Hello Cat, I can't quite believe it's taken me two weeks to write back and that I missed your post earlier. Thank you for sharing such an honest account. It's difficult reading in places because I can connect with the painful and troubling parts of that process - the backwards and forwards steps of progress and reality coming back to bite at times, as well as the huge damage it inflicts on relationships. It also amazes me that you've been committed to having a much more healthy lifestyle for such an extended period of time. That gives me hope that true long term recovery is possible because I still see many guys (and feel myself) that there is often a slip up around the corner or having difficulty even after a period of years with relapsing. Your experiences around this are particularly interesting in this regard to me. Anecdotally, it seems rarer to find women with this problem appearing on recovery forums and around these groups. Some other sites like Reboot Nation do have a women's section in the forums where you might have more luck finding people. Thank you again for posting this, it's quite encouraging. How long have you been clean for and would you also be willing to share some of your insights and experiences around longer-term recovery? I'm curious - did you do Paula's course? Peace
Hello, Your situation is difficult and I'm saddened to hear about it. Rationally, whatever your boyfriend is doing (or not doing) is not something you can control. It's up to him to stop and get help for his behaviours. I appreciate emotionally it may not feel like that to you or you might blame or question yourself somehow. But it's not your fault in any way and you're not doing anything wrong. Another way to look at it would be actually that you cannot do anything right because he is going to carry on his regardless until he can find enough help to stop. That's huge strain on any relationship and especially if you've already had one prior serious relationship with a porn addict already I can only imagine what you're going through to find out about your current boyfriend's problems. I hope you can find people who can support you, particularly as this is triggering problems for you of depression and anxiety, which are also tough things to handle on their own regardless, let alone with your boyfriend's problems to worry about too. You have a lot on your plate and anything you can do to help yourself and take better care of yourself I think is a good thing for you, for example, finding a therapist or a group to help you handle and cope with these things. I think this is the most important thing for you - to look after yourself as best you can and be well. Often I believe partners can feel isolated by being unable to talk to friends or family about these problems, which complicates finding a suitable outlet and you're left trying to contend with all this alone. It's positive your boyfriend can talk about it and be open during some discussions but keeping up the lying sounds damaging and I think he would benefit from accepting that he cannot handle this on his own - he is addicted and needs help for that. That's something he needs to choose to do for himself ultimately and takes a time and effort to achieve. The stories of other partners here and their input on here is also particularly illuminating. I'd like to encourage you to read some if you haven't already. Again, I'm sorry to hear about all your troubles and hope you find some more help here and outside too. Peace
Hello Hannah, I think disclosure is a very tricky topic and the questions and issues you've raised are all valid. Personally I don't think there's an absolute right or wrong answer and it comes down to exactly what the couple are like both as individuals and their personal histories. There are many complicated and often conflicting factors which you touch on. I think if the partner asks then what exactly are they looking for by doing so? What is it that really matters? These sorts of questions can help guide what to include in disclosure and what not too. I think it's all too easy otherwise for the addict to otherwise just dump everything out leaving a whole load more mess for the partner to cope with. I was very wary of this with my wife. These are probably questions that a therapist is better placed to work out with you based on your own personal experiences and situation. When I disclosed to my wife, I spent quite some time working out what to say. I wanted to stress that my problem with porn had predated our relationship and was nothing to do with her or us. I also wanted to let her know how often and when I had acted out. She was more interested in the details of what I would look at. This is a source of shame for me and how useful is that to know? That e.g. back in 2011 for several months I went through a phase of being really into this type of porn or that type. Those are things I work