The Return to Freedom

Discussion in 'Ages 30-39' started by newday323, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Hey guys, it's been years since I posted here.

    My old journal was called "The Road to Freedom."

    I'm calling this one "The Return to Freedom."

    I want to return to the success I had back in 2015 when I began to free myself from the shackles of PMO. And at a deeper level because there was a time when all of us were free. A time before we became hooked to PMO.

    I want to return to that.

    I first set out to quit PMO in 2012 when I came across Your Brain on Porn and realized that PMO was giving me problems in bed.

    I made gradual progress, and by 2015, I was free of relapse for much of the year.

    Then I faltered.

    The last couple years I found myself in a more stressful life situation, and I let myself slip back into the relapse cycle.

    Fast forward to yesterday. I was in front of the mirror shaving, and I noticed a white hair for the first time. Lemme tell you, few things will wake you up like that. And then throw in hitting 30 this past year and turning the page on a new year, and I find myself confronting the transience of it all.

    If I don't take action now, I'll wake up in another 5 years still trapped (or should I say hiding) in the prison of porn.

    I refuse to let that happen.

    I believe we have the power to change. And I've made progress before, so I know it's possible. Even if I've tripped up the past couple years, I've learned a ton along the way and developed some powerful strategies for recovery.

    I believe that in order to change, one first must confront reality. So today I want to first take a sober account of where things stand with a cold, hard look at the facts. Then I'll outline my game plan for the year ahead.

    Since early 2014, I've kept tally of all my PMO sessions. Here's the stats.

    Second half '13
    80+ PMOs (estimate)

    First half '14:
    37 PMOs

    Second half '14:
    30 PMOs

    First half '15:
    1 PMO

    Second half '15:
    36 PMOs

    First half '16:
    26 PMOs

    Second half '16:
    59 PMOs

    First half '17:
    68 PMOs

    Second half '17:
    72 PMOs

    Before 2014, I averaged hundreds of sessions per year. At that point I began making progress, by 2015 I cut down to just one session in the first half of the year.

    Between the start of 2014 and November 2016, I had zero months with over a dozen PMOs. Since then, I've had 5 months with over 20! In other words, a huge uptick in binging.

    Finally, in confronting reality - and I admit this part is a bit uncomfortable to talk about - I need to account for where my dating life is at.

    From mid 2014 to mid 2016 I had a prolific, mostly satisfying dating life (albeit with some issues in bed due to PMO/performance anxiety).

    But in the past year, I've all but neglected my dating life, and I didn't get laid once all year. Yep, I didn't have any sex in 2017. My longest dry spell since I first became sexually active a decade ago. Damn.

    Going into 2017, my PMO habit was beginning to slip out of control and I decided that I needed to get a grip on it before I got into dating again. I thought it would take a month or two. And if I had actually committed myself to it like I am this year, it probably would have. But I wasn't truly committed to it. And the underlying reasons that caused me to fall back into PMO in the first place were getting worse rather than better.

    So in 2017, I went on a couple dates but nothing came of it. I realize now it was a vicious cycle. I didn't go on dates because I was PMO-ing (lowers my confidence, drains my mojo, and gives me sexual issues). But not having any sexual outlet and not feeling good about my dating life (or lack thereof), compelled me to keep PMO-ing.

    So sure, there's some truth to the fix-pmo-before-dating logic as PMO does mess with my sexual ability. But the reality is that I can't wait to solve everything before I get back into dating. And I think that if I approach dating with a healthy mindset, it can actually be conducive to recovery.

    So yeah, I'm ready to end the dry spell this year.

    I've reflected a lot on why I returned to PMO, but in short I attribute it to a combo of work, dating, and living stresses. At least that was the original cause. But once I start PMO-ing enough it's a self-perpetuating cycle driven by inertia and dopamine signaling.

    So what to do about it all?

    Some concrete changes and strategies headed into this year....

    1. I've made some big changes in my life. A couple months ago I quit my job and last month moved to a new apartment in a quieter, more peaceful part of my city with more nature. While these sorts of changes make things easier in the long run, they create transition stress in the short-term. Change is hard after all. So the last month was tough on the reboot front, but the stage is set for a better year.

