Unlearning how to be a slave

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

  1. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Thanks 100DaysMission and cjm for the supportive words, that's a great help! It's very much appreciated.

    100DaysMission: It's kind of you to say, but I don't feel very disciplined. That's actually a big problem for me... I'm an extreme procrastinator, which has caused me nearly as much grief in my life as porn has. In fact that's one of the major realizations I've had in the past month, that I may be "addicted" to procrastination in addition to porn (I realize that I'm using the term "addiction" more and more loosely all the time, but oh well) and that both self-defeating behaviors completely feed into each other. Seriously though, PMO has probably always been my favorite way to procrastinate -- and procrastinating for hours rather than doing work frees up a lot more time to PMO! It's awful.

    I used to think "I have more willpower than most people" until I realized I couldn't seem to stop watching porn even when I didn't want to, couldn't cut down, etc. So now I've realized I'm not a very disciplined person. I can't even describe it exactly, but I'm not feeling super interested in porn right now, not the way I usually am. That's great though, because it means that not watching doesn't feel effortful. No one can maintain a strong, all-out effort forever. My goal is to move on and not watch porn any more -- ever, for the rest of my life, so I can't base that change on sheer brute-force effort. Has some permanent change happened to me, to my way of thinking (and most importantly, in my behavior)? I'm not sure yet. I really hope so.

    And if some permanent change actually has happened, how the hell did I get here? I'm even less sure of that. I've been trying to quit, on and off, for about 20 years. It's hard to believe this is really "The Time", really "it", once and for all. All I can say is that I've definitely become less interested in the things that porn offers me, and increasingly interested in the things I could get (or have missed out on) aside from porn.

    cjm: Thanks, and it's great to find a fellow Gang Starr fan -- there's a lot of wisdom there, I think. You ask a fair question and the truth is I'm not sure exactly how long it's been. Personally I might not say "abstained", since that sounds to me like planning to go back again. But as far as how long it's been, I'm trying not to keep track. It was some time in mid-April -- so some amount of time over a month. I'm really not concerned about how long it may have been, because I'm interested in the future.

    I have to go on a rant here, forgive me, but counters haven't helped me with this problem at all. They may work for others, I don't know, but I've never kept one because that always felt like counting up to the next relapse. It also makes it seem like everything is over if/when you do relapse.

    The closest I ever came to having a counter was when I first found out about NoFap about 2 1/2 years ago, and heard about the 90-day window for supposedly fixing everything. I immediately gave it a try and somehow did manage to go the full 90 days without watching porn (I would define that as abstaining, because I definitely had urges at times and would have to white-knuckle through them with tremendous effort). But on day 92 or so, soon after reaching my "goal", I relapsed and binged about as hard as I ever have before or since, to a seriously unhealthy degree. It actually kind of put me off even trying again for a while after that, just because the crash was so scary.

    Upon further reflection I realized that the 90-day rule, or however you want to refer to it, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Some people may only need a few weeks to get over this, or a few months, whereas it will probably take me a year or more if I ever do. If I haven't watched porn in 1 year, preferably 2, and haven't been craving to for a lot of that time, then I'd feel like I may have made a real change in this behavior. I still think I'd need to be pretty careful even after that -- the potential triggers are always going to be there.

    I realize that some people are looking to take a break from PMO -- for 90 days, 60 days, 30 days or any other specified period. That could make sense, given their situation. I'm at a point where I want to move on to a new phase of my life, which no longer includes PMO. I wouldn't even necessarily say I'm trying to quit, because that's still defined by the addiction. But the only time-frame that really matters to me, is from now until the end of my life.

    Gotta wrap it up for now but I'm going to continue later because I want to address the other thing you said, cjm, about how porn warps our sexuality and the implications of that. That's so true, I've started to realize more and more just how great of a loss that is.
     
  2. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    OK, just wanted to check in quickly. As I mentioned before I have this business trip, which actually just started today. I've traveled to a different city and checked into the hotel. Unfortunately, there's wi-fi (although I guess that does allow me to keep posting here)... I plan to avoid using the internet as much as possible, except if needed for work-related stuff. I do want to try to post here regularly though, to keep myself on track.
     
