When I first sought out Internet porn, the sequence of events was: feel curious, use porn. Once I saw how much it could turn me on, that sequence became: feel horny, use porn. After a couple of years when porn-induced desensitization started to kick in and real life just wasn’t as stimulating as it used to be, it was: feel bored, use porn. A few more years and I had spent enough time chasing fantasy that I was no longer happy with my real life, so the fantasy became a way to escape from that fact. Feel overwhelmed, use porn. Feel regretful, use porn. Feel rejected, use porn. Feel like a failure, use porn. Feel ashamed, use porn. Feel hopeless, use porn.
I’ve learned that this pattern is common in all addictions. At first, we do it because it feels good. But over time—after the addiction has eaten away at the rest of our lives—our substance of choice doesn’t even make us feel that good anymore. Using becomes just a way to avoid feeling bad. To sit in silence, long and loud, with nothing to distract me and nothing calling for my attention meant facing the emptiness inside of myself. It was so much easier to seek out cheap stimulation from porn, video games, movies, mindless Internet browsing, etc.
I quit using porn and masturbating over a year ago now. I chose to face reality, and it was both a painful and joyous process. I can honestly say that every single aspect of my life has improved. I recovered from sexual dysfunction, enjoyed intimate and genuine new relationships, rediscovered the joy in everyday life, and awakened within myself a deep and burning ambition to become the best I can be in order to contribute to the world the finest work I am capable of.
But I’ve recently faced down the fact that I still had plenty of dead weight in my life. My TV and video game use never had as large of a negative impact on me as porn use did, but I had come to use one or the other daily for the some of the same reasons I watched porn: to avoid the sensations of emptiness, silence, loneliness, and pressure. While quitting porn, I sometimes used such non-erotic entertainment as a crutch. Some days I wouldn’t use it at all, some days it was just a couple episodes of favorite TV shows, and other days I might watch three full-length movies or spend way too many hours in Minecraft. After all, I figured it was much better to binge on Netflix than to binge on porn.
But now that I feel recovered from my porn addiction and firmly in control of and in harmony with my sex drive, I’m not worried about relapsing, so TV and video games soak up time that I could dedicate to pursuits that will bring me more joy in the long term. I’ve known this for a long time now and always envisioned a future me that spurned such timewasters, but for some reason I was never ready to make the future hope my present reality. But a couple of weeks ago now I knew in my gut that it was time. I set aside those habits completely. I still sometimes watch educational videos or documentaries related to my subjects, but I only play video games or watch TV/movies with others (which happens only rarely). Now, when I’m alone and that silence comes, that uncomfortable emptiness all around and inside me, I do not follow my reflex to mask it. Instead, I sit with it. I fidget. I face it. Then I look up at my list of goals and tasks and get on with it. It feels good. It feels right.
I’ll report back at the 30-day mark.