Each addiction is unique

Submitted by Tank on
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This is my first post. Anywhere. It is frightening to publicly state, for the first time (albeit somewhat anonymously) that I am addicted to pornography and masturbation.

There. I said it. Wow.

Something that has long disappointed me in myself is that I have successfully dealt with a couple of other addictions. I gave up drinking over 20 years ago, and have been a faithful member of A.A., attending at least one meeting a week. I worked the 12-steps with a sponsor. I'm active in A.A. service work. I'm really an "acomplished recovered alcoholic." And yet ... I still have a secret addiction. I feel like such a hypocrite.

I also quit smoking over a decade ago (which, for me, was much harder that quitting drinking). So I like to think of myself as practically an expert on the whole subject of addiction, withdrawal, relapse (it took me a hundred attempts to quit smoking). And yet ... I have never even admitted to myself how much my secret addiction has been ruling my life.

I didn't even think of it as an addiction. Which is funny, really, because I know that is true of any addict. "I can quit any time I want to - I just don't want to," we all say. But I wanted to quit pornography. I tried. I swore off, with and without solumn oaths. I have failed over and over. This has been going on for years. I do know enough to recognize that as a sure sign of addiction.

With all my vast knowledge and expertise, I have managed to accumulate: (drum roll, please): 3 days. It has been three days since I masturbated or looked at porn.

The fact is, I cannot make it without help.
I've been reading this site for at least four months.
The last time I swore off, I considered posting on this site, but I told myself, "I don't really need to do that. I can do this on my own." Actually, I think I've made and broken that exact promise to myself at least three times now ... another sure sign of addiction.

I may still click Cancel. I haven't actually posted anything yet. But if anyone is reading this, please know that having made this public admission about my pornography addiction is a huge, frightening step for me. And an admission that I need the support of a community of people who understand.

I don't really have much interesting to say ... but the mere fact of saying anything is a step I have been studiously avoiding for years.


Welcome :-)

I don't have much interesting to say either. Smile But welcome. I understand that it took a lot of courage to write that blog entry and click the "Post" button. I hope you have better results achieving your goals this time.

The connection between addictions

intrigues me. And I confess I think of the "passion cycle" buried in orgasm is, perhaps, the mother of all addictions. I say this because my husband was able to recover from his alcohol addiction in about four months...once we got together on the basis that we would make love without orgasm (as much as possible). We were both intrigued by all the promises in various esoteric sources about the benefits of doing that...and just wanted to find our for ourselves.

Looks like some of those old teachers were onto something. Wink Too bad, eh?

Anyway, my point is that you may, at last, be addressing the *heart* of your addictive tendencies.

Do you have a mate? Could you try something like the Exchanges? http://www.reuniting.info/science/ecstatic_exchanges_and_neurochemistry That's what we used.

If not, what could you do to increase your contact with others?

Also, I heard again (on a YOU Tube video between experts), that addicts *can* modify their behavior by retraining their brains to move to a new, constructive activity *every time* the urge arises. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCj-cdk5DFg

This is challenging in the case of sex...while we still believe that orgasm is a 'constructive activity.' Are you willing to consider the possibility that orgasm is only constructive when you're sure you want a baby...and the rest of the time it's not so beneficial? If so, you'll find the transition a lot easier.

Welcome, Tank.

Yes it's a big step facing up to addiction to (porn and) orgasm. Well done.

There's no need to fear here. Many of us here are dealing with similar issues.

Regarding giving up smoking being easier, I can empathise with that too. The desire for orgasm seems to cloud good judgement even more than drugs. Just look at our politicians for examples of this.

There are almost

always aspects of drugs or nicotine that are "aversive." That is, the body doesn't like something about them - according to Gary. Orgasm on the other hand...:-) Although in that excerpt I posted the link to, the shrink author said:

Pornographers promise healthy pleasure and relief from sexual tension, but what they often deliver is addiction, tolerance, and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Paradoxically, the male patients I worked with often craved pornographyy but didn’t like it.

Here are some other bits, too:

102 Pornography, delivered by high-speed Internet connections, satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change.

Hardcore pornography now explores the world of perversion, while softcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago….

103 Pornography’s growth has been extraordinary; it accounts for 25 percent of video rentals and is the fourth most common reason people give for going online. An MSNBC.com survey of viewers in 2001 found that 80 percent felt they were spending so much time on pornographic sites that they were putting their relationships or jobs at risk. Softcore pornography’s influence is now most profound because, now that it is no longer hidden it influences young people with little sexual experience and especially plastic minds, in the process of forming their sexual tastes and desires. Yet the plastic influence of pornography on adults can also be profound, and those who use it have no sense of the extent to which their brains are reshaped by it.

104 Porn users] reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses or girlfriends, though they still considered them objectively attractive. When I asked if this phenomenon had any relationshp to viewing pornography, they answered that it initially helped them get more excited during sex but over time had the opposite effect. …Some gently tried to persuade their lovers to act like porn stars, and they were increasingly interested in “fucking” as opposed to “making love.”…I got the impression that any sexual creativity these men had was dying and that they were becoming addicted to Internet porn.

