Deshi basara: my journey out of the pit

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

  1. Bilbo Swaggins

    Bilbo Swaggins Well-Known Member

    Well said. I’d just like to add that apart from dealing with the addiction, you’re also in the process of making changes to your brain. In other words, in 6 months you might be free of your addiction but not healed from ED, or the other way around. They are two facets of the same problem, and even though they are intertwined, I believe they are separate. Many guys are addicted to porn and don’t have ED. On the other hand, some guys (like me) have been away from porn and masturbation for a while but still have some ED. We’re doing two things here: getting rid of an addiction, and healing our brains.

    Keep it up.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2021
  2. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Thanks, Bilbo. Definitely worth keeping in mind.

    I've had a few moments recently that tested my resolve, and I handled them both with relative ease. The first (more difficult) moment was late last week. It was essentially a carbon copy of the situation about a week ago involving the game store promo email. I received another email, this time from a different online game store, with the title "Grown-ups only" and a heart emoji. This one caused a little more hesitation - after all, it didn't say anything explicitly about adult or XXX content. My "curiosity" tugged at me, urging me to open it and take a peek, just to verify whether or not it was sexual. There was even a brief bargaining, where I told myself that of course I would delete it and unsubscribe from the email company, but I needed to check it first to justify those actions.

    All this happened within the span of a couple seconds. I quickly came to my senses, recognized the urges for what they were, and took care of it, deleting the unopened email and unsubscribing from the mailing list. The truth is, it didn't matter what was in the email. If it advertised any other non-sexual genre of game, I wouldn't have given it a second thought and deleted it immediately as spam, so there was absolutely no reason for me to "check" this one. Hell, I don't need justification to unsubscribe from mailing lists; the only reason I hadn't already was sheer laziness.

    It was an addiction urge, plain and simple, one I've succumbed to countless times in the past. "All it takes is one click, it's no big deal." Then suddenly, I'm staring hungrily and hesitating just a little longer, just a few more seconds; wait, don't delete it yet, just a couple more seconds. And then the seed is planted. I've received that dopamine spike, and for the next few hours or days, I'm feeling urges to escalate just a little further. And that sucks. I fucking hate those days; I'm unproductive, full of anguish, and irritable. Often, I lie awake that night struggling with urges to fantasize, so then I'm underslept. Not to mention it sets back my recovery. I don't need any of that bullshit.

    The other incident occurred this morning, and I handled it with ease. I came across the name of an actress, and I wanted to look her up on my phone. It was legitimately important for context to know who she was, and there was honestly no intent to find sexy pics of her and dive down that rabbit-hole (click to "see more like this"). In fact, one way I know my intent was pure was the way I searched for her: I didn't go through the multi-step process of opening my browser (always in incognito - hello, red flag!) and going to Google images, where you get a bunch of results and it's easy to start scrolling. Instead, I quickly searched her name through the search bar on my phone, which only pulled up a couple of images. Of course, one of them showed some cleavage, and for the briefest moment, I felt the urge to click that pic. I easily swatted it away and went about my day.

    It's worth pointing out that If I had succumbed to opening the email last week, it may have been harder to resist the urge this morning, since these things often snowball. Of course, the glass half-full take is that the opposite is true as well: each time I resist an urge I build more momentum, and it becomes that much easier to resist the next one. Most of my attempts at recovery have been defined by the snowballing of urges and risky behaviors; it feels really good to finally experience the snowballing of successes instead.
     
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  3. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I had another big moment yesterday: Facebook suggested a couple of "new friends" to me, and I could tell from the thumbnails they were scammy accounts with profile pics of scantily-clad women. The old me would have definitely opened those profiles and gone through their photos; but the new me had no trouble deleting them and turning off friend suggestions in my Facebook settings. There wasn't even any hesitation this time; I definitely felt a tiny "bump" of excitement/dopamine, but then quickly shut that down and handled my business.

    I continue to notice that each success makes it easier and easier to handle the next challenge.
     
  4. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Wow, today really got away from me. Not much to report, other than to say that things continue to go smoothly.
     
