The dark places will always be present, but don’t let that keep you from looking for the light

(I apologize for the length of this post)

Somehow when i joined these forums August of 2018 and confirmed my fear that I indeed was facing PIED/Porn Addiction I failed to start a journal. I am resolving this miss step. Fast forward 3 years, 11 months, and 6 days. Will this be a story of success? Unfortunately not yet, I regret to inform you that i am unable to share a story of success, yet. however I do hope to leave those struggling, with just that. Hope. Because currently even though i could view the elapsed time as a waste and continue the self damaging cycle of self loathing, I have learned that only I can conquer thyself. That change is possible even when it seems hopeless. The small amount of impactful change i have created over the last 4 months has brought me more hope and progress than any of my efforts over the last almost 4 years. Those years weren't a waste, they were valuable failures that eventually taught me the hard lesson of what i was trying to do wasn't accomplishing the goal. That a new mindset, even deeper self-reflection, was needed to begin on the the best path for myself. Thank you for joining me on my reflection and continued chronicling.

Link to my first share into the realization of the issue: https://forum.rebootnation.org/index.php?threads/15968/
- in the event that you wish to see the back story

I am extremely proud of myself to be able to share that for the first time since Mid 2019 I have made it to Day 31 free of PMO of any sort. My longest streak (mid 2019) prior to this was 43 days. Granted i have not made it past that point yet but I am off to one hell of a good start by being at Day 31.

What transpired across the 4 years? To simplify a very long period of time, it was a failure of understanding what true recovery looked like. The impact of relapses, a lack of true change, and lack luster commitment to No Porn in any capacity (not truly respecting the unfortunate negative power of changed neurological pathways), and what was a flatline vs not. A vicious cycle of allowing a poor foundation of character/persons to be influenced by my own mind, due to the long term effects on dopamine/my brain from 21 years of porn, masturbation, and orgasm. The cycle was Streak, Relapse, sometimes Binge, Streak, Progress, Successful Sex with my fiancé, Relapse and repeat in any variance of order over and over again. Then i got used to it all the while accepting failure. The streaks of positive no PMO would range from a few days to 3 weeks at best, usually found myself relapsing around the 2 to 3 week mark. I took for granted what rebooting my brain and myself really meant. My totality of issues were far beyond just Porn/Masturbation. Not sure which happened first P/O or issues but both played off one another negatively for sure and i always ran to P/M/O as my only stress relief, rewarding myself for nothing.

So why am I reporting true progress for the first time even though its only been 31 days? I finally came to the realization of what true change meant over the past 2 weeks. About finding new power through at least for me the right practices. It feels completely different this time in a great way. I am excited to report on and see what else this path brings. Realizing how the different accomplishments all fed into a improved me creating a rock solid foundation for what i hope is true recovery and continued success.

What has Changed? Even if painfully i prioritized aspects of myself that needed changing and began to accomplish one thing after another and momentum began. These changes have brought me to feeling like my own hero versus stuck in doubt & pain. Dont get me wrong i tried all of these things before but all at the same time which was not possible for me, so i continued to fail at all, but that is no more.

Phase 1 - Quit Smoking - I quit smoking 1 year 7 months and 14 days ago. This was my first taste of freedom and renewed power. I spent almost a decade trying to quit and i finally did

Phase 2 - Achieving either a promotion into a new less stressful department at work or find a new job. In November of 2021 i promoted into a new position that helped balance my work life stress (negative stress was another trigger to find stress relief through PMO)

Phase 3 - Prioritize Health - 3 years ago i lost weight from 300lbs (im 6ft 2in) to 240 but gained it all back with Covid Work Stress, complications during pregnancy of my newest child. I didnt have the accountability needed to remove emotional response equaling stuff my face full of food to feel good, eating my emotions which was only compounded by relapse etc. I regained control in April of this year and began walking 5 days a week for 30 minutes and starting Weight Watchers. Lost 10 lbs over the month of April. In May i began weight lifting every other day with significant Intensity & Volume for at least an hour before work & prioritizing a very high protein, low fat, lower carb eating plan, as well as continuing to walk 30 minutes 5 times a week (usually on my work lunch break after eating). Since then i have lost another 17 lbs as of today and gained more muscle than i ever have in my entire life (currently 36years old) and there is no way in hell i am stopping. I taught myself everything i could learn about what healthy eating meant, how to gain muscle, how to lift, spoke to others in them gym etc. It also focuses all of my negative energy and feelings into something powerful and positive for myself that was new and refreshing. It takes a lot of time as well, planning and cooking food ahead of trips, work etc, workout planning, the time to learn and continue to learn all replace the empty negative time with positive change.
- the empowerment of quitting smoking, gaining control of my emotional response with Food, and the discipline gained from rebuilding a new positive habit that has brought me focus and less idle time all led me to becoming re-determined to start No PMO and to conquer it this time.

