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What you give is what you get (I went 580 days. Relapsed. Finally back on track.

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Emptyroom:
(2021-02-13) This is my first post on any forum for over ten years I think. (The full chronological story of my addiction is in the next post if you want to read it.)

I'm 26 years old but I feel like an old man when it comes to technology and being on an internet forum but I feel it has become necessary for me to get together with other people on similar journeys and to find an accountability partner and inspiration.
I have realized that I can't trust myself to stay free of PMO without working actively to not get complacent and that I have to plan for urges. I cannot trust myself to just resist. It feels bad not being able to trust myself completely but I think that my new attitude is a step forward for me.

I started "my journey" in 2016. I made many many attempts. One of the latest lasted for 580 days. It was smooth sailing for me. I was very happy, but when I got depressed and burned out I chose a life with porn again.. Noah B Church made a video about me and my situation called "Using porn after 580 days sober" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQa8Cnqjuh0). I was very happy that my story could be helpful for others. I was grateful for his answers but I didn't follow his suggestions for improving at the time. I wasn't ready to take the necessary steps. I didn't want to at the time frankly.

The problem with my 580 day attempt was that I thought it was enough just to stay away from porn and to improve my quality of life by exercising, being more organized and building good habits. I read articles on YBOP and watched videos from Noah B Church but I didn't have any strategies to fight my addiction. It didn't feel like I needed to have any strategies because I didn't really have any urges to PMO. It just wasn't an option. I felt like that animal urge was completely under control after a few hundred days. I also felt no need to be connected to others on the same path. I didn't want to keep reading about people and their problems. I didn't want to think of myself as an addict. When I burned out from trying to hard to be healthy, I got depressed, I wasn't ready for it. I didn't have any strategies. I didn't have anyone to turn to. I had told my mother and my brother about my problem with porn but I couldn't get any support from them. I made a conscious choice to go back to PMO again to escape the bad feelings. THAT was my only strategy. When I opened the door back to PMO the urges came back very fast and In a month I was back PMO:ing every day and felt even worse. Finally I just "stopped" feeling bad about it. I lost a lot of good habits and effects of quitting and kept wasting my time and energy on PMO

It has been about 10 months. I have started a new attempt to improve my life that I hope will be more successful in the long run. I have been PMO-free for 44 days. I feel like I could keep away from PMO for a long time (because I have managed that before) but I don't feel like I can trust myself if I run into hard times and uncomfortable situations. I feel like an addict. I can't even trust myself and that doesn't feel good. I also feel like I need to rely on help from others to succeed and that doesn't really feel good either. I know that if I PMO even once, it will have bad consequences for my life. It's not a maybe it could work-situation. It would definitely make my life worse. But I hope that this forum and the people I connect with and the things I read will give me the strength that I didn't have the last time. That I can develop the strategies to keep me PMO-free for the rest of my life. I know that the journey gets a lot easier with time. But I can not allow myself to get complacent again. I feel weak but I also feel that knowing my weaknesses is a strength. I got the feeling that I could make it this time!

The full story of my rocky path to 580 days, the effects and how I relapsed is below. I hope you will read it so it can help you on your journey.

Thank you very much for reading!

Emptyroom:
Hi everybody! Here is my story.

Background

I began watching porn when I was 10-11 years old. I became hooked and my use quickly escalated in all kinds of ways.
I was always terrified that my father would find out what I had been doing on his computer and yell at me. I was a very sensitive kid and my father could become very angry, even though he was a good dad in other ways.
Every day for a year or so I worried like crazy about getting caught. I knew It was just a matter of time before he would find out (I didn't know at the time that you could delete your browser history).
I wish he had caught me back then (he probably would just have talked calmly to me about it) Instead, he died suddenly in his sleep when I was 11 years old.
It was very strange. When he died, I couldn't cry or feel any sorrow. I was relieved. The weight had been taken from my shoulders, he would never find out about my secret, he wouldn't confront me. He couldn't yell at me. I was so selfish. Just after a year, porn had already come to dominate my mind.
My entire family cried and mourned that day, but I couldn't. All I could feel was relief and It scared me. I was thinking: Something must be wrong with me, I thought I loved my dad, why can't I feel sad? It was really distressing.

The next year was 2006 and YouTube-style pornsites emerged and everything escalated for me (I was actually surprised when I saw that friends where watching non-porn on YouTube. At the time I had just used YouTube for porn and thought it was a porn-site) I began to have infinite tabs open, watch more graphic and embarrassing porn for longer periods of time to get that high that I wanted.

