Deshi basara: my journey out of the pit

Discussion in 'Ages 30-39' started by deshi_basara, Jan 26, 2021.

  1. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Thanks for the suggestions. When I'm in the midst of one of these episodes (urges to fantasize), it often feels like my addiction and I are engaged in this epic wrestling match. On rare occasions, we go a couple rounds, I win them all, and that's the end. But most of the time, that relentless bastard won't take no for an answer, and he's inexhaustible. I may pin him temporarily and get some relief, but minutes, hours, or days later, he's back, ready for another round. The toughest part about it is that it's just so easy to succumb. There's no movement or external action required. At most, I just have to close my eyes and concentrate. And these urges can be triggered so easily. Sometimes all it takes is the thought, "hey, cool, it's been a while since I've had those types of cravings." It's like "don't think about a white elephant" - It can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. (By the way, this happened yesterday: the mere act of writing about it triggered urges hours later, but thankfully they were mild and I disposed of them quickly. I just hope this particular match is over.) I often wish I had a white noise machine for my imagination - that when I sense these urges coming on, I could just flip a switch and blast my imagination with static.

    I started reading the book Willpower's Not Enough (thanks for the suggestion, Swimming in Circles!), and there was a quote that stuck out to me: "Not using, for the addict, is effortful. He has to think about not using and apply himself, because he is still compelled by it. No matter how much willpower he exerts over his actual use, he is powerless over the disease within." This is in the larger context of the authors making the case that this disease is virtually impossible to conquer via willpower alone, and that we must instead shift our worldview and the circumstances that led us to to seek out a "mood-changer" in the first place. I'm still early in the book, so I can't relay any insights yet on how to actually implement this solution, but it resonated with me because it is exhausting sometimes to fight urges, and when the barrier to entry is so low that all it requires is closing my eyes and fantasizing about porn, it's very difficult for me to resist.

    I'll close with another quote from the book that resonated with me. "There's a saying among recovering alcoholics that if you want to know how bad the disease of alcoholism really feels, don't drink and don't get help. For that's when the mental and emotional aspects of the [disease] are experienced - without the "anesthesia" of a drug." For so long, we've relied on porn and masturbation for relief, as an escape, when things get difficult. Then when we give that thing up, and we experience all the anguish that follows, it's no surprise that our brains are crying out for that anesthesia. It's a vicious cycle.
     
  2. Swimming in Circles

    Swimming in Circles New Member

    Hey Deshi, I'm happy to hear that you're resonating with some passages from the book! It's pretty much been my recovery bible, and i've found the central point that 'willpower is not enough' to be very true over my 4 years of attempted recovery, though I couldn't see it at the time. It does go into detail on implementing a recovery plan in the later parts of the book, but first touches on the problems both in our society and within ourselves that has caused the 'addiction pandemic' that we're seeing in modern times. The section on the addictive personality floored me in particular, it was like the authors had literally taken a look inside my brain and transferred what they saw onto the paper, and the crazy thing is it made me realise that I've had those addictive thought processes since I was very young. The thing is, once you see that this way of thinking is linked to addiction, it becomes easier to notice it and counteract it.

    I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me!
     
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  3. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I've really liked it so far and am looking forward to getting to some of those parts you've found helpful.

    Today will just be a short update. Everything continues to be going smoothly for me - no new urges or anything yesterday. Work has been busy, which usually helps. The big exception to this is when the tasks at hand are stressful or unpleasant - a reliable trigger for me which always used to end in procrasturbation. Anyway, that's all for today.
     
  4. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I had another good day yesterday. I know this ride will get bumpy eventually - even if it hasn't in this first 2.5 weeks, I'm pretty sure that turbulence has hit within the first month in every streak to date. It feels a bit like prepping for a storm. Each time I have more tools and resources to withstand the onslaught, but the real question is whether I'll use them.