Phase 4 - Understanding Examples of Progress & Healing. Somehow over the last few years i failed to understand that through recovery even after successful sex you can fall into flatlines as the roller coaster of Dopamine rebalance continues to find its new normal. This failure to understand caused many of my prior relapses. So I re-listened to many of Gabe, Noah Church, and Gary Wilson videos/read books about examples of recovery and really listening and how we end up in the battle we are fighting. I began looking for the little signs of success so that i can use that to fortify my ability to say no to PMO. For example in my head I celebrate every morning wood I get, little woot woot or hell yea/death metal rock out. I respect the days it doesnt occur and have built the willpower to not engage in self touch when they do. Its been hard, about 15 days in i caught myself touching myself (no porn or even mental fantasy) but stopped and got up to clean the house/refocus the energy.
- further healing examples i look forward to:
- the return of dreaming (non sexual) - damaged dopamine pathways reduce ability to/frequency of dreams
- the return of normal feeling in my genitals (i did have a 3 or 4 day period where he looked bigger even when not erect, felt powerful even without being erect)
- having a sexual response from seeing my fiancé or thinking about her in a non porn fantasy aspect

There are more but i cant remember them all.

Phase 5 - Understand the difference between Intimacy vs feeling Horny. For pretty much my entire sexual life i misunderstood this concept. Only recently (last 20 days or so) have i found that there is a difference and Intimacy can come in many many forms, it isn't just sexual. The lightbulb clicked. So my focus while i heal has been truly connecting with my Fiancé while partnering & communicating to understand better her needs/goals and sharing the same in response. Its led to many hard and deep conversations but if within 20 days we both see progress i am only empowered further by what the future brings. Then when its time to incorporate a sexual relationship it will only be better.

My biggest point is that many of my phases were prior to my current streak and my current streak would not be as successful or as powerful without the prior efforts. I share all of the above because this has been why I have extremely powerful hope and why my last 31 days have been successful with no PMO. I have zero desire to view or engage in the dangerous behaviors that will lead to relapse. Dont get me wrong its constant vigilance against the triggers and removal from too easy scenarios that may cause relapse. However the power i gained from changing my entire self, literally changing every single thing about myself almost, is the only addiction i wish to chase moving forward. A better me.

What are my Goals ? First and foremost to never, ever, not for any reason view or utilize Porn for the remainder of my life. Reach 90 days Hard Mode (no PMO of any sort). After 90 Days - only if I am having a non self touch based sexual response to my Fiancé will we begin attempting slowly re-engaging a sexual relationship. However i expect the after surge of my first sexual encounter after i feel a certain amount of haling to be the next most dangerous phase to be cognoscente of.

Thank you everyone for being here & listening and if you are just starting or struggling etc please do not give up. I havent when i thought i had. You've got this, keep trying new things until you find what makes everything start clicking for you. I promise it exists even when everything seems hopeless.
 
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Day 32 - last night was a strange night. No struggles in regards to no PMO. Felt a bit lonely i think, it was a go to bed early night due to getting up at 430am on gym days. Today was a gym day. Was seeking a connection with my Fiancé (laugh, joke, talk, etc) she had a great day off of work taking the kiddos with her friends to a water park. After dinner she watched a movie with our one 5 yr old after we got the baby to sleep. After the 5yr old went to bed i was like yay time for us. However i completely understand how exhausting her day was so we talked for maybe 5 minutes and she was giving me signs of her just needing quiet relaxation time which like i said i completely get it, not mad. Its hard though because when your life is full, work family etc, your brain does stupid things like make you feel like you dont matter or are always last kind of thing. so i think im feeling a bit down about that, it followed me to the gym this morning, put in some work but was a overall blah work out and work is turning out to be hectic.

