Help for porn addiction

For me, pornography (“porn”) is a drug. It makes the good times better; it makes the bad times easier. When I use porn, I want to stay there forever.

It started with lesbian porn, hardcore porn, and then I only found gay and shemale porn appealing. When I was regularly masturbating to shemale porn, I started to think that I had a problem with pornography. There are probably many physical reasons why porn is bad for me. But they didn’t stop me. I was a slave to my porn cravings.

I’ve spent my life in my head, wondering, ‘How did I get here? Why am I so different to everyone?’ But no matter how sincerely I tried to answer these questions or how convincing my answer to them was (genetics, childhood traumas, loneliness, etc.) well, I couldn’t escape my porn cravings.

The situation presented me with a choice: I could have kept obsessing about how I got here, how these obsessions kept invading my moment-to-moment experience; or I could accept that I am here.

I’m intelligent, and my mind is very useful at solving problems in the outside world. But I only find relief from the insanity that accompanies excessive porn use when I get out of “problem solving” mode and let myself experience these cravings for what they are: feelings that come and go that I don’t need to act upon. 

Before we can get anywhere, the first thing we have to do is acknowledge that these thoughts and cravings are here – they’re part of our moment-to-moment experience of the world.  So, you might like to try it yourself next time you have a porn craving. Try saying, “I notice that I’m having a craving for porn.”

Whenever porn cravings came up, I just wanted them to go away! Who wouldn’t? This is completely natural. But, what if this resistance to them just makes them worse? I know it’s a completely crazy idea. I know it’s counter-intuitive. But trying to block these cravings’ access to my moment-to-moment experience might just make them occupy my experience all the more!

This radical change in philosophy is one of the cornerstones of mindfulness: to accept whatever’s going on at the present moment. What this means is to stop trying to make a thought/craving go away. Let it be there for as long as it wants to be.

So, if we’ve established that the thought is there, and we don’t have to make it go away, what then? We can attend (pay attention) to the sensations and emotions that it produces in the body: it might be a groin response, an increase in heart rate or breathing, a horrible feeling in the pit of the stomach, or more thoughts that include ‘I just want it to go away! Why do I have to be like this?’ Let’s just pay attention here: you might like to try this yourself, really trying to feel where those emotional responses occur in your body (it might be different for everyone). When you’ve connected with those too, you might want to try, just like we did with the original thought/emotion, acknowledging them: “I notice that I’m experiencing an emotion/sensation/groin response/increase in heart rate/more thoughts, etc.” and accepting them (it might help by saying to yourself: “I’m going to let these sensations remain there for as long as they want to be,”).

We’re not trying to fight the thoughts, or to get to any ‘special’ place. We’re trying to connect with openness and honesty to our experience right there in the moment, by acknowledging, accepting, and attending to thoughts and feelings as they arise. You cannot “do it wrong” with this approach if you’re willing to be with things as they are.

I call this the ‘triple A’ (acknowledging, accepting, and attending to thoughts and feelings) approach to an acceptance of our porn cravings. It is a form of mindfulness meditation. If you’ve been willing enough to give these three A’s a go, then congratulations: you have just meditated.

You might wonder where to go from here. I’d like to try a thought experiment. Imagine a chalkboard in a classroom full of students and no teacher. The students come up and scribble on the board; what they write comes and goes, as other students have to erase what’s been done so that they can write their own bit. Now you’re the teacher (the “observer”), watching the thoughts/emotions (which are the students and their scribbling), and you’ve just come back from your coffee break, and come back to a noisy class and a scribbled-on chalkboard. You could try and erase all of the students’ chalk writing, but there’s enough room on the board for you to get on with your class without having to do that. That’s exactly how we should approach our minds: we don’t have to punish the students, or punish ourselves when we spend too long on our coffee break (ie, when we’re unaware of what’s going on in the class).

Applying these principles is like coming back from your coffee break to the classroom, and being willing to look at what’s really there. From there on, we just have to do pick up the chalk and live our life in a way that we value (we have to decide this for ourselves), despite the fact that there’s some chalk on the board. There’s still plenty of room.

A – acknowledge: “I notice that this thought/emotion/craving is forming part of my experience of this moment.”

A – accept: “I’m going to let this thought/emotion/craving be there for as long as it wants to be.”

A – attend to: “What other sensations/emotions does this thought/emotion produce in my body? Can I acknowledge and accept them too?”

Further materials

http://depts.washington.edu/abrc/mbrp/recordings/Urge%20Surfing.mp3 – a meditation exercise when cravings come up.

Ten minute video on why you could benefit from mindfulness meditation – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QgrGW0tfE8.

Ten days free guided meditation at Headspace http://www.getsomeheadspace.com

Read Buddha in Blue Jeans by Tai Sheridan (free) http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Buddha-in-Blue-Jean.pdf

Steven C Hayes’ work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) built on mindfulness, acceptance, and valued action:

http://www.amazon.com/Get-Your-Mind-Into-Life/dp/1572244259/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367996558&sr=1-1&keywords=get+out+of+your+mind+and+into+your+life

Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

http://www.amazon.com/Full-Catastrophe-Living-Revised-Edition/dp/0345536932/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384645793&sr=8-1&keywords=full+catastrophe+living