    2. I will do things daily that promote balance like spending time in nature, meditating, eating and sleeping well. I've broken this down into concrete, manageable daily habits. I'm also getting back into playing keyboard which is a great outlet for my energy.

    3. I've committed to reviving my dating and social life, which I've let fall by the wayside the past year. This includes focusing more on friendship and community. I also decided going into this year to take a break for at least a couple months from daytrading cryptocurrencies. This became a major habit the past year. And though it was a lot of fun, it was just more solitary time in front of a computer screen, highly addictive, and not good for sleep and social balance.

    4. I developed a technique a couple years back that I call the Daily Trigger Review (DTR). I have a list of 50 or so triggers on my phone that I've identified over time. Triggers vary from guy to guy of course, so these are just mine. They include both things that lead to imbalance and things that signal that I am in an imbalanced state. A few examples: poor sleep, work stress, feeling down, bad dreams, drinking a lot of caffeine (or alcohol), fingernail biting and so on. So I go through this list each day and put an asterisk next to each one that is present and then tally them up. This creates self-awareness, lets me catch emerging issues before they become problems, and helps me gauge my relapse risk.

    5. Log whenever I have urges or act out, so I can better identify triggers and trends.

    6. I'm on a group accountability thread in Whatsapp with some super cool, highly supportive guys. This has been really helpful. In a similar vein, I'm reviving my journal here for the first time in years. Every time I write an entry here it reinforces my commitment.

    7. I'm looking into doing a few one-on-one coaching sessions with a coach I respect who helps guys in this area. Not sure about it yet, but just looking into it.

    There are other things I'm doing, but these are the core strategies for now.

    Day 1 is almost in the books. It's been a good day. I took a long walk through the park out the ocean and chatted up a girl at the beach while watching the sunset over the Pacific.

    Not a bad start.

    I'll be back soon.

    Thebeg and Londoner like this.
  2. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Another day in the books, gents.

    My nights have been riddled with insomnia and my days with dreams of a good night sleep.

    This tends to happen in transitional periods in my life. I'll deal with it.

    At least urges are minimal. For now.

    Hopefully I'll get some sleep tonight.

    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  3. Thebeg

    Thebeg Well-Known Member

    Hello newday323, impressive first post you have there. I like that you gather a lot of statistics and reflect on all aspects of the reboot journey.

    Solid realization. I've came to a similar conclusion. I'm a perfectionist, so my preference is to reboot fully before meeting women again, but that's not really working for me right now.

    One mindset that I used in the past is that I would keep cuddling up as the intention of meeting a woman. The Your Brain On Porn forums contained this advice, as rewiring is just as important as unwiring. I would also tell this to the woman, as talking about the whole masturbation/porn thing is good practice. Every single time the women would be understanding and supportive and sure quickly enough the situation would turn into sex.
  4. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Well gents, another day in the books.

    Last night I had intense sexual dreams and woke up hard multiple times. I've identified this overtime as a trigger i.e., after nights where I have sexual dreams, I tend to get urges and act out. Sometimes I even have dreams that I'm watching porn and I wake up convinced that I relapsed.

    And sure enough, like clockwork, the urges rolled in this afternoon. I wouldn't even call them urges because I see PMO as a non-option at this point, but basically I started having some fantasies of acting out. I took a walk in the park and was able to get a grip but I'm going to be on high alert for the next couple days and see if these urges intensify.

    And thanks Thebeg for the words of encouragement. Much appreciated.

    Yeah I really like this not just because rewiring is key but because performance anxiety is a big issue for me, closely interlinked with PIED. So setting the goal as just cuddling eases off the pressure and ironically will more likely result in sex because I won't be in "oh shit I need to perform" fight or flight mode. Going into this year I actually set a concrete goal as a (short-term) stepping stone that involves getting physical but not necessarily having sex. Hopefully this will work better than putting a gun to my own head and telling myself that I have to get laid.

    In the past I've talked to girls about the issue and they've always reacted positively with understanding. Still, it's a challenge for me to open up and I feel like I need to 'perform' and I'm hard on myself when I can't. Interestingly, as I've become more confident with dating (at least parts of dating), it's actually gotten harder for me to talk about. A few years ago I set out to improve my dating skills and overtime I actually got a lot more confident with meeting and attracting girls. Basically the first parts of the courtship dance. But the bedroom part was still lagging behind. And it's like because I was sort of solid and smooth in the first stages I felt like I had to live up to this confident persona in the bedroom and so that's where things would break down because deep down I wasn't that confident in the sexual part and the performance anxiety would kick in and this self-fulfilled prophecy would play out: things didn't work because I didn't expect them to.

