Unlearning how to be a slave

Discussion in 'Ages 30-39' started by apoyan, Apr 16, 2016.

  1. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Hi all,

    36-year-old guy here. I'm determined, absolutely determined to stop using porn. I found out about this forum (as well as "Your Brain on Porn" etc.) a couple years ago and have benefited a lot from reading things posted by others. But I'm pretty sure that I need to talk about my own experience to take the next step toward health.

    This is really difficult, because on the one hand I'm a private person in general (not only about my sexuality) but also because the story feels so long and drawn-out -- I don't quite know how to begin.

    For now, thanks everyone for helping me to make this gesture, it means a lot to me.
  2. Welcome to the forum.
    Reading others' stories is helpful. I can guarantee that you are not alone.
  3. 100DaysMission

    100DaysMission Active Member

    Yes, you've made a great first step, congratulations.

    Just read what others write, and try and post on your journal everyday to start with. You'll feel more comfortable and it will be good to keep gradually telling your story. People will listen, and encourage, and no one's going to judge you. We're all in the same ship.
  4. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    OK. So, I'm a porn addict. Better get that out of the way right off the bat. Even though this will be long, I'll try to start from the beginning.

    I think of sexuality as a spectrum or a continuum, and I've always been more toward the heterosexual end of the scale. Not sure that I'm an unusually horny person, but I've always been interested in girls for as long as I can remember, even as a kid.

    I've also kind of always masturbated, even before I knew what that was (which may be why I've never had a wet dream). As far back as age 6 or so, I used to lie face down and rub myself on my hands on the bed, kind of shaking back and forth. I just knew it felt good, I had no idea at the time that I was masturbating. But I used to enjoy doing that for a while, then going to sleep.

    I also would say I'm a very "visual" person, whatever that means. (Maybe everyone here is, but I've always been very strongly affected by art and other images.) So I can almost pinpoint the very first moment when my fascination with porn first started. I was about 7 years old, and my parents had taken me to a museum in Italy. I remember seeing a painting of a nude woman by Titian -- I can actually still recall the name of it, but don't want to mention it here because I don't want to trigger anyone. Anyway, I was so amazed and could barely look away -- it just felt so nice to look at it. I think I liked these nudes in general, to the point that my family even noticed and joked about the fact that I liked the pictures of "naked ladies".

    Some time later, my older sister started to get fashion magazines and lingerie catalogs, which I would sneak peeks at. I really enjoyed looking at them, and I noticed that if I did the same pleasurable rubbing while looking at those images, it felt even better. Since that point, maybe 25 years ago, the number of times I've had an orgasm without looking at an image is probably less than 10... sad to say.

    Eventually I started to hear things (people at school talking, maybe?) about masturbation, and the "normal" way to do it with your hand. So I changed to doing it that way. This took a while to transition, but eventually I didn't do it the old (prone) way at all any more.

    By this point I was a teenager. It was still the pre-internet era, but my friend (I only had one) and I would help each other work up the courage to buy swimsuit calendars at the bookstore. Things really changed when I was 14: one day at the bookstore, I found a softcore magazine down on the regular shelf, taken out of its plastic cover. I had glimpsed porn magazines here or there in the past, but never really seen one. I took the magazine and looked through it hungrily. I was so excited that I tore out a picture and took it back to show my friend. After that, we got someone to buy us an actual magazine or two, which was incredibly exciting. I used to go to different bookstores to see if I could find any magazines, and occasionally even shoplifted them (I wasn't old enough to buy them at that point).

    So far I didn't have any concerns about masturbation at all, and to be honest I'm not sure I do even now -- I think of it in many ways like a bodily function, like eating or going to the bathroom. So I don't think everyone needs to stop doing it necessarily. Personally I don't seem to know a healthy way to do it, without involving porn, so I really can't. I probably won't ever be able to, as long as want to be healthy, any more than any other addict can "use" in moderation (hint: they can't).

    Up to that point, around age 18, I didn't have any problem with pornography itself, either. It just seemed enjoyable and nice, kind of like the images I had seen all the way back when I was a kid. But that summer my family and I took a trip abroad. For about 3 months I wasn't able to masturbate, or see any kind of arousing images. It was by far the longest break I had had (I probably did it about once a day at that point), but it wasn't very difficult as we were traveling and busy doing things. However, when I got back home something had changed. I remember that I was looking forward to being able to do it again, but once I did something bothered me about the porn that didn't before. I wasn't quite sure what (probably still not clear on that even now) but I've basically been trying to stop ever since, off and on, since that point almost 20 years ago.
  5. 100DaysMission

    100DaysMission Active Member

    Ah man.