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  5. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Recently I've noticed that each time I post about things going well, I feel this need to hedge - to acknowledge that I know the ride won't always be this smooth. This is certainly not new for me; I've been doing this with my therapist for years. It goes without saying that in the past, I've always been right eventually, which may be the reason why I feel this certainty now. Of course, there's a fine line between pragmatism and fatalism: pragmatism helps us be on guard for the unguarded moment, while fatalism allows the addiction to make small advances here and there, until it suddenly has us surrounded. It provides an excuse for the eventual "inevitable" relapse. I've tried to keep these realities in mind when acknowledging the possibility of future turbulence, but I also know that when things have gotten rocky in the past, that pragmatism has sometimes surreptitiously morphed into fatalism, setting the trap before I've even become aware of the change.

    One point to consider is that things are different now. While I've had small (and occasionally moderate) successes in the past at managing various cravings, I don't think I've ever gotten 37 days into a reboot while successfully shutting down ALL cravings, essentially eradicating all intentional high-risk behaviors, and maintaining an acute awareness of the tiniest impulses, those urges that have often driven low-risk behaviors which in turn escalated to higher-risk ones. The major difference between then and now is journaling on here consistently. Maybe the result of all this can be summed up as the inverse of the oft-quoted definition of insanity: I'm no longer doing the same thing over and over again, so maybe it's okay to expect different results.

    Even as I'm typing this, there's a voice in my head shouting "famous last words!" So with that in mind, I'm thinking the key here is to adopt a recalibrated pragmatism. I can be on guard for the unguarded moment while not verging so closely to fatalism that it can covertly morph into it; acknowledging that I may experience more difficult moments doesn't have to be the same as acknowledging that I will experience absolutely brutal cravings that are nigh on impossible to resist. And even if I do experience extremely difficult periods in the future, my newfound self-awareness and mindfulness will help me to diagnose that impending turbulence early, so I can reach out to my support network before I reach the point where the addiction has the power to stop me. If I'm able to do that, then I won't have to rely on willpower alone to navigate those choppy waters.
     
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  6. Bilbo Swaggins

    Bilbo Swaggins Well-Known Member

    Who knows, maybe at some point staying away from porn and substitutes will become easy and natural. That’s how it is for me. I wish I could say the same with my other addictions... But since getting rid of my porn addiction and fixing my PIED is my top priority, I’m glad that the situation is under control regarding urges.
    Everyone is different, but it’s reasonable to expect the urges to lessen with time. You’ll get there, man.
     
  7. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Thanks, Bilbo. I can't wait to reach that point where it's easy and natural. I feel like I'm on the right path now; just have to stick with it.
     
  8. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    An amazing thing happened this past weekend. I was watching a movie with my wife, and there was a scene potentially building toward nudity. In the past, this always gave me a sense of anticipation or excitement. But this time, for the first time in my life, I felt a strong desire to not see anything. I prepared myself to close my eyes and look away, and I felt a palpable sense of relief when the scene concluded with no nudity. I didn't want the temptation to look, and I didn't want the potential deluge of cravings that might have followed. I've been trying to reboot off and on for nearly a decade, and I'm pretty sure this is a first for me.

    I've also had some erotic dreams recently, which have included content from the most extreme porn genres I'd progressed to in my addiction. I've experienced this in plenty of reboots, and it always feels like another attempt by the addiction to pull me back into the pit. (In case it wasn't clear, I've found it really helpful to anthropomorphize the addiction; it gives me a better sense of what I'm fighting, and allows me to ease off on the harshest self-judgments; I try to use this approach in moderation, to not give myself a free pass or abdicate too much ownership over my actions.) Anyway, in cases like this where a reboot is going particularly well, it always feels like the addiction is making a desperate attempt at self-preservation. The other tricks hadn't worked, but here's a play he can run that I'm defenseless against; after all, I have no control over my dreams.

    In the past, I've often felt a sense of wariness or resignation, knowing that I would have to weather an intense storm for the next few days as my mind "involuntarily" replayed those dreams. It always felt unfair, like a cheat code the addiction used to circumvent all the defenses I'd built. However, this time feels different. I've felt like I can just let those things roll off my back, like I have the mindfulness and willpower to take everything in stride and continue that climb. I feel especially empowered to prevent those replays - I've wrested back control; the big screen in my mind is no longer freely available for the addiction to seize, to occupy, to blast its smut and render me useless, distracted, and suffering a private yet intense agony.

    Anyway, nudity in movies and erotic dreams - neither of these triggers are new, but what IS new is the way I've found myself reacting to them. It feels great, and it adds to my hope that I'm on the right path.
     
  9. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Almost forgot to post today. Just checking in real quick to say everything is still going well for me!
     
