Deshi basara: my journey out of the pit

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

  1. chrism

    chrism It's time to make a change.

    It’s interesting that you are noting these small ‘triggers’ and it’s good that you do try to limit these behaviours. I need to do the same.
     
  2. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Thanks. I've gotta tell you, I felt really stupid making such a big deal out of it early on. I still feel an insecurity posting about it, wondering whether other forum members are rolling their eyes. But the difference has been night-and-day; denying the addiction even those tiny footholds has drastically reduced the more intense cravings. After nearly a decade fighting this, I feel like I've finally discovered the secret recipe to success (at least what works for me).
     
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  3. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Yesterday was a definite improvement in the area of low-risk behaviors. At several points, when I felt the urge to leer at passers-by, I caught myself and stopped it. The mere act of calling attention to it yesterday, and especially of vowing on here to do better (as opposed to a silent internal vow that lacks any accountability), really helped me follow through. The thought that invariably shut it down was my promise on here to report back. I'll keep updating until I feel it's back under my control, and that I've minimized the risk of it escalating to more troubling behaviors.
     
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  4. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Just a quick check-in today to say that all is well. I'm continuing to focus on controlling low-risk behaviors, and yesterday was a little easier than the day before. Always a good sign!
     
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  5. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    I've continued to get low-risk behaviors under control. It's funny, just the act of staying mindful of them, and of identifying the urges in the moment and making conscious decisions to not follow through, seem to have had a reinvigorating effect on this whole recovery effort. I suppose doing the work has reminded me that I need to be actually doing the work.

    I also had a realization this morning. I think I've thought about different elements of this over the past two months, but I think all the pieces came together for me this morning. For a long time, I've accepted as given the fact that recovery will be a longer road for me than for many others on these forums, driven primarily by two factors; years ago, I posted a detailed biography on another forum, and I got very detailed in describing some of the more lurid aspects of my addiction and behaviors. I remember one poster telling me that it sounded like I had a particularly bad case of this, and that recovery might take a lot longer for me. On the one hand, it was helpful for me to readjust my expectations, but on the other, I wonder if that made the whole prospect of rebooting feel that much more unattainable. Another factor has been my more recent experiences: as I've mentioned before, I've put together multiple streaks that lasted more than 3 months, including nearly reaching 6 months once, and in those times it still felt like I had not made much progress.

    Of course, a 3-6 month streak in which I'm regularly feeding scraps to the beast is not the same as a three month streak that is nearly flawless. Maybe I am on the path to a quicker recovery than I'd thought. After all, I am experiencing symptoms that I've never experienced before. I've been more confident in other areas of my life, and have felt like I've been standing up for myself more often. I had a wet dream last night (I don't think I ever had one of those in my childhood, which is not surprising considering I first discovered porn at the age of 10). I've been more self-assured recently in the intimacy department with my wife, taking an opportunity when it felt right, but also not pushing it when it didn't, even if she was dropping hints or there were other circumstances that would have led me to try in the past. Of course, this is important because in the past, failures in that area always led to shame and embarrassment, usually followed by relapse. And I haven't just been awkwardly avoiding sex in those particular moments; I've spoken honestly and confidently with my wife about it. Contrast that with previous times where I turned her down and felt really uncomfortable and ashamed doing it.

    I guess the point is, I'm experiencing a number of symptoms of recovery that I've never experienced before, and it gives me a lot of hope for the future.
     
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  6. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    I had my toughest test to date (for this reboot) yesterday. I received a spam email; let's just say that it had specific keywords which got my heart racing. It was a little more specific to the genres that I had escalated to in my addiction, and it was claiming that I had successfully signed up for their website. I felt a huge jolt, both of fear (what if I had signed up a long time ago, when I was drunk or something?), and of excitement - that familiar rush when you know that drug is right around the corner, so readily within grasp.

