Key 1: I Am Not Alone
10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
I was born in the early sixties, the last of the baby boomers. The se-xual revolution burst upon the world while I was a child. People
were exploring their se-xual boundaries by tearing those long
established boundaries down. The increased effectiveness and
availability of birth control made se-xual activity outside the traditional
norms of marriage seem, like, groovy baby.
By 1971, I was addicted to p0rn0graphy. Perhaps addicted is too strong a word for an eight-year-old, but I was certainly headed in that
direction; the effect that p0rn0graphy had on me was every bit like a
I don’t remember the first p0rn0graphic magazine I ever saw,
but in my suburban California neighborhood, every single father of
every single friend had at least one p0rnographic magazine – often more – in his house. And I knew where they were kept. Mr. G. kept his
in the cabinet under the master bathroom sink. Mr. W. kept his in the
drawer of his nightstand. Mr. B. kept his in a trunk at the foot of his
bed. Mr. C. kept his on the coffee table and in a huge pile in the hall
closet. My friends and I spent hours studying these magazines, like
college students studying for some sort of major exam. Or perhaps,
more like students getting drunk on their favorite beer.
My parents on the other hand were different from my friends’
parents. My parents did not keep p0rnography in our house (believe
me, I looked). However, they viewed se-xuality as this wonderful thing
and normal activity and had a few intriguing se-x manuals. In our home we often talked about issues related to human se-xuality –
sometimes even around the dinner table. Our parents went out of their
way to teach us about the procreative process as well as social skills
necessary to treat people of the opposite gender with respect and
goodness. My parents’ desire to instill in us a healthy se-xual viewpoint
was an uphill battle with me, however, because all the p0rn I was
looking at next door was teaching me something completely different about se-x and about girls. My parents were trying to teach me true
concepts, while the p0rn0graphy was seducing me with its lies. I liked
what the p0rn was telling me more than what my parents were teaching.
My life became completely wound up around p0rnography, yet all the while I was attempting to appear like the good guy my parents
wanted me to become. Life was a struggle of incongruity as I danced in and out of the secret darkness.
I won’t relate all the ways I indulged in p0rn0graphy as I grew up, nor all the ways I hid my behavior. Sometimes it took considerable
effort to get the p0rn and it always took considerable effort to hide the evidence. But my addiction was so deeply imbedded that I was willing
to go to great extremes to act out.
For example, when I was about 13 or 14, I had a neighborhood
friend who enjoyed showing me where his father hid his adult magazines. One week his family went on vacation and I was asked to feed their cats and water their plants while they were gone. It was actually a big job because they had lots of plants to water. The cats
were all outdoor cats and so were the plants, and I had no reason to go
inside their house during the week. In fact, I had no key to get inside. However, every time I went into their yard, I checked the doors to see
if I could find a way inside to look at that magical magazine in his father’s drawer.
One day, delirious with my desire to enjoy some p0rnography, I
climbed under their house through an exterior access grate into the crawl space. I wriggled on my belly, knees and elbows under their
house across the jagged concrete and gravel. I climbed under air ducts
and tried not to snap any dangling wires. I positioned myself directly under the master bedroom closet where there was a trap door and as I
pushed up on the trap door, I discovered it was unlatched. A shoe fell
on me as I pushed upward, and an entire shoe rack was knocked over
as it sat atop the trap door. But I got in the room and was able to spend an hour with the magazine, escaping into my lust haze and
masturbating in their master bathroom.
This is how crazy the addicted part of my brain is: I actually
broke into a neighbor’s house! I’m sure I left behind a trail of evidence
with the knocked over shoe rack, but I was willing to risk any
consequence to look through that magazine. I even prepared a detailed
yet implausible lie in case I was asked about the knocked-over shoe
rack. 10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
Since then, I have acted out in more extreme and more dangerous ways. When my brain was locked into p0rnography, I was
transported to a different world. A world where I was accepted,
approved, loved, and desired. It was not a world grounded in reality,
responsibility or consequence. It was my own personal time, and it felt
wonderful. Real life, with the academic and social pressures of school,
and later the stresses and boredom of a professional career, literally disappeared. I engulfed myself in the pleasure of p0rnography, and I
made a conscientious choice to do so.
The reason I enjoyed p0rnography so much was pretty simple: it felt good. It felt much better than the pressure I felt to fit in at school, the stress of homework, and the chores at home that constantly loomed
over my head. P0rnography, lust and mast-urbation swept all those
concerns away. To those of us who struggle with this addiction, p0rnography is
pleasurable. Many addicts may be surprised to learn that there are
millions of people in this world for whom p0rnography is not pleasurable. For many, it can be emotionally painful. They see it for
what it is: The dehumanization of people for the purpose of satisfying
someone else’s se-xual desires. They see it as degrading. They see it as
repulsive. They see it as deeply, deeply disturbing. For them, it is a
counterfeit for something beautiful and fulfilling.
