I'd like to share my story of recovery on this forum, if it helps others.
I've been addicted to masturbation to online pornography for 18 years. It began as chance discovery when I was 12 years old, developed into a secret habit and ultimately a full-blown addiction, with all the signs of one; escalation in number of times I acted out and the duration. There was also the escalation in content I acted out to. For me, that last part got really, really bad. And of course, as my peers grew up and took part in the life around them, I became more and more isolated, more afraid of the world around me, of change and people.
This wasn't a problem in the first 6 years. I assumed everyone, at least young men, watched porn. I just went a little farther. But when I was 20, on a relatively trivial basis, I decided to quit the habit. I was making some other positive changes in my life and concluded that this wasn't really healthy. I was 20 years at the time, and I remember the days when I made the decision to quit. What followed were ten years of hell.
I tried resisting, I tried drawing up plans of what to do in case of, and making blueprints for better habits. But when the urge came, I was absolutely powerless. It was as if a foreign power took over my mind, my whole brain boiling. There was a sense of a silent inevitability to the urge, and I simply could not do anything else but act out.
Looking back now, I realize how extremely isolated and alone was and had always been, empathically, or shall we say spiritually cut off from other people?
Days became weeks, and then months and finally years. I believe 17 days was my record. I developed a naive understanding of addiction during the first three years. But I thought it was just a bad habit, and something with the brain being used to certain substances. This perception made things worse with every slip and relapse. Was I so weak-minded? Getting help was out of the question. Because with what I had seen and the secrets I bore, I was convinced that to speak the truth was to die. Indeed, I had a suicide plan ready since I was 18 years old.
I discovered online forums, including this one, I believe 2014, 4 years into my decision of quitting the habit. I saw people coming in and getting helped. For some reason it didn't work for me. When the urge hit, it was over. I developed a habit of getting to a gas station in the middle of the night to buy junk food after I had slipped. This was to console myself, and try to regroup for the next day. I have bittersweet memories walking on the road, looking up into the night sky and hoping that I'd be freed one day.
This was my life for years: secretly fighting a war, while pretending outwardly that I was okay. I was a workaholic, and sometimes I met family and friends, which were always uncomfortable experiences for me. But really I felt as a ghost among people, convincing myself that I was different and better than them, or worse than them. Other people often came across as mere projections.
2016, 6 years in, one of my childhood friends whom I had grown closer to in recent years, abandoned me. This was someone I had looked up to, and had shared with that I did have a problem with porn. He didn't buy the concept of addiction, but my friendship with him did motivate me to continue. When he left, I gave up hope. I began accepting that this was my life, and I descended into some kind of delusional fog. The optimism and hopefulness of my decision to quit was gone.
During the last 4 years I was absolutely hollow. My friends whom I had known for all these years had educations, jobs, partners and were getting kids. I was, outwardly, doing the same thing I had been doing from the start. All I had was this inner universe where i felt like some sort of god. I acted out numerous times a day now and had been for some time.Entire days could pass by as my rituals grew and grew.
A little more than a year ago I started at a new job. Same line of work, just closer to where I lived. I met a colleague there who I took an interest to. She had a kindness to her that felt genuine. We found ourselves talking about interests or life in general. And something about her attitude and the things she talked about began stirring these dead ideas in me, that I had tried to quit my addiction, and that maybe I could try again. I got the sense that I could trust this person, and with hose help I could maybe seek professional help.
A while later I got accepted into university, so I had to quit my job. But me and my colleague made plans to meet. The first day when I came to home to her, we soon found ourselves just talking about life and all kinds of things. When we looked at the time, we were shocked to discover that 12 hours had passed. This is not an exaggeration. It felt as if I had known this person my entire life. We had three days like the first one, by the end of which we both realized there was something more than friendship here. It was then that I shared that I had a problem with porn and masturbation. And to my surprise, she said there was help to be received, and said that she herself was a member of a 12-step fellowship, had been for years, and that she knew from the first moment she saw me that I was an addict too. She just didn't know to what.
I was introduced to her fellowship, and that's where my life started changing. Having felt alone my entire life, it was almost bewildering to meet others like me, and for the first time perceiving something referred to as unconditional love. A new world had opened itself up. This fellowship was for people with substance abuse. I have never used drugs in that sense but I felt a strong empathy and identification when people shared about loneliness, the madness, being cut off from humanity. I wasn't alone anymore, though I never shared that my problems were with masturbation and porn. And throughout the first time I did have an attitude of minimizing my problem.
And this period was not without slips, though far fewer between than I had ever dreamed of. My first streak was 60 days, then 50, then 30. But eventually the urge, that sense of inevitability came over me, and I acted out. At the last slip, my girlfriend insisted I get into professional therapy. And so it was, that in a 12-step therapy program, in a group of 8 sex addicts, I believe on the 26th of february 2020, I completely opened up about my addiction for the first time in my life. I spilled out every last little shameful secret I had hoped to take to the grave with me, that I had resolved to kill myself over. And I was only met with love, and understanding. I think I cried for 11 straight hours that day. And soon after, every repressed emotion, fear, longing and grief from as early as my childhood days just welled up. It was the singlemost turbulent and chaotic sensation I have ever felt. My entire life, as I had known it, collapsed.
But since that day, I can honestly say I've been freed from the compulsion to act out. Urges come and go, but they've been so marginalized that they're of no consequence. Certain thoughts still evoke shame, but I'm learning to accept that I'm a recovering addict, and things don't change over night.
On monday 25th of January 2021, in five days that is, I'll be celebrating 1 year sober, after ten years of going at it alone.
I've attended regular 12-step meetings during this year, and I honestly share about what's going on inside with those I can. I'm still in therapy and will be for a while. And one day I will be making amends for what I've done. But life is rather beautiful I find. I'm learning that I have needs and wants, and have a right to exist like anybody else.
What made it for me was the acceptance that I couldn't do it alone. I've been so shy and afraid of other people that I think I needed one individual I could learn to trust, who could guide me to seek help. It was also necessary to really hear for the first time a message of love and hope, as when I divulged my darkest darkness and was met with a message of "We love you, you are not a monster". I realize I've had so much hatred for myself deep inside. And beyond that, Absolute honesty was crucial. The lack of total honesty was what drove me back to acting out. Today I am convinced that I have spiritual needs; I need to maintain empathetic bonds with other people on a regular basis. If I don't, then I inevitably start becoming self-centered, irrational, prejudiced, convincing myself I'm different or better. And at the far end of that path there is surely a relapse waiting, to deal with all overwhelming feelings.
If you read this, I want to convey that there is hope.
Certain things in society are extremely stigmatized and taboo. And if the addiction has led to those areas, then those are the things that need to come out if healing is to take place, I believe. That was the case for me at least. But you are not alone, and you are brave. The world is a better place because you have made it into recovery.
Have a wonderful day!