    The funny thing is that there have been a couple times that I actually got hard on a date at say a bar just making out with clothes on and everything but then back at home I couldn't get hard in bed with clothes off because I felt the pressure to perform. Thankfully, this performance anxiety mostly slips away when I'm on a good reboot streak.

    So I think a big part of the work that lies ahead for me is just becoming comfortable again and opening up, being patient with myself, and not pressuring myself to perform. I see rebooting and rewiring as inseperable projects, and though it's daunting, I'm excited for the work that lies ahead.

    Off to get some sleep. Or at least try.

  5. Thebeg

    Thebeg Well-Known Member

    Dude, you're describing exactly me at this point :) Especially the first time of first few times with a woman I can't get hard due to the performance anxiety. I think it's good to show some vulnerability to a woman, even early on when meeting her. You can still talk about it confidently, that's how I usually go about it. And I also say that often enough I wake up in the middle of the night horny and rock hard so sex will happen after all.

    By working with a psychologist I've uncovered some stuff about myself last year. Besides the sexual performance anxiety I also suffer from shy bladder syndrome (not able to urinate when there are other people around). It's basically the same thing. I'm too conscious about the presence of others so I subconsciously tighten up my pelvic muscles, restricting the urine flow or in case of sex the blood flow.

    Do you happen to have this shy bladder syndrome too?
  6. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Amazing. I've had the exact same thing. It's gotten better overtime, but I still get it in some cases. I've always wondered if there was an overlap between these two issues. It seems in both cases it's a fight or flight (in this case more like freeze) signal blocking low-level physiology, basically our system freezes up which blocks the 'flow' of things.

    The anxiety is very subtle/low-level though, at least for me. Like with the bed issues, for a while I assumed it was purely PIED or something physical because I didn't feel explicitly anxious. But I know performance anxiety was at play because for a while I was mainly dating one girl (non-exclusively) and things worked fine with her but with other girls I often wouldn't get/stay hard. I wasn't any less attracted to them, just less comfortable around them. I also know PIED is a big piece of the puzzle (and probably the original issue) because I have much better boners and enjoy sex way more after long reboots.

    D'you by chance get insomnia as well? I get it pretty bad, mostly in the form of waking up in the middle of the night in an uneasy state and having a hard time falling back asleep. I think a similar thing is going on here in terms of adrenaline/cortisol messing with unconscious processes. I've also had this weird thing a couple times where I'm eating and kinda tense up and worry that I won't be able to swallow my food. Yet another case where conscious worry creeps into a largely unconscious process, kinda freezing up the flow of things and messing with the "rest and digest" system.

    In general I'm a very analytical person, always in my head. So it's like I need to chill out and let my unconscious do it's thing. All these things...having sex, taking a piss, getting a good night of sleep...these are all simple, natural behaviors so it's all about not getting in the way.

    Anyway, I'd be very interested to hear more about your experiences as it seems we have a lot of overlap here. Have you been able to make progress with performance anxiety/shy bladder? I've seen some threads here before on exercises to relax the pelvic floor and I've been interested in digging deeper into that.
  7. newday323

    newday323 Member

    One day closer to freedom.

    Last night sleep did not come easy. I lay awake for hours.... thinking... thinking... thinking...

    And when I finally slipped into sleep, a sleep so jittery and noncommital that I wasn't sure I was actually asleep.... I was jolted awake by an earthquake.

    I was already on edge so when the quake struck I thought it was the END OF THE WORLD.

    I thought "wow this is the big one." Like I thought it was the biggest earthquake ever.

    It hit me a moment later, 'where are all the ambulances and fire engines and people screaming?' And why is this building still intact'?

    Turns out it was a 4.5. There are thousands of earthquakes like this every year. I was in an earthquake 100 times stronger when I was a baby and a couple wine glasses fell down.

    Early on in a serious reboot, sleep is already a scarce commodity for me. So I could do without the earthquakes. But it's okay.

