulsively. I have found several that feature pornographic images that might trigger urges, and for those that don’t, it may give your brain an excuse to start watching pornography again.
When hearing about some people talk about their decade+ pornography addiction, I have some relief that I am not as far gone as them. But this is the wrong mindset to have. As whenever my urges come strong, usually after two weeks of quitting, I think to myself that “Oh well, I will just watch one pornographic video, afterall, I am an addict but not really that much of an addict compared to these people”, and then the whole cycle begins again. I have to go through the whole exercise and meditation regime to bring my brain up to scratch again. But I think that the important step to quitting pornography addiction is that the brain has to be rewired. I think that technology is an enemy in this case, as whenever one feels bored one can scroll the internet for some comedic videos or other easy things to listen, read or watch, and I think that for internet pornography addicts this reinforces the patterns that led you to pornography in the first place.
I feel that this is similar to the browsing incident that had began pornography in the first place for some people. You are browsing the internet and then find some sexually explicit content by mistake, and then one link takes you down this dark rabbit whole that may ruin your life. But then what is the solution? Instead of spending that time consuming pornography, the time would be better spent exercising, or for those who do not want to go to the gym – practicing a martial arts, reading interesting books, spending more time with friends and family, perhaps learning a new skill which could be playing an instrument or learning a language that would benefit you (for example, if your family is planning to migrate to another country or you would like to have a relationship with someone whose native language isn’t English), reading interesting articles online… and so on and so on…
Whenever I am feeling depressed, low on energy and/or bored, I stay away from the computer and simply sleep off the depression or low energy in bed or I do something that is long but not entirely a waste of time, such as meditation or watching an ambitious film (this can give you something to talk about).
But to end this long post, I feel better now than I ever did watching pornography. I am more present and I feel that I can accomplish a lot more than I did before and I have a better relationship with my family. I have more time and energy for accomplishing my dreams as well. However, trying to quit this pornography addiction has never been an easy experience for me ever since I first identified my addiction. It has been a difficult and long challenge. I wish that I had never stumbled upon this sexually explicit media in the first place. I wish all the best to those who are struggling with this addiction, and I hope that everyone here can quit and live excellent lives afterwards, even if there is a bitter-sweet ending. I do not know whether we can escape bitter-sweet endings. The saddest thing about internet pornography addiction, is the time when you realise that you are addicted to pixels.
I could disclose possible reasons as to why I got addicted to pornography in the first place, but I think that it will do no one any good, not even me. Whether I watch pornography or do not, those problems that I had will not change. Pornography is simply a coping mechanism for many, but one that is deleterious to life if left unchecked.