However it is just a day and it will pass! push forward to greater things. Day 33 here i come
 
Woah your words and the awesome reality you've been building upon an initially much... less "rock-solid foundation", leave me rather speechless my friend... I can only say that you got my respect and support, and that feels like an understatement!

About what happened with your partner last night, remember what the science about PMO addiction says about the PMO-addicted brain... such an addicted brain has transformed into one that tends to focus on tunnel-vision objectives, to the extent that we get blinded and do not see the whole picture. In other words, we seek instant gratification. Now I now that you'd been building this desire of bonding with your partner all over the day, but all I'm saying is that next time that such a situation will happen, your even-more-healed brain will have a more peaceful perception of it all, for you will be able to truly experience/understand your partner's needs, and you will not feel (or less anyway) like you don't matter or that you are always last. Such ideas are not beneficial to you, and while I do pretend to know all of your reality, I am just suggesting advice for optimizing even further your world - endeavor that you are definitely tackling with great seriousness.

Rock on brother. \m/ Keep this counter counting up.
 
Day 35 - Continuing to my face my being with the necessity for transformation

sadness/depression/self hatred forged into Anger, turned Anger into control, Controlled Anger into determination, determination even through failure turned into discipline, discipline into progression.

Still working on patience though, it can be quite difficult feeling the physical flatline. I am not feeling a negative emotion flatline i think because of the gym some of the changes i have made but just being patient until the normal feelings in the downstairs department return. but that comes with time and only time.
 
Day 37 today - Definitely feeling the work week today just feels heavy and I am tired. these would be the times i would let stress get the best of me but i am just putting on some music focusing on work instead of letting the old ways win. Looking forward to the lunch time walk, and finishing the afternoon of work then home. A full evening of some board games to wash away the beginning of the week.
 
Sorry for being MIA a little - absolute crazy Friday and wild weekend busy wise. Everything is progressing really well though! Very excited to catch up with a successful

Day 39, Day 40, Day 41, and Today is Day 42 :)

Had some worthwhile connection with my lady counterpart and we both stayed strong to not throw in the towel lol. Spent time getting a lot of my to do list around the house and yard complete. Had some normal day to day ups and downs as we all see on this journey but the overall trend would be way up from 42 days ago!
 
Additional unrelated but related to things that motivate me share - this morning at the gym was funny. so i have my big headphones on generally absolutely pumping loud death metal etc directly into my soul to keep me pushing my body forward. However i have been mixing it up and been enjoying anime mixes either quotes/music/combinations. This morning was a DBZ Vegeta Quote & Transformation mix over techno type music. Apparently it was so loud through my headphones that the person in the squat rack next to me and behind me had stopped and both were staring at me with a confused curious look. After my set was done i looked around during my rest and noticed them. I slowly moved a ear phone off my ear and just looked over like whats up. They asked, are you watching Dragon Ball Z while working out? I laughed and said no but it is a youtube mix of vegeta audio over music. Also that if I am not trying to figure out how to go Super Saiyan what is the point of being alive lol. The one guy smiled, laughed, and said hell yea keep pushing it. I smiled and carried on with the work out.

Side Bar - i love most Anime/Manga that i have encountered and Dragon Ball Z was the first i ever watched back in the 90's before elementary & middle school so it holds a special place in me.

My point is use whatever you can or need to to help move forward day by day. Whether that is for the new you, fighting urges, trying to feel during the low times, anything. For me its focusing/forging anger into action and audio tools/cues really help me do that. Own yourself and who you are even if that's an I'm not sure who I am yet phase and find whatever works for you to take one more step forward, one more day forward, one more moment. It all matters
 
Tomorrow Day 45 out of your 90 days objective @WinkTinkTillium ! You'll be halfway through! If you feel like it and if you have the time for it, maybe make a list of things that you noticed have improved since the beginning of your streaks? Then also the more difficult parts? Just my 2 cents :)

Nothing is stopping this freight train of the new me.... Nothing.... :)

^ haha let's go, all the way to the top! Looking forward to congratulate you for your mid objective marker tomorrow mate!