    That's another funny thing about this disease - even if I know what to do in those moments, the addiction has a funny way of shutting down those thought processes and giving me tunnel vision, so that I often don't even think about different strategies I've developed. At best, I have vague thoughts about how I should resist, but I can't cut through the haze to see the specific tools at my disposal. I suppose the key is to be more in tune with myself, catching it earlier so I can use those tools before that happens. Easier said than done, but then again, none of this is easy. If it was, there would be no addicts.
     
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  5. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    So I experienced the first real challenge to my current streak this weekend. Seemingly out of nowhere, as I was trying to fall asleep one night, I had this intense urge to fantasize. My addiction was trying to use all the typical rationalizations: it's been a while, and you'll enjoy it; you know you can't stop me; what's the harm in just a little taste? But this time, something different happened. I went full Gandalf: you shall not pass! It was an intense struggle for a while - it felt like the addiction and I had locked horns, and we were trapped inside a huge breaking wave, like a surfer after a wipeout. I know it sounds over-dramatic, but it felt chaotic in my mind, as if I couldn't even spare the mental energy to pause and determine which way was up. Eventually everything slowed down, and I finally fell asleep.

    Firstly, I felt pretty proud of this accomplishment. In the past, I would have given in to the urges and engaged with the fantasy. This would have kept me awake for one or two hours, and I would have felt like shit the next day, which would have increased my risk of further steps down the path of relapse. Instead, I fell asleep within 20 minutes or so, and a combination of pride and a restful night's sleep meant that the next day was totally normal; I didn't have any urges to speak of. My therapist likes to use strength-based techniques with addicts: our successes show us that we possess the strength to do it again, so we should celebrate and dwell on them to build our confidence for the future. Given the fact that I have serious self-esteem and confidence issues (as is common among addicts), this is an especially important tool.

    Lastly, I want to dissect where these cravings may have emerged. In the past, I would have chalked it up to the unpredictability and cyclical nature of this thing - even if I do everything right, the addiction has been caged and is slowly starving to death, and every once in a while he's going to summon a burst of energy, rattling his cage and demanding to be fed. To some extent I still believe that's true, but I must admit that I've probably thrown him a few crumbs over the past week, which of course both sustains him and activates an intense hunger for more.

    This goes back to those mini-decisions we make every day, and whether a specific action counts as addiction-related. Some are easier to spot than others: going down social media rabbit holes in search of sexy pics, refreshing a page like a slot machine in the hopes of scoring sexy ads, etc. However, some helpful discussions on this forum have inspired me to take stock and be more honest with myself about smaller transgressions. The mere act of hesitating to look more closely at a relatively benign ad you encountered by chance, or of scrolling through your own social media feed with the barely perceptible hope of seeing even just PG-rated photos... What really matters is intent; that is to say, scrolling social media in and of itself isn't problematic, unless the intent is to "accidentally" encounter even mild content. Another telltale sign is the dopamine rush. Do you feel an expectation of excitement? And do you feel a rush when you encounter that thing you're searching for? I've used these standards in the past, but I need to recalibrate them to identify those smaller transgressions, because I had done both of those things within the past week: I hesitated on an ad or 2, and I checked social media (without explicitly going down any rabbit holes) with mild hopes of getting that dopamine hit. It's a good bet that those crumbs energized the addiction and activated those urges.

    Anyway, I need to be mindful of those things moving forward, especially over the next week or so. I'm sure the addiction isn't done rattling the cage for now, and I can't afford to throw him any more crumbs.
     
  6. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I've officially hit three weeks! I've felt really good about my consistency posting on here, and it has definitely had a positive impact in making this streak less tumultuous than most. In a recent conversation with my therapist, I commented that by comparison, I'm now putting in a lot more work than I have before. The mere act of journaling on here every day, including some relatively long posts, has meant that I'm spending more minutes of each day on my recovery. Of course, there's the added benefit that writing forces me to contemplate my experiences more deeply.