    That's a long time.

    What are your thoughts towards porn now?
  6. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Hi 100Days,

    It's funny that you ask my thoughts about porn, because I had a sobering (if not outright disturbing) thought recently: I've probably spent more time thinking about porn than anything else over the course of my entire life! Literally... if you could somehow "download" all of my thoughts from birth until now, the biggest piece of the pie would be porn-related thoughts. They might even be the majority. So I've thought about it a lot, seemingly from every possible angle. For, against, positive, negative. Seems like I could think about that forever. It's sad.

    But right now? I just know it's not for me. It isn't something I can handle or use safely, no matter what I might try to trick myself into thinking at times.

    Someone might ask: is porn, in and of itself, a good or bad thing? I think that's the wrong question, and a bit of a fool's errand. Up to about age 18 or so, I thought it was a "fun", "cool", exciting thing that made me cool to be into.

    Since then I've pretty much had the opposite view -- that porn is exploitative and takes advantage of vulnerable people (mostly the actresses and female models, but really everyone involved in a broader sense). In my experience of developing "tolerance" and seeking out more and more extreme forms of porn to get excited, it truly seems to me that the basis of porn -- what it's really "about", ultimately -- is the humiliation of women. That's the final common pathway that all of it comes down to in the end.

    I should probably mention that I really admire and value women, and consider myself an aspiring feminist. I say "aspiring" because I still actively watch/use porn, some of which is quite degrading to women (the last time about a week ago). If I could ever really get porn behind me, as something no longer an active part of my life, I would proudly call myself a feminist openly.

    Anyway, at some point more recently I had a realization: The problem is happening on THIS side of the screen, not that one (at least, the only thing that I know for sure is a problem). I have often worried about what I was watching (and masturbating to): "This girl seems kind of uncomfortable... Hmm, she seems pretty young... That's intense, she's doing that?" etc. Then I would feel upset or guilty -- I'm contributing to this? Even watching on a free site is contributing somehow, by hits or whatever. So then I'm exploiting women, this is terrible, etc.

    But what I realized is, that's a distraction. It's a way of focusing my attention on something else -- my "righteous indignation" about the porn industry, my concern for humiliated women out there, or anything else -- rather than my own behavior. Again: The problem is happening on THIS side of the screen, not that one! Maybe I'm watching scenes of humiliation; maybe I'm cheering on as people are being traumatized. Or, maybe they're professionals who have chosen a dangerous, difficult line of work and are doing their job. (After all, feminism is ultimately about choices -- about the ability of women to make their own choices about their own lives.) Strange as it sounds, it actually doesn't matter as long as we're talking about my addiction and trying to get my life back in order.

    My definition of addiction is pretty simple, and importantly not tied to any moralistic framework. Just this: if I'm "using" more that I want to, am I able to use less? I've (fortunately) never had an interest in gambling, so I don't use that at all. Sometimes I've found myself watching more TV than I wanted to, and I stopped -- I don't even have a TV anymore. But with porn, I'm never able to remain in control of my use. I might do well for a while -- when I first found out about these forums a couple years ago I went 90 days without porn -- but I always go back to the old habits. I'll PMO when I'm not planning to, and/or for longer than I plan to. I'll do it compulsively. So, I'm addicted.

    I do have concerns about the "addiction" label, since that sort of implies that you can never completely get over it. I don't relish the idea of being a "recovering porn addict" for the rest of my life, as opposed to a "former porn user" or something like that. But I guess it beats being a current porn user...
  7. 100DaysMission

    100DaysMission Active Member

    You write well apoyan, and very coherently.

    I agree with much of what you write, and you put it a lot better than myself, especially with regards to feminism and also the addiction label. (Like a host of other things, labelling yourself a porn addict can potentially become a self-fulfilling prophecy for some people, whereby you remain in a state of transition indefinitely, relapsing because you've spent so long reinforcing your own view that you're dependent on pornography. Yet sometimes that label is what you need to instigate a change.)