At approximately the same time I also became an avid TV-binge-watcher. The combination of long porn binges and long TV binges and videogame binges made me feel numb to life. I remember that at one point I was crying in bed with a feeling of loss. I could not feel the joys of nature and of simple things like waking up in the morning anymore. It felt like a warm light inside my being had been replaced with an empty void. Every situation I found myself in had this element of lack: ”I am not really enjoying this”, ”I should feel better doing that”. I couldn't feel or enjoy anything enough. Life had become dampened and my expectations of what to feel made it even worse. Everything outside porn became disappointing. I had these feelings for many many years.

I somehow knew In my gut that It had to be television and porn that made me feel this way, but I didn't have the willpower to even try to stop my behavior.
I could have spent more time being creative, learning, having fun with friends, being excited about life, feeling the presence of nature around me. I could have learned and experienced so much in that time of my life.
But I spent those hours browsing porn and watching junk every day for more than 12 years.

My Journey

When I was 22 years old (2016) I decided to stop watching porn. I had no girlfriend and was technically a virgin.

My first streak was 11 days. Then I binged for a month, pmo:ing  every day.

My second streak was 145 days. It was really hard to get there. I really felt like an addict, I was in bed shaking at one point. But at day 145 I gave up and began a month of binging.

My third streak was just 5 days, then another month of binging.

Fourth streak: 9 days, then one month of binging.

Fifth streak: 6 days. Ended with two months of binging

sixth streak: This time I managed just 1 day, then fifteen days of binging.

Seventh streak: 2 days. Then one entire year with PMO every day. But I managed to just watch ”ordinary stuff” during this year and stick to one webbsite.

Eight streak: 2 days clean, then 2 months of porn.

At this point I was 25 years old and my thoughts went like this:
”I just really like watching porn, It feels good, and in my heart I know that I don't really want to stop. And if I try to stop, I know I will just fall down the slippery slope again as always, sooner or later. There is no point for me to keep trying because I will fail in the end. The addiction is too strong. I like porn too much.
Still, I knew that some part of me really wanted to quit as well”.

Then, somehow I convinced myself to try again even though it felt hopeless. Just to see how long I could last this time before I would give in. Would It be 2 days or maybe a week?
It ended up being a lot longer than I expected.
That's how I started my ninth streak, that lasted for 580 days.

Things that helped me get to that point


1. From day one I was in a new environment:
I had begun a new education in a new school in a new town where new friends and new routines took up a lot of my time. This really helped me keep my mind away from porn.

2. At day 150 or something like that, I got a very understanding girlfriend who really helped me get through my PIED. After countless attempts we managed to have successful sex. It wasn't very pleasurable in the beginning though but it got better with time.

3. I knew since the relapse after my second streak that If I watched porn again after abstaining for a long time, it wouldn't feel as good as I would want in the beginning. It would just feel weird for at least one or two porn-sessions before the porn-pathways in the brain would activate fully again. So that first pmo-session wouldn't give the craving what it wanted. So my thinking was that it wouldn't be worth it.

4. The thing that I think was different about this streak, that made it successful for me, is that I got this attitude that it doesn't matter how I feel about quitting or if I'll get good results or not.
I'll just abstain anyway, no matter the results.
Even if it feels hopeless, I'll just continue anyway without hope.
I know that the negative feeling will end eventually.
I didn't really have any goals other than to stay away from PMO in the moment, every day for the rest of my life.
Abstaining and having more time to do other things was the goal in itself that I could reach every day (Now I believe this was a mistake. It is important to have attainable goals in life). I tried to consider the other positive effects as bonuses, not end-goals.

Benefits/Effects

I am glad that I wrote down the positive changes as I felt them during that streak. The changes in me where so gradual that it was hard for me to notice them on a daily basis. But they where there. Even though they where subtle. Here are some benefits and effects that I noticed and wrote down:

•   I sometimes cry now when films/series/books/music become emotional. I didn't do that to the same extent before.
•   No anxiety (this is an important one for me).
•   My time is spent better (maybe the most important thing)
•   I am less selfish
•   I don't have sexual thoughts about people I meet in real life. I can focus on other things. (sometimes I have to stop myself from thinking about someone sexually in the beginning)
•   Better sense of feeling. Things and fabrics feel better to touch.
•   I can have sex and sex feels better and better.
•   I don't see people as objects anymore (I didn't realize that I did until I quit porn).
•   I can feel myself becoming a better person.
•   I can feel a positive butterfly-effect when It comes to good habits.
•   I can think more clearly.
•   I get more pleasure from seeing things around me (nature and other things in my surroundings).
•   I feel more sympathy and empathy for others.
•   I feel more grounded in myself.
•   I dream more than before.
•   I have better focus.
•   I get more pleasure out of small things.
•   I am beginning to feel life more vividly! I don't feel numb to it anymore!
•   I no longer have any strong cravings to watch porn, and if I get cravings, I know how to handle them (this is what I thought at the time. I thought willpower was enough to handle the cravings. It's true when everything is going smoothly but not when you fall into bad times).