    He replied that he's proud of me for the work I'm putting in, but also urged me not to dismiss the work I'd done before. He stressed that if I hadn't been spending enough time (or taking the most effective steps, or whatever) on my recovery before, it's simply because he and I hadn't discovered the right set of approaches that worked for me (and also that I shouldn't dismiss all the progress we have made since our first session). I thought that was a really great point - I'm often very quick to put myself down in all facets of life, to be overly critical and harsh in my self-assessments. In celebrating my current efforts, I was also telling myself that up until recently, I've been a failure. (It's important to point out that I'm not prematurely declaring victory over this addiction, but rather that I feel positive about my current trajectory.) My therapist was spot on in his assessment, and he and I have worked together long enough that he can spot when I'm subconsciously putting myself down, even if on the surface I appear to be building myself up. By characterizing all my past relapses as evidence of my worthlessness, I have been setting myself up for disappointment if I do relapse again.

    That sort of thinking, that we are inadequate, is a trap. It's very common in addicts, and we wield it as an excuse to use. It's an extremely potent trigger for me; I can't tell you how many times I've felt shitty about myself, and then...unzip. I think a critical step in healing is to purge this core belief, that we're not worthy of praise or love. We must forgive ourselves, and acknowledge that we're not fundamentally bad or evil or broken. As my therapist pointed out, my prior inability to sustain a recovery is not because I'm a bad person, but rather because I had not yet discovered the approaches that resonated with me. Here's hoping that I've finally found the right tools, and that I can continue to use them effectively to generate the change I'm striving for. But if I do relapse again, it's important to remember that I'm still worthy of love, and I just need to keep trying. ("Why do we fall, Master Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.")

    That being said, this is not an excuse to relapse. Seriously, fuck this addiction and all the untold harm it has done.
     
  7. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Another day down, and everything continues to go well. Over the past couple of days, I've noticed that I'm more in tune with the most subtle of addiction-related thoughts. A month ago, I wouldn't have thought twice if I felt the urge to check out a female passing by on the sidewalk. After all, this is a healthy part of a normal libido, right? Maybe in some instances, but not for me, not right now. Right now it's not much different than doubling back to look at a sexy ad - another behavior that used to register as only mildly problematic. Now I'm noticing all of these things, which is of course a necessary (but not sufficient) step in moderating that behavior. The more I can quash these small behaviors, the fewer crumbs I'm throwing to the caged beast, which hopefully translates to fewer episodes of intense cravings.

    I realized years ago that one of the most important steps for my recovery is to identify earlier steps in the relapse chain where I can intervene. That has proven difficult, because I've struggled to control urges I used to consider early like fantasizing, social media rabbit holes, and other ways to "accidentally" stumble on sexy but not-technically-porn content. The breakthrough here is that I'm realizing those are not as early in the relapse chain as I used to think. More importantly, there are earlier steps that are subtle but detectable, if I'm just paying attention; and so far, I'm having more success intervening there.
     
  8. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Yesterday was another good day. I had a few tiny urges: check out that girl, scroll through social media for PG-rated photos. For the most part, I hit the kill switch as soon as I noticed them and realized what I was doing. In the interest of full disclosure, on one occasion, it took me a minute or so to get it under control, so there's room for improvement.

    To be honest, there's a part of me that feels like these incidents are small and insignificant, and it feels silly to place so much emphasis on them. But I also know that's probably the addiction talking; it wouldn't be silly for an alcoholic to focus on urges like "taking a shortcut" through the grocery store liquor aisle, and it wouldn't be silly for him to journal about that or share it at an AA meeting. Furthermore, if feeling silly every once in a while is the price I pay for recovery, then sign me the fuck up.

    The fact is, these mini-decisions are almost always the first steps toward relapse for me, so the obvious solution is to break that chain as soon as I see it forming, especially when the links are most brittle. It has been so much easier to shut these down before they lead to something bigger. While I could still do better, I feel like I'm finally making progress.
     
