How bad can a pornography addiction get?

I often share redemption and recovery stories to inspire rebooters. By seeing what others have accomplished in recovery, our own possibilities open up for us. This is not one of those stories.

This is a story about rock bottom. Rock bottom is a different place for every person, and it can only really be identified in retrospect. In the midst of an addiction, rock bottom can always go deeper. I’ve seen many people reach lows that they never imagined they would be capable of. This is one of those stories.  I noticed the following testimony posted on Reddit and received permission from the author to share it with my commentary.

The full text of Anon’s story is below in italics. My comments are in bold.

I have been debating whether or not to post this, but I think I should. If only to help anyone who might be going down the same road I did.

I discovered myself at a very young age. Some of my earliest memories are of touching myself during nap time in kindergarten. I always would go “take a nap” or “control my dreams” at least once or twice a day. It wasn’t until I started to hit puberty that I learned what I was doing was called masturbating and that if I looked at naked women it would feel even better. So I started to steal my dad’s Maxim magazines and any movie that said it had nudity in it. Then one day at school I said to someone I wanted to see characters from cartoons I liked naked. He told me there was porn of that on a thing called the internet. I was only vaguely aware of what the internet was back then. My dad had a computer but I would only play games on it like Monsters Inc pinball and Hoyle Casino. But now that I knew you could get porn on it, I knew I had to have my own.

Ask any kindergarten teacher and they’ll tell you that sexual self-touch isn’t rare among young children. Some people don’t develop a sex drive until puberty, but for others it starts much earlier. This is why conversation about sexuality, relationships, and (these days) pornography have to start young and continue throughout adolescence. See my recent interview with Kristen Jensen, author of Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids for more discussion on this topic.

I begged my parents to give me a computer and a cable to connect with internet. They finally gave me a laptop computer around the time when a new thing called wi-fi was introduced. We got the house set up with wi-fi and I made my first web search. It was for pokemon xxx. I fell down the rabbit hole quick. I started looking for all kinds of porn and jerking off to it. It started to become an every day habit. Come home from school, jerk off to porn then move on with my day. Throughout all of this I was dealing with depression issues. Not necessarily caused by porn, there’s a genetic history of depression on my moms side of the family, but it definitely added fuel to the fire. At around Jr high through high school I started having thoughts of suicide and even made a few attempts all the while I went deeper down the rabbit hole.

Pornography use isn’t usually the cause of mental health issues like you describe, but compulsive and escalatory use can certainly exacerbate depression, anxiety, social isolation, and suicidal ideation. When we rely on any addictive crutch to cope with our adversity and traumas, it’s only a stopgap that makes the eventual self-destruction all the more dramatic.

My porn searches started to become more extreme. Hard-core bdsm, torture, vore, guro, s&m, and eventually it just wasn’t taboo enough. I needed something illegal.

I started looking at child porn.

This is a subject I’ve talked about before. If you’re reading this, I encourage you to take a break now to watch the video I made a few years ago titled, Why Would Anyone Watch Child Pornography?

If you don’t, just know that not everyone who consumes child sexual abuse material or sexually abuses a child is a pedophile. A true pedophile is someone with a long-standing and primary sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. There are non-pedophiles who sexually abuse children because they are victims of convenience or able to be manipulated and controlled. And there are pedophiles who go a lifetime without ever acting on their desires and harming a child.

Then there are long-term porn users who undergo the process of tolerance and escalation as Anon describes here, getting bored by the old material as they desensitize themselves and seeking out more and more extreme content. Some escalate to the point where they can only get off to cartoon or digitally rendered pornography. Other have their sexuality twisted until they start doubting their orientation after a lifetime of certainty. And some like Anon escalate to illegal content.

As child abuse expert Michael Sheath says in this article on the subject, “There is a school of thought that these men we work with were already interested in children and went off to look for it – that they are born paedophiles. But that’s not my thoughts. I think a lot of the men we work with go down what I call a potentially escalating pathway [with Internet pornography].”

I never took any pictures myself. But every time CP was posted to 4chan, I would save it before it got deleted. I downloaded a tor browser and started searching the dark web for CP. Anything to get my fix. What’s worse is that I was even active on reddit at the time and was aware of the NoFap community. I just brushed it off as a bunch of weirdos. “Who would ever want to give up porn and masturbation?” I thought.

