I stole this post's title (and my username) from The Dark Knight Rises; it comes from a scene that I think is a good metaphor for this addiction (warning: spoilers in the next 2 paragraphs). Bane has crippled Bruce Wayne and thrown him into a deep pit/prison. The only way to escape is to scale the walls, but this is believed to be virtually impossible (only 1 person had ever succeeded). Wayne begins training and rehabbing, rebuilding his strength. After several months, he decides to try the climb. He ties a rope around himself, as the prisoners gather at the base of the pit to watch. They begin chanting: deshi deshi basara basara, deshi deshi basara basara! In the movie's fictitious language, deshi basara translates to "rise up" (those of you with PIED might appreciate the double entendre here). Wayne begins to climb, the chanting growing louder. He makes it about halfway up the wall, but loses his grip; as he plunges downward, he slams into a wall and is knocked out cold. In his ensuing dream, he hears his dad whisper: "Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up." (Technically, we only hear the first sentence in this scene, but the full quote appears repeatedly throughout the trilogy.) In the aftermath, a prisoner tells Wayne that the only way he will succeed in escaping is to try the climb without the rope; only without that safety net will he be driven by the most powerful motivator - the fear of death. Wayne decides to take his advice, and again prepares for the climb. Once again, the prisoners begin their chant. As he climbs higher, the chanting grows louder, until it grows into a near frenzy. Very near the top, he must attempt a flying leap from one ledge to another. The prisoners watch with bated breath; he coils up, then springs from the platform. As he grabs the ledge and pulls himself up, the silence erupts into cheers. He climbs the rest of the way out of the pit, and then throws a rope down so the rest of the prisoners may escape. The parallels to addiction are probably self-evident, but I would like to state some of them explicitly. Before I do, though, I'd like to tell you a little about me. I'm in my early 30s, and come from a small town in Arkansas. I was first introduced to porn by one of my brothers around the age of 10, years before I would have discovered it on my own, and I was instantly hooked. I first experienced PIED at the age of 18, when my girlfriend and I tried and failed repeatedly to have sex. This was of course devastating for an insecure teenager, but this was merely the start of my problems. My addiction took a turn for the worse in college, with the typical day consisting of 2-3 sessions at a minimum, though often several more. My PIED worsened; in high school it only occurred during traditional sex, but now it was affecting me during oral as well. This led me to spiral further as I retreated from romantic relationships. At parties and bars, I began to self-sabotage if girls flirted with me - usually getting blackout drunk and making an ass of myself. I began to suffer through a cyclical depression, which could sometimes last for weeks at a time and lead to suicidal thoughts. After college, I began a PhD program in neuroscience. It was rough-going at first, though there were a couple bright spots. Firstly, I started dating again. The downside here is that I learned to lean on my addiction in order to have sex. I would muster intense focus on visualizing pornographic scenes just to stay hard and finish. Of course, this prevented me from staying present with my partner, handicapping my ability to connect with her physically, while also deepening my dependence on porn. The other bright spot during these early years of grad school was that I discovered the nofap community on Reddit, sometime around 8-10 years ago. I cannot overstate the relief that I felt - finally, I had an explanation for my PIED! I had an explanation for my increasingly...unusual tastes in genre. So many other unexplained pieces of my life started to make sense within this new context. Unfortunately, knowing and admitting the problem is the easy part. I was single at the time, so for the next 1-2 years, I would struggle through hard-mode, going through a never-ending cycle of commitment and relapse, rarely stringing together more than a month or two PMO-free. As the years wore on, I grew to hate grad school more and more. I did not get along well with my advisor, and I felt as if I did not belong. My depression, drinking, and porn addiction worsened, as I gave up on recovery. Around this time I discovered 2 new things: 1) a new genre that had a powerful effect on me, and 2) that I could prolong sessions considerably through edging. At this point, pornography completely took over my life; the DSM checklist for addiction read like a biography to me. Going item-by-item through the list is a post for another day, but here's one example: there were days where I didn't go on campus at all, telling my lab-mates I was "working from home" and spending the entire day PMO'ing. Sometimes I only intended to have a quick session in the morning, but suddenly it was mid-afternoon - no point going in now! Might as well PMO for the rest of the day. This behavior alone hits multiple criteria on the list: using for longer than intended, and dramatic effects on my work. This downward spiral plunged me into the darkest period of my life. I began thinking about suicide constantly. I started researching the best ways, and on a few occasions found myself with a belt around my neck, or a butcher's knife at my wrists. In those moments, I knew I couldn't follow through, mostly because of how badly it would hurt my family, but I desperately wished that I had the guts to just do it. This was my rock bottom; I decided I had to see a therapist. In my mind, the most pressing issue was the depression, so I opted for the first available appointment rather than requesting a male therapist. As a result, I never opened up to my female therapist about my porn addiction. We (mostly) got the depression under control, and I soldiered on, but my addiction was still firmly in the driver's seat. And then, a new hope. I met my wife several years ago, and we instantly clicked. This was about as close as one can get to love at first sight. Shortly after we started dating, I told her about my addiction and recommitted to getting clean. She was tremendously understanding, and with her emotional support, I started to turn things around. I completed my thesis and found a job in a new city. After we moved, I found a new therapist that specializes in addiction. My wife and I got married a couple years ago, and I've been pretty happy in my current job. However, it has not been all sunshine and roses. In spite of my renewed commitment to defeating this addiction, I'm still stuck in the recovery-relapse cycle. In fact, I just relapsed yesterday, so I'm back to day 1. Over the past several years, I've put together a few streaks of more than 3 months (6 months is my record), but most of my streaks are on the order of 1-2 months. While my therapist has helped me develop a variety of tools to combat this thing, it's still a work in progress. That's why I'm typing this. This is the newest tool I'm adding to my arsenal - a place to journal, an online support group, a place to trade knowledge and tips. I intend to post at least once per weekday (I promise they will usually be MUCH shorter than this), and am aiming for at least 500 words per week. If I sense that a day will be particularly difficult, I'll write about ways that this addiction has harmed me and my loved ones - maybe ripping open those wounds will be a sufficiently painful reminder and will give me the strength to power through. I'll close by returning to The Dark Knight Rises. We all start this journey in the depths of this pit, but we're not alone down here. Sometimes it might seem impossible to climb out. It certainly won't be easy - it will require training, resolve, and perseverance through periods of intense mental anguish. Most of us will fall, probably more than once. But why do we fall, Master Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up. And one of these times, the circumstances will all align - we'll have the confidence, the tools, and the support network to climb out, and maybe toss down a rope to everyone else (by staying active on here). So here I am, picking myself up and dusting myself off. My climb begins today.