  9. Thelongwayhome27

    Thelongwayhome27 Well-Known Member

    I don't know if you've ever herd about the three circles of SAA but basically this is why they have the middle circle. It's stuff that doesn't count as a full blown relapse (loosing one's sexual sobriety) yet it's behavior that slowly makes us slide down towards loosing that sexual sobriety. It can be cruising the liquor section of a store for the alcoholic or it can be watching erotic ads for a porn addict for instance. But this to say that it makes a lot of sense to monitor this kind of behavior very closely and indeed know that it's not as innocent as it presents itself. This being said, placing it in the middle circle allows the person to see the difference between this kind of behavior and a full blown relapse, helping one not to be overly perfectionistic and thus being counter productive to his aims.
     
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  10. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I had not heard of that, but I really like the concept. One of my perpetual struggles has been how to characterize those sorts of behaviors. I've always disliked the binary nature of "you're either clean, or you've relapsed," because I've used that as an excuse to wade ever deeper into the ocean while telling myself that my head was still above water. And then suddenly some undercurrent, or shifting sand, or even just the urge to take one more step (what's the harm?), and suddenly I'm underwater and drowning. On the flip side, when I've tried characterizing a non-relapse in harsher terms, that has led to a case of the fuck-its where I tell myself "welp you already basically relapsed, might as well have a party now before getting back on the wagon." Explicitly defining a middle circle is a nice approach that allows one to right-size the behavior.

    I've also struggled to figure out how to hold myself accountable for these behaviors. I tell my wife when I relapse, but it's far too painful for her to hear that I checked out another girl or browsed sexy ads, especially since those small transgressions happen more frequently than a relapse. (I've discussed this both with her and my therapist, and we've all agreed that it would be harmful to the relationship to tell her about every little thing.) While telling my therapist is always helpful, we only meet once a week, so I've needed to find a daily method for accountability. Anyway, all that to say that I feel like these posts have provided that outlet, and it's been kind of a game-changer.
     
  11. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I had a big moment yesterday. I received a promotional email from an online game store, and in the title of that email, the list of games included "Adult temptations package" or something to that effect. As soon as I saw it, I felt all the familiar physiological reactions - flutter in my chest, heart racing, a kind of heady feeling verging on dizziness, a tingling sensation in my muscles. It had been a while since I'd received an email like this, but I have a long history of opening them and taking a peak at the images inside. After all, I didn't seek it out - it fell in my lap, and I'm just checking my email, so the twisted logic goes. And they're never downright pornographic, but definitely suggestive and not at all PG. This time, after a moment's hesitation, I deleted it sight unseen. I then went into my trash to delete it for good, and unsubscribed from that game store's mailing list. This was a huge victory for me. It's been a long time since I've exerted that much control when confronted unexpectedly with something like that.

    In the past, after looking at those emails, I would usually delete them, but I wanted to make sure there weren't any others lurking in my email. So a couple of times later in the day, I went searching in my email history to find any others that I might have missed. I think I only found one, which I immediately deleted. But the most interesting thing here is that I felt the "thrill of the hunt" feelings as I was searching, like an excited expectation that feels oh-so-good when it resolves. And when I did find that one extra email, I felt that familiar "bingo" feeling (probably a rush of dopamine) just from seeing the word "Adult" in the subject line. Nevertheless, I followed through on permanently deleting it without opening it.

    I guess I'm just speculating out loud about the nature of all this. I'm pretty sure I had pure intentions, but maybe there was some small part of me/the addiction that hoped I would find something, to provide another opportunity to break. That dopamine rush was probably the addiction pathway getting a "hit," which of course is at least mildly counter-productive to recovery. Maybe I shouldn't have gone searching for those extra emails - after all, they were buried deep in my inbox (I have thousands of emails, it's a cluttered mess), so I probably wouldn't have encountered them anyway. I reasoned at the time that I was in a strong position to purge them, so I didn't want them there to go searching for in a moment of weakness. I don't know; if anyone has any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.
     
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  12. Bilbo Baggins

    Bilbo Baggins Well-Known Member

    That all sounds good to me, man. What matters, especially in the beginning of a reboot, is not to be perfect and never have any unhealthy thoughts or micro-behaviors. I think staying away from porn, masturbation, fantasy and peeking is good enough, and most likely, with time, moments like you described will happen less and less. In a few months, I’m sure things like that won’t happen anymore, and it will be natural for you to not engage in any risky behaviors.