  3. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Had a nice busy day today. They all will be on this trip, which is probably good. I'm also being mindful (if not militant) about going to bed early. I figure it kills two birds with one stone: less time awake here in the hotel room by myself, plus it actually allows me to be well rested during the days so I can engage fully with everything that's going on.

    Incidentally, it occurred to me today that if I do happen to make it through this trip without relapsing, immediately after getting back home will also be a particularly risky time. Even if I didn't have several days off work right then -- which I do. Just one more thing to be aware of.
     
  4. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Checking in again. I find these posts pretty boring to write, so they must be unbelievably boring to read... I can't even express how happy that makes me! Boring is good, little of interest to report is a good thing.

    Busy days are continuing on this trip, as I expected. I'm still taking a lot of care to get good rest, which doesn't just help you pay attention during the day. I think it also helps with willpower.
     
  5. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Thankfully, nothing much to report. Getting ready to head back home in a bit, though, so I need to start to be on my guard about that.
     
  6. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    I'm back home now. I'm glad I realized beforehand that "re-entry" was going to be a challenge as well, because that has proven to be the case. When I was away, I was in a completely unfamiliar environment but I was able to establish a clear routine upfront: work during the day, come back to the hotel room, bed soon after. There weren't many triggers lurking around once I set that pattern.

    Now that I'm back home, I can sense all the old triggers again. Even walking into the bathroom can be annoying and alarming, since I've watched so much porn in there. I have to be careful, be really mindful of what's going on and stay "on message" so to speak.
     
  7. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    So the re-entry period is over, but a few days after that I had some family come into town to visit for a week. That was quite fun, but also a bit exhausting. Overall I definitely enjoyed it, and it was the sort of thing that makes me almost completely forget about porn.

    Now that they're gone things are starting to get back to routine for the first time in a while, and I have to be careful that the routine doesn't include my usual PMO habits. Continuing to keep a steady watch/awareness...
     
  8. 100DaysMission

    100DaysMission Active Member

    You are doing really, really well apoyan.

    I have nothing more to add, I am very proud, and just keep it up.
     
  9. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Thanks 100Days! I think of you as my compatriot in this struggle from the beginning, so your support always means a lot.

    I haven't posted anything in a while because I'm getting pretty busy (and frankly stressed) at work -- I have a major project/presentation coming up in about 6 weeks that I still have a ton to prepare for. I can't stand these things... On the other hand, whenever I get annoyed I should probably remind myself that it makes me think about porn less than usual.

    That's extremely surprising to me, honestly -- usually feeling stressed is a major trigger for PMO for me. At the moment it isn't having that effect, so I won't question it! Just keep focusing on the work I need to do...

    Another big step I took a few days ago was I told one of my oldest friends (we've known each other more than 20 years) about my porn addiction. He doesn't live nearby so I actually wrote it out in a letter, which was an exciting (but also exhilarating) feeling. I've never mentioned anything about this to him before -- I was always too scared. Without a doubt, posting on this forum has given me the courage to talk about this with more people in real life! Thanks everyone for helping me.

    Other than that, last week I switched to taking cold showers, just to see how it went. I've heard multiple people mention this, either on this board or other NoFap-related places. It's been pretty interesting so far! For now, at least, I think I'll continue and see how I feel.

    I've also always wanted to take up regular exercise and meditation, not to mention eating more healthily. I hope to start on some of those things as well, one at a time.
     
  10. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Hi all, been a while since I posted something here, although I have been trying to log in occasionally to read others' threads. Things have been going pretty well in general, although work has been busier and more stressful lately. It will definitely continue that way for another month, but I'm starting to feel tired and need a break.

    In the past being busy at work has been helpful in terms of keeping PMO off my mind, though unsurprisingly I still have random (and sometimes rather intrusive) thoughts on and off throughout the day. But I wanted to post here now because I have this feeling, just barely at this point, that those thoughts have been increasing in the past few days. Maybe not in frequency, but in intensity maybe? If this is even the looming of starting to veer off the path toward health, let me correct my course now.

