widower

Discussion in 'Pornography Addiction' started by Complicated, Jul 27, 2018.

  1. Complicated

    Complicated New Member

    Hello all --
    my first post here.

    My circumstances might be a bit different from most. I was a very happily married man for 2-1/2 decades, until my wife died of cancer two years ago.

    For the first few months, I was so deeply grieving that I lost any interest in anything, including physical pleasure of any kind (eating, alcohol, sex, etc.) My sensory interests are still well below what they once were -- I eat just for nutrition, drinking gives no pleasure, etc. -- except for surfing porn. That has gradually increased until I now spend many hours doing it every day. There are countless things I should be doing to try to earn a living and build something useful out of whatever's left of my life, but the pull of porn seems to be overwhelmingly strong. I lose all sense of time, and often go to bed at 5am, sleeping in until noon.

    It's not just PMO, it's the looking itself that feels compulsive. I don't know what psychological factors might be involved. I think that at first, it was largely about self-comfort; life dealt me such an awful hand that taking some time for pleasure seemed like something I had agency over, and was almost like self-medication. Being able to focus on visual stimulation was like a vacation from reality, and orgasms are the only form of real pleasure that I seem to have access to. But now the "medication" has agency over me.

    From things that I've read about dealing with porn addictions, it seems that a common tactic is to try to replace PMO with a healthy relationship with another human. But therein lies the complication: I don't want another sexual or romantic relationship with anyone. I'm still in love with my late wife, and I always will be. Our relationship was very happy, complete, exclusive and we were both faithful to it for all 27 years of our relationship. The thought of actually being intimate with another real woman feels overwhelmingly transgressive and unethical to me. But porn doesn't trespass on that; it's not being "unfaithful" to her, and it involves no relationship.

    Since I don't think it's sensible for me to try to spend the next 30 years (or however many I have left) without any form of sexual gratification, I'd like to find a way to limit how long I can spend looking at porn. Unfortunately, my willpower is pretty much at zero for anything. I've tried setting up porn-blocking software, and even a mechanical timer on my monitor, to turn it off at midnight, but I just end up thwarting such restraints. I've tried posting notes around my computer's monitor to admonish me to not backslide, but I seem to be able to block those out, or ignore them.

    I've been seeing a therapist for the past 18 months -- mostly to deal with grief, PTSD and related issues -- but I don't want to discuss this with her; she's young (just got her Masters degree) and it would be awkward, and I doubt that she's had much experience in dealing with porn addiction.

    My wife's medical treatments, the months that we didn't have an income while she battled the cancer, and the funeral and burial expenses, completely depleted our savings, investments and retirement. We co-owned an operated our own business, but I have no more interest in doing that without her; I've tried, but it just tears me up doing it without her. I'm broke and tired of the stress caused by having to scramble at the end of every month to come up with rent. It's become a vicious circle: porn provides escapism from harsh reality, and due to porn, reality becomes ever more harsh.

    Anyway, that's my story. I'd appreciate any practical advice or insights.
     
  2. WilliamOneAndDone

    WilliamOneAndDone Active Member

    Hi. @Complicated

    Sucks. Sorry.

    It helps to understand that porn addiction is not porn addiction. It looks like it is, but, actually, porn is just a button we push to get to what we really want, which is a dopamine high. You use porn for the same reason we all like sex: it creates a neurological brain reaction that we interpret as pleasure.

    Gary Wilson, of Yourbrainonporn, created this video in 2012. It breaks it down pretty simply. So, if you really want to know the "why" of why you like porn, study it.

    https://www.yourbrainonporn.com/garys-tedx-talk-great-porn-experiment

    Think of studying porn addiction like studying that really cool car you like. You have an idea about what it is, and what it will do for you, but once you start taking the parts off and understanding what each one does, you will come to understand it is just a vehicle.

    I can see from your first post that you already have some insight into the underlying neurology of the problem.

    You state:

    "It's not just PMO, it's the looking itself that feels compulsive."

    Yes. Porn abuse must be understood as 100% a brain reaction. You are close. We do not obtain the dopamine rush by "looking" or "seeing". It feels like that, but that is not correct. The dopamine rush starts with looking, but it the thought that follows the look that results in the dopamine rush. That is the thing we chase when we chase porn. That is the only reason anyone watches porn. Porn would be boring without that neurological reaction, but that neurological reaction is what makes porn interesting. So, see porn, think sex, think sex, dopamine rush=we likey. Just that simple.