The future looked bright

Here is a a journal entry that I wrote some time before my relapse:

 "I play an instrument on my spare time and I was practicing. And this particular day I felt that I managed to overcame a hurdle in my development.
When I was done practicing I was overcome with a powerful feeling. something that I can't remember ever feeling before. It reminded me of having an orgasm actually.
It was simply joy. It had been so long since I experienced it like that. It almost scared me at first. It only lasted a little while but that experience really gave me hope. A glimpse of how life can feel. This was the fruit of my labor.
This is what I have been dreaming about all my life.
For the return of real feelings and simple pleasures.
I try to welcome even bad feelings. They are better than none.
I wouldn't give away my feelings and my growing ability to feel simple pleasures for millions."

At this point. Abstaining felt very easy. Urges was just something small in the back of my head that I could deal with. I didn't have a girlfriend anymore at this point but it still felt relatively easy to abstain because I was content.

Then at one point I decided to start to work out and become strong physically. I threw myself into it and... I burned out! I lost all my motivation and became depressed. The corona-virus arrived shortly after. After a month of this I started to masturbate a bit again to sooth myself and then after a month I looked at porn again a few times. At this point I decided to tell my mother about my addiction so that she could support me. I mustered up some courage and told her but she reacted very differently than I had imagined. She basically told me I was wrong about what I was doing and then she made me feel guilty about not telling her earlier. She was mad and embarrassed about it and then she quickly agreed not to speak about this again. It felt like this really hurt our relationship (this seems to be rare) This really bummed me out and in just a few days I was binging again. After a few months I was basically back at the beginning. I lost it all.  I felt horrible.

What went wrong? How can I improve?

The short answer is that I got complacent. I bit of more than I could chew with my exercising plans and burned out, became unmotivated and depressed. The longer and better answer though, is that I didn't have any positive way to deal with this setback.  I didn't have any strategies to prevent or to handle my burnout and depression. I didn't have any safety net to fall back on when It happened. I didn't have any strategies and I couldn't get help from anyone else. The only working strategy I had was going back to porn to try to comfort myself. It doesn't work in the long run. It slowly makes life worse and takes your time energy and willpower away from you. It takes away your feelings and changes you to someone that you are not. It's disgusting. Anyway. Here I am, 45 days in. I have realized that I need to be connected with others about this and find an accountability-partner. I need to have strategies and keep myself from getting complacent. I realize now that this is the way to stay sober. I'm going to end by saying: What you give is what you get. The journey is about becoming the best person you can be for other people. For me at least, it is about getting away from letting the ego be the main focus of my one and only life.

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment!

Emptyroom:
Day 46
Journal entry.

I don't know how healthy it is to reminisce about things that make me feel sad and ashamed. I know that those feelings might make me depressed and trigger me. Still I think that It is important and healthy somehow to look back at my selfish behavior from the past. I can comfort myself by remembering that the fact that I regret things make me a different person than I was back then. I'm not the same person anymore so shouldn't keep grudges with myself. I can only blame myself in the past and not in the present.
The thing I'm talking about is how I have been selfish when it comes to women in my life.

The first time I "fell in love" it was with a friend. She didn't want to be with me. She declined politely. I was crushed. Our friendship could have lasted if I hadn't continued to bother and harass her about it. I would call her and text her to much. I was so selfish. I didn't think about her feelings at all. It was all about me wanting to have her for myself. It ended with her needing to cut off our friendship and to really make clear that I should stay away from her.