    To be clear, I was pretty sure I hadn't signed up for anything, but I've also done some stupid things when drunk-browsing, so I couldn't be entirely certain. I wanted to verify that it was just a scam, so I could be confident that a legitimate site didn't have my information or continue to send me reminder emails. Since it was in my spam folder, I knew it wouldn't load any images that might be embedded in the email, so after going into the bathroom for privacy, I opened it up. I felt a wave of relief after a quick Google search revealed that this was indeed part of a phishing scam. I did one stupid thing in all this: after searching on Google and verifying it was a scam, I clicked on the images tab, which was entirely unnecessary. The good news is that the search terms were specific enough (and enclosed in quotes) that they didn't show anything explicit, but the addiction did still seize that opportunity and roll the dice. Anyway, after this search, I promptly closed that tab, deleted the spam, and left the bathroom.

    The rest of the afternoon proved particularly challenging. In fact, this period was perhaps as much of a struggle to stay in control as the initial experience. It took maybe 20-30 minutes for that dopamine rush to wear off and my heart rate to return to normal. Especially toward the beginning, the addiction kept trying to bargain with me: what if you performed another search, just to see if that website really exists? What if you relaxed your search terms? I had to keep reminding myself that the only thing that was remotely necessary was to verify that the spam email I had received was indeed a scam. I had done that, so it didn't matter in the slightest whether that website is real or not. I continued to feel little aftershocks throughout the afternoon, as my mind unconsciously wandered back to the email. The addiction kept trying to hijack my mind's eye, throwing up hardcore imagery on the big screen, but I refused to cede that territory. Periodically for the next several hours, an image would force its way in, and I would immediately begin wrestling to push it back out. Eventually, these intrusions began to subside.

    I'm really proud of the way I handled the whole situation. Outside of the one lapse where I clicked on the images link, I didn't allow the addiction to gain any ground. This had been an overwhelming rush, like I had been hit by a freight train when I didn't even know I was standing on the tracks. My award system had gone into overdrive, doing its best to drown out any logic, reason, or impulse control. This is exactly the kind of incident that would have derailed me at pretty much any other point in my life; but this time I held the line. I certainly couldn't control the rush I'd felt, or the impulses that kept forcing their way into my consciousness throughout the afternoon. But I did control my behavior (again, minus the one lapse). I didn't give in to the urges to fantasize or return to Google searching. I consciously noticed those thoughts for what they were, the addiction trying to seize this moment, and expelled them immediately. The urges to return to Google searching were especially pernicious, because they tried to cloak themselves in the veneer of legitimacy - "you need to know whether this is a real site!" Fuck off with that bullshit; it's entirely immaterial - the email was a phishing scam, I probably won't receive it again, but even if I do, there isn't a porn site out there with my info. It's just a phishing operation with my email, that could just as likely have sent me a scam email about IRS audits or a Caribbean cruise sweepstakes.

    Part of the reason I was able to fight this attack off was this forum right here. I'm holding myself accountable by reporting to you all, and I've made too much progress to have to come on here, or report to my wife or therapist, that I had relapsed, or even just been overtaken with high-risk behaviors. I knew I had the power to fight back because I've been kicking ass at life recently, and because I'd fought back in other moments. It's important to acknowledge that none of those moments have been as intense as this one; this was the biggest boss fight to date in the past 64 days, and I feel like I've leveled up. If it happens again, I can be that much more confident that I have the power to handle it.

    It also helped me realize another way to observe my progress: some day, when potent triggers unexpectedly show up, I won't have such an intense automatic reaction. I won't experience this overwhelming and dizzying dopamine rush. And over time, the reaction I do experience will get smaller and smaller, a sign that those addiction-related neural networks are fading from deeply entrenched pathways to barely perceptible scars, nothing more than a ghostly reminder of the vanquished demons in my past. I cannot fucking wait for those days.
     