    You’re doing very good, man.
     
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  13. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I had a pretty good weekend. There was a moment early one morning in which I woke up and felt those urges to fantasize start creeping in. However, I was able to beat them back, hold them at bay, and fall back asleep. The whole process felt easier than the last time I went through this a couple weeks ago. I think that's partly because I felt a little more confident when they started encroaching - I'd handled it before, and I can handle it again. I'm certain there will be more difficult moments in the future, but for now, I'll enjoy the victory. After all, we can't even make it to the boss fights unless we defeat the smaller foes along the way. For far too long, I've rarely managed to make it past those smaller hurdles, so this is clearly progress.
     
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  14. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I meant to post earlier, but the day really got away from me. Anyway, just a quick check-in to say that everything is still going well. I've officially hit 4 weeks!
     
  15. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    One of the worst effects of this addiction is the way it has warped my relationship toward sex. Not only has it robbed me of one of life's greatest pleasures, but it has been a significant obstacle in my recovery.

    As I've mentioned before, I've suffered from a severe case of PIED for the entirety of my sexually active life. At least in high school, it only impacted me during traditional (vaginal) sex, but early in college, it progressed to all areas, including oral and hand stuff. For about 10 years, I had no idea why this was happening; it was only when I stumbled on a NoFap forum that I finally started to understand why. That was about 8-10 years ago, and since I still haven't recovered from this addiction, I still haven't fully recovered from the PIED. There have been a few periods where I abstained from PMO well enough for it to partially subside, but for the vast majority of my life, it has felt like a heavy weight around my neck.

    It has also been a major source of my inferiority complex - after all, our culture often equates sexual prowess with manliness. Hell, the word impotence literally has two definitions: an inability to maintain an erection, and an inability to take effective action in ANY area of your life. Similarly, Google has a single definition for virility (borrowed from Oxford Languages): "(in a man) the quality of having strength, energy, and a strong sex drive; manliness." Over and over again, society tells us that if you have ED or sexual dysfunction, you are a failure. Nevermind the fact that society gave birth to this problem, by pushing sex in all our media and providing a never-ending supply of free porn, in whatever genre you can imagine up (rule 34, anyone?). Maybe it was impossible to predict the way high speed internet would weaponize porn against our reward systems, allowing us to consume it in previously unimaginable quantities and turning it from a vice among individuals into a full-blown public health crisis. But we're here now, and it's high time we recognize it publicly and start teaching young men that their sexual dysfunctions might not be their fault, might not be a sign that they are not manly enough or that they are less-than.

    Anyway, hopping back down off my soapbox, a lifetime of sexual "failures" has resulted in me having a very complicated relationship toward sex. Quite frankly, most of the time I hate it. I don't want to hate sex; I want to enjoy it, and have a healthy relationship toward it so that I can foster intimacy with my wife, but that doesn't change the fact that I currently abhor sex (and have for a long time). It feels like a chore. For much of my life (though not anymore), I relied on pornographic fantasies to get me through partnered sexual relations. It required substantial mental effort and took me out of the moment, meaning I couldn't share that intimacy with my partner. The worst part was that it wasn't guaranteed to work - on far too many occasions, I'd still lose my erection. There are few incidents more humiliating for me than losing an erection during sex.

    I know that's largely related to the cultural and societal pressures I mentioned previously, and I've tried to adjust my thinking on this. In fact, I had a session with my therapist a couple months ago where we dug into those insecurities, and he pointed out the absurdity of those feelings. After all, my PIED is a direct result of my addiction; I didn't know about the threats posed by porn until long after I was addicted; and I've been actively working on correcting the issue, even if it has been a long and difficult struggle. In other words, my sexual dysfunction is not due to a general lack of "manliness," but rather due to a specific issue that we can describe, one that has very specific and concrete biological effects. And much like the opiate addict that fell into that trap unwittingly due to doctor's orders, I had no idea the harm I was doing to myself for much of the addiction. This whole discussion with my therapist reminded me of my favorite scene in Good Will Hunting, where Will's therapist tells him over and over again "it's not your fault." In the beginning, this sounds like a platitude to Will ("yeah sure, Sean, I know") but eventually he breaks down, starting to understand the truth in this statement and all of its implications. (Here's the scene, with the exchange starting at 1:55: )

