That Porn Problem

In late 2018, I was contacted by a gentleman named Joshua Shea with regard to a book he had just released “The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About“. Joshua believed his topic would be of interest to the listeners of my podcast as his book was about the damage that porn (and alcohol) addiction had on his life.

My kneejerk reaction was to decline the offer. I didn’t think that porn needed to be a subject for a podcast primarily focused on health, fitness and nutrition.

However, I didn’t keep that reaction for long.

I knew that porn or any other addictive vice did have an affect on health whether directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously.

So, I read Joshua’s book and we made plans to get him on the show to discuss the book and the circumstances more directly. That episode aired on November 29, 2018.

Reading his book brought a lot of my own problems to the forefront of my mind because my story, as it relates to porn, started around 40 years ago.

I can’t recall the first time I was aware of pornography but my recollections were that I was not much older than my son, Sebastian, is now. Somewhere around the age of 4 or 5, I had learned how to read the HBO guide that was delivered to our home. My mother recalls me being able to note that in the movie descriptions “V” was for violence, “N” was for nudity, etc. and I knew how to find the movies that featured “N”.

It didn’t take long before my family caught on to what I was doing and they had to keep an eye on my TV viewing for the foreseeable future.

Within the next year or so would be the incident that would have the most scarring effect on my childhood, when I was sexually abused by a babysitter. I am going to make the relatively safe assumption that this incident alone would continue to affect my relationship with pornography moving forward.

In the early 80s, I remember my father bringing home a Playboy magazine. He didn’t have a collection, mind you, there was only this one issue I recall him having and I remember sneaking off to look at it when I felt like my parents wouldn’t notice me.

Over the next several years, porn consumption became a more frequent aspect of my life. I would have friends with older brothers who had their own collections of magazines and videos that we would sneak around with and snicker over. All of which would make me feel as if, even though we weren’t allowed to look at them, the fact that so many of us did so made it feel somewhat normal, especially as I was soon to be making a transition into and through puberty.

When our family was transferred to Brasil through my father’s work, there was no age limit on purchasing pornographic materials, so I would frequent the local newsstand picking up something I felt I could hide from my parents so I could still have something to view. I seem to remember being busted by my father on more than one occasion when he would find my stash and make me throw it all away.

As I got older and more involved in relationships, the scenarios played out in those magazines and videos then became something of a snapshot of reality; each partner being an extension of whatever I had seen before. Of course, when you’re a teenager, there’s so much excitement wrapped around just being sexually involved that the associations between fantasy and reality had little to no bearing. All I knew was that fantasy and reality had finally intertwined.

Fast forward into the age of Napster, Kazaa and Limewire, (the free download sites one could find through the internet) and downloading pornographic videos became easier and the hard drive of any given computer of mine became the storage space for anything I wanted to watch. It was also during this time that my own drug use was at a high point so I could mix porn, drugs and whatever other debauchery I wanted into my lifestyle.

I never connected the dots that dysfunctional relationships, excessive drug use and easily accessible porn were all overlapping in my life. If my relationships went south, I had drugs and porn to fall back on. If a relationship was going well, porn might take a slight backseat but it was never far from eye’s reach.

Then, the rise of the smartphone came and websites that were exhaustive in their reach of any type of fantasy, desire, fetish, you name it. Everything was there, everything was easy, and everything became easier to hide from others.

To me, up until I read Joshua’s book, I didn’t think my constant viewing of porn was a problem. By then, I was happily married and Sebastian was still an infant. If I watched porn away from my wife, she was none the wiser and there was a story that I could tell myself that it wasn’t exactly unfaithful…was it?

Joshua’s book made me question that.

So, I tried an experiment.

I cut out porn “cold turkey” around the release of our episode together. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I just wanted to see how I felt.

-What would change?

-Would I view my wife differently?

-Would intimacy feel better?

After about 30 days of not viewing any porn whatsoever, things did, in fact, change. I started to notice things about my wife I hadn’t before. Her body felt different to me. Kissing felt different. Intimacy just…got better.

For the record, I have always been wildly attracted to my wife. Intimacy had never been lacking between us and I wasn’t suffering from anything like erectile dysfunction, low libido or anything like that. I just felt like something was missing and I never made a correlation with porn consumption to draw a link.

Looking back, porn was the fallback when she and I would argue or if I was alone and dealing with stress or if she and I had gone through a period of time without intimacy. The thing is: porn had been a part of my life for so many decades that it all just felt so normal to me.

Until I removed it.

Joshua had told me something and I believe he wrote it in his book that (I’m paraphrasing) a person can tell you that they’re in recovery from alcohol and people applaud and support them. However, when you tell them you’re a porn addict in recovery you’re treated as a deviant or a predator.

Much like I found through the many years I’ve had to sort through being a survivor of sexual abuse, talking about this type of thing is not comfortable, it’s still very much taboo. My concern, is that, of the myriad things that men have to sort through to be…well, “better” men, topics like childhood sexual abuse, childhood trauma and porn addiction can’t be left to chance.

In my mind, being better also meant being more responsive, more connected, less detached…

My biggest problem with taboo subjects is that, if men (or women) don’t feel comfortable discussing them, then they can’t fix the issue, and if it can’t be fixed, then what remains “broken”? For me, I’m trying desperately to fix all the broken areas of my life because nothing good happens there.

I didn’t stop consuming porn because of any spiritual connection or calling. I stopped because reading Joshua’s memoir gave me pause and made me consider that maybe, just maybe, my problem was bigger than I gave it credit for.

Just stopping wasn’t my only hurdle. I also felt it was time to open up to my wife as well. Having that conversation with her felt equally liberating, embarrassing, and frightening all at once. To admit to someone that “Hey, I’ve had this issue for four decades” doesn’t scream out a great degree of self-awareness on my part.

Besides, if it was all so “normal” why did I feel the need to hide it?

I should also add, that I don’t judge anyone who hasn’t come to the same conclusions I have. If you have porn in your life and you feel that no areas are adversely affected, I leave that up to the individual. I found it was doing a disservice to my own relationship to be intimately involved with the person I’m married to when my mind was off in fantasyland of whatever I had seen in porn.

For me, I have been spending the last several years of my life taking stock:

-What feels “off” to me?

-What can I change?

-What happens when I change it?

I also had to consider the fact (and this just doesn’t just concern the consumption of porn) that we can normalize, rationalize and justify nearly anything in our life if we need to confirm a given bias. I just reached a point where I couldn’t find the normal in looking at porn anymore.

Truth be told, there really isn’t anything more rewarding than your significant other feeling more attractive because you’ve devoted your full attention to them…

As part of that, I credit Joshua for having the bravery to write the book that he did and the companion book “He’s A Porn Addict…Now What?” and, of course, to my wife for having an understanding and kind ear when I finally brought this to her attention.

If you’re struggling with a dependency on pornography or you know someone who does, I would encourage not only the advice of a qualified therapist but reading each of Joshua’s books to gain some more insight into how any of this could potentially have far-reaching negative effects in your own life. Writing this article and making these decisions for myself doesn’t put me on a soapbox to preach. I’m above no one, rather I wanted to open the conversation in hopes that you can take stock for yourself.

2 thoughts on “That Porn Problem

  1. This is the single greatest thing anybody has ever written that included my name. My hope is that there are many people out there whose names I’ll never know and stories I’ll never read who are touched the same way. Reading this is like fuel in my tank to keep going. Thank you so much, Jason. People need to hear how they touched others.

    Liked by 2 people

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