    What are your plans for this reboot?
    As you notice, restricting yourself from PMO again (and thinking about it), will leave a void in your life that needs to be filled.
    As I'm sure you're aware, lots of people on here use a reboot as a springboard to implementing any number of other positive life changes (as well as kicking porn) simultaneously.
  8. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Thanks 100Days. I agree with you that the addiction label can really be a double-edged sword. Like you said, it can be a crutch or even a built-in preemptive excuse to fail ("Hey, of course I relapsed -- I'm an addict!"). But I also strongly feel that, as you said, admitting and owning up to the problem is key to making a lasting change. If I feel uncomfortable with the label, that's probably a good thing... Staying comfortable hasn't done too much for me so far, just kept me PMO'ing for decades. Another 20 years could easily go by.

    Writing this also makes me feel uncomfortable. As I said originally, I found this forum a couple years ago and lurked on and off. Summoning the courage to "go public" and tell embarrassing things is difficult and nerve-wracking, but it can only be a good thing. It's only been a few days, but I almost feel like the darkness has lost a little bit of its power by shining a light in there and talking about this. Thanks.

    And thanks for asking my plans for the reboot, because I hadn't really thought about it! That made me reflect on what I actually hope to accomplish with whatever impetus/motivation/energy I have right now. And I've decided that I'm going for broke. My goal is: I want to express my sexuality in a healthy way in real life. I don't want to watch porn ever again. Seriously.

    That being said, you make another great point that removing porn from my life will leave a void -- that's very true and I've experienced it before. Back when I was first trying to stop using porn, I thought I could cut it out of my life just like that. But eventually I realized that I do it because it does something for me, fulfills some need in my life. So if I don't figure out what that need is and meet it some other way, it's inevitable that I'll go back to porn to do the job.

    Unfortunately, in all the time I've been thinking about this and trying to quit, I've never really been able to pinpoint exactly what need porn is meeting for me (which I could then try to get somewhere else). But I've started to think that it may not matter. I've noticed that when I focus on PMO -- whether as something I want to do, or something I want to resist -- it takes up a lot of my mental energy and my life. Whereas when I'm busy with real things in my life, doing other things that I enjoy, I might not think about porn at all.

    So I strongly believe that the way for me to really stop PMO permanently would be to focus less on avoiding porn, and more on doing things I genuinely find rewarding.
  9. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    One of the best books I've seen about addiction (though I haven't read many) is Addictive Thinking by Dr. Abraham Twerski. It's a short book, written in non-technical, engaging language. He basically describes the thought process of addicts -- mostly alcoholics, but the same ideas seem to apply to my own experience with porn.

    One of the most interesting things he demonstrates is that the thought process, although skewed, is internally consistent. Everything "makes sense" from the addict's own perspective. So for example, he gives the example of a man who would drink multiple six-packs of beer a day. When he started to feel sick, he blamed it on "taking in too much fluid" and changed to scotch and soda. When that eventually made him feel sick, he got rid of the soda.

    Another thing he talks about is how addicts will reverse cause and effect. Instead of looking at a situation and deciding whether it makes sense to engage in their behavior of choice, they'll decide beforehand to do it and then come up with reasons why that makes sense.

    I've done this so many times! Often I would tell myself something like this:
    - "I should PMO right now, because I feel sad."
    - "I ought to PMO now, because I'm tired."
    - "I deserve to PMO right now, because I feel angry."
    - "It makes sense to PMO now, since I feel lonely."

    Eventually, I realized that the second half of the sentence didn't even matter. Truthfully, it was as simple as:
    - "I'm going to PMO now, because ________."

    Just because. No "reason" necessary. Which is pretty frightening, but at least it has the advantage of not covering things up with some completely bullshit "line of reasoning".
  10. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Crap, I just wrote a long post and the forum logged me out without realizing. I think it's gone. Don't have the attention span to write the whole thing over again, so I'll try again tomorrow. Sheesh...
  11. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    I'm so annoyed about losing that last post, because I really wanted to post something here. Hope this isn't cheating, but I'll add something I wrote a while ago. Every now and then, when I feel like it, I'll write something in a journal. Never shared anything from it before, but here goes:

    I once discovered the meaning of life, or at least felt that I did. This happened as I was lying in bed falling asleep one night. And yes, it was after a night of drinking. The funny thing is, not only did I remember it the next day, it still made sense to me. In fact, it still makes sense to me and I still largely believe it even now.

    This was about 10 years ago. I was living in a big exciting city, and had gone out with a couple that I was friends with, which we often did even on weeknights. We had met up at a bar in a cool neighborhood and had a little private booth. I don’t think anyone else was there. I was so overwhelmed that I was finally living for seemingly the first time in my life, that if I remember correctly I said something to that effect and started crying in front of them. There were several pints of beer involved so I don’t remember much more about it.