  10. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I'm starting to notice some changes in the way I process triggers. I've tried to be careful about which posts I read on here, because that has gotten me into trouble in the past. I'd go on one of the porn addiction forums, and my cravings would get jumpstarted by reading posts with mildly graphic details (people describing their porn tastes, or things they're ashamed of doing). Sometimes this was an accident, but on plenty of occasions it was just an excuse to throw some crumbs to the addiction.

    I'm still trying to be careful about which posts I read, and if I encounter some graphic descriptions, I nope outta there pretty quickly. But this morning I came across a pretty graphic post, and I didn't really feel anything. No jolt of excitement, no lingering impulse to go back and read more, no urge to construct a fantasy in my mind based on those descriptions.

    We obviously have limited moment-to-moment control over our urges; what we can control is the way we react to them, which in turn prevent the urges from growing stronger or morphing into cravings for riskier behaviors. Over the past 43 days, I've dedicated a lot of time and effort toward recognizing urges and controlling my reactions and behaviors when they occur. It's nice to see those efforts paying dividends, to actually notice the involuntary urges starting to lose their potency. I suspect I'm not out of the woods yet - there will probably be times in the near future where similar triggers might once again produce stronger urges, but what matters are the long-term trends, not the smaller local maxima in that downward-trending curve.
     
  11. dark red drifter vessel

    dark red drifter vessel Active Member

    We are to be woodsmen, for life. To study trees and beast, listen to the songs of the rustling leaves and the screams of strange birds in the night.

    All that we struggle for now will become natural to us, no?

    Sorry, in a tangential mood of bla. :3
     
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  12. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I actually really like that metaphor. It's a useful reframing: we're never "out of the woods," we just learn first to survive, then to exist, and finally to thrive in that environment. After all, those external triggers that have always driven me to use will never go away. The key, then, is to change my internal perception and reception of them. With practice they will lose their power, their ability to drag me back into the depths, until I eventually perceive them just as work stress, or a risqué ad, or being home alone, without them triggering that automatic association with porn.

    Addiction is often described as a lifelong disease, which would make recovery similar to remission; even years or decades down the line, it can ensnare you once again if you're not careful. That thought has always left me with a feeling of exhaustion, injustice, and maybe even a little righteous indignation. Of course, indignation toward what or whom? That particular emotion has a bit of an "old man yells at clouds" vibe to it, but I often feel it nevertheless. I wonder if others feel that, and if it ever goes away. Vessel, it sounds like you've found a way to come to terms with it (at least to some extent). Maybe it's a vision quest I have to pursue on my own, but if anyone wanted to point me in the right direction, I would love whatever tips or advice you might have.
     
  13. Doper

    Doper Well-Known Member

    I'd say you answered your own questions with: "we just learn first to survive, then to exist, and finally to thrive in that environment."

    I think if one lives congruently one's values, and puts themselves in an environment that stimulates growth, not stagnation, then everything just clicks and then it's just a matter of allowing time to do its work of rearranging one's neural pathways and things get infinitely easier...on to a new life.
     
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  14. Pete McVries

    Pete McVries Well-Known Member

    A pragmatic advice is to only focus at the task at hand and not get distracted by the big picture. As a porn addict, the thought of leaving porn behind for ever and ever of course causes discomfort. Same goes for the outlook of fighting urges for the rest of your life. No wonder, that you feel exhaustion considering this.

    Perhaps, you can lessen your Weltschmerz if you tell yourself that you can still watch all the porn in the world if you ever felt like it, just not today! And as Doper wrote, you will pick up knowledge along the way that will make abstaining and living healthily way easier. I think, it can be very helpful to look at your relapses, the way they happened and what caused them. When your pants are around your ankles, or when you have peaked porn pictures for 10 minutes already, probably that horse is out of the barn. The goal should be to prevent such situations in the first place. The earlier, your warning system detects an arising relapse, the easier it will be for you to disarm the situation and it will take much less effort on your side (=less exhaustion).

    What may also lead to relapses is stepping out of your comfort zone. And getting the addiction under control is a constant stepping out of the comfort zone, in my opinion. Because you constantly will have to face challenges that will present themselves to you, once you decide to leave resorting to porn. Some things will come to you more naturally and other things will cause a lot of anxiety making relapsing attractive at the moment. Even if it defies every logic of someone who wants to leave the shackles of the addiction - in the situation it will make total sense. This is where self-sabotaging works its magic.