    I've never been one for exercise, but one thing I do enjoy is listening to music and dancing. I usually feel self-conscious around others, but now and then I'll put on headphones at home and dance a bit. It almost always makes me feel good... and in a healthy way! Anyway, a couple days ago I was dancing and I had a thought: "What if I told you I never want to go back?" It's true, after all. I've always been highly, highly suspicious of any definitive, final statements that people make about their lives -- maybe because I felt like they were doomed to fail, or maybe because I wanted to give myself permission to continue in my porn-watching habit.

    But I'm willing to put myself out there at this point: I never want to go back there again. I'm not interested in watching porn. Whatever enjoyment or pleasure I derived from it (and of course I did, let's be honest) just isn't worth it to me anymore. Not when I honestly look at what it has cost me.

    This process, for me at least, seems to be about growing up. I always figured I would stop watching porn eventually, although I never would have thought I would keep going until my late 30's (if I have even made a lasting change now). But it's important not to minimize just how big a change it really is, how much I'm choosing to give up. And I completely want to give it up. I want to actually live my life.
     
  11. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Wanted to check in again. In the past week I've been other journals as usual, which is always helpful. It's inspiring and motivating to see folks out there who are also in the struggle.

    I haven't had an increase in the annoying porn-related thoughts, thank goodness. Nor have they seemed to become more intense or anything like that. I have noticed, though, that I felt more distracted over the past week. That was the final week of a very busy 3-week stretch at work, so I was definitely tired and that could be the simplest explanation. Things are more relaxed this coming week and I'm looking forward to that.

    Random thought: not sure if anyone here is a fan of The Cure, I used to be way into them back in school. There's a song called "Open" which is great, it's one of my favorite songs about addiction that I can think of... alcoholism I guess, but it's certainly easy to relate. Come to think of it, they have that whole album called "Pornography" which is brutal to listen to, but cathartic. Haven't heard that in forever, I'll have to listen to it again one of these days...
     
  12. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Been a while -- I have logged in now and then to read some journals, but haven't had a chance to post. Basically, I have a huge work deadline coming up (in less than a week now) which is taking up almost all of my time. I'm also very stressed about it.

    That said, unlike every other time I've been under stress, my reaction hasn't been to PMO for hours to block everything out. That's pretty surprising.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to posting some more once things settle down in about a week.
     
  13. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Haven't logged in in a very long time -- as I was alluding to last time I posted, I had a big project coming up.

    Things went well, and I'm actually taking a new job! I had been trying to get this for the past two years unsuccessfully -- in fact, my failure with this was one of the main reasons I started to re-evaluate my life and got motivated to deal with the pornography addiction. Anyway, not sure if it was related or not but this time things worked out! I'm even moving to a different city. Last week I went there to find a place to live, and I'll be moving in a few days.

    Things have been crazy in the past month, and probably will be for a while yet. But I want to keep posting when I can.
     
  14. 100DaysMission

    100DaysMission Active Member

    Wow that's so exciting! Congratulations!!

    Are you excited? It's going to be a big challenge, but keep level-headed and embrace as much as you can. I hope everything goes as well as it can for you - definitely keep us posted.
     
  15. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    100Days, thanks so much! I always value your support and kind words.

    So I moved to a new city a few weeks ago, and last week I started my new job. It's going great so far, but a huge change and honestly I'm just trying to keep my head above water at this point. I spent most of this weekend just catching up on work from the past week! I think things will get better though after the first few weeks/months. Fortunately the people I work with have been very kind and understanding with the transition.

    One nice thing about being very busy, is that for me at least it's always made PMO urges fade considerably... I haven't even had much chance to think about pornography, although somehow I always do now and then. It seems to come and go in phases -- sometimes I'll think about porn pretty often, other times (as I said, especially when there's a lot going on) hardly at all.

    Incidentally, I'm always wary of talking about streaks and things like that, but a week or two ago was probably 6 months since my most recent PMO. I say "most recent" rather than "last" because I don't think anyone can actually say when the last time is. I'm just trying to continue developing new healthy habits and focusing on living my life closer to how I would like to live -- physically, mentally, intellectually, spiritually.
     
  16. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    Wanted to write today because a lot has been on my mind. It's been a while since I watched porn or masturbated, but I think I'm only now starting to see how fundamental this addiction is. Basically, I guess I thought once I stopped engaging in the behavior for a while it would sort of be over, but now I'm starting to see how that really isn't the case.

