I've just found and joined this site because I'm trying, yet again, to overcome a 34 year addiction to porn. I acquired it at the age of 17 or so, about the same time I became an alcoholic/addict. I overcame those in 3/85 and have been sober for over 27 years by walking into an AA room one evening and refusing to let my head talk me back out the door while I did what I was told because I believed that if it worked for others it could for me. That, and the last thing in this world I wanted to do that night was to go back to my darkened apartment to fight my demons alone. I know the 12 steps intimately and am a co-founder of a Big Book study group back in '92 that lives to this day. But it didn't help with my porn addiction because I didn't see it in quite the same light along the way. I do now. With my simultaneous longitudinal experience with successful recovery from two addictions while steadfastly feeding a third I've come to some observations and insights that, though they be acute, by themselves don't end the cycle and, who knows, may even help perpetuate it. Young men especially, take heed.
I am 51, married with six children, very fit and healthy and enjoy a close, intimate relationship with my wife of 26 years who I've known for 34. You could say I acquired her too at the same time I did my addictions. Sounds odd I know but our love life and depth of communication is about pitch perfect, my "compartmentalized" porn addiction excepted, and getting better as time goes by because we were meant for each other and we know it. She knows vaguely of my struggles in a "see no evil" kinda way, allowing hope to triumph over history by telling herself all is well because enough time has passed since she last caught me at it. She suspects it goes on, still. Like most women, porn use by a spouse or partner mystifies and hurts her greatly and she takes it personally when the subject intrudes though she knows enough about addictions to understand the sexual acting out "is but a symptom" of deeper problems and has nothing to do with her. Still, she instinctively feels the sting of embarrassment, shame and an undeserved sense of impugned inadequacy and I know it.
My life is at a standstill and I am stuck. Deeply mired in the muck and mud of my secret addiction that manifests itself outwardly in all the areas of routine, normal behaviors and activities a healthy person would be growing in. Mostly, I avoid or flee them. Three years ago I had a near-death heart attack that set in motion a chain of events that exacerbated the addiction which in turn is making it impossible to move forward in life at all. It's a cliché but a true one that one rethinks a lot of things after such a close call. Having discovered life is indeed short I wanted out of my old career which I never liked but stuck with out of duty to my family. So I made the moves to exit it but am incapacitated at the moment of moving into something else. My attitude towards the future is ambivalent at best and very cloudy at worst in large part I think because I am a failure on a daily basis and have been for 34 years. Every day I tell myself this has got to stop, that I want it to stop, that everything would be so much better if it stopped and by golly today is the day!...Only to find myself at the computer, coming out of the fog, hours later wondering how it happened it again. I go through a day-to-day cycle of resolve, failure, regret/remorse, resolve...repeat ad infinitum. Like most long term, "functional" addicts, the cycle oscillates in intensity but never ceases.
I am not unintelligent and can do pretty much anything I've a mind to, within reason, but not for long. No matter what success I have initally at a business venture, hobby, activity, whatever, my confidence, motivation and focus steadily wane until I simply...give up. Most of the time I've given up in spirit before I've even realized it. Because just like termites weakening a house's frame, my daily failures with my porn addiction sap those healthy qualities, obscure my purpose, cloud my focus and eventually convince me yet again I am a failure. And so indeed I am...once again. For the last year I've spent just about every day holed up in my den doing porn while pretending to work while my wife goes to her business. I am capable of containing it enough to maintain a façade of psuedo-normalcy around hearth and home but I am going nowhere, doing nothing, becoming nobody and my non-productive presence at home is the elephant in our living room.
I have lived all of my adult life as an impostor, a man with a guilty secret who knows in the refuge of his own thoughts he doesn't measure up and is not the man others (if a man at all!), even his own family, especially his own family, believes he is. I live in dread of discovery by others and so few people know me. I am without real friends and have been all of my life. I fit in nowhere and with no others. My wife wonders why about these things but I know.
When I permit myself to think about it, I am almost overwhelmed with guilt and shame over the countless thousands of hours I have wasted, the lost opportunities to be with and do for my kids, the financial straits and looming calamities my present dibilitation has brought us to, the strain and pressures I've laid on my wife, the emotional pain I've caused her, the inability to go forth in the world and accomplish all I am capable of and most of all...the fear. The constant, gnawing, fickle, inexplicable, unreasonable and unjustifiable little fears that give the wheel of dysfunction a start and keep it going 'round. In happier moments I know they're just phantoms of the mind but they hold sway all the same.
I am tired and nearly at my wits end. Most nights I go to bed with a prayer on my lips that I might die of a second heart attack in the night and thus relieve both my family's material anxieties with my substantial life insurance and their emotional trials, too. A kind of twofer. I truly believe their present circumstances would be transformed for the better overnight and a great impediment to each's individual growth of mind and spirit removed. Some days I plot and scheme how I might bring it on and work out hard enough to put most 20 year olds to shame in the hopes I'll blow a gasket but no luck, yet. In His grace and wisdom God says no to our selfish prayers as a rule and so He does to these ungrateful pleas of mine to quit this life in a coward's disgrace and I wake again to my endless struggle. The fight no one else sees. I fear letting my wife know the whole truth lest the scales fall from her eyes and she comprehends fully the source of most of our, in her case undeserved, trials and trevails and her devotion and patience finally reach their limits.
But it doesn't mean God hasn't answered my prayers for help. While searching out treatment or recovery info I found this site and other resources. I've begun the course and am doing the exercises. They make sense and the information is useful. As of this writing I have 30 hours of sobriety but I've had that a hundred times before. And while looking for an SAA meeting, a very dicey proposition in itself in my mind, I found a "sexual purity" ministry complete with 12 steps and all at the local mega-church. I've tried that in the past and am a little skeptical but I'm going to try again with more humility and less disdain that my Christian friends don't quite do recovery as the original bunch at AA does. Take what you can use and leave the rest the old timers would counsel not the least being to break out of the isolation for starters.
That would be a big start for me. If you met me you would assume I was an executive, hard driving businessman, senior military man or some other disciplined, can-do guy. I got that look. And In fits and starts over the years I could be and was that man but not for very long. Six months, maybe a year but with the termites of near-daily porn failures knibbling away I could not keep in sync the burgeoning self-image on the inside and what increasingly felt like a charade on the outside. Now, I cannot muster the strength to do it at all.
I need help to finally get free for the first time in life and I need your prayers.