    The more you are aware of your anxieties and problematic situations, the better you can structure your recovery and in consequence be more successful (or a successful at all). Let me give you an example: My biggest fear was the prospect of having sex again because I was so inexperienced for someone being 30yo due to having PIED basically all my adult life. I knew that in weak moments, thoughts of looking like a fool and a loser when thinking of having sex would propel me towards a relapse. Therefore, I decided to only think about rewiring once being 90 days clean. In the end, it worked really well and it made recovery much easier (or possible at all).

    In short, try to focus on the tasks at hand in order to not get caught up in problems that will or might arise at some point in your recovery leaving you with a feeling of exhaustion, overextension and forlornness.
     
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  15. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Thanks for the helpful advice, fellows. After giving it some further thought, I'm realizing that it may not be helpful to devote time and energy to thinking about the fact that this is a lifelong endeavor. If someone that's overweight and out of shape commits to running a marathon, the prospect would probably feel exhausting and impossible in the beginning. But by waking up every day and putting in the work, they get there eventually, and it doesn't feel so impossible once they're months into training and regularly running 10-20 mile stretches. The most helpful thing for me would be to just focus on the next few steps directly in front of me, and not the full extent of the lifelong path.
     
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  16. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I had another one of those dreams last night where I looked at porn. It started with a popup ad that caught me by surprise, and then spiraled into me actively going to different sites. I kept realizing what I was doing and closing out the browser, then opening it back up for one last look, until I inadvertently crossed the finish line hands-free. I felt panic in the dream, and a profound sense of shame, guilt, and disappointment at the huge backward step I'd taken, especially after the success I've had over the past 48 days (over halfway to 90!). In addition to a wave of relief upon waking, I also felt a renewed commitment. I guess it served as a reminder of what I stand to gain, and how easily I can derail myself if I don't remain vigilant. These points were probably driven home by the accuracy of the dream - I've lived out that exact scenario more times than I care to admit.

    It also provided another moment to reflect on the differences between this reboot and others; compared to all other streaks, I've wrestled with far fewer intense cravings and and as a result experienced much less mental anguish. I've always believed that the key to a smoother recovery was blocking out the fantasies and avoiding those smaller risky behaviors; even with that expectation, I'm still amazed by the results now that I'm actually succeeding in those goals. Each successive minor craving has been easier to handle, and their frequency and intensity have been greatly diminished. I always figured that even if that was all true, that I would still experience multi-day periods of intense cravings weeks or months into recovery. Of course I'm not saying that sort of thing will never happen, but so far so good, and I feel really empowered to handle it if it did come along.

    This fucking addiction has ruled over me for 2/3 of my life; I'm starting to believe that I've finally taken the reins, and it's now me that's ruling over it. What an incredible and exhilarating feeling.
     
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  17. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    I didn't get around to posting yesterday, but only because I was too busy. Tuesdays are usually rough for me - lots of meetings. Anyway, I did have a moment yesterday afternoon where some random little detail in my environment (totally non-sexual) triggered a memory of some specific porn I'd seen in recent months. It was an extremely vivid mental image, and my addiction took advantage of this by trying to insert other images of even more graphic content. In fact, even as I'm sitting here writing about it, a few images have popped into my head. This has always been a relatively common occurrence during reboots, but (in keeping with the theme of this reboot) it feels different this time. Rather than feeling like I've been ensnared by a giant net, it feels more like a buzzing gnat that I can easily swat away. I used to feel powerless to stop it; now I just notice it, scoff at it, and boot it to the curb.

    This has given me a chance to reflect on my longest streaks in the past. My longest was six months, but I've also had several that were around 3-4 months; the question is what went wrong? I believe the answer is twofold: firstly, none of those streaks were particularly clean. At best, I still gave in to intense fantasy every few weeks, and at worst, I would sometimes browse for sexy pics and end up finding porn, looking for a few seconds or minutes before closing out the browser and getting myself under control. It is clear to me now (and probably was then) that those latter cases did actually constitute relapse, but I hesitated in calling them that, because I didn't want to face the ramifications: telling my wife and my therapist, but also dealing with the inevitable follow-up feeling of "well if I already have to face the fallout from a relapse, I might as well get my money's worth." But even in those former cases that only involved fantasy, I was still throwing crumbs and scraps to the addiction, keeping it alive and well, powerful enough to find an opportune moment and break free. I've already identified this as an issue historically, but it still bears repeating.