    It's interesting, too, because the cravings have decreased -- I seem to get them less often, and they're less intense. I don't think about porn as often -- in the past I would often have intrusive thoughts of porn, and my reflexive reaction to a stressful situation would be to think about some porn I liked, as a means of self-soothing. But I don't find myself doing that as frequently. A few times recently I felt stressed and actually said to myself, "Hey I guess I should think about some porn now" and I couldn't quite manage it... I'd keep getting distracted over to other thoughts. So all of that is encouraging, and maybe part of the brain healing/neuroplasticity stuff they talk about -- the old pathways getting weakened and all that. I really felt like maybe I'm moving on with my life.

    The problem is, even though I haven't watched porn or masturbated in a good chunk of time now, I can't say that I have a healthy sexuality either. I'm not sure that I am expressing my sexuality, actually. That's a problem. I still have a lot of healing that I need to do from this.

    In terms of this journal, I'm afraid that I've fallen into the trap of portraying only the positive side of things, of showing off successes or things I feel good about. For someone who claims not to be fixated on streaks, I'm probably too proud of mine.

    So I need to break things down a bit. Need to take it back to what's honestly going on, which isn't great. [continued below]
     
  17. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    I'm married. I've never even mentioned my wife here before. Guess I planned to eventually, but I was probably too embarrassed. We've been married for a little over 4 years and were together for about a year and a half before that -- so close to 6 years at this point.

    We have never had sex. Not coitus, anyway. We've fooled around a fair amount, but never actual penetrative sex. So I'm 37 years old, married for four, and still technically a virgin. It's because of the PMO addiction.

    It's also destroying our marriage, despite the positive changes I've made over the past months. My wife is on the point of leaving me.

    I always strive to be honest so I actually told her quite early on that I had never had a girlfriend, and that I had a problem with pornography (I might have even used the word "addiction"). She thinks it's natural for all guys to watch porn so she didn't consider it a big deal... at that point, anyway.

    The problem was, I had never been sexual with another person before, so as weird as it sounds, I didn't know how. I had a sex drive and all that, so to deal with it and release the tension I used porn. I had gotten very good at taking care of this problem for myself, and could handle things very effectively. It was a closed loop, from the computer to my eyes to my hand to my dick and back again -- a closed circle with no opening for anyone else to join in. I may have been missing out of something much greater, but I didn't know the difference anyway.

    As my wife and I started dating, it was really difficult for me to be physically intimate with her -- I was attracted to her and enjoyed it, but everything was totally new and I found it both physically and emotionally exhausting. (For what it's worth I had a crazy busy job schedule at that time, working 70-80 hours a week, so much of the time I was stressed and exhausted anyway.) I had terrible PIED: I could easily make myself get hard and come on my own, but I would rarely have any sort of erection with my wife. I also have phimosis (tight foreskin), so I was scared that it would hurt if I tried to penetrate her.

    I was pretty naive about women I guess, I always assumed they aren't interested in sex. I literally thought that if I somehow ever did get a girlfriend (I had tried unsuccessfully many times) that I'd have to convince her to have sex every now and then. But my wife has a very high sex drive and basically wanted to do it all the time. She was very patient with me and actually complimented me a lot -- I could make her orgasm with my fingers and she said it was very satisfying for her. So she would repeatedly make overtures and I became less and less interested -- I was physically tired, but somehow I also found it a turnoff to have a woman pursuing me (ironic after feeling frustrated for many years that girls were never attracted to me!) [continued below]
     
  18. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    After months and months of many times of her trying to initiate things and me reciprocating halfheartedly or not at all, eventually my wife basically shut down and stopped trying. She obviously perceived all of these as rejections, and at a certain point she couldn't handle any more. So she would try to not want the sexual contact, but inevitably at some point she would get angry because she couldn't actually keep denying herself. She also felt like I was holding her hostage, because if not for the marriage she could find someone else to satisfy her.