Interestingly, there are times when many addicts also see
p0rnography as disturbing – however, we don’t usually come to this
conclusion until after our binge. Only after we have thoroughly acted
out, with our lustful cravings satisfied, do our eyes begin to see clearly
enough to identify the true nature of p0rnography. Some addicts, in
this moment of clarity, make great resolutions to never indulge again. They also sense greater wisdom and insight than they have enjoyed in the past and think, “This time my resolve will stick. I think I may be
cured!” However, this perceived clarity is just as convoluted as our
When we are in the chains of addiction, we don’t view the world correctly at all. We think we suddenly “get it,” but we almost never do.
Our perceptions are still being dictated and shaped by what our addiction wants us to believe. Our addiction wants us to feel high. After acting out we may reach a point where se-x is temporarily incapable of making us feel high. Our addiction fills us with the
nobility of false recovery, and this heightened state of resolve becomes our new high. We absolutely KNOW we will never act out again. 10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
P0rnography disgusts us. Similarly for some religious addicts, walking
a false path of premature repentance can bring about a sense of
redemption that then becomes the new high. We are still high, only
we’re high on our own nobility, resolve and anticipated success.
But eventually, the drudgery of life brings about its realities and
pains, and our resolve to never use p0rn again becomes less exciting.
Our addiction knows where the real pleasure is to be found, our
addiction knows how to get us high again, and soon we return to the p0rnography.
I repeated this cycle for years: The pain of life led me to seek
solace in lust and p0rn. It brought pleasure for a while. But then the pain and emptiness of acting out would outweigh the pleasure of acting out. I’d resolve not to act out and feel redeemed. But in reality I had
not changed much, and when the world threw its obstacles in my path, I was still susceptible to the enticement of p0rn and would find myself
acting out again. Eventually, I got married and hoped that marriage would solve
the problem. But despite the fact that I am married to a woman whom I still regard as the most beautiful woman on the planet, she was not what my addiction needed – my addiction needed something to
instantaneously satisfy my every se-xual inclination. Since my wife had
too much self-esteem for that, only p0rnography seemed to meet the
need. Within six months of marriage I had returned to acting out. (I’ll
talk more about marriage later, but I will say that I disclosed to my
wife before she discovered my addiction – actually, before we were
married. I confessed much and she was deeply hurt but committed to
supporting my efforts to recover.)
The Internet came into my life a few years after marriage, and it
added rocket fuel to my addiction. I was so distraught. Despite all my
best efforts, things kept getting worse and worse and worse. I signed
up for a therapist. 10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
In therapy I learned a few techniques that seemed helpful. After
a year or so of therapy, I was sensing some improvements in my life. I
was experiencing success in abstaining from p0rn. I was at least
staying sober longer than I ever had in the past.
And then I did something that – well, looking back I have to
wonder what got into me. I wrote an essay about p0rnography
addiction and I posted it online. That was the first incarnation of . Something unexpected happened: I began to get emails from people who had read the article. They told me how helpful it was for
them. They told me they were succeeding at sobriety for the first time in their lives. They expressed tremendous gratitude for that little article. 10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
Early on at, I set up a survey. I asked people if they considered themselves to be addicted to p0rnography. I asked at
what age they first got hooked on p0rn. I asked if they considered
themselves religious. Over 5,000 people responded to the survey.
The single most startling response in the survey was to the
question, “Who was the first person you told about your addiction?” A
few people said their spouse, some said a friend, some said a religious
leader – but the overwhelming majority (and remember, many of these
self-identified addicts said they first got hooked before the age of 12) –
the overwhelming majority, in fact 57%, said they had NEVER TOLD
ANYONE! No wonder the addiction was winning. We were all living a
secret lie, desperate to stop, overwhelmed by our compulsive behaviors
and feeling more and more isolated every time we acted out. We felt
more and more helpless. For many of us, this secret addiction had been destroying our lives for decades!
I began to find friends in recovery. For the first time, we were all discovering that we weren’t the only ones who wanted desperately to
stop looking at p0rn, but who felt powerless to do so. I became a
hundred times more committed to abstaining. I was still slipping on occasion, but I felt that if I was really going to help other people stay
sober, I needed to stay sober. I noticed that my efforts to help others
were indeed helping me. I began reading everything I could on
addiction. I began attending Se-xaholics Anonymous meetings. I made
friends there who were struggling with all forms of se-x addiction,
including p0rnography and masturbati0n.