    Unfortunately, there is often a separation between what we know to be true (the rational, thinking part of our brain) and how something feels (the emotional part). It will still take a ton of work for me to deconstruct this core belief, because I still feel terror about PIED and shame/humiliation when it occurs. This brings me to the specific ways it has impeded my recovery; I think I'll pause for now and pick this up tomorrow, because this post is already pretty long (that's how you know it's a major issue for me).
     
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  16. Bilbo Baggins

    Bilbo Baggins Well-Known Member

    Very interesting post. I completely relate to all you wrote, you found the good words to express what it is to have PIED and to be addicted to porn. Good stuff.
     
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  17. dark red drifter vessel

    dark red drifter vessel Active Member

    You know, as much as I wanna raise my hand and go "same team!", as much as I sometimes feel that I would without hesitation give away all of my sexual feelings, ever, if it meant I was rid of it all, throw the kid out with the bathtub, then sell the house, I feel we might find peace in the idea that we have no fucking clue what sex is. Yet.

    You said it yourself: You feel your current perception of sex to be warped. (I feel the same.) And then we spent a long time watching porn, which we all can understand in the abstract to be specifically *not* sex, but it still overwrites our perspective, no matter how much we can tell ourselves where aware of the illusion. So, in watching *not* sex as sex, knowing it is wrong, we not only get super weird ideas (and some body image issues, thank you very much) but also alienate us from sex as something that we feel about naturally. And we know it, too. We know in our bones we are getting played, yet, like in some abusive relationships, our own complicity makes it all worse. I feel my own ability to trust my perception of sex is severely compromised. And the only remedy to that is embracing the idea that I cannot know sex, as it would be for me, personally, because that has been overwritten, that I feel frustrated and alienated because it is in fact alien to me, something to be lost now, and rediscovered later, when the age of illusions that is watching porn is over.

    We're viewing so much of our lives through a lens we think of as sex, but that is in fact *not* sex, but addiction.

    Think of a man whose feet have been swollen for such a long time he doesn't remember the before-time, saying: I kind of hate running. That's us, I'm afraid.

    I feel free with the idea that I don't know sex, that I can let all these ideas let fall to the side, rot and decompose, become one with the woods dark and rich soil. There is power in negative knowledge, in being okay not knowing stuff. And I think its hard loathing something we do not actually know.

    Sorry, I ranted away, failing at brevity like George Martin. I'll be in my room thinking about my mistakes. :3
     
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  18. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Very very well said, vessel. There's value in purging my prior notions of sex, in acknowledging that the puppet show I've been watching on my screen for decades is a grotesque imitation that has been deeply imprinted in my mind. I could tell you that I already knew this, and while that may be true on the surface, I don't think the message has fully sunken in. I think I mostly recognize porn as not-sex, but maybe I don't fully recognize sex as not-porn. Hell, I effectively treated sex as porn (albeit a PMO session I didn't want) in most of my relationships. By retreating inwardly to watch the porn reel in my mind, I consequently missed out on intimacy and love and connection, turning my partners into fleshlights and sex into solo masturbation sessions. The trouble was that it was the only way I could stave off PIED and reach orgasm with any modest modicum of success.

    I have succeeded in purging those behaviors with my wife, but at the cost of a dramatically reduced sex life (not that I was particularly sexually active in prior relationships - again, I was always a reluctant participant). In our first couple years of marriage, we've had sex maybe 8 times per year, plus or minus a couple. She has said she doesn't mind, and I believe her (she doesn't have a raging libido anyway). However, we both want to start trying for kids soon, so we can't stay on this sexually-barren path indefinitely.

