Sexual Sobriety – “Not even beer?”
A reader asks: Thank you so much for addressing the issue. What's the solution? Not to look at porn all? I know it's a stupid question. Not much different than "not even beer?" I’m just so scared, even with all the security and anonymity of this site, opening up is so scary. I know what John Meyer means. It's the chase. It's all that time spent that the next "one" is gonna be the right "clip", but before I accept it as "the one", I tell myself "there must be something a little better than this", and get back to searching. After all that search, before i know it, hours have passed. Or it's morning already.. . A rosy pink picture!
Thank you for writing and validating that I’m neither talking into a vacuum nor spewing a bunch of hogwash. Internet porn addiction is real, it hurts, and this is what it looks like. A lot like cocaine addiction, really, what with hearing the birds singing and realizing it’s morning and you’ve overshot the mark on more time.
The good news: Sexual sobriety does not mean either celibacy or spinsterhood. The bad news: Yeah, you’re probably going to have to stop jacking off to porn. Sorry.
As you guessed, the solution that seems to work best for this addiction is, indeed, the 12 Steps as described by Alcoholics Anonymous. But “not even beer” isn’t necessarily the right analogue. After all, we need sex and love in our lives; we don’t need beer (even if it feels like that sometimes!) So, how to have a healthy balance when – if you’re like me – your idea of “middle ground” is a clothesline stretched across a football field…
A good comparison, I believe, is Overeaters Anonymous. You need nourishment to live, but you need abstinence to thrive. So you set your bottom lines: “No sugar“ and “no white flour” are common. Some people recognize other trigger foods and eliminate them from their diet as well. What a sex and love addict does is set bottom lines and maintain complete abstinence from those behaviors.
Unlike, say, speed, I could always take or leave pornography. My first sexual bottom lines were “no sleeping with married men” and “no boinking anyone less than half my age.” That gives you some idea what my so-called love life looked like! For someone who is spending more time than he planned to -- or wanted to, or knows is good for them – looking at internet porn, I would start with at least a 30-day cooling off period. No porn in any form, no masturbation… no flirting or dating for 30 days, either, lest you just slop over into love addiction, the flip side of sex addiction. Some people are okay with a content blocker on their computer; others have to get offline entirely for a while. Think of it as a palate cleanser. (Feel free to add your own “amuse bouche” pun here…._
After the overstimulated sexual thermostat regulates itself, you can start reintroducing healthy sexual behavior. Like, for instance, sex. Addiction creates such weird reward circuits in our brains that porn can feel more erotic than actual sex. Nature would rather you had actual sex, and will cooperate with your efforts. Just like Nature would rather you had actual food, and will encourage you by giving you a stronger, leaner, hotter body.
So drop that metaphorical 50-pound weight you’re carrying around and give it a chance. Try it for a month. Or a week. Or – and here’s a novel thought! – One Day At A Time.