The first three months that I started to take my porn addiction seriously felt like hell to me. Not only was I grieving the loss of a relationship but I was fighting the damage I had done to my brain from about 25 years of exposure to porn. Every night was a battle not to act out, not to go back to my drug of choice.
For part of the time I was going through physical withdrawal from dopamine and the other chemicals involved. Some people will say there is no withdrawal but they’re wrong. It is subtle and nothing like withdrawal from cocaine or morphine but it is withdrawal just the same.
I had severe headaches, body aches, trouble sleeping, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I even had night sweats. My body had become so accustomed to porn and the release I got from masturbation that it didn’t know what to do without it.
Then I had to separate myself from my addiction. I had to realize that I wasn’t my addiction. I had to realize that the thoughts I had telling me to look at porn, objectify women, and to get off weren’t me. They were the programming of my brain from years of unhealthy behavior and thinking.
Before I continue I want to make it clear that the above is not to be used as an excuse for addictive behavior. I had to make the choice to fight those thoughts and impulses. I just want people to realize that it isn’t easy because of the programming that developed. Just telling someone to simply stop or try harder doesn’t help. It doesn’t work that way.
It takes work and accountability. You can’t do it alone!
I want to talk something that helps me when sexual thoughts or thoughts to act out come into my head. This is something I learned from a book called Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame by George Collins and Andrew Adleman. George is a sex therapist who mostly deals with sexual addiction.
There is more to it than I can explain but basically one of the techniques they talk about is to give those unwanted and unhealthy sexual thoughts a voice and even a face or identity. They say to give him or her a name. I called him Austin.
I got my addiction’s name when at the time I watched one of the Austin Powers movies (yes, a bad idea, especially at the time) with my accountability partner. It was shortly after this that I read the part of the book about naming the unwanted thoughts. The funny thing is that I was going through the book with my accountability partner but it took him nearly two months before he made the connection of where I got the name. Lol
I know this sounds stupid but it works. When I would have those thoughts I would picture Austin Powers and proceed to talk to him. Sometimes I will just correct him, telling him I don’t want to do that. Telling him that women are not sex objects to be used. Sometimes I would have to yell at him to shut up. Once, I pictured a piece of metal got slapped over his mouth, like in Beetlejuice. At one point I was so angry about how much porn had cost me, relationally and emotionally, that I imagined myself beating the crap out of Austin. It’s okay to get angry if you have a healthy outlet and don’t hold onto it. Some people may disagree with that last statement but I’m not talking about letting every little thing make you angry.
After awhile I started to have those thoughts less and less. By explaining to Austin why those thoughts were unacceptable it started to reprogram my subconscious. I was able to see an attractive woman and not have to fight the automatic thoughts that would pop into my brain.
Two anecdotes about that last sentence. One day I saw a very beautiful woman and thought wow she’s beautiful, and that was it. No improper thoughts about her. It felt good to see that change.
Second anecdote. When I watched the Austin Powers movie it was difficult to see Beyonce in some of those outfits. A few month later was the Super Bowl and Beyonce performed. Of course, wearing a tight outfit. Some of the dancing normally would be a problem for me but I was like whatever. I did look away a few times. Don’t need to undo any of the work I had done.
Do I still struggle? Of course, but not as bad or as often as I once did. We live in a society that constantly throws sexual messages at us from advertisements and TV shows.
Don’t think it was easy. It wasn’t. It still isn’t.
Am I completely free from temptation? Not even close. Some days are easy while others are hard as hell. I am getting better. And I’m growing stronger friendships. I don’t feel like a fraud anymore, although I have my moments.
Coming clean and getting help were the best thing I could have ever done.