My better self


I've tried to quit porn before.

The first time was in my late 20s when I had ED for the first time; the second time was in my early 30s, when my marriage was failing; and in my mid 30s after my divorce.

It is now March 2023. I am in my late 30s.

Part of growing up has been to understand my limitations, and my addiction surpasses my ability to deal with it. I need help.

This journal is my aid in my journey to be my better self. The one God intends me to be. I will try to be supportive of others.
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There are many things I've learned since realizing I have porn addiction. Some of the lessons I've learned have surprised me. I'll list a few most important ones here. I expect to revisit them repeatedly in the future. I am sufficiently confident of their validity and salience, to apply these lessons as founding principles for a comprehensive management strategy. The goal of the strategy is to enable me to live the kind of life I want to live, in order to apply myself to the benefit of others and to the happiness of myself.

Some lessons in no particular order of importance:

Full abstinence is neither a prerequisite nor guarantee of happiness in my life or success in a relationship.

Dishonesty to myself and to my partner is like a small leak in the roof of my house; I hardly notice it at first, but by the time it becomes an issue, it is the issue

I have mistaken confessions for honesty. They are not the same. Priests are for confessions and God is for absolution. Honesty demands responsibility for my actions and commitment to better myself. Otherwise I am simply dumping my worries into my partner's lap, as if she could solve the problem I can't.

To take responsibility is to have a realistic plan of action and inventory of resources I need to make it work. Then I commit to it. And only then can I be honest to my partner and ask for her help. Abdication of responsibility counts as dishonesty in this context.

Demands of perfection in abstinence can be the enemy of achieving a satisfactory result. By satisfactory I mean the opposite of not being able to live according to my values and to achieve the things I deem important to me. I must strive for a good enough result.

I must be honest to myself and to my partner about my particular sexual needs. One of the best things about my old relationship was that I was able to realize my two fetishes with my ex-wife and because of my honesty and willingness to be considerate to her in return, the first fetish became nearly uniformly and unexpectedly positive in our relationship. The second fetish could have been positive, but it was applied in an irresponsible and for my part selfish way that it ended up having a negative effect overall. She was not innocent in that, but I carry more of the responsibility. I did not understand our vulnerability and hers in particular.

The first fetish is integral to my early sexual development, originally unrelated to and later resistant to escalation, and the second one is an innate preference influenced significantly by interaction with porn during later development and has tendency to escalate. I will from now refer to them as #1 and #2 respectively. I will not name #1 and #2 or refer to them in any detail in order to avoid triggering myself or others.

The premise on which my management oriented approach is based on is that both of my fetishes are part of who I am. I've struggled with this conclusion, but it is my experience that it's better to be pragmatic than dogmatic about this. It is better to acknowledge and manage than denounce and exhaust myself and my partner.
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It is very important to know where I start. I must quantify the current situation to the extent that it's possible. Otherwise I have much more vague sense of progression, and I'm more vulnerable to bias.

I have proven to be usually biased to the downside. I tend to underestimate both my capabilities and my progression.

I also have recurring shorter term periods of overconfidence and optimism. My bias during those times is to the upside.

Bias is counterproductive regardless of its direction; If I'm too optimistic, I'll overestimate my ability to resist temptation and can become careless. If I'm too pessimistic, I'll underestimate my progression and the discouragement can lead to fatalistic lapses of self-control or at worst self-reinforcing loops of counterproductive behaviour.

Narrative matters. Quite often that's the only thing that needs to change when I'm failing. And even when it's not enough, usually it doesn't take much more effort or resources to change the course.

It's important to focus on long term development and big picture, even if it means I have to sacrifice time and effort to keep score and journal. (That is why I'm here.) Widening the perspective helps in controlling my tendency to overreact to current circumstances and counterbalances my self confidence's reliance on the most recent experiences.

Differentiating short term fluctuations and random happenstances from truly relevant developments is difficult for me. Quantifying the progression offers clarity when things get messy.
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Start using the tools that are available now. Don't wait for better ones. Consistency beats efficiency. I start now.

The first tool I am going to use tomorrow and measure its effects, is called Naming and Disrupting for lack of a better term. Perhaps I'll figure a better name some time. It's fairly self-explanatory. There are two parts to it that will help to resist the urges.

The first part is simply to name the feeling that pops up (being triggered) that would usually lead to watching porn. Perhaps it's temptation or craving. I say it out loud: "I feel temptation." No judgment, simply state what I feel. I remind myself that I don't have to act on that feeling. I simply note it's there and go on with my life.

The second part is used when the feeling resists simple dismissal. Now I normally would either fight it or give up to it. The result would depend on my neocortex beating my "lizard brain". The result is uncertain. To improve the odds, I try to disrupt the self-reinforcing loop of behaviour immediately:

Trigger -> Urge -> | Disrupt | (-> P -> M -> O)

A good way to disrupt is to distract. After naming the urge, and after realizing it's uncomfortably strong, I immediately go do something else on purpose. Go elsewhere. Do chin up or push ups. Call somebody. Send a few text messages. Again, I remind myself I don't have to act on the feeling as I come back to do whatever I was supposed to do before the temptation started. Hopefully I then have easier time resisting and can proceed with my plans.

If the urge not only resists dismissal, but also becomes stronger, it's then time to take out my second tool.

The second tool is delaying. If I'm having difficulties with the urges and disrupting them immediately with distraction doesn't work, I stall and delay. It varies, but I've decided to try a 30 minute form; I give myself the option to decide either to PMO or not to PMO after 30 minutes;

First I start the clock.
Second, after 30 minutes, I try out the "naming and disrupting" tool.
Third, if that doesn't quite work, but I can still resist, I start the 30 minute clock again.
Fourth, if I simply can't resist another 30 minutes, I let myself PMO. Afterwards I'll analyze the situation for clues to explain my weakness or strength of the urge.
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Anthropomorphisizing a phenomenon is useful when I have difficulties separating myself from my addiction. They are NOT one and the same. That's the whole point of this operation. It's easier to recognize and resist, when the problem is contained within a known entity. It can also bring a little bit of playfulness into the struggle.

The counterpoint to this is that things are never that clear cut and too much emphasis on clarity can lead to missing subtle signs of erosion. This is what almost caught me yesterday; "Jeeves" wasn't knocking down any walls, but the addiction was still making itself known and I'd say the danger was greater than the day before yesterday. It was good that I had committed to keeping clean. I utilized the first part of the Naming and Disrupting tool. It was just about enough. I kept clear of porn and MO.

I did notice I need to practice using both parts of the Naming and Disrupting tool beforehand.

Today's objective is simply to not edge and to write down objectives for tomorrow later today.
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Porn is disabling. I am addicted to it and my addiction is unmanageable. I have no time to waste, but I still have time. I have faith in God. I have hope.
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March 19, 2023 Sunday

Day zero. 2 PM. 2 hours clean. I think editing this thread has triggered craving, which may be a good sign: "It is afraid".
~10 PM. 10 hours clean. My uncle is in E.R.. He has stomach cancer and I've been helping him. 30 years ago I was a boy and he was my superhero, and he still is. Life is too short to not live it.

March 21st Tuesday

Day two. 8 AM. 44 hours clean. I'm tempted to give in because this is already a step forward. That seems like rationalization. I feel a bit sad and bored. I believe I have a pleasure deficit related to abstinence, and as a consequence experience symptoms of mild depression. Exercising might help.
6 PM. 54 hours clean. Uncle needed help. Now I feel tired.
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