Oh and that DBZ gym anecdote was a fun read haha, great stuff ;)
 
Tomorrow Day 45 out of your 90 days objective @WinkTinkTillium ! You'll be halfway through!
Thank you so much H (@how-did-i-end-up-here) for pointing this out, i honestly hadnt thought that far out to realize today is the half way mark for my first major goal. I really appreciate the shout out, support, and correlation!

Day 45 - i am very proud of making it this far and building a new foundation of thought, new habits, and choices that will assist me in continuing to push forward. When i made it this far the only one time prior in the last 4 years it was a lot different, a lot lonelier, and dark place. I have a long ways to go however i am no longer afraid of when those results will awaken. I am respecting each day & its dangers, myself, and focusing on changing my entire life.

I wanted to take a moment and say thank you to absolutely everyone that is here, that has interacted, responded to, or shared or even that has read this journal and the journals of our brothers here. Everyone's words, motivations, support, and likes even without replying with text matter and it helps me know that progress, recovery, and healing is possible and it doesnt need to be alone or met with shame. Also that reading everyone's journals and Day to Day has either brought new and furthered insight or allowed me to assist others which both bring me fulfillment and happiness.

Reflections on the last 45 Days: What has Improved, What are the Challenges or Area's of Opportunity

Improved

- Improved Mental Focus
- Gained discipline to forge a new me (the gym, life efforts etc)
- Brain Fog 100% removed
- Able to realize the utter control and degradation that Porn caused to my social interactions, work performance, personal care, self value,
relationships, and to my overall potential
- this one is dangerous because at this moment of realization you must turn the reflection into forward momentum versus
depression or allow yourself to feel and be sad because that is fair but dont allow yourself to remain and stay in that low place.

- Able to balance my emotions even during trigger windows (emotional triggers/sexual triggers/trauma triggers)
- The return of Morning Wood 80% of mornings from week 3 to current (prior to start was never)
- Two non stimulus caused erections (prior to my start was zero)
- 2 recalled dreams (content of dream irrelevant but not a trigger) Dopamine hijacking can cause lack of dreaming
- Improved sleep (I wear a Fitbit every day all day and my sleep score has legit gone from the low 60's to mid 80's aslong as i give myself a long enough window to get at least 7 hours of sleep
- 1 really great shower experience with my Fiancé - Kissing and cuddling and a bit of exploring hands (we both are going for 90 streaks so we
both had to be careful how far we pushed ourselves. We were both extremely turned on and desiring each other which felt great to have that
passion engaged but it was very difficult to let it pass without completion and we fought it the following 2 days after)
- enjoyment of small simple things of life, playing with my kids or seeing them excited or happy about things and supporting/feeding that
excitement, or talking with my wife without either of us being on our phones
- reducing screen time and playing more board games
- Started a Hobby - teaching myself how to make Medieval Chainmaille Armor - working on a chainmaille shirt for next years Renaissance Fair,
will use what i have complete by the time i go in September and October but wont be complete yet
- feeling emotions but not falling into despair or depression
- No urges to look at porn/triggers etc.

Challenges/Area's of Opportunity/Perceived Set backs
- Not allowing convenience to allow for the viewing of Porn/Triggers (i do not use a blocker)
- Not allowing myself to succumb to the temptations with my Fiancé and to throw in the towel from this 100% needed healing window of 90
days
- Allowing anger to rule me from the wasted years of my life & Potential - mindset change is a choice but not inherently easy
- The willpower to stop touching myself in moments of weakness. (the two random erections i had i found myself gently playing (no porn or
mental fantasy) but if i didnt stop it would have ruined the healing of the streak
- Not hyper focusing on the sadness or uncomfortable thoughts of the days when my penis seems smaller/shriveled versus a normal healed
state. more days are in the need healing smaller/shriveled state versus normal. A few days of normal though so the abstinence does work
just needs time
- Since i am a husband/partner and parent to not focus too much on myself and forget about everything else, it all needs to be in balance
- Patience, daily reminder of patience

There has to be more on both sides of that scale but this is what i have so far. Have a great Thursday everyone!
 
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