If you don’t know Brian Parks from Reboot Blueprint, you should check out his work. Like me, he’s a recovered porn addict who has dedicated himself to spreading the word and helping guys struggling with similar issues. This week he featured me on his website. Check out his interview of me below.
Why did you decide to quit porn? Was there something that triggered it?
I used porn from age 9. Unlike some other boys, nobody exposed me to it, nor was it an accident—I was a horny little kid and sought it out. My use really took off when I was 12 or 13 and got a computer with Internet access in my own room. I escalated quickly to some fairly heinous and socially unacceptable content by age 14. I talked to no one about this. For most of my teenage years, instead of taking risks and putting myself out there to form real connections with real women, I turned to the easy fix of porn and dreamed of the day when I would have real sex. When I was 18 that day came, the culmination of years of hope and expectation. And my dick simply did not work. I felt little to no physical arousal, despite finding my girlfriend at the time very attractive. No matter how many times we tried over the next few months, I was completely incapable of real sex, and I had no idea why.
I remember going home and testing myself to porn, and I would be able to get hard. If I could get aroused by a computer screen or even just to fantasy, why not my beautiful girlfriend? As anyone of my generation would, I searched the Internet for answers. I found no real help. I thought I might be sexually tired from porn and masturbation, so I would give it up for a week or two prior to trying sex again, but there was no difference. I had no idea at that time that I needed months of abstinence to reverse the brain changes I had unwittingly imposed on myself. I decided that I must just need to grow more comfortable with intimacy in order to gain/maintain an erection, but my self-confidence and sexual identity were devastated. I felt broken, and I thought I was the only one.
After six years of “trying to get comfortable” with various women and never having successful sex, I discovered Gary Wilson’s TED Talk, “The Great Porn Experiment”, and my life was literally changed forever. It was glaringly obvious that everything he talked about—from addiction to escalation to porn-induced erectile dysfunction—described exactly what had happened to me. My journey from there forward was not easy or simple, but that’s where it began, and I knew I would never turn back.
What benefits have you seen in your life since you quit porn?
- I now achieve and maintain a strong erection during sex. I am passionate, consumed in the moment, and fascinated by my partners—not stuck in my head or forced to imagine porn scenes in order to stay hard. I am much more sensitive, and sex has gone from an awkward, almost dreaded experience to absolutely sublime and amazing.
- My emotions are richer and have more depth. For about 12 years I didn’t cry once, and now I realize that that period of my life started about when I started watching porn.
- I am more at peace with my sexuality, not being desperate for sex and able to channel my sexual energy into productive pursuits when I’m single.
- I have no shame. Before this journey I had learned to talk about porn with friends and knew it was a common activity, but I was never proud of it. Now, for the first time in my life, I am completely honest with the people I love and even with strangers. I have told many people about my past history with porn addiction and how it harmed me. Some judge me harshly for it, but that slides right off of me. I am completely secure in myself. This translates to social confidence and an absence of social anxiety, which sometimes used to plague me.
- My appreciation (both sexual and emotional) for the real women I meet has skyrocketed.
- I fell in love, which is something that never happened for me when I used porn. I met her right as I was starting my porn-free journey. I was completely honest with her about where I was in my life, which I think is a big part of why she loved me. The relationship is over now, but it was a great experience for both of us.
- I have more mental and physical energy and certainly more time.
- My motivation and willpower are leagues ahead of where they were. I still sometimes surrender to procrastination, but in the last two years I have written and published a 60,000-word book, started three businesses, made and lost more money than I had ever seen before, read dozens of books, gained immeasurable wisdom, traveled through 20 states, impacted hundreds of lives for the better, made fantastic new friends, loved and lost marvelous women, got promoted to lead squads of men combatting wildfires across the Pacific Northwest, and much more. I realize now that porn—along with video games and TV/movies—was a tranquilizer that served only to hold me back from seizing life.
What was the most difficult thing about the process for you? Where did you struggle the most?
The first six months were easy. I quivered with the possibility of a new life, I formed deeper and more loving relationships than I had ever experienced, I was more ambitious and productive than ever before. Life was exciting and fresh and engaging. Those were good times. Staying away from porn is relatively easy in good times.
By month eight, though, the best relationship of my life had ended, I felt alone, I had finished a dream project and felt aimless without it, and I was struggling to learn how to deal with a seemingly rabid sex drive outside of a relationship. Long story short, I fell down the slippery slope. I was still largely porn free, but I had several more relapses over the next few months. I was especially vulnerable when tired, drunk, and/or experiencing loneliness or other painful emotions. I learned that entertaining even small temptations for borderline content online quickly led to full-blown relapse. I don’t regret those slips, however, as I needed to fall down a few times in order to learn how to get back up gracefully and then stay on my feet.