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  7. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    One of the best upsides of handling your shit is that it becomes that much easier to handle your shit. After the difficulty from two days ago, yesterday could have gone one of two ways. Historically, the day after an intense struggle against urges has been rough. It starts with the night before: hours of tossing and turning, accompanied by intense urges to fantasize, eventually give way to a restless night of sleep. Exhausted and cranky, the next day tends to feature an onslaught of more urges to fantasize, as well as other urges to engage in some of the most risky pre-relapse behaviors. While I would occasionally limp through without nosediving into relapse, it was always an intensely unpleasant way to spend a day. In addition to feeling like shit, it was always unproductive to boot.

    Contrast that with yesterday: outside of a few stray impotent urges, it was clean as a whistle. That's right, addiction - you're the impotent one now, motherfucker. The key strategy is so simple, and yet I struggled for so long to implement it: just power through the next set of urges and cravings without ceding ground. That's all you have to do - just get through one, whatever it takes. I know it's a little more complicated than that, as one forum member pointed out in recommending an addiction book by the same title, willpower is not enough. So then find out what is enough. What extra steps are necessary to get you through the next one? Whether it's telling a partner, or hopping on here, or leaving your computer and phone at home and going for a 2-hour walk, just figure that out and do it. Hell, tell yourself that you can look at porn tomorrow if you want to then. Think of it like a delayed gratification test. Because once you emerge out the other side of that next one, the one after that will be so much easier. Success begets success.

    I'm partly writing all of this not to lecture anyone else, but to ingrain the philosophy in my own consciousness. My future success depends on remembering exactly how big a difference it makes. Just get through the next one.
     
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  8. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Just a quick update today - all is well. Yesterday was even easier than the day before that, in terms of aftershock urges following the intense cravings on Tuesday. Hopefully today will be more of the same!
     
  9. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Things have remained calm since the one difficult day last week; 70 days and still going strong!
     
  10. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    (The following post may contain some triggers, as it describes a personal sexual experience, though I try not to get too graphic.)

    An interesting thing happened recently. My wife was feeling a surge in libido and, out of nowhere, came up and started kissing me passionately. I myself had not been feeling anything in particular recently, but this definitely kickstarted something in me. We took it into the bedroom and stripped down, climbed into bed, and then...nothing. After a few halfhearted signs of life, my soldier had fallen asleep on the job. I started feeling a muted version of that all-too-familiar panic, but my wife pulled me back out of that space, grounding me back in the present. We continued to fool around, but my soldier remained lifeless. After several minutes of this, we rolled over, with her on top, and continued fooling around. Eventually he did wake up, and we proceeded accordingly. From that point it was a short ride to the finish line.

    Not exactly what I would call an unqualified success. In fact, it's the exact kind of experience that has left me mortified and spiraling in the past. I was definitely pushing myself in the moment, which is something worth unpacking. That drive is usually borne of two motivations, one negative and the other less so. The less negative motivation is that once I get going, even if he's being a bit unresponsive, I do feel a desire to share that with my wife, and to feel those sensations; on its own, it would be an unadulterated desire for those positive aspects of intimacy. The negative motivation can best be summed up as a pressure to perform: to prove myself, both that I'm capable and that I've made progress in the addiction, and to avoid those feelings of abject failure. As far as postgame effects, an experience that (at least in my estimation) falls short, even if my wife and I eventually cross the finish line, can often leave me spiraling. It makes me question my manhood, and whether I'm actually making progress in my recovery.

    I've always found it difficult to honestly assess and disentangle these issues. To what extent was my motivation to push driven by innocent desires for intimacy, versus those other more sinister longings? Furthermore, am I actually handling everything well in the aftermath? Am I truly okay with how things went, or am I struggling with feelings that this somehow proved that I am "less-than?" On the one hand I want to be honest with myself, but on the other, I worry that an honest assessment that skews negative might further drive a spiral. I feel a need to put on a happy face and pretend like I'm totally fine with everything, because I want to practice the approach of "fake it till you make it."