    That night as I lay in bed, I realized the Meaning of Life. It goes something like this: Life is so meaningless, that the meaning of life is to make meaning. To phrase it less repetitively, you might say the “purpose” of life is to make meaning. But I kind of like the repetition and the slight ambiguity it creates.

    Based on what little I understand of “existentialism”, my view may have something in common with it. I’ve been meaning, ever since this incident, to read some Kierkegaard or something else about existentialism, but I guess they feel life is absurd, or meaningless, or something similar. That’s sort of what I felt as well, that life ultimately doesn’t actually mean anything. And yet, this realization felt positive. It felt life-affirming, for some reason. It wasn’t saddening or depressing at all, in the way it might sound. It didn’t seem that way, especially because of the idea that you could “make” meaning somehow. It wasn’t clear how you actually went about making meaning, but spending time with other people you love (such as your friends) in an authentic way (i.e. crying?) probably would count. Maybe making art as well, or doing something kind. There must be many other possibilities.

    Anyway, this idea somehow stuck with me, this teenager-idea that in an ultimate way nothing can really be said to matter. Everything is constantly changing and being transformed, so how can you fix anything in place to say, “This doesn’t change, this matters”? That’s hard to imagine.

    A few years later I finally read the Daodejing, which connected with me so powerfully it was unbelievable. I was somehow on a resonant frequency, so many of the things in that book hit me with a strong force of recognition. And that seemed to speak to this same “positive nihilism”(?) that I had felt before: everything is there, and exists, but just doesn’t have an overlay of value. Things really simply are what they are, in their true nature they don’t have the “good” and “bad” overlay that we always attach to them. A stream with stones in it doesn’t have the different filters that we always see it through, it’s just water flowing. No particular thing “matters” more than anything else, in fact the very idea of separate “things” is a filter through which we’re looking at the world.
  12. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Great to be back here after a little time away -- been reading posts on the forum but hadn't had a chance to post anything. Work was busy, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing as it makes it easier to stay on task.

    One thing I've been thinking in the past few days is: being moved is easy. Getting angry, getting intense, is easy. Often, after PMO, I'll feel really upset or angry, and say that I want to stop -- I never want to do it again. But then I'm right back at it the next day, or sometimes even just a few hours later! It's amazing when you think about it.

    I once heard a talk by a psychologist, where he made the point that "Feelings change every few seconds". It's true, our feelings are constantly changing all the time. I don't meditate regularly, but I think that's part of what it's about -- observing your own emotional landscape and how things ebb and flow, how feelings or thoughts come and go like clouds in the sky.

    Anyway, I've found this to be true even with my own reaction to porn. I can be so angry after relapsing that I think, "That's it! Never again", but it doesn't last. So when other people talk about how intense they feel about quitting PMO, how angry they are, how they're going to make a change this time... I feel glad that they're motivated, but I worry about it being based on a feeling. The feeling will change eventually, no matter how strong it is in the moment.

    Of course, you have to want to change. But I don't think the feeling, the emotional part, is enough. For myself, the addiction has been going on so long that I can imagine things I've missed out on or lost as a result. And even more scary, I can try to imagine what another 10 years down this path might look like. I have to keep reminding myself of that. So that provides some cognitive reinforcement when the emotional part of the mind fluctuates.

    Maybe you just go back and forth like that, from the cognitive side to the emotional side, balancing them -- if that makes sense.
  13. 100DaysMission

    100DaysMission Active Member

    This is very true.
  14. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Things have been really busy with work for the past almost-three weeks now, which has been pretty exhausting. But I also realized that's probably why I haven't thought that much about porn. I didn't even get a chance to come back on here and post for a few days. It's been a relief, and has been weirdly effortless.

    But over the past couple days I've noticed that I have been thinking some about porn (a few times, more than just once in a while) which is worrying me. I'm familiar enough with my relapses that this feels potentially like the very beginning of one trying to come onto the horizon ahead. The next step would probably be me explaining to myself why it wouldn't be a big deal to give it a try.

    Not only that, my busy stretch of work is ending in 2 days. Then I have several days off at home... So I'm posting here to try to keep myself accountable. I'm planning to post some more in a couple days, once I have (dangerous) free time.
  15. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Today was my first free day after finishing that long stretch (about 3 weeks) of busy work schedule with hardly any time off. As I mentioned, it was worrisome to me to know that I have several days of free time now. In the past I would quickly get into a rut of spending the days watching porn, and not doing much else.