6 years later I met my first real girlfriend, I was suffering with PIED. Almost by accident we became a couple. We enjoyed each others company but I didn't love her. I basically used her to help me recover from my PIED. I wanted to be honest with her. I told her that I didn't feel those feelings for her but I wanted to be with her anyway. She felt similarly and accepted. We both had the hopes that deeper feelings for each other would come with time. But that didn't happen for me. We had a very good time together. It was the happiest time of my life this far. She was an angel to me every day but the relationship didn't have a good foundation.
I recovered from PIED with her help but I didn't get humble. I got hubristic.
One day, I kissed another girl. I wanted instant gratification. I didn't think about my girlfriends feelings. I told her about it the same day hoping that she could forgive me. She did but as she told me later, It made her feel really horrible and sad. I was so selfish. I only wanted what would give me the most pleasure. I didn't think about other people. I didn't think about her feelings.
I had kissed another girl that time. Almost a year later, we where in a long distance sort of friend-relationship but still sort of together, I was unfaithful again, this time by sleeping with a coworker. Yes. I was a real selfish scumbag and I'm ashamed of what I did. I realized that I had to break it up permanently with my girlfriend. I could not keep going with a relationship after doing that. We broke up, and I never told her about the second woman because I wanted to spare her from that pain. I also didn't want her to hate me. It was also a way to selfishly avoid the consequences of my actions.
We stayed in touch. But today she wrote to me and said that she didn't want to talk with me for a long while and I can understand that. Both she and I have realized what a selfish d*ck I have been to her in the past. I deserve it if she never contacts me again. She was my best friend and I ruined it.
I wonder how much of my selfishness with women comes from watching to much porn and how much is really me. Sometimes I have been a gentleman to women. Other times I have not. If you are evil some of the time and good some of the time aren't you in fact evil? No. In this moment I chose to be good. We all have the potential to hurt other people. Everyone has evil capacities within. We all have a responsibility as human beings to prevent causing others pain and suffering. We have a responsibility to send love and listen to each other. We have a responsibility to stop the ego when someone else is on the line. Porn makes me care less about others, It makes me more selfish. Abstaining makes me become a better person for others and for myself. But, it's not enough just to abstain from PMO to become a better person. I know that now.

Emptyroom:
Journal. Day 47,
I think it's time to crystalize some strategies for myself. I feel that I'm already in danger of relapsing. I'm feeling down and if that feeling stays for a longer time I will relapse if I don't take some sort of action. It could be enough with just a week of discomfort for my body to give in. It's not a sure thing but it could happen. It's manageable right now but It could get worse soon.
What actions can I take now to minimize the risk of me relapsing in the soon future?
1. Being aware when I'm hungry, angry, lonely or tired and take care of these needs.
2. To keep my apartment clean and in order.
3. To keep in contact with people. Trying to do things for them
4. To have structure with the help of a daily planner. I have to buy one of those tomorrow. Those help me from feeling nervous and relives me from stress.
5. Reading and watching things to motivate me.
6. Writing down my thoughts.
7. Not oversleeping or staying up to late.
8. Meditating.

What could I do if I feel the urges?
1. Meditate
2. Distract myself with something on YouTube.
3. Take a shower.
4. read stories on the forum.
5. Think about how I would feel afterwards.
6. Look where the feeling comes from. Am I hungry, lonely, angry or tired?
7. Go outside.

Emptyroom:
Journal. Day 48.

What sort of person do I want to be for others? Who am I and what do I like to do? These are hard question because there are many conflicting answers. A part of me want to be bad but a part of me wants to be good. A part of me don't like other people and another part does. A part of me only cares about myself but another cares deeply about others (that part isn't clear to me until some time of sobriety though). There is a part of me that hates myself but there is also a part that loves myself. There's one part that wants to fall into a PMO-rabbit hole and there's another that want to destroy the addiction forever. I could go on and on. It feels like there are hundreds of different people that live inside my mind. Who am I? What in my mind should I listen to?

What if none of those voices in my head where a part of me? Maybe my thoughts about myself are separate from who I am. That they are things that I don't have to listen to or care about.
I could picture my mind being like a fish-tank filled with many different thoughts about myself that swim around. Almost at random. Maybe the real me is the actual tank, the water and the hand choosing what thoughts to feed and what thoughts to ignore. That would mean that I'm really like everyone else. Observing the thoughts in my tank. Watching my thoughts swim around like everyone else. Maybe I'm being to intellectual about all this. I know who I think I am. I know my history, I know my faults. But does my thoughts about myself define me? Does my history define me? Does my faults define me? Does success? Does failure? Can a human being be defined? Obviously. But that doesn't mean that there is only one definition or that I don't have a selection.

I guess I'm just rambling here. But It feels good to ramble sometimes. It feels like it gives me some strength when I ramble. It feels a bit like I'm waiting and loading up strength for a battle in a war. I don't have any huge urges yet but I have a feeling that they will come at some point.

I didn't buy a daily planner today. I didn't set any daily goals but I cleaned my living room! It looks great now (parts of it). I also woke up early without even trying! I felt a lot happier today than yesterday. I think it's just because I cleaned. Could It be that simple?

I'm excited that I'm at day 50 soon. That worries me a bit as well because I know from the past that If I focus on reaching a certain number, It makes me have urges once I reach it. So I'm going to try not to focus on the numbers.

Hm. I'm feeling a bit smug about myself.. I don't like that.  I should investigate that. It could all change for the worse in an instant. I could see something triggering, get an urge and go into zombie-mode. If I get smug, I get complacent.

I feel a bit lonely on this forum so far. No one has answered my messages about being an accountability partner yet. I hope I find someone to talk to soon. It's fine just talking to myself for now but my goal with being here is to stay connected. It feels good to just write for myself though.

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