What strategies, tools, or mindsets helped you quit?
I could fill a book with knowledge, techniques, strategies, and mindsets that I used and that can help men and women recover and become porn-free. In fact, I did :). It’s called Wack: Addicted to Internet Porn. But at the crux of recovery, I believe, are two essential points.
First, we have to be adults and take responsibility for our past, our present, and our recovery. We don’t have to do this alone, but nobody is going to do it for us, either. I don’t allow myself excuses. I don’t lay the blame for my problems at anyone else’s feet. It would be easy to excuse myself and say that society should have protected me from porn’s influence, that my parents should have paid more attention, that I should have been warned of the dangers. But such beliefs create a weak mindset: if it’s not our fault, we can’t be expected to do anything about it. If we accept responsibility, however, then the power to change our circumstances lies in our hands. I will never surrender that power.
Second, though—and just as important—we have to be able to forgive ourselves for our past and present mistakes. If we are too hard on ourselves, we end up miserable, despising ourselves for being weak and ultimately giving up and relapsing just to escape from our shame and self-loathing. I indulged in Internet porn for more than half of my life, sabotaging my sexual and emotional health, my romantic relationships, and my ambition for a shabby, twisted facsimile of sexual satisfaction. But I forgive myself. I am only human, and at the time I had no idea of the harm I was inflicting. Even after I did know, though, I still relapsed several times. But I forgive myself for that too. I don’t expect myself to be perfect, but I do expect myself to learn from my mistakes and do my best to guard against them in the future.
Do you have any advice for guys who are really struggling?
These days, there is a wealth of porn addiction recovery information, advice, and community support. Take advantage of it. There is no need for you to keep banging your head bloody against the same wall if what you’re trying is not working. There are many ways for you to be successful. Find one, and make it work. If your smartphone is a big trigger for you, downgrade to a dumb phone. If being in your own home often leads to relapse, cut off your Internet connection and do your work in a café or at your school. Make it difficult for yourself to relapse even in moments of weakness. Then go do something else.
This world is chock full of mystery, adventure, and unfulfilled potential—a divine landscape ripe with opportunity. Fill up your life so full that thoughts of porn are few and far between. Consume knowledge with the ferocity of a starving beast. Explore the world with the wonder of a child seeing it all for the first time. Approach others with curiosity and loving intention. Apply for jobs, go back to school, volunteer for a worthy cause, learn to juggle or tango, genuinely reconnect with your loved ones, try new things, adventure, circulate among the people of the world, travel, and above all: follow your bliss.
People become mired in depression, addiction, and mediocrity because they have lost connection to their true desires, dreams, and identities. We allow society, our families, and our own self-doubt to limit us with the burden of realistic, “responsible” expectations for our lives. You know the ones: Get the right education so you can get the right job with the right benefits. Find the right girl to settle down with, buy the right house in the right neighborhood with the right mortgage at the right interest rate. Well fuck that, forget it all. Only you have the ability to decide what’s right for your life. Search your soul and search the world for your bliss, for that is The Journey—the only journey that really matters. Your family deserves your love and society can take taxes from your wages, but you owe neither of them your life. They will get over their disappointment and may even come to admire and be inspired by your courage.
“But I don’t know how”, you say, “I can’t. I was dealt a bad hand. I’ve already wasted the best years of my life on porn and escapism. I had a hard childhood with no one to guide me. I did poorly in school, never developed any skills or made many friends. It’s hard. I’m weak. I’m nobody. I’m nothing. Porn allows me to forget all of that for a few moments, throw myself and my problems into oblivion. How could I ever give that up?”
In response, I say that we all have a choice in what to believe. We can believe that all of life and existence came about by happenstance, that we are an aberration or a mistake, that nothing matters and that everything we have done up till now is dross. We can believe that, and the weight of our own pointless existence will drag us inexorably down under the murky waters, where we slowly drown and call it life. Or we can have faith: faith in the wonderful and terrible miracles of the universe, faith in thousands of ancestral generations of champions, lovers, creators, and survivors that fought and struggled and believed so that we may live, faith in the indelible and unknowable powers that brought us into being, faith that everything in our past occurred so that we could grow into the best, strongest, wisest, fiercest versions of ourselves. Believe thusly and we can be free, self-determined forces upon this world capable of feats most would dismiss as impossible.
The truth is that outside of natural law and our innate compassion and respect for the world and our fellow creatures, there are no real limits on us—only challenges to be overcome. If that doesn’t excite you at least a little bit, then I can’t help you.