When I first heard about se-xual addiction recovery groups, they
were described to me as being for people whose acting out behavior
went well beyond just p0rn0graphy and masturbation. It seemed to me
that I wasn’t qualified to participate in such a group, and perhaps at
that time, before the Internet, there weren’t many group participants
whose behavior was limited to p0rnography and masturbation. However, these days, many participants are struggling strictly with p0rn and masturbation. (12-Step contact information is available at
the end of this chapter.)
10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
I should note that I know many p-orn addicts who do not worry
about abstaining from masturbation. That is not the issue for them. They just want out of the por-n. That is a choice each of us must make for ourselves. My own recovery depended on abstaining from both p=orn
and masturbation; for me, the two have been indelibly linked in my
brain; one always led to the other and vice versa.
As the Internet has made p0rnography more accessible, more
options for treatment and recovery are also being developed. More
professionals are specializing in treatment for this disorder, and 12-
step and other groups are welcoming those seeking help from this form
of se-x addiction.
Eventually, I came to know a truth about myself that I had
wanted to know for decades: I will never use p0rn or mastur-bate again.
This book explores some of the things I had to learn before I
came to know that I will never use again, and I’m going to share those
experiences and ideas with you. But one of the first truths I had to realize before recovery was possible was that I wasn’t alone. Millions struggle with this addiction. 10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
I think that is why so many people responded strongly to the article I wrote for my website – it wasn’t that the plan was fool proof;
in fact, these days I consider it somewhat naïve. I keep it posted online,
however, because so many people do seem to find their first steps toward recovery when they read it. I think that’s because the first
thing that article does is express a voice of understanding and tells so
many addicts for the first time, “You are not alone. Many people,
people you would never expect, struggle with this addiction.”
A couple of years after I started , I added a message
board called the Support Board. Immediately, hundreds of people were
signing up. Many have long-term sobriety. Many who gain sobriety
move on, but many stay to encourage others to never give up on their quest for recovery. For many of us, it is this process of helping others –what 12-step groups call the Twelfth Step – that really helps us maintain long-term sobriety. There is also a board for the partners of addicts to support one another as they deal with the pain and
humiliation and betrayal of their loved ones’ p0rn addiction.
So my first suggestion to encourage your recovery is that if you haven’t disclosed your addiction, do so. But do so wisely. The Se-x-aholics Anonymous White Book offers this counsel about disclosing to your spouse or another loved one:
We sugg st tha new mers to Se-xaholics Anonymous no reveal their
exual pas to a spous or family member who does not al eady know
of it, wi hout ca eful conside ati n and a period f se-xual sobrie y, and
even then, only after p io discus ion with an SA spon or o group.
Typically, when we come into the p og am, we want to sha e our
excitement with those closest to us and tell all right away. Such
disclosures might injure our family o oth rs and should b confined to he g up of which we a e a part un il a wise cou se is indica d. Of
cou se, if the is any chance we hav put o hers in dang , we take
immedia e s ep to try to co that. Few things can so damag th possibility of healing in the family as a p emature confession to spous or family where sac ed bond and
trust have been violaed. 10 KEYS TO BREAKING PORNOGRAPHY ADDICTION: KEY 1: I Am Not Alone
is indispensable he e. There’s always a way, if we really wan to make
things right. ( Se-xaholi Anonymous p. 3, 1989) r t “ cs ”
I have come to understand the wisdom of this statement.
Although I have already mentioned that I confessed to my wife prior to
our marriage, I did so carefully and in consultation with a religious leader who offered me wise insights on how to go about it. The SA
White Book doesn’t say, “Don’t disclose,” but it offers wise guidance.
There was a point in my marriage where I would confess to my wife every time I had a slip. But it wasn’t a humble, repentant confession –
it qualified more as “guilt dumping.” I’d let the guilt eat at me until I
couldn’t take it any more. I’d tell my wife, and I’d feel a lot better. Of course, she felt like garbage, but I felt better, and that was all my addiction cared about: Feeling better.
I suggest that you begin by connecting with other addicts who are in recovery. The Support Board at No-porn.com is a great way to do this. There are other online discussions as well that a simple internet
search may find for you. Or you might think about attending a group meeting for face-to-face support.
This process of disclosure and sharing with others has been a
tremendous help for me. It has helped me to identify the illogical and
harmful thinking and outright lies that the addictive voice in my brain
kept feeding me. Hearing myself write and speak about my struggles
made it easier when temptations came. I hope you will find a way to
disclose and reach out to others without destroying relationships that may still be salvageable.