104-105 Many boys [on university campuses] spoke openly about how they masturbated at least once every day, as if there were some sort of prudent maintenance of the psychosexual system. …The danger is that this tolerance will carry over into relationships, as it did in patients whom I was seeing, leading to potency problems and new, at times unwelcome, tastes. …Today young men who surf porn are tremendously fearful of impotence, or “erectile dysfunction” as it is euphemistically called. …the problem is in their heads, in their sexual brain maps.

106 The addictiveness of Internet pornography is not a metaphor. All addiction involves long-term, sometimes lifelong, neuroplastic change in the brain. For addicts, moderation is impossible, and they must avoid the substance or activity completely if they are to avoid addcitive behaviors. … By hijacking our dopamine system, addictive substances give us pleasure without our having to work for it.

107 The same surge of dopamine that thrills us also consolidates the neuronal connections responsible for the behaviors that led us to accomplish our goal.
… delta FosB [Not "A-FosB...I was looking at a scanned article] accumulates until it throws a genetic switch, affecting which genes are turned on or off. Flipping this switch causes changes that persist long after the drug is stopped, leading to irreversible damage to the brain’s dopamine system and rendering the animal far more prone to addiction. Nondrug addictions…also lead to the accumulation of deltaFosB and the same permanent changes in the dopamine system. [Not sure these are permanent. The study we saw said 1-2 months for lingering deltaFosB.]

108 [Sensitization leads to increased wanting. It is the accumulation of deltaFosB, caused by exposure to an addictive substance or activity, that leads to sensitization. Porn is more exciting than satisfying. Exciting relates to dopamine and anticipation. It raises our tension level.] Porn’y hyperactivates the appetitive system.

109 [T]hese men got massive amounts of practice wiring these images into the pleasure centers of the brain, with the rapt attention necessary for plastic change. … Here was a behavior with no “punishment,” [like the shame of buying "Playboy" from the local store] only reward. [very addictive...]

112 sooner or later the surfer finds a killer combination that presses a number of his sexual buttons at once. Then he reinforces the network by viewing the images repeatedly, masturbating, releasing dopamine and strengthening these networks. [with strong roots in buried sexual tendencies.] Romantic love [ON THE OTHER HAND] triggers such powerful emotion that we can reconfigure what we find attractive, even overcoming “objective” beauty.”

113 Being in love triggers an emotional state so pleasurable that it can make even pockmarks attractive, plastically rewiring our aesthetic sense. … Falling in love also lowers the threshold at which the pleasure centers will fire.

114 The addict, the manic and the lover are increasingly filled with hopeful anticipation and are sensitive to anything that might give pleasure…. Because our brains are experiencing a surge of dopamine, which consolidates plastic change, any pleasurable experiences and associations we have in the initial state of love are thus wired into our brains. [It] not only allows us to take more pleasure in the world, it also makes it harder for us to experience pain and displeasure or aversion. … Things that normally bother us don’t. [Being in love] makes it harder for us to be unhappy.

116 A tolerance, akin to tolerance for a drug, can develop in happy lovers as they get used to each other. Dopamine likes novelty. [Advises lovers to surprise each other]
… Love creates a generous state of mind. Because love allows us to experience as pleasurable situations or physical features that we otherwise might not, it also allows us to unlearn negative associations, another plastic phenomenon.

117 Different chemistries are involved in learning that in unlearning … Unlearning and weakening connections between neurons is just as plastic a process, and just as important, as learning and strengthening them. …Evidence suggestions that unlearning existing memories is necessary to make room for new memories in our networks.

118 [Say goodbye to flashbacks…in a sort of grieving process? He says that releasing each intense memory of a loved one who is gone - in a mini ritual of farewell -, can clear the decks for new action. This *might* work with "favorite flashbacks, or even a porn habit.]

119 Freeman believes that when we commit in love, the brain neuromodulator [120] oxytocin is released, allowing existing neuronal connections to melt away so that changes on a large scale can follow. Oxytocin is sometimes called the commitment neurmodulator because it reinforces bonding in mammals. … Many young people who doubt they will be able to handle the responsibilities of parenting are not aware of the extent to which OT [oxytocin] may change their brains, allowing them to rise to the occasion.

Whereas dopamine induces excitement, puts us into high gear, and triggers sexual arousal, OT induces a calm, warm mood that increases tender feelings and attachment and may lead us to lower our guard.

120, [OT may “wipe” past loves in favor of current one.] Freeman proposes that OT melts down existing neuronal connections that underlie existing attachments, so new attachments can be formed. [OT makes it possible for them to learn new patterns.] … What nature provides, in a neuromodulator like OT, is the ability for two brains tin love to go through a period of heightened plasticity, allowing them to mold to each other and shape each other’s intentions and perceptions. …As Freeman says, “The deepest meaning of sexual experience lies [121] not in pleasure, or even in reproduction, but in the opportunity it affords to [overcome self-absorption and build mutual trust].”

I learned something, too

It's fascinating that oxytocin may increase brain plasticity. This may be another reason that finding a sweetheart makes giving up the addiction cycle so much easier (something that actual research confirms in addicted rats, and in rats going through withdrawal). This was Gary's experience in our relationship. Within four months he gave up an alcohol addiction that he hadn't been able to crack in 12 years.

It's also a good reason not to wait until you're healed to reach out to potential sweethearts.


You have been very brave to admit openly (and to yourself) you addiction. I am sure that you will get out of it someday. You already did it once with alcohol, which is extremely difficult, so there no reason you couldn't do it again with p&m.

Keep us posted!