Tentatively Improving…

Just to put it out there: I think things are improving.

I can’t say for certain, I learned not to say “I’m better for certain” the hard way – by repeatedly saying it and then watching porn again. But this isn’t just a phase of successfully not watching. In fact, I have been watching. Which I know makes my optimism sound a little far-fetched but actually it’s not. It’s like this:

I am almost absolutely certain now that my porn addiction is not about sexuality. (Another contradiction I hear you cry? And It’s only the third paragraph!). Wrong. Not a contradiction: just a complex situation. Pornography is an escape, as I explained pretty badly in my previous post. What I have been doing these past few weeks is trying to identify exactly what it is I am trying to escape from. And it’s working. It turns out my emotional detective powers are pretty good. Especially now that I have a little help from my therapist.

I won’t go into what it is that porn aides me in running from, that’s for a different post when the cuts aren’t so fresh and hindsight works its mighty magic. But there is little question in my mind this evening – the need is lessened. The overwhelming necessity to consume pornography is just not there. I am sad. Sad about the things I have been running from, they are not fixed. But they are at least now visible. Or beginning to become so, beginning to wonder and whistle in the fog where once they were not to be seen or heard. I’m learning them, and in doing so I think I am unlearning pornography.

I can’t take this to mean I am cured. I don’t for a second expect to be. I don’t know if there is such a thing really, but right now, on this evening, I feel positive that things are improving.

I don’t think I have the control I once learned where I could not watch porn even when NEEDING it bad. I’m sure if one of those cravings hit I would fall. But this is even better. Because I don’t even need that control, because I have very little to control. It’s lessened. And that, quite frankly, is friggin’ great.

I wonder if that’s why I am so hungry. But that’s for a different story….

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Where do you feel your feelings? The translation of difficult emotions into problematic behaviour.

The heart is perhaps the organ most closely associated with human emotion in this culture, especially, for some reason, the bottom of the heart (which, by the way, would be the cardiac muscle and the inferior vena cava). But crudely literal interpretations of cultural poetics aside, my point is this: I do not feel from the heart. I feel, mostly but not exclusively from the legs.

From discussing this with friends I have come to the conclusion that this is not typical. Of those I have asked most have said their chest, stomach and neck are where they feel from most regularly.

I have thought nothing of this for a long time, filing it alongside the likes of the placebo effect, photosynthesis and the astonishing speed and vibrancy of a butterfly’s short life,as just another of the perplexing and wondrous curiosities life. But this week, that has changed.

I have recently begun seeing a therapist with whom I am discussing my struggles with pornography, among many other things. Unsurprisingly, we got onto the subject of feelings and I mention in passing:

“I tend to feel those kinds of difficult emotions in my legs…” To which he replies,

“Your legs, the things you use run away.”

This is possibly the single most insightful thing anybody has ever said to me. Blossoming from this brief exchange has come a whole abundance of understanding that I could never have hoped to achieve alone.

Frustration. That is the sensation I feel most acutely there, in my upper thighs and calves. “The things you use to run away.”

Frustration. That is almost exclusively what leads me to watch porn. Because porn is another form of running away: door locked, curtains shut, reality and all it’s haunting anxieties briefly expelled in a few stolen moments of false freedom.

When I watch pornography, for those few and brief moments I am running faster than any legs could take me. Physically, the worries of everyday existence are too agile, too clever, too sly to be outrun. But psychologically, pornography outwits even the cunningest of anxieties.

Unfortunately this is ephemeral. When you pull off the motorway for a coffee and a piss the rest of the traffic doesn’t stop in solidarity, it hammers on insatiably. You are left behind whilst you escape the rush, temporally your destination is distanced from you with every second you are not driving. Every second that the curtains make their feeble attempts at blocking out the daylight, every second that computer comes on and those same letters are typed with shameful speed into the search-bar – every second continues whilst you are lost.

And just as my legs can’t outrun worry and frustration and failure, neither can they outrun lost time. It takes days to catch up again. To get to a place that is light and free and good and solid takes time.

Perhaps learning not to run, learning how to embrace, or wrestle or minimise difficult feelings, perhaps that is the key to walking beyond pornography addiction.

From Pornography to Poetry

Sorry in advanced for the crudeness of this poem’s title, each word is taken from a word in the title of seven different porn clips that were on the ‘most favoured’ page of one of the most famous porn sites in the world.

‘Slam’ ‘pound’ ‘pump’ ‘fill’ ‘smash’ ‘ram’ ‘fuck’

‘Slam’ that pedal down like the therapist told you to,

and break.