on personally in individual therapy. That's on me yet I found telling her even some parts caused much stress. It depends very much in what you define a "secret" as - is it something substantial (behavioural, like not really stopping or having difficulty, or minimising) or something that is a facet or detail? So personally I concluded that there is a point of having too much information. What is important to me more is that I do not minimize what I did e.g. by pretending less went on or for less time than it really did. I suppose that's stopping lying to myself first and foremost. Now you might rightly critique my position as being unfair on my wife to not tell her every detail she asks for - after all, I do know everything (memory permitting) - and perhaps you're right. Maybe you might even say that comes from an position of insecurity in me - and perhaps you're also right there too. But I've felt we've learned much more about each other by exploring where the questions come from and finding other ways (or maybe even direct ways) of providing that information. For me this about being honest with myself and emotionally honest and engaged with my wife to have conversations that we never had before. That is I suppose to rebuilt some trust in a different way. My personal circumstances are also probably quite different from yours as I was motivated to get help after I discovered my wife was having an affair and we separated. So again for me this boils down to being less about what you should or should not do and more about pragmatism and finding a path that works for you. But maybe you cannot live like we do and you're the kind of person who needs concrete hard facts and nothing else. That's for you to say, I don't know you. There's certainly nothing wrong with that in any way whatsoever of that's what you need. Again I would recommend taking that through with a therapist to help guide you. Peace
Hello, It sounds as though your girlfriend needs her own support and is finding this very difficult to deal with, which is very understandable and particularly as she's been in a relationship with an addict before. I think while you're trying to get help yourself and sort out your own issues, it's very difficult for you to be able to give that support to her, as much as you both might want that. If your girlfriend is self harming then that's something very serious and I think she needs to find some help for that for her own sake. It must be horrible to experience and you mention the guilt this creates for you too. It's a complicated thing. Ultimately though you are not responsible for her behaviour any moreso than she is responsible for yours and your problems. The only thing you can control is yourself and how you handle yourself. I think it's positive that you've been able to be honest and open about the issues and questions in your mind. That's so important because often the lying and hiding will cause serious damage to relationships over time. Equally disclosing everything can be very shocking and difficult for a partner to hear even when prepared for it. Finding the line between being honest about what's going on for you without causing more harm and finding people you can safely explore these issues can be a minefield in personal relationships but there are professionals out there who can help. Recognising also that you're not in control I think is a powerful insight on your behalf. That's an uncomfortable feeling and not pleasant, I know from first hand experience. It's good you're able to be honest with yourself about that and not get drawn into denial. You're still a young man and have a lot of time ahead of you to change your life and understand this problem and tackle it. Getting to the bottom of why you feel compelled to do it and what you get out of it can give important insight into tackling it. There are resources online to help you do this (e.g. the sticky help links thread) which can be very useful. Often by the time you're feeling out of control it's too late, so this is about better understanding the path you go down before you start going into the porn bubble, recognising the early warning signs and heading the problems of early before they become bigger and you lose control. I hope this should help better educate you about what's going on and help learn to take better care of yourself. Alongside that, I firmly believe there's no substitute for connecting with people who understand in the real world too. I'm really excited for you in a lot of ways because you're tackling this early on in your adult life, unlike myself and many others. So you have even more time to enjoy all the great benefits of living clean and growing as a person. Keep at it, you're doing a great thing for yourself even though it may not feel like that sometimes in the short term, you will never regret any time you spend learning more about this and tackling it. Peace.