You weren’t at rock bottom yet. You weren’t ready to hear it.

Skip ahead to when I was about 21. My computer broke. I took it to get fixed and then a few days later when I came home from work my dad was there waiting for me. He told me to get into the truck and then told me why. He said the people I took my computer to had found child porn on it. They had reported me to the police and we were on our way to see a lawyer. He asked me how bad was it. I didn’t lie. I just said “It’s really bad.”

I spent the next year under investigation out on bond. During that time I had no computer to look at porn on. But I had a 3DS that could. I was scared that if I looked at porn at home the police would find out. So I started looking at it on public wifi and jacking off in public bathrooms and at work. I ended up losing my job because of this. We finally went to court and I pled guilty. The judge sentenced me to 10 years of adjudicated probation. That meant that if I could go 10 years without internet porn, the felony wouldn’t be on my record.

I didn’t last a week.

Ouch. Even when the stakes were that high, you were out of control of your behavior. That’s addiction.

My probation officer asked me if I was struggling with probation. I said yeah I had slipped up and looked at porn a few times. The next day I was arrested and taken to jail. I spent a year in jail waiting to be sentenced. My lawyer said they wanted 10 years prison time but we eventually signed for 6 years. I spent 3 years in prison and the entire time I spent in there I thought about how I was going to get porn when I got out. While locked up I bought pictures of porn stars to jack off to. I started trying to learn how to draw so I could make my own porn. I borrowed penthouse forum books that circulated around. I was put in a treatment program with other Sex Offenders (Side note: because I looked at porn instead of looking for a girlfriend, I had never had sex. Still haven’t. So I’m a sex offender who has never had sex) and that’s when the truth really sunk in.

I had an addiction.

By the time I was released on parole I was aware of my addiction and had tools to cope with it, but I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. So I kept looking for porn with the intention to slowly ween my self off it. I bought porn dvds from an adult store where I live. I bought echi manga from bookstores. I ordered penthouse forum books from a catalog. Then it came time for my annual polygraph test. The previous year I took a sexual history polygraph. So I passed it. This one was a maintenance polygraph which meant they would ask me what I had been doing on parole. They asked if had looked at porn. I lied, said no, and failed the polygraph. I came clean to my PO and she said it was okay as long as I was trying to quit. I said I was and that was the truth. I threw away all my porn and continued to attend my SOTP meetings.

Let’s skip ahead to more recently. One of the conditions of my parole was that I couldn’t have a phone with a camera. So I did the impossible and found a shitty flip phone without a camera. I had that thing for 3 years before it just wouldn’t recognize the cellular network anymore. I asked my PO if I could just get a cheap smartphone instead. She agreed but she would check it every month for anything inappropriate. I got my very first smartphone ever and I checked if I could access all my old online accounts after 6 years of inactivity. I could only get access to one.

My reddit porn throwaway.

I tried to get on my old main account, but it had been so long. I couldn’t remember the password. I couldn’t even access the old email account associated with it cause it had been deactivated do to fraudulent activity. So I made a new email and a new reddit account. I synced the throwaway to my new email and started using it to look at porn. But on my new main account the first sub reddit I subscribed to was NoFap. The stories here helped me realize it’s time to let go. So I deleted the only remnant of my past online life.

I wish I could say that I’m “going 90 days strong WOOO” but I’m not. My longest streak has been 4 days no porn and only 3 days no masturbation. Right now my goal is just to make it 5 days without looking.

To anyone still reading this please don’t let your addiction get as bad as mine. Seek help. Now.

The consequences for online activity can be severe and life-changing. Even after you serve your sentence, you may be on the sex offenders registry for the rest of your life, dramatically limiting your opportunities and lifestyle. This can apply even to minors who are sexting with each other, which can be prosecuted as solicitation, production, and/or distribution of child pornography (even if the featured individual is yourself).

Anon committed crimes. These crimes were not victimless, and I believe the justice system was right in prosecuting him. But he was also a victim, groomed by Internet pornography from a young age, his sexuality twisted toward more and more perverse fixations. Not every addict escalates to more extreme genres, and certainly not every addict will seek out illegal content even if they continue using. But if you’re in this cycle, I hope this man’s experiences are the cold splash of water that you need.

If you’re looking for personal guidance, you can find me here.