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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Drowning In It Part 2: Addiction.

Just in case you weren't aware, our world is ridiculously sexualised. You can't hide from it - it's on TV, in ads, radio, newspapers, the Internet, Facebook.
You go to the shops, and you're presented with larger-than-life images of lingerie models. One of the top books of recent times is 50 Shades of Grey. The TV show everyone seems to be watching is Game of Thrones. And that's not just adults watching it.
There's pretty much nothing to stop it, not at the level it's at. You see it everywhere, whether you're six, sixteen or twenty-six. You just don't process it the same way.

And yet, despite this sex-sodden society, people seem to be constantly surprised by the number of younger and younger people that are becoming addicted to pornography. And not just the softer stuff. 

There are some studies and questionnaires that have shown that in schools, at ages of 15 (and sometimes even less - going down to as low as 12), in a random group of 100 boys and girls, most of them will have seen pornography. Many of them not just a couple of times. 

Boys and girls in early high school are starting to have a sex vocabulary that is....alarming. Frightening. For more on that and a couple of the previous points, click the link at the bottom of this post when you're done. 

I was in the middle of all of this. I'd been raised by a Christian family, with Christian values and that sort of thing. And they did a fantastic job - they helped me to develop a lot of the gifts that I had, which have largely contributed to where I am today. 
But it also meant that I'd been in a bit of a bubble. Some of the words and the jokes that the other kids were using I didn't get, and I didn't want to get. And that part of me is still around. These days, he has to fight pretty hard. 

It was curiosity that started it. Nothing else. Just plain old, simple curiosity. Puberty hadn't really come along full ball (I was a bit of a late bloomer), and I'd only just started to notice those strange creatures that are girls. 
I was thirteen, and in year nine. It was early 2006.

I knew it was illegal. I knew I shouldn't have been doing it. And it's probably one of the worst decisions that I've ever made - one of the worst things that have happened to me. I'm still feeling the repercussions today - I'm not speaking as someone recovered, but someone very much still in over my head and struggling with this. 

But. In saying that. I am very thankful for a couple of things that I went in already knowing, from somewhere. I'm not really sure where, because I certainly didn't have anyone talking to me about this stuff. And I'm scared to think of where I'd be without these. 

1. It's not real. No matter how real it looks, or sounds, or seems, it's not. It seems real because the best lies have grains of truth in them. But they've been so perverted and twisted that it's unrecognisable. 
2. People are not objects. Never, ever, ever. You even begin to start to say that they might be, and I might need to stop myself from punching you. 
3. Never put money into it. If you're at that stage, it becomes a lot harder to get out. In this monetarily-crazed world, people like to protect their investments. 

There are too many people that have gone into porn without knowing these points, particularly the first two. And they start believing it. They believe that that's the way it's supposed to be - that it's always picture perfect. Porn sex becomes their idea of real sex. 
And, perhaps worse, they start to objectify people. They use them up and throw them out, to be recycled by somebody else.
At this point, I'm really hoping that this is making you as angry as it's making me.

So, stop it, you say. Just stop.
And yes, that is part of the solution. We do need to fight to get better legislation and censoring around this material, particularly so that it's not out in the public where anyone can see it. 

But that's also quite difficult, in two respects. 
Firstly, it's very good business. And there's a lot of wealthy people that are very happy with it being the way it is. It's going to be very tricky to work around or against them. 
And secondly - it's addictive. As much as substance addiction is hard to shake, so is this. 

Particularly for a couple of reasons. 
Firstly, because it's so easy. You don't need to be a genius to find this stuff. Even if there are filters, or it's a shared computer, that isn't hard to work around. Admittedly, coming from a bit of a computer geek - but you really only need to want to do it, and you'll figure something out quite easily. I have, many times over, in many different circumstances. I never got found out, for over seven years. Came close once or twice, but never there. 
And secondly, because even if you take it all away - if you lock me in a room with no phone, no magazines, no Internet, nothing. I still have my mind. I still have my imagination. 
And that, honestly, is the hardest part. Because there are times when I haven't looked at porn for a month or more. But my imagination - it doesn't let up. Just in case you're not aware, my imagination is pretty good.

You're not just fighting the world around you. You're fighting your own mind.

And it's hard. Because part of you really doesn't want to give it up. It enjoys it, funnily enough. It's addicted, and it keeps pulling you back. 

You're drowning in it.

I don't know if you've ever experienced nearly drowning. I hope you don't. I got closer than I'd like to once, and it's one of the scariest things that have ever happened to me. Thankfully, it didn't end badly, and it was just in my backyard pool. 
But when you're drowning - your whole body is screaming. It's being deprived of oxygen, which isn't just essential for you - every single cell in your body needs it! You fight as hard as you can, but you get absolutely nowhere. You just keep sinking. Unless you have help. 

And it's the same for this - it's the same for most addictions. If you try and get out of it by yourself, you'll fight and fight and fight - and maybe even get close - but you can't make it. You need help. I need help. 

And that's why I'm doing this post. I'm struggling with this, just as I'm sure many people reading this are struggling. We all need help, and I think we can help each other. 

Every day; every week; every month - however often you choose, I'll check up on you to see how you're doing. And, if it's OK with you, I'll get you to check up on me too. Maybe not at the same time, or it could get a bit much all at once. But we both get to share what we're struggling with, and help and grow with someone else who is struggling too. You can stay anonymous if you want, and I won't be telling anyone anything you tell me without your specific and express consent. You don't have to talk about anything that you don't want to; I know that I won't be talking about specific details of what I've seen, heard, or thought. I don't have that expectation on you either. 

I am aware that what I have said in this post about my own porn addiction will be startling to quite a few people. It may lose me a few friends, endanger my future job prospects, tarnish my public image. (What public image? :P ) But I think that this is important. I think that secrets are poisonous, and addictions can be deadly. This is one that I want to get out of, and want other people to get out of as well. By and large, a lot that you know about me is still true. I'm just struggling with much more than you'd realise. 

This dual post (mainly the second; the first was a necessary lead-up, so that I could actually get into the mind frame to write about it) was largely inspired by this article, which expands upon and clarifies a couple of the points I made earlier (warning; not for kids, and quite possibly NSFW). Definitely worth a read.

UPDATE: Writing this now from the present day, three years and three weeks (almost exactly) after I originally wrote this. When I wrote this, I had talked about it to a grand total of eight or nine people. A few months on, I doubled that almost instantly; and these days, it's something that I talk about relatively openly (though still choosing my audience). It's been rather a long journey (which I wrote a poem about, by the way!), and not an easy one. And it's one that's still going, big time. I've been struggling over these last few months more than I have since....well, probably since I wrote this! But I'm still doing a lot better than I was before I started opening up to people. And knowing that I'm living without secrets - is pretty darn awesome, let me tell you. :) So why am I sharing this now? Because it's still a major issue. It's getting a bit more press and traction these days, but much too little for what we need to make a decent dent in this. It's a big issue. Let's start getting to work on it.

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