    At some point in there I did go to see a therapist. (That was around the time that I first discovered NoFap, about 3 years ago now. I also made my first attempt to quit, which lasted something like 92 days -- basically I made it to the 90-day goal without too much difficulty, then immediately crashed and burned terribly.) I only saw the therapist for a couple months, and didn't find it very helpful. He seemed to want to act like a friend, which was the exact opposite of what I was looking for. I wanted someone to reflect myself to me in a completely cold, clinical manner. The only good thing about the experience was that it showed my wife I was serious about wanting to address the problem.

    But it didn't improve. Things continued on for a year or more in a shitty status quo. At some point I finally truly "got it" about how I was hurting my wife and how she was suffering, and started wanting to actually change... but it seemed to be too late. She basically didn't care anymore. If I talked to her about wanting to change or going to counseling, she'd just say she couldn't be bothered any longer. She tells me she didn't leave at that point because she was too weak and scared about what people would think.

    Meanwhile my professional life was falling apart. Two years ago, I failed in a major project at work but was able to salvage enough that nobody really mentioned anything about it (although they probably knew). I was also applying for another job so I thought I'd just move on. But then I didn't get it. So I thought I'd just try again.

    Last year, I again failed in another major project at work. Again I was applying for a new job so I still thought I could get out of there unscathed! (The distorted thinking of the addicted brain...) But for the second time I didn't get the job I applied for, so now I had to come clean. I met with 3 different administrators to tell them what had been going on for the past 2 years, everything that had gone awry. Amazingly, people were kind and understanding for the most part, though they were seriously concerned as well. I wasn't put on probation, not officially anyway, but I'm sure I was being observed very closely from then on. This was all toward the end of 2015.
     
  19. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    That was the culmination of one of the worst periods of my life to date, but I think the worst part of it all was that I lost my wife's respect. We had always had the sexual problems, but she thought highly of me professionally -- that I was doing something meaningful, and doing it well. But after all this came to a head (I had told her each failure as it happened, they weren't secret) we had a conversation where she gently told me: "I'm not sure you know exactly what you're doing right now." I'll never forget that. I told her, "You're right." I really didn't. I was in freefall. Or maybe rock-bottom. Whichever metaphor you prefer.

    The next 3-4 months were excruciating. I wouldn't say I was depressed exactly, but it was a bleak time. The job I had applied for was my dream, a ticket to a new career, not to mention that my wife and I were excited about moving to a new town. Now that was over, I was never going to pursue that dream, so I had to move on with my life. Excruciating, like I said. For a while I simply couldn't believe it.

    The whole time, I knew the porn was a huge part of the problem. Maybe it's overstating things to say that porn addiction "caused" all this -- prevented me from having a sexual relationship with my wife, destroyed my career plans, broke me spiritually -- but it caused enough to be a major factor. Clearly these things weren't going to improve without addressing the porn addiction, facing it, dealing with it. I had known that for a long time, but I guess I hadn't lost enough to really, really get motivated. I had said to myself, "I definitely don't want to do this forever, I should definitely quit at some point", but that was it. I wasn't willing to put in the amount of effort it would take. I also wasn't willing to lose what I would give up by quitting.

    Anyway, now I was. As I said in my very first post here, I became absolutely determined to do this. I had reached that turning point, and once I passed it there it made more sense to keep going forward rather than falling back. Considering how much effort I had needed in my previous attempts, the past few months haven't felt very difficult. I know that I could still relapse, potentially any time, but I'm not constantly tensed and white-knuckled. I don't even feel that I need willpower much of the time. [continued below]
     
  20. apoyan

    apoyan Member

    So everything should be good, right? But no, only some things are. As a result of my turning point, I did start to make several changes in my life that feel healthy, that feel closer to the way I want to live my life. No PMO is just one of them. But many things didn't improve: my wife and I didn't start having sex. I still have PIED even now, and can't get hard enough to attempt penetration. Worst of all, after all the hurt feelings that have gone on for years now, even though I love her and care deeply for her, I'm not sure I'm even attracted to her anymore.

    Now, after things went off the rails for me, my wife told me she still wanted to move anyway. She said she wanted us to go together, but she was going to take things into her own hands and start applying for jobs. That actually made sense to me, because I was too wrecked to apply any effort to my career beyond just staying employed, let alone applying for anything again. My wife is quite talented so she got several interviews in different cities. Most of the cities weren't that appealing, but finally she got an interview in a distant city that both of us quite liked. We could definitely see ourselves relocating there. I had supported all of her applications but really tried to help her get this job; we were both excited about it.