    That brings me to my follow-up topic to yesterday's post: the ways my warped attitude toward sex have impeded my recovery. It's pretty straightforward, really. Immediately after a relapse, I'm obviously in no position for sex. The trouble is in determining how long this window lasts, and in sussing out the difference between libido and addiction cravings. It can go one of two ways.

    Either I rush back in before I'm ready, leading to ED and the ensuing spiral of humiliation, shame, and self-loathing (no matter how much of a brave face and bright demeanor I pantomime). All of this is a tremendously powerful trigger that invariably leads to relapse. When I was younger, I can't tell you how many times I ran to the safety of my room to binge porn and pound off after a sexually humiliating experience.

    The other option is that I hold out for too long, which usually leads to the following sequence. I start to feel something kick in, but I have no idea whether it's real libido or the addiction rattling his cage, demanding to be let out. Most of the time I truly do not know, but I think occasionally the addiction clouds my judgment and leads me to self-delusion. (In this moment, he knows he's got me on the ropes, and if he plays his cards right he can get his fix.) Either way, this is followed up by anxiety related to the following questions: what if I initiate sex with my wife but it's just addiction cravings, and I lose my erection? What if it's real libido but I still lose my erection? Either way, the results will be devastating (see the previous paragraph). Surely the better option is to hold out for a more certain "victory," I conclude. And as I hold out, the strengthening desires/cravings start to tug me toward increasingly risky middle-circle behaviors, until I finally relapse.

    My wife and I have spent a lot of time trying to deprogram that response, to dissociate an ED episode from those feelings of humiliation. But even as I'm typing this paragraph, I struggled to find the right words for it. LOSING an erection? Going SOFT? Erectile DYSFUNCTION? I can't even describe it without using inherently negative words that connote failure. This negativity is so baked into our culture, and more importantly into my core beliefs as a human, that no amount of assurances from my wife will unravel that automatic and powerful reaction to an "episode." My therapist and I have spent some time on this issue, but I'm realizing it's been insufficient; after all, this has been a pretty common route to relapse for me, and modifying core beliefs, while a monumental task, falls well within his purview.

    Ultimately, it ties back to vessel's comments about our sexual obliviousness. (How about that, bringing the post full-circle?) While the idea of equating ED with failure is pervasive throughout our culture, it is particularly prominent in porn. Most of the time it's actually the reverse message, that sexual prowess and rock-hard (Viagra-fueled, off-screen-fluffed) erections are normal, but the effect is the same: any deviations from this norm reveal a lack of manliness. But as vessel pointed out, that's all bullshit. Nearly everything I think I know about sex is wrong.

    The trick, though, is grokking it. I can repeat that mantra until I'm blue in the face, but it won't help me until I feel it in my bones (lol, no pun intended), until I can nonchalantly shrug off an ED episode without the negative feelings. And I don't mean pretending like it's no big deal and putting on a brave face; I mean truly, deeply, thoroughly not caring. Even the platitude that "it happens to everyone" is misguided, because it implicitly carries the message that ED is bad but we shouldn't feel bad. So how do we completely dissociate ED from feelings of failure and humiliation? Therein lies the rub.
     
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  19. Bilbo Baggins

    Bilbo Baggins Well-Known Member

    I thought I’d stop by to share a thing or two. I like your journal, obviously you are a very intelligent guy, you describe very well what you’re going through (and what many of us go through too). I also like the fact that you not only try to regain a normal libido, but that you see this journey as an occasion to change your perspective on sex. It’s a very interesting subject, and it’s nice that you have come to realize that you have to change your views on it. One thing, though: be careful not to overthink this. A man doesn’t need to have a PhD to go through a reboot and regain normal sexual function. After all, our thoughts won’t have a huge impact on the changes that will happen in our brain as we reboot. You’ve been on this journey for 25 days, it’s a very good start. But things will probably start changing for you in the next months. Many of the things that are on your mind at the moment won’t preoccupy you as much in 3 or 6 months. When you start making progress, you’re not going to worry about those things anymore, or much less. It will be a natural process: as you gradually heal, some of your current fears and negative feelings will fade away. Put simply, we don’t have to think a lot about our dick, erections, level of arousal, etc. We don’t need to analyze those things. They are purely physiological, so we just have to let things happen when they happen on that regard. I think it’s best to reflect on psychological things like performance anxiety and relationship patterns, because those are the things we can have a grip on. You can’t tell your brain to heal faster or to give you rock hard erections: it will happen when you’re physiologically ready. But you can try to change your views and behaviors regarding sex, because that’s a psychological process. That’s what we should think of as we reboot.