Hello, There's a lot you've written down here. Thank you for taking the time to share it and to put down some details of what sounds like difficult childhood experiences that you went through. Firstly I'd like to stress and challenge one of the earliest points you make about being alone and trying to sort this out by yourself. Having tried to do the same thing myself (I think for nearly everyone who has this problem it's the first and natural reaction) and failed for several years, I really underestimated how much I needed the help and support of others. Asking for help is definitely not an admission of weakness - in fact quite the opposite I believe. I can identify a lot with many of the difficulties you talk about, struggling to try and make sense of it and break it down. And also trying most of all to be free from the compulsion. Doing that on your own is like trying to fight a secret battle with yourself that nobody knows about. I've tried and failed to do that. I dearly do not want you to keep suffering like I did while you try to crack it alone. In many ways, addictions are about isolation and fighting alone is in some ways staying inside that isolation. So what's the alternative? I think finding people you feel able to safely share your struggles with and working through it with help and understanding. Be that through one on one therapy, group therapy or meetings like SLAA etc. That's a hugely difficult thing to do and may feel very frightening initially but for me it was invaluable in working out why I was behaving like I did. Most of us want to just focus on stopping and how to stop, say no, have more willpower etc. But this focuses on many ways the wrong way round at the problem. You know how to stop really - that's so easy, you just don't look. So the real question to ask is why you do it, why you feel compelled and what it is doing for you. From there, how to get those needs better addressed so you don't need porn and sex when life is difficult. There's a whole range of detail and levels to understand but I really think that having someone to guide you and explore is so important. The feelings of anger also you express I can strongly connect with. I used to get very angry when acting out. Even raging. At everything and everyone. It took me a long time to understand that. It was part of feeling distressed and out of control for me. I really hope you can continue to come here and share your thoughts and feelings, and that it's useful for you. Peace
Hello Phil, I hope this can be a safe place for you to share those thoughts. They are not easy to get out but personally I've found it important and helpful to do so. Otherwise that stuff just all stays bottled up until it blows up. I'm not sure that everyone attaches shame to watching pornography or masturbation. I suppose it depends very much on the relationship someone has with it. For me, it was more about feeling very much out of control and being secretive about it. I think it's that which then created the sense of shame inside me. I was stuck inside a vicious cycle. The point where I believe societal attitudes complement that is around the privacy people tend to have over their sex lives and sexual behaviour because these are very deeply intimate and personal things. For me it was very much about that hidden and secretive behaviour, and sex is a great way of doing that because unlike say alcohol or drugs, it naturally all occurs behind closed doors. People don't question something which is expected to stay very hidden. Yet in my case, this lead to a breakdown of personal integrity also as my online behaviour would be very much at odds with my character and ideals. Peace
Hello Phil, I think you're very brave and honest coming here and laying out your fears. Not a lot of guys do that and wait until things really explode or they get caught before they try to make a change. Thinking through the consequences and what you can lose can be a very powerful motivator and I think it's a kindness to yourself to be thinking like that. It's a courageous thing to ask for help because it's not easy to do yet really vital to living a happier life. You're definitely not alone with these struggles. I can connect a lot with your background, growing up and not seeing porn as a problem. I have a similar story about how I got started and the guys I know do also. I would use pornography and masturbation to self-sooth when times were difficult or I was stressed, anxious or all sorts of stuff. Often though, in the moment I'd find it hard to recognise and identify those feelings. And directly, like you, I didn't suffer from ED or other problems you hear about. So there wasn't outwardly anything that really was "wrong" - at least on the surface... For me, the issue was more around feeling compelled to look at porn and not being comfortable with that or really even feeling in control of myself. That was the root of it. I didn't want to feel pulled in the way I did/do to porn, not being in charge of my thoughts and body. After being clean for some time, I started to realise the more subtle effects it had on how I viewed women (and how women viewed me). I am/was also a "nice guy" (a whole topic there!) and would have great trouble crossing the boundary from my head fantasies into reality that would stop me. But other guys are different though, that's just me. Another thing you touch on is not feeling like porn is a bad or outright negative thing in your life. There is no moral judgement here - whether porn is good or bad, helps peoples sex lives or ruins them, or whatever, is neither here nor there to me. All I know is that I personally cannot handle it sensibly and it is very detrimental to my mental state if I start looking at it and masturbating to it even more so. I think of it rather like gambling or alcohol - some people can pick it up and put it down at will but for others it creates a huge problems. It's my relationship with porn that