    As she was proceeding through the rounds of interviews, I suddenly got a phone call one day... it was the place I'd applied last year, saying that things didn't work out with their new hire and they wanted me! This was totally unexpected and unplanned, and since it was in a completely different city it threatened to really mess up our plans. I asked my wife what she thought. She said she knew this was my dream, so I should take it... but she was still moving forward with her application. So I accepted the job, which is how I moved here to a new city about 2 months ago.

    Meantime my wife ended up getting the job she applied for, in a completely different city which is very distant from here. I was happy for her and supported her taking it, since it was a great step in her career and she was excited about it.

    She told me, "We're not even really married, we're more like roommates. I love you, but I need something that you just don't seem able to give me. There's no reason for us to stay living together." So in the end we did relocate, except that I moved here and she moved somewhere else hours away. Obviously, friends and family started asking why we would do this, since it's so odd (even if it wasn't planned that way). Actually, people didn't question me about why I accepted my job as much -- they really just tried to make her feel bad and get her to give up her opportunity.

    So eventually she started telling people what was going on. She told her parents, my parents, her siblings, my siblings, as well as my best friend -- everything that was going on. That we have never had sex, that I'm addicted to porn... everything.

    Someone might think I would be upset with her about that, but as I've said to her each time, I'm actually grateful. For one thing, as embarrassed or ashamed as I feel about it, it's what's actually going on. And the other thing is, secrecy makes addictions stronger -- talking about it, bringing it into the light, helps break the addiction. I planned to tell my best friend about all this eventually, and probably my siblings as well. But I might never have told my parents, let alone my in-laws. Now they all know. Everything is out in the open. No more secrets. I love my wife for that.

    Which brings us to the present. Where things stand now, I'm not sure anyone knows. My wife says there's no way we can really "work on things" sexually when we live many hours apart, which I tend to agree with. She's still unsatisfied and feels frustrated. She regularly tells me she doesn't understand why she hasn't gone ahead with a divorce yet.

    This weekend she came to visit me here, and we took a road trip to her parents' place (they live in a different city as well). As I said, everything is on the table. I had already spoken to them several times on the phone since they learned about what has been going on. But suggested I the visit to my wife, because I wanted to see them in person (ideally with her there).

    It wasn't as bad as you might expect. I've often thought of myself as a cowardly person in the past, and I think there was a definite element of weakness or cowardice in my ongoing addictive behaviors (whatever other biologic aspects may have been going on). So as weird as it sounds, I was impressed by my own courage in this situation -- knowing what to expect, I didn't run away. I think the growth I've experienced in the past months allowed me to develop that courage. So I didn't try to hide. And I spent the entire weekend being talked at, about what I've done wrong, what I need to do -- sometimes by one of my in-laws, sometimes both, sometimes them plus my wife. I tried to accept it with love. I tried not to get defensive. I felt sad because I can see clearly that my in-laws are suffering. They seem to blame me entirely -- if my wife and I break up they'll blame me, if we stay together and never have kids they will (my wife is getting older so that window is closing), and even if everything "works out" they'll still blame me that this ever happened. I tried to give them a little context because relationship problems always involve both of the people in the relationship, but I realized that for them it has to be entirely my fault. And honestly, even if the relationship problems aren't, the addiction is 100% my issue. My wife isn't responsible for that; she doesn't need to work on that. That really is completely up to me.

    So I thought I was moving on with my life, but now I realize that I'm at the point where I can actually start to address this addiction. The past months were the washout period: no porn, no masturbation, so hopefully those toxicities are leaving my system. Great, but that isn't healthy sexuality to me. That isn't the free, full expression of my sexuality, which every human being is entitled to. Porn is still defining my experience, only now by its absence -- and that isn't good enough. I'm planning to find a sex therapist to get professional help.

    I hope this doesn't sound like a downer, that's not how I feel. I realize I had spoken about many aspects of my addiction here before but was still embarrassed and ashamed to share this. So I feel grateful that I've reached a point now where I finally can. It feels like a huge step.
     

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