All about Porn Addiction Recovery: Highlights from My Most Recent Reddit AMA

healing from shameI often visit forums on Reddit about recovering from porn addiction. Occasionally, I’ve done AMAs as a porn addiction therapist and answered all kinds of questions about porn addiction recovery.

 

In the past, I’ve written a bit about these AMAs on the blog as I really enjoy them. You can check out my previous posts here and here.

 

On Sunday, I spent some time in one of these forums doing another AMA. I liked that I could be helpful to so many people, and we had some really great discussions. I thought I’d share the highlights with you here.

 

Are you ready? Let’s jump in.

 

Healing from the Shame of Porn Addiction

Question: How do you help addicts recover from the guilt, shame, and remorse?

 

Shame is such a crippling, heavy feeling, isn’t it? It’s at the core of porn addiction, and arguably, all other addictions. I believe that toxic shame, the shame that tells us that we are irredeemable, that we are irrevocably bad, that we are unlovable and rotten to our core, that is the what we learn to shed in recovery. It takes time, vulnerability, and conscious effort.

 

There may be lines crossed in our addictions that mean that we owe amends to those that we’ve hurt, or that we need to face legal consequences. But that does not and need not mean that we don’t deserve healing and wholeness.

 

If you’re reading this and you feel this strong, dark shame, I can guarantee you that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Connect with others in this forum or in a support group and share your story. You will find that others have had similar experiences and feelings. Really. And, to paraphrase Dickens, you will come to experience a lightness, with time, that is a far, far better rest than you have ever known.

 

Cultivating Healthy Sexuality in Porn Addiction Recovery

Question: How do you help your patients recover a normal and healthy sexuality, after many years of porn?

 

Much of the work in cultivating a healthy sexuality involves shedding sexual shame. That means talking about our porn use with safe people, but it also may involve healing from cultural, familial, and societal attitudes and messages about sex and our bodies that we’ve internalized. This can take time and conscious effort, but doing so helps us change how we feel about ourselves as sexual beings. It’s crucial to develop a healthy, positive view of oneself as a sexual person if we are to develop healthy sexuality.

 

Many of the men I work with have also had difficulty in taking responsibility for meeting their own needs, and this includes sexual needs. The men I speak with tend to have grown up in families in which they felt their needs were unimportant and undervalued, so that they learned that they were unlovable just as they are. When we believe these messages of emotional toxic shame, we tend to repress our needs and not share them with others because we fear rejection and abandonment.

 

So part of developing a healthy sexuality means taking responsibility for meeting one’s sexual needs in healthy ways. For singles in recovery, this may mean abstention from all sexual activity or moderate masturbation without sexual fantasy. For those in relationships, it usually means learning to devote all of one’s sexual energy to the relationship and learning to talk freely about sex and sexual needs without shame.

 

For much more on this, check out Alexandra Katehakis’ book Erotic Intelligence.

 

Dishonesty and Porn Addiction Recovery

Question: What’s the connection between porn addiction and dishonesty? What are your recommendations for helping an addict become more honest and open in order to build trust?

 

Porn addiction thrives in secrecy and shame, both of which require dishonesty. Porn addiction means that we hide a part of ourselves and our behaviors from others, so that we need to be dishonest. Often, those who struggle with porn addiction have a long hidden a part of themselves that they feel isn’t okay, acceptable, or loved; this toxic shame core means that we hide what we feel is a rotten, unworthy, unlovable self from the world and present a false self to others. Porn addiction can be a means of avoiding these feelings of shame (often guys tell me that they just want to numb out or escape), but the tragedy is that it only makes them worse. So then, there’s wisdom in the 12-step adage that you’re only as sick as your secrets.

 

Being honest and transparent is absolutely critical, especially if you’re in a relationship.

There are a number of ways to cultivate honesty and openness, which is key to reducing shame and rebuilding trust in your relationship. Find safe people and/or a safe community of those of the same sex (so that sexual attraction is off the table, and yes, I realize that I’m being heteronormative, so this may be different for the LGTBQIA communities), and share your secrets. Doing so will require courage and conscious effort, but it will reduce shame.

 

If you’re in a relationship, you can commit to what’s called a safety plan. It’s a simple document that formalizes your commitment to recovery and honesty. In this document, you identify positive goals for recovery (“I want a healthy, intimate relationship with my partner,” or “I don’t want to lose myself to porn and masturbation anymore,” etc.), recovery-based activities (e.g., therapy, meeting with a small group, an online recovery course), and your commitment to tell your partner if you’ve returned to porn use within 24 hours (or anything else that you may have done that you know would hurt her, like looking at “soft sites” that feature sexually suggestive material like bikini pics). Avoid getting into the nitty-gritty about the kind of porn you watched as this tends to unnecessarily traumatize partners, but if your partner is curious about this, it may be best to talk about it with the help of a therapist.

 

Live in California?

We’d love to connect.

Contact us today to get started.

 

Jeremy Mast
jeremy@jeremymast.com

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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