I know is a bad thing for me, not porn itself. I just need to stay away from it to keep my life and mental state in good order. I think the hiding of the behaviour is tough too and can easily lead to shame. I thought for a long time, I was the only person who had this problem and in many ways I didn't want to think of it any other way. It's that feeling that I was constantly having to hide part of myself from everyone, even my wife and closest friends. And that plays heavily into the feelings of loneliness that you astutely talk about. You sound like a very sensitive guy who is aware of the effects and has thought about it - I wasn't so savvy and I had to get my head buried in a lot deeper for a lot longer. I've heard addictions even being referred to as "diseases of loneliness" and for me this is something that resonates strongly. I know when I used to use porn, I would isolate myself from friends and family to a huge degree, physically and emotionally. Trying to rebuild intimate and honest relationships with people has been part of recovery for me and that's much easier when you don't feel like you have hide part of yourself, particularly bits which you may feel vulnerable sharing. But equally finding safe people to open to is a tricky thing too - that's where I think help groups were very beneficial to me personally. To me, you're treating your experience with nearly being caught in the right way - as a wake up call. The consequences are terrifying but it doesn't have to be like that and you can change and be different. I'd like to encourage you to spend some time understanding things better and more background. Then you can hopefully identify where you are and how to take it further to get help:
Paula runs group sessions which I found a good way of working through this. There are also other groups like SLAA too which are worth checking out. Similarly you might want to consider one-on-one therapy with a counsellor to help answer some questions and work through it. Whatever works - there's no hard and fast right or wrong here, it's just about you getting to a better place and knowing there is help out there. It's really important to remember you're not alone and do not have to work through this on your own. In fact, I would go so far to say as one of the biggest causes of failure for me was to try and do it all alone (and nearly everyone tries it this way too so don't feel bad about that). I can tell you from personal experience that is both a depressing and fruitless path that I dearly hope you don't have to experience. Thank you again for sharing your experiences here and being brave enough to write it all out - I know it's not easy and I really hope things can improve for you. Peace.
Again I am so sorry to hear what a difficult time you're going through. It's a huge amount to handle and I hope you can be kind to yourself and find the support you need. I worry that you blame yourself in some ways or maybe think you are making it harder for your husband. You're not to blame in any way for his behaviour and you certainly have every right to be angry or upset towards him over his behaviour. Ultimately he has to learn to get help and manage his behaviour and feelings no matter how bad his life gets, porn is not an option for coping. Personally, I try hard not to see myself as a bad person but instead as a good person who's done bad things. Otherwise I know I can easily start down a path that drives me back self-loathing and to wanting to act out. For me, the test is always not so much what (bad) I have done but how I have handled it and learned from it. That is truly listening to my wife, being emotionally honest, making amends and doing things differently. I cannot change the past and what I've done. When I started admitting I had a problem, I did so in part because I was terrified my wife was leaving me. That is a powerful motivator. I also thought that I could do Paula's course and then be fixed in a few months. The truth is more that I need to do this for myself (it improves the relationship as a side effect) and it is never done but instead a journey down a different life really. Your husband sounds in a bad place and I can connect with that. I really hope he can find some help that works for him in whatever form that is. Equally I really hope you can get the support and care you need at such a difficult time. I think one of the hardest things to cope with is that the person you normally turn to for support in life cannot often help and is indeed part of the problem. The shattered trust and isolation is very difficult. Again I am so sorry to hear all this, it's very sad. I hope as well that some of the other partners here can offer you some advice and support. Peace
Hello Nanook, I'm ever so saddened to read your story. You sound devastated and understandably so. It sounds like your husband has a lot of work to do, and blaming you somehow for his problems is not taking responsibility. The patterns of denial and minimisation like you've experienced are sadly common. But this doesn't mean that's ok or you have to accept it at all. His problem is his problem and not your fault in any way. He has to deal with it and it's nothing about what you do or how you treat him. Really that is tantamount to him saying "you made me do it." Really!?!! I think he has to find a different way. It's easy also for his guilt and self loathing to drive him paradoxically back into the porn too. That may sound crazy to you but it is in some ways the most reliable (if dysfunctional) coping mechanism he has come to rely upon in times of difficulty. That is a big risk that many addicts have to face but again he needs to learn ways of managing that. But again I will stress that this is on him and you cannot fix it or control it, only he can. I also find it a bit worrying that he wants to get rid of his internet access for you alone because although I can appreciate he may be very frightened of