Having struggled with problem porn use, we’ve done a lot of thinking about the nature of our addiction. We’re not researchers, at least not at the moment. What we’re talking about is the time we’ve spent peeling back the layers of the proverbial onion to identify, understand, and manage the thoughts and behaviors that caused us and our loved ones so much pain.
Our personal exploration has taken us through numerous levels of discovery. When we were starting out, we focused narrowly on our compulsive porn viewing, and tried to identify strategies for interrupting that specific behavior. When we managed that, we turned to look at how our addiction might come out through other (non-porn) behaviors. That led us to realize that while obsessive porn use was the flavor of compulsive, reward-seeking behavior we’d latched onto, it wasn’t necessarily the only way our addiction could interfere with our lives. As we developed a sense of all of the ways in which we were at risk of compulsive, reward-seeking behaviors - exercise, overeating, social media, etc. - we also began to focus on root causes. We tried to identify trigger points and moments in time when we felt compelled to “escape” into those behaviors, and then to explore what it was that we were trying to escape from.
If this is starting to sound like a rabbit hole, well, yeah, that’s exactly what it is. We now realize there aren’t necessarily answers to some of the questions we’ve been asking ourselves - at least, not definitive and “correct” ones. Instead, to paraphrase a tired cliche, at some point we concluded that recovery from addiction is principally about the journey and practice of self-awareness, and not about the destination of finding all the answers.
Which is all well and good. Except for this one teensy problem:
We can’t trust our own thinking.
Thinking led us deeper into the morass of addiction in the first place. It wasn’t just that we told ourselves that this would really be the last time, and that if we just tried a little harder we could kick porn on our own. It’s that those thoughts were actually part of how our addiction thrived. Compulsive, reward-seeking became so engrained in our lives, so much a part of who we were, that we would unconsciously sabotage ourselves in order to have a reason to “escape” into our addictive behaviors. Addiction tainted even the changes we tried to make on our own to address our addiction.
Which brings us to the one piece of advice we feel comfortable and qualified giving to anyone - anyone - trying to kick porn out of their lives. If you’re going to go down the rabbit hole of exploring your addiction, make sure you take a fellow rabbit with you. Someone you trust, who gets what you’re going through, who won't judge, and who can provide an independent, neutral perspective on the thoughts and observations that you think are so clever, but might actually just be more self-defeating nonsense.
You can get starting finding a fellow rabbit here. Hop to it.
Longer-form writing from the PornHelp team on current topics relating to problem porn use and recovery.