    I'm happy to say that I didn't do that today. I made plans to meet up with a friend (in part to keep myself out of the house), which was great. We had a really nice time and that was safe -- I didn't worry about the porn issue at all. This particular friend is one of the few people I've told about my problem, so I was able to talk about this and be completely transparent, i.e. he knew he was helping me stay on the road to recovery.

    You would think it was a very satisfying day, which it was in some ways. But one of the things I detest (or lament, or bemoan) about this addiction (and possibly any addiction) is that it makes it seem like just not relapsing is sufficient. I almost start to believe that just managing not to PMO is enough to solve every problem in my life.

    Actually, by not falling back into that behavior I finally have a chance to see things more clearly. I can finally begin to see where things stand in my life currently (it isn't pretty) and begin to repair them. "No PMO" is merely the prerequisite to starting to do the work that is long overdue.
  16. vsdadamant

    vsdadamant New Member

    Opened this thread because your title mirrors exactly what I'm trying to do after a decade or so and two years of trying to quit, unsuccessfully. First post here, and reading what you write helps me along as well (going on Day 5 here). That last post of yours resonates with me man. No PMO just suddenly clears up all this space to see these other things you have to deal with but PMO was just sort clouding over. Keep it up and keep writing.
  17. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Hi vsdadamant, thanks for your post! I'm glad it resonated with you.

    It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "Wow, I haven't watched porn for ___ days, what a success!" Actually, I doubt anyone else in my life would be that impressed... They might be more likely to wonder, "Why have you been ruining things for yourself this whole time anyway?" Healthy people are actually out there living their lives, and they still have a lot of problems. So not engaging in PMO basically removes the distraction and I'm aware of what I need to get started on. It's intimidating -- I'm trying to start living my life now, which means I may not even run up against the major life challenges until later on.

    Do you think the "superpowers" people talk about during the early phases of their reboot are just the relieved feeling of normal life coming back? I've personally never experienced those effects, even during my longest run which was a little over 90 days. But I worry that even people who do experience superpowers may eventually crash if/when they wear off. Again, even people who move on from PMO permanently don't become Superman -- they just become normal healthy people who are doing the best to deal with all of life's challenges. Kind of like recovering alcoholics, probably.
  18. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    A couple weeks ago I posted about having some free time coming up -- specifically, it was 6 days without any work scheduled. I was really apprehensive because normally that would be a guaranteed binge, without even a second thought.

    Anyway, I'm thrilled to report that the 6 days went by and I did OK! No porn. I spent the time doing some studying, and also caught up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. I did have a couple work-related meetings during that span as well. There was basically enough other stuff going on to get me out of the house every now and then, but even when I was home I was doing other things.

    I would still think about porn sometimes, but not in the fixated way I've experienced in the past. I also didn't have that suffocating, crescendoing pattern of thoughts I'll often have, that seems to build until a relapse is a foregone conclusion (I hate that feeling -- before you've relapsed and you already know that you're going to).

    After that less-scheduled time, then I went back to a busier period at work for the past week. Not particularly enjoyable, but it definitely keeps me occupied and doesn't provide dangerous leisure time.

    Things are otherwise pretty normal, but in a few days I'm actually going on an out-of-town business trip for a little over a week. I feel very nervous about that, because as always being on my own is a major set-up. I normally wouldn't take my laptop on a trip, but I need it for work. So, me in a hotel room every night for over a week...

    Hopefully posting about it here will help make me accountable, it definitely helped last time. I also plan to post in this journal while I'm on the trip, ideally every day but at least as regularly as possible.
  19. 100DaysMission

    100DaysMission Active Member

    That's a brilliant achievement, you're really making some great progress!

    I think you have every chance of making it through the trip away too, you sound really disciplined. Let us know how it goes :)
  20. cjm

    cjm Well-Known Member

    hello mate good journal. how long have you managed to abstain from PMO? Keep up the good work - i love the quote from "moment of truth" thats a great album

    one of the worst things, i think, about porn is that it can take a healthy, normal, sexuality and somehow turn it inwards and make it antisocial. Afterall sexuality is essentially something that is supposed to be shared, i think? I sometimes wonder how my life would have tuned out if i spent all the time i spent with porn on actually meeting real girls and being social.

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