    So with all of that being said, I feel pretty okay with how everything went. It probably helps that I had a previous experience several weeks ago that was entirely positive, and I tried to prepare both my wife and myself for the likely possibility that there will continue to be ups and downs in the future. I've also recently been feeling more generally confident in other areas of my life. That confidence, combined with the knowledge that I've handled this reboot far more effectively and cleanly than any other of my attempts, has left me with a secure knowledge that I'm on the right path. To expand on that, negative bedroom experiences in the past fueled my worry about progress because in those reboots, I had fed the addiction regularly: occasionally giving in to intense fantasy, going down social media rabbit holes, or browsing Google images with an obviously nefarious intent. In those reboots, it was a legitimate question of how much progress I'd really made. Contrast that with this moment, where I don't have any of those lingering uncertainties because I've kept a tight lid on those behaviors.

    While the self-doubt has yet to fully dissipate, I feel pretty confident in saying that in that moment with my wife, my motivations to push through were more pure than not (probably 70/30); I feel even more confident that in the aftermath, I haven't internalized any feelings of failure, that I know that I'm on the right track and that the bout of PIED I experienced is not a referendum on my masculinity, but merely a lingering symptom that will eventually fade. All I have to do is keep calm and carry on.
     
  11. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    I want to get something off my chest today. It's something I've been carrying around for the past 10 weeks, and I feel a lot of shame and embarrassment about it. It's also a potent demonstration of exactly how much power this addiction can exert over me, when I let it.

    On the day of my last relapse, I caved in the morning. The rest of the day was spent browsing, with intermittent and increasingly rare bouts of desperation, trying to get things under control before flipping the "fuck-it" switch back to the on position. I received a call late in the afternoon; my phone told me it was from a local pharmacy. You see, I had placed myself on that pharmacy's do-not-waste COVID-19 vaccine list (my wife had already gotten it since she qualified for phase 1A). But by this point I was deep into a binge, and so I let it go to voicemail. The caller left a voicemail, but I didn't check it until hours later after they had already closed. They were calling because they had a leftover vaccine dose for me, but because of my addiction, I let it slip through my fingers.

    The voicemail also informed me that I needed to call back if I wanted to stay on the do-not-waste list, so I did that the next day. Luckily I only had to wait another couple of weeks to receive another call and get vaccinated, so it all worked out in the end. But my god, I feel so ashamed that I allowed the addiction that much control. Prioritizing using over of my own health -- that is a classic sign of addiction. Anyway, I wanted to get that off my chest, both because it's been weighing on me, but also to establish some more concrete examples of ways this addiction has harmed me. It's good motivation to keep pressing forward, and to fight any future urges with everything I've got.
     
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  12. Bilbo Swaggins

    Bilbo Swaggins Well-Known Member

    It’s a good thing that you wrote about this. Especially on this forum, where nobody knows who you are in real life. I don’t think we should carry too many secrets and embarrassing things on our shoulders, it’s best to travel light. The journey is a little more peaceful this way. That being said, I think it would also be a good thing to learn to laugh about ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously. What you did does not sound like a big deal to me. It’s a little embarrassing, at the most. If I were you, I’d learn to laugh about myself, and I’d try to make peace with other things from the past, especially minor things like that. Just a friendly suggestion, so you don’t forget to relax a little bit and be proud about yourself. Keep it up, man.
     
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  13. Pete McVries

    Pete McVries Well-Known Member

    It's also a good reminder about how much porn consumption makes you awkward and socially inept. I remember back in the day, I felt unable to buy groceries in the evening after having watched porn in the afternoon because I feared so much about bandy three words with the cashier. Crazy to think about...
     
  14. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Thanks, guys. It definitely helps to air it out. It also helps me to appreciate how far I've come in just two and a half months.
     
