How does it feel to be 365 days, one full year free from online pornography when you have been a habitual user for over 10 years? This month one of my regular clients celebrated being 1 year in full recovery from his pornography addiction. He offered to share his experience in the hope that it will encourage others to get help just like him, because one person’s recovery also positively impacts partners, peers and family.
For anyone going through a recovery process, getting through the first year of abstinence is a full-time commitment. Challenging, testing and rewarding and just cause for celebrating personal achievements. The first year of sobriety from any addiction helps to pave the way for a brighter more fulfilling future for everyone effected. The challenge with online pornography addiction and recovery is that nobody is openly talking about it. This is the third part in a series of articles about Overcoming Pornography for individuals and couples.
The most common questions that clients who come for therapy ask me about pornography addiction is how do other people give up porn? What are their results? What can I expect? Where do I start? In the media we read about the negative consequences of pornography but rarely hear about personal accounts of sexual recovery and giving up pornography.
Michael who is 28, has kindly shared his experience of recovery and answers some of these commonly asked questions. His story of problematic pornography use is not uncommon. In fact many of my clients who come for addiction counselling have been accessing pornography for as long as the internet has been available, that’s over two decades. For other’s, smartphones have escalated the habit into a problem. In many instances the partner would not be aware that there is a problem and rarely has it been discussed openly in the relationship.
Here is Michael experience of his first 365 days of sexual recovery and personal development.
How was online pornography effecting your life before you realised you had a problem?
Porn has affected my life on a daily basis since I was just 14 year old. For me that was over 13 years of habitual use that I had to start unraveling. The last 4 years have been the worst, as my problem showed me how much of a hold it had on me. It took almost losing my family and job to realise how deep I was in this problem and addiction.
I had to change the small things first to get big results.
During this period of time, I never believed or realised that I had a problem. I always thought to myself that all men use pornography and I couldn’t see an issue with it. It started off occasionally and gradually became more of a routine from weekly to daily. At my worst it was a couple of times per day.
I had a routine and I was blindsided to the fact that I was no longer in control. Once the thoughts entered my head, I felt I had to act on the impulse and go online viewing porn.
The path that I was on was a downward spiral. At this point porn was my life, I had lost my close friends and almost my partner and kids. I distanced myself from everything that didn’t involve porn. I had no enthusiasm for life or my own family life. Porn was the biggest part of my daily life, in the morning, throughout work and I’d even sneak off at night while my partner slept. I thought everything I was doing was normal, unknown to the fact that porn had rewired my thoughts and mindset.
What are the things that you did to overcome your online pornography addiction that other people might be able to also try?
The first step in my recovery was realizing and accepting that I had a problem with porn. I was simply unable to stop alone. My biggest downfall was believing that I could overcome my issue with pornography myself. From that day on I realized I needed professional help.
I recommend reaching out and talking about what you going through. I did a search online for therapists who provide porn addiction counselling and made my first appointment with Orlagh Gahan. During my first session, I found it extremely hard and uncomfortable to go through but afterwards the relief I felt was unbelievable. I had so much that I needed to talk about and get off my chest in those early sessions.
Orlagh suggested several things to start with, some self-help books and the Fortify Fight The New Drug website and app which was brilliant. It was relatable and opened my eyes to what porn had and can do. (Check out a practical guide to giving up online pornography here.) My partner also came to some therapy sessions with me and we read The Partners Perspective by Paula Hall together.
I soon found out what my triggers were and how to avoid them. I now fill my life with structure and new hobbies. I gave up my phone with internet connection soon into therapy. This was the big turning point for me. I had to change the small things first to get big results.
How has your life changed since giving up pornography?
My life has dramatically changed since being free from online pornography. I can actually say I have a life now. I can feel and experience emotions, whereas before I kept everything suppressed. I have meaningful connections with people. I can honestly say for the first I am happy and content with my life. Words can’t describe how much my life has been changed positively since I began this journey.
I had so much that I needed to talk about and get off my chest in those early sessions.
With the support I received from Orlagh, my partner and my family I don’t feel trapped by porn anymore. I can now openly talk about it with all of them and I no longer feel shame or embarrassment.
Do you have any advice for anyone who thinks they might have a problem with pornography?
My advice to anyone who feels that they are struggling with porn is to stop trying to deal with it alone. Reach out to family, friends, your partner, a therapist or doctor etc. It’s the best thing I ever done, so much as changed for me in just one year. Get the help you need. Take it day by day. Figure what your triggers are and set goals, find new hobbies and talk about it, it will get easier.