    I realize right now I'm in a transition (recomitting to rebooting and starting a new year) within a transation (I recently moved to a new place) within a transition (A bit before that I quit a job). All of these transitions were the right move and I believe in the long run they will improve the quality of my life. But in the short term change is tough, and sleep is the first and foremost place that transition stress takes a toll...for me.

    Hopefully, there won't be any more earthquakes tonight.

  8. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Another day in the books. One step closer to freedom.

    Insomnia is fierce as ever, but I am tackling it from new angles and I know in time I will overcome it. I tend to get lured by fancy biohacks and sometimes neglect the basics like the circadian clock. Today I did a few things to reset the clock: woke up a bit earlier, walked outside and consumed protein within 30 minutes of waking (usually I do intermittent fasting) and tonight I'm minimizing blue light and food to remind my body that night has arrived and it's time to key up the melatonin and maybe ease off a bit on the adrenaline and cortisol. We'll see what happens...

  9. newday323

    newday323 Member

    First week down.

    Feel like I'm finally breaking out of the funk I've been in the last couple months.

    Since last summer I've done a 'weekly review' each Sunday where I reflect on the main areas of my life e.g., dating, social, career etc, what worked and what didn't. As part of this review I have a rubric where I add up or deduct points based on how many times I exercise, meditate, how well I sleep, how much I PMO/MO and a few more things.

    This past week I had my highest score in over 2 months and finally reversed a downtrend (for the past 2 months every week was lower than the prior week). Last week my total score was -149 (my lowest ever!) and this week it was 24. So basically 173 points up from last week. Not bad.

    Here's what the rubric looks like. I'm happy to describe how any of the numbers are derived in case anyone is curious.

    Screen Shot 2018-01-07 at 10.09.44 AM.png

    So this past week Reboot, meditation, and getting outdoors improved a lot but my fitness, sleep, and social life are still lagging behind. I'll focus on one or two of those areas this coming week.

    Urges are minimal but I'm keeping a close eye.

    Thebeg likes this.
  10. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Another day down. 24 hours closer to freedom.

    On high alert right now since I had an intense sexual dream last night which tends to foreshadow strong urges for me. Plus, some other trigger flags I won't bore you with here.

    While I haven't had urges to PMO since I see it as a non-option, I had some urges today to text some girls from the past.

    I withstood.

    I realized I would rather rebuild my dating life with time and patience and intention from a blank and beautiful slate, then act in a moment of impulse from a place of horniness and desperation.

    Speaking of meeting girls, I went out with my buddy and did some 'daygame' over the weekend i.e., cold approaching some beautiful ladies in real life out on the bustling streets of my city.

    It's getting a bit late though and I've recently embarked on a campaign to become a morning person.. So the story will have to wait for now...

    Thebeg likes this.
  11. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Things are clicking into place. Slowly but surely. Nights are still a challenge, riddled with insomnia. But days are good. Mostly.

    I'm on especially high alert today as there are a number of triggers in play e.g., poor sleep, low heart rate variability (hrv) in the morning, being in touch with an ex, light urges etc.

    I saw a very enticing girl at the gym today and back home when I was in the shower I was tempted to edge thinking about her but I held through. While my real goal is no PMO, I want to minimize MO and temporarily eliminate it in order to rebuild momentum. Also, MO can easily escalate to PMO for me. I want to start this year off on the right note and prove to myself that it's not going to be another 2017. Hell no.

    I told you guys I'd dive into daygame stuff but that's a whole other can of worms and once I start writing about that it will be hard to stop. There's still much to be done today so will have to wait for now...

  12. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Well gents, finally broke my epic dry spell. Saturday night I met a lovely girl at the nightclub and brought her home :)

    Since this is a recovery forum, not a pickup form, I'll focus on how things went within the context of recovery...

    As I've mentioned, the main reason I originally set out to quit porn was PIED. Over the past few years, other reasons have become important too, but that's still a huge part of it. And when I've had long streaks of no PMO I have much better sex.