losing you (no matter what it might appear externally) he really needs I think to be getting far away from porn first and foremost for himself and his own self respect and integrity. Motivation is really critical because it's what keeps him going. Otherwise this becomes an extension of "you made me do it" that is, "and so you will fix it for me." Which is equally broken and places an impossible emotional burden on you. He must learn to take care of himself. Addictions create warped mindsets in those who engage in them and a lot of things he may say or do, I suspect may not seem rational or even make much sense to you. Denial, minimisation, projecting anger and deflection etc. He needs to get clean and with that I hope regain his empathy. That can happen with time and work. And equally it's very important I think for you to get the help and support you need too. I'm really glad you can reach out here and see you are not alone and hope you can find whatever help you need out in the real world too. Trying to bear all of this on your own is a huge thing to carry and please do not underestimate that. It is a life changing thing to discover that alters fundamentally views of relationships and trust. Living with and trying to accept the damage and rebuild is a terribly difficult thing to do, through many good days and bad. There are other partners and help out there who either know first hand or have strong experience and skill in helping you through troubled times. I truly hope you can both find the help and support you both need to work through this and again I am terribly saddened to hear all your upset and the hurt caused. Peace.
That feeling of guilt I can relate strongly to. For me, I think it's attached to the shame and it takes a long time to diminish. But working to let go of that and forgive yourself is well worth working at. Because otherwise it's easy for those feelings to drive you back to wanting to act out. In some ways is it part of the cycle but you are free of that now and can look forward to better things. Everyone does things in life they regret or feel bad about, some bigger than others. You know better now than you did then, in so many ways. From the guys I know and see regularly (and my own personal experience), I think it is quite common to want to disclose to unburden yourself - a kind of confession to get all those things out that you have been keeping in and particularly might be ashamed of. I believe personally that's a good thing for an addict to have a safe place to be really honest without judgement. But absolutely critical is who you are honest with and who you tell. If you can share with a therapist or support group then these people in my experience can really help that unburdening process during recovery - you need a safe place to get this stuff out and explore it, to understand it and make sense of it. Those people in a suitable environment are the right set of people to do that with. However, doing that with people unprepared for it or with close personal relationships is a very different thing that requires much more careful thought and consideration because it's so easy to hurt and harm, create more problems or unburden yourself at the other person's expense. This is why I think it's important to ask why always and examine your own motives. I think the key thing is you keep up the good work on yourself with your recovery. If your parents or others can help with tangible things then asking for that kind of help is the responsible thing to do. If instead you feel like you more need a place to share then perhaps finding somewhere else is more appropriate for that. Peace
Disclosing to people close to you is a very difficult thing to do. There are therapeutic approaches too which can help a lot. I think a good question to ask yourself is why you want to tell her? I think being honest with yourself about that can help guide you. I am 40 so don't feel accountable to my parents in that way. But I did disclose to my wife for a lot of reasons: I thought she was leaving me and wanted to be honest hoping it would bring us closer (my own insecurity), I also felt very guilty and wanted to come clean (unburdening myself onto her) and I suppose I wanted her to change and fix the problem for me (not taking responsibility). So my motivations were mostly selfish at the time and I wasn't really thinking about the true long term effects on her. It hasn't all been negative (we're still together 2 years later and working at it) but probably the only legitimate reason I think now is the honesty. Unfortunately it's not possible to disentangle that from all the other baggage. Hence why I think talking it through with a professional can be very useful. You can never "untell" people afterwards either so I think it makes sense to think it through a lot and really scrutinise your motives before you do so. Sometimes the other person can also be holding in their own issues that you don't know about either which can make it harder still. I think it's very positive that you want to be honest and open having carried this around for so long, that is a good thing I believe. But I would advise being cautious is how exactly you go about doing it and getting enough support for yourself before doing so. It is great to want to be honest though. I also disclosed to my sister and a couple of close friends. I think the motivation I had there was generally more positive and I feel these are people more able to closely support me without me hurting them through my behaviours (unlike my wife). It was still scary but everyone I have disclosed to has been supportive. The first time I disclosed was to Paula (before my wife) and then afterwards I went on to get help in group sessions. I got a lot of the sense of unburdening and support from those sessions - basically what I was trying to seek from my wife but it was very unrealistic and unreasonable if me to expect from her (it's not her job).
