My Recovery from Porn Addiction

I am a 27-year-old clinical researcher and aspiring medical doctor who has been battling addiction to pornography and its associated behaviors for many years. I went to public schools, played high school football, ice hockey and rugby in college. I appeared to be a sociable, happy, intelligent and capable young man. But under the surface, from age 12, I was slowly falling deeper into behaviors that I knew to be anti-social and I grew increasingly ashamed of these hidden behaviors.

My shame stemmed from a gut feeling that what I was doing was wrong. But I couldn’t turn away from my growing habits as it gave me a sense of relief and security. Little did I know at the time, this security was really just a mask for deeper issues. My main motivation for wanting to stop early on came from fear. Fear of retribution from my parents if they found my secret porn files, and fear of embarrassment if they knew what I was secretly doing. Either way, the fear never helped me improve my behaviors; they just drove me further into my isolation.

My behaviors were so compulsive and out of control that I simply could not deny my problem anymore.

A battle raged inside of me, teetering between turning to porn as a friend and refuge from the stresses of the world and feeling completely guilty due to the lack of control over myself. I would masturbate to porn and then swear it off time and time again.

My actions escalated even more and so did my social awkwardness and deteriorating self-esteem. Not coincidentally, my ego and perceived grandiosity grew as well. By the time I was ready to graduate from college, my behaviors were so compulsive and out of control that I simply could not deny my problem anymore. At the age of 24, I was resigned to admit that I was a porn addict.

I had previously turned to therapists and social support for help with my problem, but did not gain any ground whatsoever. The many years of self-abuse had created certain behaviors and neurological pathways that would not be so easy to break. A friend I confided told me about the 12-step program. It made sense to me to try it. I realized that just as a person cannot unlock himself from prison, so too the addict cannot free himself from addiction on his own.

It was in the 12-step groups that I finally gained some lasting sobriety from my addiction. I was taught valuable tools and coping mechanisms that allowed me to deal with the stresses in my life without turning to my so-called best friend, porn. Once I had gained some sobriety, which in turn led to a newfound clarity I had never experienced before, I was ready to take on the first step: admitting that my life had indeed become unmanageable.

Working this step meant writing down my complete sexual history so that I could see it in black and white without deluding myself. The first step also meant sharing my story with the whole group and getting feedback. It allowed me to get everything out without feeling shame as others shared with me how my experience mirrored theirs. Not only did the first step relieve me of shame, it showed me that my ever escalating out-of-control behaviors were constantly being masked by denial and ego.

Meeting other people struggling with the same issues gave me a sense of belonging; I knew I was not alone. It broke the isolation that allowed my addiction to thrive. I also had a plethora of numbers to call to connect with a fellow addict whenever I felt the temptation to take that “first drink.” And most importantly, after my first meeting I got a sponsor, who had been clean from porn for 18 years.

Meeting other people struggling with the same issues gave me a sense of belonging; I knew I was not alone.

However the addiction was expressed in our individual behaviors, the groups gave us the support from other people who were actively doing what none of us thought was possible: living a new life free from addiction. It’s an ongoing challenge as “change is a process, not an event,” but my quality of life has improved dramatically and continues to improve each day. I had one relapse after 120 days, but unlike the other countless times I “relapsed,” I had the support of my sponsor and fellow addicts to hold me accountable and get back up.

I am by no means out of the woods and I have accepted that I may struggle with the temptation for life, but I know I can be free from the obsession as long as I continue to take my “medicine” through the program.