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23rd of July 2018

Men



So This Is What Life Looks Like: Portrait of an Addict, Pt. III - The Good Men Project

—When I last left off, the porn-induced erectile dysfunction (E.D.) I experienced two years ago was the wake-up call of all wake-up calls for me. I couldn’t believe it was happening while it was happening. It was devastating to experience something that created a chasm of heartache and confusion between me and several others.

When I finally removed myself from dating in the spring of 2017, I remember the feeling of relief that washed over me. If I didn’t date, I wouldn’t have sex. If I didn’t have sex, I wouldn’t embarrass myself again.

That period alone deserves special recognition because even though I felt a sensation of being left behind—I remember a vivid image of my friends and family sailing away while I stood still—it was something that was both necessary and a long time coming.

“I’ve had way too many opportunities to take care of this,” I said to myself. Eventually, I knew I would run out of chances.

With the “no dating/no sex” rule in place, I began to take some accountability for my actions. First, I signed up for the Tim Ferriss “30 Day No Fap Challenge” and, although I didn’t last long the first time, eventually completed it with the help of other men in the group. Next, I reinstalled the website detection software that I once had on both my computer and phone and again took several hard falls before I began to look away consistently. Third, I reached out to a couple of close male friends and realized I was still very embarrassed to discuss pornography because it was so far removed my teenage years and I thought it was something I should have already outgrown. Luckily, they weren’t embarrassed to talk about it, and I owe them everything because of that.

All of these attempts—these “stumblings” forward and dedication to putting even just the smallest amount of energy each day toward my addiction—were the very small, beautiful things that began to make a difference.

I began to want to turn my phone off at night and in the morning. I began to want to get out of bed and meditate instead of masturbating to pornography. I even began looking for excuses to get out of the house and socialize more which for me, an introvert, took a lot of doing, but behind it was a craving and thirst for life that was replacing the portion that had always functioned in secret.

In part one of my story, I spoke of the “feeling,” the rush of dopamine and pleasure that pornography brings. Now it was being replaced with something new—a shedding of skin which, although uncomfortable, was preparing me for a different kind of transformation.

I was finally moving toward a place I had always wanted to go to, but had been too afraid to journey towards. A place that was less about sex and more about myself. I wanted to know who I was without it and by eliminating both porn and masturbating to porn, I was getting to know the version of myself that was not reliant on addiction in order to survive.

I stuck with it for a solid year until one day I realized, after checking my monitoring apps, that I had reached thirty days straight of “no porn” in 2017 on three separate occasions—something I never thought I could do! I believe it happened because once I made it a priority to replace porn with actual relationships, the cravings began to subside. Sure, they would arise every now and again, but I did not notice them as often because I was out in the world again where I belonged.

And that’s where I remain today—out in the world living a simple, curious, present kind of life which something tells me may the best kind yet. I’m in recovery—and always will be—but I don’t feel trapped or hopeless anymore. The struggle has produced in me a kind of empathy and resolve which, taken together, is ultimately my biggest strength.

Though my entire adult life does involve the word pornography, it’s no longer only about the pain that word produces. Now there is room for other things in my life as well. Beautiful things like friendship, laughter, and spending time making memories with people I care about. Perhaps there will be room for sex again in the near future. Maybe even for something that for many years was a completely foreign object—the possibility of a girlfriend or a long-term relationship as a grown man.

For now, though, I’m closing the door and going back to my writing and coaching business and doing what I’m most passionate about—helping people connect with each other through attraction and romance in today’s high volume, high-speed world.

I’ve decided that’s enough devoted to this part of my story. I’ll sign off this week by saying something I’ve only recently started believing again.

“I’ll see you out there.”

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Photo credit: William Krause on Unsplash

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