Hello, It's great to start over with a new chance and do things differently. I wish you every success. I think understanding when and how you get into such a "bad frame of mind" is really important to stopping yourself going back down the old paths of coping by acting out. That's tricky to do sometimes but if you can spot that ahead of time and realise you are getting in a vulnerable place then you can do something about it before it gets too bad. You also list a lot of healthy habits there but sometimes I think it's necessary to give yourself permission to be less restrictive at times and have fun when it is nothing to do with sex. Finding hobbies and activities can be a lot of fun in itself. For me, I found I need something and I'd I try to be "good" all the time or be needless then it just gets bottled up more and is a trigger to acting out. So I definitely need things that are mine. As long as those hobbies are safe, without shame and in the open then all is well. I would really like to encourage you strongly to stay away from places and areas where you used to go and act out. Because I know from experience that going back there becomes a big trigger in itself, even if you're otherwise feeling fine. It can easily destroy hard work especially at the beginning where things are so fragile in recovery. Further, for me, a critical part of recovery has been keeping away from any and all sexual fantasy and thoughts as much as possible and avoiding masturbation. Different people are different here but I found me always gently guiding my thoughts away from any sexual fantasy helps tremendously. Just being aware of that made me realise actually that I used to think about such things a lot but not really acknowledge how much time and distraction it was. It continues the porn fantasy in the mind, even when you are not acting out. So, if I let the fantasy thrive, it will keep the battle in my mind going on and on. I am fighting myself. Peace
Hey, It's good you recognise this problem and want to change. Things can be different and you can sort this out. Here are some online resources:
But mostly I would like to encourage you to reach out and find some people in the real world you can connect with and help. You are not alone in this and there are many guys like us who struggle and we can help each other. I did Paula's course and met other guys through that but there are other ways too, e.g. SAA or SLAA. I think it's great you can come on here and ask for help and be honest. That is a big step and it took unfortunately a lot of things going wrong in my life before I could admit that. I also wasted a lot more of my time on it than you did. You still have so much life ahead. I'm really excited for you! Please keep learning and growing. Finding out what things truly make you happy and trying that out is a great way to learn about yourself, it's something I think everyone struggles with to some extent but sadly we don't talk much about it. And then for some guys like you and me, when we feel down or directionless in life, we want the "comfort blanket" of porn or sex. But it's only temporary and doesn't solve the real problems and even creates more because we then feel ashamed and isolated. There's a whole world out there for you. Although it's something you have to gift to yourself, you're not alone and others are here to help. Peace
You're definitely not crazy nor are you being unreasonable. But you're trying to argue with someone who is not thinking straight. He's addicted and is going to try any rationalisation or excuse to keep it going. He needs to learn to set appropriate boundaries for himself. He is responsible for his actions and the consequences. I sense you care a lot and really want to help him but ultimately it's down to him and not you to police it. He sounds like he really needs a lot of external help. It's not really possible I think for you to do that or even have a full and fulfilling relationship even while he keeps up clinging onto his destructive behaviours. Because there is always something else "better" drawing his attention away. Who is he being accountable too exactly? I think he needs to talk about this a lot more with his accountability partner who should be able to help him with those boundaries. I'm not sure but if he's trying to use you as that person, but if he is then I think that places even more burden on you and isn't very fair. I'm very sorry and saddened to hear you're going through all this - it really is horrible and I can only imagine what it can be like. I hope you can most of all find support for yourself because it sounds difficult and draining on you to be trying to help so much but him fighting you instead. Peace