    You can think of porn as a drug. It works about the same way. It pushes buttons that your brain reacts to on a neurological level. Understanding that is the first step toward taking your life back.

    You said something about fighting porn addiction by replacing it with another healthy activity. That is a common misconception, which you need to disregard. Porn addiction is about using porn to spike a dopamine high way higher than is healthy. What you are getting from porn you will not get from reality, because reality cannot trigger that. Reality won't give you a dopamine high every day, multiple times, forever. If you are lucky, reality gives you a dopamine high a few times a week. It may be from sex. It may be from food. It may be from skydiving. It may be from great art. It may be from being around your children or grandchildren. It may be from looking at the sea. But, it won't be like porn; it won't be just there, instantly available, and reality takes effort that porn does not. Porn can give it to you all day, every day, forever, and costs you no effort at all, but that does not happen in reality.

    So, contrary to the false wisdom of finding a replacement, you need to accept the idea of living with less of it. If you are going to be successful, you won't be attempting to find a replacement, you will be learning to live with less of if. "It" being the dopamine high looking at it, thinking of it, that happens with porn.

    I am sorry about your situation. If you want to get free of this, however, understanding how it works, in the brain, is the first big step.

    Much love.

    Will I AM
     
  3. doneatlast

    doneatlast Active Member

    I'm sorry to hear about all of this. I've known a few widowers in my life, and it all comes to mind when I read your story. I can't imagine the grief and pain. Every widower I've known had a phase where they were just in this massive funk... they sort of wandered around not sure what they were doing or where they were going, almost like they were on something.

    It is true that porn addiction is about dopamine hits more than sex, but addictions are complicated. They like to hang on because of emotional problems, because the more they are with us, the more they are acting as crutches for problems in our lives. For many young men who start with porn they start for curiosity, thrill and sexual pleasure, but it devolves into dopamine hits and all of their live's anxieties, some are caused by the porn, some stagnated and hung on for years because of the addiction. This is where you're different, because the pain and hurt came before the addiction.

    So, I see how reading the conventional wisdom on here might feel like it doesn't apply to you. But, I'd say it does if you translate it a bit. The reason porn is appealing to you and not other things is because it is the only thing with a powerful enough dopamine hit to break through the fog of your grief. Part of my own coping when things don't go well is the sheer zoning out, so I know what you mean about the "looking itself". I get this from my mom... she used to completely zone out with solitaire games on the computer or other things like that. There is a need to just turn things off. Porn was mine.

    I agree with Will that replacing porn with something else is misleading advice, because then people expect that going for a jog or learning the flute will pack the same dopamine hit as porn and make the recovery effortless. But, an alternate take on it is that many porn addicts just need to learn to enjoy life outside of porn. Someone who wants to give up junk food needs to alter their taste buds to like healthy foods. This will be hard, because the grief has killed your taste buds for so many things in life, including the joint business.

    Replacing porn with another human can be misleading, too. Single guys end up thinking "if only I had a woman, I wouldn't need porn", but there is enough talk from people in relationships who forego sex for porn to disprove that, and other guys end up chasing hookups that look more like porn fantasies than real bonding, and then they fall out of the pan into the fire. Anyone who tells a widower that he HAS to get out there and meet some women should be slapped. My father (who is a widower for the past 7 years) sometimes goes onto dating websites with the idea that it is something he SHOULD do, and it makes me cringe a bit because I know it isn't really want he wants, needs, or is ready for.

    I think I'd have a hard time talking about the porn when my therapist is a young woman too, but don't feel like she doesn't know about this issue. It isn't talked about much, but porn addiction is a very, very big thing, and therapists are encountering it all the time. Not everyone understands it, but they're seeing the signs of it very early. When I was looking around at counselors (I ended up not going that route), a surprising number advertised an expertise in sex/porn addictions. In fact, her being young and more recently educated may be an advantage.

    I am not sure I am qualified to really offer advice, but one thing that comes to mind is start small on the willpower stuff. Small habits can become larger habits, and you'll eventually get the reins again. Maybe disciplining yourself to a daily walk, meditation, time with an instrument, whatever... even if it is only for 20 minutes. It is like exercising the willpower muscle. Going straight for all of it will just leave you discouraged.

    Good luck
     
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