Mindfulness is bold and new but that promise of freedom,

is fake.

 

Don’t ‘pound’ that guilt no deeper in, know sleep’s no sin, this air is thin,

‘pump’ us in some oxygen before we ‘fill’ with cake.

 

‘Smash’ the habit don’t just kick it,

one day you can tell those phonies to “stick it!”,

To ‘Ram’ their own misogynistic, hyper-masculine, violent fictions straight into the realm of  gone:

remembered as a sinister freedom we sought to protect, whilst nobody listened to the countless that wept.

And never slept.

 

And we’re not just talking addicts, we’re talking actors and victims,

who were judged for their choices that turned out to be fictions,

but ‘fuck’ if such progressive ideas will penetrate the mainstream, such empathetic, collective efforts to view what there is to be seen, to listen to those who aren’t allowed a voice, who are condemned to this world because “they made a choice”.

Why is it so hard to understand that ones choices are constrained by ones circumstances, and that circumstances are not level, or even, choices are made within a framework of expectations and pressures and responsibilities and inequalities. A choice between several derelict futures is not a choice at all, not in the true sense.

 

I’ve just remembered I promised not to write any more bad poems. Sorry ’bout that. Blame pensandguitars, he inspired me with his.

Lost in the night amidst a theatre of fake lust and false freedoms: an extract from my porn count.

I began a page called pornography count which I’m keeping separate from my regular posts because I imagine it will be of more interest to me than others. But I wrote this on it last night and actually feel that it works as a post in itself.

3.

01.10am, 10.01.2013 cumulative watching time approx: 30

Feel the usual: drained, sad, glum, wired, headache, the sounds will echo in my ears for a while. The shapes with echo on my retinas and in my minds eye. They are predictable, short term effects.

What is more worrying is what it is doing at a deeper level. What are we doing to our minds and lives with this absurd commodity? This theatre of fake lust and false freedoms, of forced situations that are justified as ‘choices’. They were people, they stood there, writhed there in front of that camera. How did they get there? What ‘choices’ led to this and more importantly whose choices led to this? Was it theirs? Really? I’m not convinced. Not at all.

It’s a façade, perplexing my sexuality and teaching it to expect insatiable whores and to act with voracious sexuality – to ‘fuck’, ‘pound’, ‘slam’, ‘ram’, ‘fill’, ‘pump’, ‘smash’ as though sex must be something taken forcefully whether consented to or not. As though men only know how to be violently intimate.

That is not intimacy, it’s not even pretending to be. It’s viscous. It’s hatred and anger and confusion and loneliness and isolation and a lifetime of socialisation that tells you to deal with that through aggressive sex, alcohol, misogyny, power games…  Because you are an ALMIGHTY MAN and the world belongs to you only. So do all the lesser people in it.

That’s what this porn says to me. That’s what it would be making me believe if I wasn’t so privileged to have the kind of education that I have. If I wasn’t from a loving and enlightened family who brought me up to question and criticise and hope and love and be kind and caring and try, try, try again to make the world better.

This is shit. And I’m all caught up in how it effects me. As though that’s the big problem here. And that is a problem, of course, but it’s not THE problem. The problem is the millions of young and more vulnerable people learning their sexuality from videos such as ‘Fuck the hot maid’ which, coincidently, has 6,126,586 views.

Six million one hundred and twenty six thousand five hundred and eighty six views. That is almost one thousandth of the worlds population. Considering how offensive the video is, THAT IS A LOT.

How did we get to be here?

The role of confession in pornography addiction recovery: how have you fellow addicts and (not yet ‘fellow’) ex-addicts experienced confession?

Confession appears to play a crucial part in recovery from all sorts of issues. Pornography addiction, it appears, is no exception. 

I’ve been thinking about the role of confession a lot recently, and how it relates to porn addiction. It seems to though, that confession is not just a single thing. Rather, there seem to be a few different kinds of confession. As I see it, and in no particular order, here are the kinds of confession I have come across, and a few of my thoughts on each of them:

 

Confession to a friend

This one I have done. Four times. Every time is was terrifying, the world span around me as the words stuck in my throat and in my fears. Adrenaline and breathlessness and then it would all blurt out far louder than I meant it to and then everything was fine. And a long conversation would ensue in which I was reassured that they didn’t see me any differently (although in every case I doubt that, but it is well intentioned I think just to mean that they don’t suddenly dislike me).