    The second thing that went wrong, which I have not reflected on much until today, is probably of more consequence and relevance to my current situation. I remember those eventual relapses all started with fantasizing, and those fantasies started with a justification from the addiction. It partly consisted of "you deserve this; what's the harm?" But more importantly, it involved testing out my porn-warped fetishes, to see if fantasizing about them could still get me hard. The force of those urges were not particularly strong, but I found the "test it out" argument persuasive and gave in anyway. I distinctly remember that in multiple different streaks, those fantasies didn't get me hard, at least not at first, but I kept trying for 10 or 20 or 30 minutes, until it eventually worked. I was actively resurrecting those addiction pathways, willfully strapping the shackles back on.

    My current streak is the cleanest 50 days I've ever put together, so the addiction is hopefully as weak and powerless as it's ever been, but that won't stop it from trying to use cunning to derail me. I now have clarity that those urges to test out my fantasies are a trap. They are far from harmless, and are in fact a clever attempt to plunge me right back into the depths of this pit. Hopefully by recognizing and shining a spotlight on it, I can effectively shut it down in the future.
     
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  18. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    Just a quick update today to say that I'm still doing well. No major signs of libido over the past 51 days, but I may have had a couple of rumblings. I'm looking forward to the day when my sex drive and erection quality reach a "normal" level for me, but in the meantime, I just have to trust the process.
     
  19. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    It's funny that my last post, four days ago, was about my lack of libido, because my wife and I had sex this weekend for the first time in several months. Furthermore, this one was all me.

    She has always been mindful of my addiction-related libido issues, and so for the most part she has left it up to me to initiate sex. On rare occasions she would initiate, with often disastrous consequences (at least in my mind). A combination of PIED and self-applied pressure/performance anxiety would usually lead to less-than-stellar results. This was nearly always followed by a downward spiral that ended in relapse. To avoid this pattern, she would usually leave it up to me to initiate. The problem was, I rarely did. I think this was a combination of two things: 1) I feared the exact outcome I just described, and 2) throughout my other reboots I would periodically throw crumbs and scraps to the addiction, engaging in high-risk behaviors like intense fantasizing and not-quite-porn internet browsing; as a result, I probably was keeping the addiction and PIED alive, increasing the likelihood of "failure" in the bedroom and a consequent spiral.

    That brings me to this weekend. During one of the evenings we took a shower together, though it was not explicitly with sexual intent. I was definitely starting to feel turned on, and at one point took her into a full-body embrace. While standing there I got about 3/4 hard, and she definitely took notice and grinned at me. I didn't put any pressure on myself though, and we went to bed without taking it any further. The next morning we were cuddling in bed, and I started kissing on her neck. I could feel myself getting worked up, and so I took charge. I was a little worried about losing it, but those fears ended up being unfounded. I only wished that it had lasted for a bit longer, but that's totally understandable considering it had been more than 50 days since my last O.

    I reminded her (and myself) that this will likely come and go, and I want to be mindful that I don't push myself and risk a spiral, but all-in-all it represents a huge step forward and another positive sign that I'm on the right track.
     
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  20. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Member

    While my streak continues, I think it's important to take inventory and acknowledge that over the past week or so I've experienced both an uptick in urges, and capitulation to them (which is the more concerning development), for lower-risk behaviors. Things like taking a closer look, for just a few seconds, at an ad for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, or doing a double-take at joggers in yoga pants. This definitely preceded the sex I had with my wife that was the subject of my last post, but it has also not abated in the interim.

    I will say that these sorts of behaviors didn't even register on my radar two months ago, and it was precisely their proliferation that probably snowballed into riskier behaviors, mental anguish, and eventual relapse. I also acknowledge that plenty of non-addicted guys do these things all the time, and so it might not warrant sounding the alarm some time far in the future, once I've fully recovered and entered a maintenance phase. But for now, while I've still got plenty of recovery ahead of me, I need to regain self-control over these behaviors; after all, these past 57 days have probably been so smooth because I've kept these smaller behaviors in check. And one of the primary benefits of posting on here is being able to admit these slips, no matter how small, to others; this forces a more thoughtful analysis and encourages an accountability to do better. So anyway, my goal over the next week is to be able to report on here that I've gotten those behaviors back under control. I'm counting on you all to hold me to it.
     

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