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  15. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    So things have continued to be on the up-and-up for me. I've had sex with my wife a couple more times in the past week, and it's been really good. One time was phenomenal -- I lasted a little longer, I had no issues getting or staying hard, and the finish was incredibly intense. The other time was not quite as good -- I think I had some issues staying hard after penetrating, but my wife said she couldn't tell, and actually thought I'd been rock-hard the entire time. The finish was a little less intense, but all-in-all, it was still good.

    It feels amazing to see things starting to return to "normal." Of course, having been addicted since before I was sexually active, things have never actually been normal, though I have had glimpses of it at various times in other reboots. Anyway, just wanted to share those successes!
     
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  16. Pete McVries

    Pete McVries Well-Known Member

    Yeah, booooi! Stay the course :)
     
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  17. Bilbo Swaggins

    Bilbo Swaggins Well-Known Member

    Good news, man, I’m glad for you. I hope things continue to improve as time goes by!
     
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  18. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Thanks everyone!

    I've talked at length about the ways I've always internalized negativity after a less-satisfactory sexual encounter. I realized recently that I tended to do that regardless of the way previous encounters in that reboot went; even if I'd already had really good sex in prior weeks, any disappointments had a tendency to hit me hard (sort of a "what have you done for me lately?" type of mindset). I think I viewed it as a step back - sure, I knew that I'd made progress, but I always viewed that newest experience as evidence that I'd taken a step back. As if libido and sexual performance were a battery, and I'd drained all its charge in the last good one, and now I would need to abstain again for weeks or maybe even months to charge back up again.

    That's obviously bullshit. The typical non-addicted guy in his 20s or 30s might need to recharge for a day or two after a marathon session, but a recharge of weeks or months? That's nonsense. I think that misguided view was another example of my addiction manipulating me, telling me what a failure I was and convincing me to lay off the sex. After all, if I'm having sex, I have less need for porn.

    The healthier view is that it might be rocky at first, and there might be good days and bad days. The best thing to do is to keep doing what I'm doing, and hop into bed when it feels right. My unhealthy relationship toward sex extends beyond the PIED; I need to "rewire" to fix my emotional relationship toward sex as much as I need to fix my physical issues. Those intimate moments are an opportunity to connect with my wife, not some finish line that I need to cross. Of course this is all easier said than done, but I feel like I'm slowly but surely acclimating to this new reference frame.
     
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  19. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    I forgot to mention another bonus to this recent increase in intimacy: I've noticed a huge improvement in my general relationship with my wife. We're communicating better; I've found it easier to bring up more difficult issues, and we've been able to have productive conversations about them. An unproductive conversation usually involves me shutting down and my wife getting upset, and then that spinning into a secondary conversation about my inability to communicate effectively with her (I have a long history of being conflict-averse and avoidant). In contrast, I've fared much better in two of those tougher conversations recently. In one, I made an astute point, one that she hadn't considered yet, about the core of what was troubling her. Considering my typical shut-down response, this was a pretty significant step for me. In the other, I actually broached the subject (another significant step), and the conversation ended up being uncontentious and very productive.

    There are a number of contributing factors here. There is of course the increase in amorous feelings toward each other (both sexual and non-sexual), which has filled our reserves of empathy and allowed us to avoid falling into those defensive positions. I think my general confidence has continued to improve as well, giving me the strength to stay present in the conversation and the courage to bring up tough issues myself. My therapist pointed out another factor, which dovetails nicely with the previous one. Because I'm not constantly fighting the same age-old internal battles, I likely have more emotional bandwidth to focus on and address other issues outside of my addiction. I like that framing, because I think it's a helpful way to explain a lot of the "superpowers" that no-fappers report. It's not that we didn't have the wherewithal all along, but rather that all our resources have been tied up in the struggle and emotional turmoil emanating from our addictions.

    Anyway, I wanted to report yet another benefit of this recovery. That list is getting pretty long!
     
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  20. deshi_basara

    deshi_basara Active Member

    Wrapping up another work week that has gone rather smoothly. I'm only 10 days away from the 90 day mark!
     

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