In this post I want to delve deep into a terrifying topic: pornography addiction.
My history with pornography use does not paint a pretty picture. I would go so far as to say that it’s been an addiction. However, there are two reasons why I want to write about porn today.
The first reason is that I know how important honesty is, and there are countless times I’ve read blog posts that are written straight from the heart, as honest as can be, and those posts have changed the way I look at life. So I want to help myself at the same time I help others dealing with this same problem.
The second reason is that today I became conscious, for the first time, of the problem that’s been underlying my compulsive porn use for all these years: Anxiety.
I’ve often thought about anxiety in my own life and the lives of others, but I never really paid it much thought. It was kind of a stiff-upper-lip kind of thing for me, where I would tell myself to ignore these feelings of anxiety, that they were unnatural, that others might judge me if I were to show them in public.
I finally realized how infested my life is with anxious thoughts and emotions. Many aspects of my life, especially the social aspects, have long been riddled with them. But where does pornography fit in?
Self medication. That’s it! Finally!
That’s why I’ve consistently gone back to porn, even after weeks of abstaining, when some kind of stressful or anxiety-provoking events happen in my life. It’s the way I’ve trained myself to respond to these disturbing emotions.
Just like Pavlov’s dogs salivate to the bell, feelings of anxiety will, without fail, induce almost simultaneous cravings for the oblivion of porn. Or better yet, just like a crack addict in the first painful moments of withdrawal, with all the misery and suffering that ensues, who starts to crave her hit, knowing full well that it will only make things worse in the long run.
Because that’s what porn actually is, especially the high-speed-internet variety. It’s not a suppository, it’s not an intravenous drug, it’s an audio-visual drug. And a powerful one at that: pornography addiction is very real and poses similar threat to the individual as cocaine addiction.
Hypofrontality, leading to poor impulse control, and even a reduction in brain matter in certain areas. Not to mention the devastating social and economic consequences. Sure, porn is a less expensive, legal, more socially acceptable kind of drug, but so are cigarettes and alcohol. It doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
That being said, I can’t speak for everyone. Maybe some people are more prone to abusing these things. In fact, I find that pretty probable. Just as the majority of people can enjoy a glass of wine or a beer every now and then without becoming raging alcoholics, maybe some people can jerk to porn every once in a while without developing addiction. Who’s to say.
However, there is a subtle but importance differences between internet porn and the substances I’ve been comparing them to: accessibility. High-speed-internet is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. Which means that technically, porn is everywhere. It’s saturating every cell in your body as we speak.
Anybody with a smart phone, most people nowadays, can furtively slither into the nearest bathroom stall for their hit, many times a day, without arousing the notice of friends or family. Compare that to seeing a friend sneak into the kitchen to nick a vodka bottle, or drink his fourth beer in broad daylight, or a sibling smelling like cigarette butts every time you meet them.
These things arouse worry in loved ones, as they should. It’s a slippery slope. Pornography addiction is particularly sinister because it can be tucked away and hidden so effectively.
I’ve wanted to quit porn for years. I’ve tried to quit for years. Many things have helped, but I never managed to overcome this addiction. I’ve often felt hopeless about this. On the other hand, there have been multiple times where I’ve been clean for weeks, before falling back off the wagon. I’ve trained myself to see the positive, every second of abstinence, every time I manage to resist is a victory.
But I think I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. Just as western doctors tend to focus on the symptoms while ignoring the roots of illness, I’ve been directing all my attention to the symptom: porn addiction. The root is obvious to me now: my anxiety.
Feelings of anxiety are always a precursor for my cravings for porn. Without fail. When I’ve been at my happiest, calmest, most productive, the cravings are nowhere to be found.
Where attention goes, energy flows.
I need to stop focusing on what’s gone wrong, and instead focus on what needs to be right. I need to learn to respond to anxiety in a different manner. Mindfulness is crucial.
I’ll keep you updated on how my change in perspective works out.