    The good news is that Saturday night things went better than expected i.e., I was able to do the deed. The other good news is that there's a lot of opportunity for improvement :)

    By that I mean a few things. First off, I was on a low dose of cialis and I think without that things wouldn't have worked. I see that as training wheels as I'm rebuilding my confidence in bed and building up this new reboot streak. I really don't like to use Cialis though as I don't think it's healthy and I see it as a temporary fix. But even though I used it, I am still encouraged by how things went overall as there were points in the past where I took viagra but still couldn't get hard because of performance anxiety. This time things went a bit better but still nowhere near what I'm hoping for in the long run i.e., it took a while to get hard, it took a few tries (the first couple times I put on my condom I got nervous and went soft) and I came very quickly.

    All that said, you've gotta start somewhere and it feels great to put this dry spell behind me. Things are moving forward!

  13. Thebeg

    Thebeg Well-Known Member

    Good job man. How many days were you in?

    I also have terrible performance anxiety so I understand you completely.
  14. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Thanks man.

    Just 14 days in. And last month was one of my worst months in years PMO-wise, so I'm hopeful about things moving forward as I continue to build this streak. I have zero interest in (P)MO right now but I know I will encounter challenges ahead. Januaries are always a lot easier for me as I'm riding the New Year tailwinds. The next few months will be the real test, but I believe I'm much better prepared this time than ever before and I know I have what it takes.

    Thebeg likes this.
  15. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Hey gents, another week down, another week closer to freedom. Zero MO or PMO so far this year.

    I revisited some of my old journals yesterday and one thing that struck me was how I kept saying "I'm never going to PMO again!!" And every time, I would relapse within a week or two or four. When I first started this journey, I vastly underestimated the challenges ahead.

    Part of the reason I decided to go back to these entries was to remind myself of what I'm up against and jolt myself out of complacency. Januaries are almost always strong for me but then I let things slip 2 or 3 months into the year. For many reasons, I believe this year is different, but I can't let myself become complacent and forget just how hard I've worked to get to this point.

    At the same time, I don't want to fall to the other extreme of assuming that PMO is such a powerful force that sooner or later I will give in. I want to at least embrace the possibility of staying clean and aim towards that, even if I won't journal "I'm never going to PMO again!" Words don't mean anything in this game. It's about taking action and moving forward day after day.

    Looking back, I realize I had different things going for me in different years...

    Assets: High motivation + a determination not to repeat 2013 (a year with lots of relapses).
    Liabilities: Still inexperienced in rebooting and lacked any real strategy
    What happened: Started off weak but gradually got stronger throughout the year

    Assets: Strong life balance. Momentum.
    Liabilities: Hadn't yet formalized strategy or gained solid understanding of triggers
    What happened: This was my strongest year. During the first half of the year I only PMO-ed once.

    Assets: Momentum and a sense of what was possible based on previous year
    Liabilities: Decreasing life balance, stressful job
    What happened: Year started off decent but gradually fell apart

    Assets: Strong strategy and practical knowledge from prior reboots e.g., awareness of triggers
    Liabilities: Poor life balance, stressful job, flagging focus and motivation.
    What happened: Binged on PMO. Most since 2013. A few strong months though.

    In 2018, I don't just have one or two pieces of the puzzle. I have strong strategy and focus, relatively strong and increasing life balance, and a strong motivation and determination not to repeat 2017. I didn't have momentum going into the year, but I'm beginning to build it up.

    I'm aware of how badly things can go this year if I get complacent or let things slip out of balance. But I'm also beginning to become aware of just how good things could go.

  16. newday323

    newday323 Member

    Been a hot minute gents. Chugging along and inching closer to freedom every day.

    100% clean on PMO so far this year with 3 MOs. I had an average of 20+ MOs/PMOs per month last year so this is night and day. Januaries have always been strong for me though so the real question is if I can carry this momentum moving forward.

    I told my dad about my struggles with pmo last week for the first time. I’d told my sister a few years ago but nobody else in my family. He was understanding and it was nice to open up and get his support.

    Plans this weekend to see the girl I met at the nightclub last month. It should be a good opportunity to gauge where I’m at in the reboot as well as in breaking through performance anxiety. The two go hand in hand for me to the point where it’s sometimes hard to distinguish them. Less PMO means my brain sends a stronger arousal signal with real girls and less performance anxiety means less interference with this signal (by another signal i.e., fight/flight response). So either way the end result is more signal getting from my brain to my penis. “The Brain-Penis Connection” would be a great book title by the way.

    Until next time.


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