In every case it was helpful. Even if the person wasn’t particularly helpful, the act of confession has been exciting and liberating and insightful. A couple of times, a confession to a friend was proceeded by a period of easily abstaining from watching porn. Somehow the possibility of porn became attached to the intimate conversations that happened when I confessed, and whenever I got the urge, I would also be reminded that I had friends who cared and who knew and that would help. But only short term.

 

Confession to a family member

This was maybe the hardest. It was to one of my parents. And I wonder subsequently whether it was a bad idea or not. I don’t know. I hope they don’t blame themselves for it anyway. But it hasn’t changed a single thing about our relationship. It’s same old lovely parent son relationship. I’m not sure if it was helpful or not. I think it must be in some subtle subconscious way but there was no tangible change immediately following the confession like there was with some of my friends. Perhaps though, it has helped to alleviate the guilt… I am very lucky to have socially liberal and open minded parents who don’t judge or condemn or blame or individualise problems like this.

 

Confession to a therapist

This was the easiest. A safe space, and a highly helpful one that taught me some basic mindfulness techniques such as the following :

When the urge hits you, accept it, allow it to be there, do not try to push it away. Say to yourself

Ok, so I want to watch porn, fine, that’s okay. Let that be and sit for a while. It will pass eventually. You don’t need to act on it. It’s fine. Just let it be.”

For a good few weeks this method allowed me to stop watching porn altogether. It was really astonishing. But it was only for a few weeks, then it stopped working. But therapeutic relationship was absolutely wonderful and gave me real insight into the addiction. I am currently seeking more, long-term counselling and group therapy.

 

Public confession

Never done this one, but it seems one of the most important. To make public to anyone such intimate details of your sexuality is amazing to me. And one day I guess I will do it. But right now I cannot imagine everyone knowing: my brothers, my grandparents, all my extended family, all the friends I know and half-know. I think it would make me constantly feel like I was judged or looked down on or something. Who knows. But I have deep respect for anyone who does this and would love to hear your stories on how it has influenced you since.

Interestingly, I feel like this blog is a form of semi-public-confession. I can put all this detail out in the public for anyone with a computer and internet connection to see, yet still remain anonymous. That is a real help, and a real testament to the power and uses of social media.

 

Confession to yourself

I’m not sure if confession is quite the word for this one. I cannot remember the first time I realised I was addicted. I remember realising that I couldn’t stop. And realising that was a problem. And then I Googled porn addiction – thinking it was a far-fetched idea and that I was just being dramatic – and there was. Today the same Google search yields “about 17,100,000”. Not so far-fetched after all.  

The process of admitting to myself that I have an addiction was easy. But only because I did not know then how serious or destructive it could be; or how many years it would last (currently been about 10 years).

 

Confession clearly has results as a process of healing and therapy. I would love to hear about other people’s experiences with confession: how it felt, what the effects were, why you chose to do it and any other kinds of confession I have not included here.

Changes inspire bad poetry.

My partner and I broke up recently. Since the breakup I have proceeded into a long stint in which I have tried – and failed – to ignore anything that reminds me of us, so as to minimise the number of heart-wrenching emotional breakdowns that frequent post-love life.

This has included all the usual things: particular songs, places and books. But also, certain turns of phrase and particular ways of saying them – that special language that you didn’t realise you’d invented and learnt together, awash with particular phrases and inflections that have come to mean your love and to communicate its mutuality constantly, without ever needing to use the word itself. An intimate and perfectly private colloquialism. To my surprise, that language is one of the things I miss the most.

But back to the point. What I really want to say here is this: in trying to ignore anything remotely connected to us, I have come to realise that when you love and live with a person for three years there is pretty much nothing that remains unconnected to your relationship, especially in the time of its ending. Memories I didn’t even know I had come crawling cruelly to the front of my mind and strike at the heart-strings with a blunt scythe.

I have come to the conclusion that absolutely everything becomes connected when intimate and in love. I cast around the room for something that isn’t connected: the glass of water on my bedside table? No use, I only started doing that when we moved in together. The flowers? Nope, we shared our first kiss in two months under a eucalyptus tree in Falmouth, and besides, she’s from Australia. The tissues offer no release, I’ve only had to start buying my own now that she’s not here to provide them. Even my fucking curtain rings remind me of the first time I put up curtains when I moved to University which is where we met. It’s impossible not to connect.