    One last point: it’s normal to feel some pressure about sex when you don’t have sex often. The more you do it, the more you get used to it, and the less you’ll be affected when things don’t go well. Don’t get me wrong, I hate it when I lose my erection. But you get used to it. And the idea is not to actually get used to it, I mean, the goal is to stop losing your erection. But when you’ve gone through that a few times without feeling like shit, you start being more in peace with it, you dedramatize it. With time, you get to a point where you have sex without putting so much pressure on yourself, even if you don’t know if you’ll be able to perform or not.

    Hope this makes sense to you. You’re really doing good, man.
     
  20. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Thanks for the insightful reply, Bilbo. I definitely hear what you're saying. I do have a tendency to overthink things, but no amount of thinking will give me the power to control things like libido and erection quality. I especially liked the point you made that with time, I'll get more accustomed to sex and will stop catastrophizing every little speed bump. I think I've been getting tripped up because I've been operating under this misguided idea that I've already been far down the recovery path without seeing a return to normalcy.

    I need to remember that this isn't actually true: my best streak was between 5-6 months, which under the best of circumstances might still not be enough time to reach equilibrium. Unfortunately, none of my streaks have been under the best of circumstances. They've always contained some slip-ups, including some really borderline behaviors like intense fantasizing for hours at a time or internet browsing with explicit intent to "accidentally stumble" across sexy pictures (and sometimes even porn). In too many instances, I have found porn, looked at it for a few minutes, and then come to my senses. I've become really good at lying to myself and deciding those instances with porn are not a relapse. The non-porn instances usually lead to relapse, but my longest streaks represent instances where I pulled up out of the nosedive. The point here is twofold.

    Firstly, I have obviously been too lax at times in my definition of relapse, and I have definitely not recognized the seriousness of some of those non-porn high-risk behaviors. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: one of the most helpful results of posting on here is that it has led me to recalibrate the severity of those behaviors. By shifting some of my most common relapse-inducing behaviors further along the spectrum toward risky, I've created space on that spectrum for smaller risky behaviors like ogling girls in yoga pants (in real life) or Google image searching some attractive actress that showed up on my radar incidentally (a friend mentioned them, I saw a news article about them, etc.). Up until recently, I didn't even notice those little things, much less consider them at all risky or problematic.

    Secondly (and this is the more salient point for this conversation), I don't really know what a solid recovery looks like; some people take longer than 6 months, and the handful of times I've reached 3-6 months has included far too many multi-day stretches of major risky behaviors. I'm trying to cage up the addiction and starve him to death, but throughout all of those streaks, I would occasionally throw him scraps. I'm not talking about briefly checking a girl out, or doing a double-take at a sexy ad.; some of those things are reflexive and very difficult to control. However, there's a huge difference between that and obsessively seeking to "stumble upon" some risque or downright pornographic content. I don't know what my recovery will look like after a really successful 6 month streak; truly starving him out will obviously produce a much different outcome than what I've achieved so far, feeding him occasionally and keeping him alive and well.

    I suppose the conclusion here is to keep calm and carry on. I need to be patient, and be better about eliminating high-risk behaviors, and things will return to normal eventually. I need to be okay with the uncertainty of how long that will take, and in the meantime keep doing the things that have gotten me this far: 31 days truly clean with virtually no higher-risk behaviors (save a social media rabbit-hole early on before I recalibrated). The rest, as they say, will follow.
     
    Bilbo Baggins likes this.

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