I realised very quickly that I was going to have to confront some of that which is associated with us, regardless of its capacity to literally flaw me into a shuddering, sobbing ball. Food, for example, could not be ignored, even though it is one of the most closely associated things. Neither could sexism (we’re both feminists, so now not only is sexism a terrible thing, but it’s also intimately bound up in heart-break), given that it’s everywhere. Neither could those friends who we have come to know together.

But despite ALL of this, something happened today, which probably sounds absurd, that completely tore me down– a lump of earwax fell out of my ear. I won’t go into why this is connected (and no, it’s not kinky before you ask). But now that I’ve pulled myself together, it occurs to me that this lump of earwax and the reaction it induced does say something quite profound about the extent of connection that can form between two people in love. So I wrote naff a poem about it:

The wax in my ears reminds me of you

The taste of my tears reminds me of you

The shape of my fears reminds me of you

 

Getting water before bed reminds me of you

Being well fed reminds me of you

The door on the garden shed reminds me of you

 

My juggling balls remind me of you

All my possessions in some way

Remind me of you

 

My finger nails remind me of you

My pubic hair reminds me of you

This itch on my neck reminds me of you

 

My new glasses remind me of you

Which means when I look through

I clearly don’t see you

Not seeing you reminds me of you

 

TV reminds me of you

Books remind me of you

Cardboard reminds me of you

Bookbinding reminds me of you

 

Your supportiveness and how pleased

You are when I’m in a zone

 

Audiobooks remind me of you

Certain kinds of looks remind me of you

Certain tones of voice remind me of you

 

I have no one to share

Our intonation with

That we so easily, seamlessly developed

I have no predictable loving, echoing answers

To ‘s’nice’ ‘that’s good’ ‘yeah like that’

 

That’s it. That’s maybe what I miss most

Our language.

I have space and time ahead now.

Not filled with us,

 

It breaks my heart and I chose it.

It breaks my heart and I chose it.

How is this a way to feel? Why is this a thing?

Why is this relevant to a blog about porn addiction I hear you thinking? Because one of the things that I have been avoiding is this blog. Because, like everything else, it is connected. We talked for a while about whether she was okay with me writing it and I was so relieved that she said yes. Because I’d already started writing things to go in it. And since breaking up my porn use has gone through the roof, and I couldn’t really bare to read all the positive things that I’d written on here and all the advice to myself because I was breaking it all.

But now I think I’m back. I know I don’t have a large enough following that I need to apologise for not being here, but I do feel well supported and, in a certain way, loved by some people who have messaged me, so thank you, all of you.

Time to crack on with fighting this crappy addiction. (I promise I won’t write any more poems).

Happiness goes down, porn goes up.

Strange, but at the same time so obvious, how porn usage and life are so interconnected. Life has been going pretty well up until now. And now I watch loads of porn. Simple.

The statistician in me likes to think of it this way: my pornography use and my happiness are negatively correlated – happiness goes down, porn goes up; happiness goes up, porn goes down. This relationship is important for two reasons.

Firstly because of the way my porn usage concentrates and escalates my moods. So if I’m happy because a, b and c things happened to me this week that’s great. I’m happy. But chances are I’m also happy because of the fact that my happiness is allowing me not to watch porn. So that gets added to the list of good things that are happening to me and often whilst a, b and c are great, the fact that I haven’t watched porn beats them all. So I’m a winner, it’s almost as if having a porn addiction is a good thing in these circumstances, like a little bonus happy…

The second, and more serious reason that I think this relationship is important is because it proves the theory that porn use is a coping mechanism for dealing with/not dealing with/escaping from the many difficulties of living.

I have watched porn for a cumulative two hours today. “What a fucking loser” – is what I would have told myself a few months back. Now I just seem to think “Mrelghugghh”. Blank, numb, nothing. Bit disapointed maybe. But nothing much more than that. And that kind of makes me more worried. Or it might if I could summon the energy and togetherness to be worried. Because maybe I’ve stopped caring about using porn. And maybe that’s worse. I want to care. I want to mind. I want to hate that I’m addicted so that I can not be addicted. If I don’t care then I’ll just carry on.

Anyway that brings me to another thing. A sensation that I have not had for a long time – since back when a two hour porn session would have been a restrained day. Having watched for that long I now hear and see porn in sounds and shapes that have nothing to do with porn. For example, just now I could definitely hear a woman outside my window making the typical moaning noises that accompany female porn stars pretending to orgasm. I now realise that it was a bird calling. Earlier on when watching TV I was certain that I could see a scantily clad bottom in what was actually a shadow falling across someone’s arm. I imagine that if I had left the house today the way that I look at others would have been similarly affected.

Fuck I hate this.