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Hello Everyone, I’m Carl Vreeland. Welcome to the podcast “Close to the Bone.”

This is episode #55, it’s titled, Addicted to Porn – Part 2.

Although my last episode, “Addicted to Porn,” covered a lot of ground, as it turns out, there’s much more to be said. So, I’m going to jump right in. . . . when medical experts speak of addiction, most tend to overlook a common component to addiction—the obsession. They understandably focus on the physical aspect of addiction. And so, they claim certain drugs are not addictive, and similarly that pornography cannot be addictive. One study writes that, “Clinically, what these findings mean is that instead of assessing porn use in people who seek help for porn-related issues, clinicians and therapists should be assessing a person’s moral attitudes toward porn, as well as their level of religiosity.1” Now that’s not to say that one’s difficulty with viewing porn and masturbating cannot stem from their religious and moral attitudes, wherein, it could cause feelings of guilt and shame, but to rule out that porn addiction doesn’t exist is a miscalculation. This same study says that, “Because of religious opposition to sexual education, many people struggling with masturbation don’t understand what is normal, or that their sexual interests are healthy. Helping people to consciously examine and consider their religious beliefs about sex, masturbation, and porn with modern, adult, self-determining eyes, may help them reduce the pain and suffering caused by this moral conflict.(1)” Again, I agree with this as well, with the exception to pornography. Normalizing porn is a misjudgment, not unlike the normalization of alcohol consumption, and currently marijuana use. No doubt, we live in a drinking culture in the United States, and alcoholism is epidemic here, as well as many other countries. And as for marijuana, it’s on its way to becoming epidemic as well. As for porn, well, if you listened to my last podcast episode, Addicted to Porn, I mentioned how, “Pornhub, the world’s largest free porn site, received over 33.5 billion site visits during 2018 alone.”2 Enough said. . . .

As far as addiction goes, it doesn’t always have to be physical. Whether we’re speaking of alcoholics, drug users, sex-aholics, excessive porn viewers, gamblers, etc., addiction is addiction. And addiction is not solely or always physical; it is also a disease of the mind. And obsession plays a large role. And so like any addiction, porn can take up a lot of headspace. This is especially so with men. Many men turn obsessed with porn viewing. And there are many reasons why. For instance, it’s an escape from their seemingly mundane existence. It’s a break from reality and all its stresses like work, money, bills, marriage challenges, loneliness, ageing, disappointment, heartbreak, rejection, and fear and anger. And of course, it’s a feel-good, dopamine hit, not unlike a snort of cocaine. And if think about it, viewing porn and masturbating is easy. One can simply sit back in the privacy of their home, and take a trip to fantasy island. And one can continue to procrastinate, and put off making any effort to dig deep, and look within, and figure out why life has become intolerable, and explore the reasons why there is such a strong desire to escape from the real world. More than that, one doesn’t have to deal with their emotions and the emotions of an intimate partner on fantasy island. Indeed, one can close the curtains, withdraw from reality, and view all types of porn for free.

Now, on the other side of that, what is not easy, is intimacy, strong emotions, work demands, and dealing with the moods of friends, family, and colleagues who have their own issues. Now, that is hard. Indeed, it’s easier to lock the door to our home office or office door at work and open up a browser. And of course, habits form. And these habits turn addictive. And then, overtime, everything else in life becomes a hindrance, because it keeps us from that alone time at our computer. When we’re addicted, we think about our addiction, plan around it, look for opportunities to get away from the kids, our spouse, so we can get our fix. I mean, how is porn any different than drug addiction or alcoholism? And as with any addiction, we hide it, we take precautions to not get caught, we keep it secret. Which, no doubt, makes things worse. Because, as I’ve said many times; we are only as sick as our secrets.

For sure, dishonesty and addiction go hand in hand. And lying gets easier the more we do it. And there are plenty of studies that show this to be true. “Typically, when we tell a lie, our brain’s amygdala produces a negative emotional state, essentially making us feel stressed or uncomfortable during the process. However, a new study in Nature Neuroscience contends that, the more people lie, the less their brain produces negative stimuli.”3 Indeed, lying gets easier, to the point where one doesn’t even realize they’re lying any longer. And this is certainly common in the world of addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous has an acronym for this: D.E.N.I.A.L. – don’t even notice I am lying.

There are plenty of reasons to be weary of a fascination with pornography. Let’s just look at how porn cultivates a unhealthy view of women. Whether we viewed women as sexual objects before we ever turned to porn or not; pornography will certainly create and further develop a concrete view of women as sexual objects. Objectifying women, or men for that matter, is destructive in many ways. For one, it’s not conducive to healthy intimate relations. In fact, sexual objectification is a barrier to good healthy relationships.

I know many men in recovery that are having a difficult time meeting someone, never mind having a long term relationship with someone. Sometimes, it’s for obvious reason; they are trying too hard, or women pick up on how they view them; like objects. Or more commonly, men have this unrealistic image of how a women should be and look like; after all, the women in porn films, especially the porn stars, are “perfect,” and often submissive and willing. They are young, fit, well-groomed, well-polished, and surgically enhanced. They are made to look sexy and provocative, they have make-up artists, and they’re filmed under the right lighting at the best angles. In other words, an unreal portrayal of women, far from reality. And of course men expect the same type of sex that they see in these porn films; which is often submissive, degradative, and sometimes violent. And many young women today, who lack self-confidence and strong self-assuredness, women who have been likely violated and traumatized in the past by unkind men, to put it mildly, feel pressured to provide men with whatever sexual proclivities they may have.

Moreover, men who objectify women are unable to see the real woman, the real person, and their humanness. Meaning they are unable to view the women’s heart, goodness, soul, brokenness, and interests; which is important for a healthy relationship. As a matter of fact, many men get involved with women that they objectify, never getting to know them, only to later discover that they are incompatible with them. More than that, they find them to be victims of trauma who are unable to have healthy relationships to begin with. Clearly explaining why they got involved in the first place with a man that objectifies women. Let’s face it, women who are healthy-minded and of good well-being, don’t get involved with men who strongly objectify women and are unhealthy themselves. Truthfully, a healthy-minded woman wouldn’t give this type a man a second glance.

Now let’s look at another damaging outcome of objectifying women. “Unsurprisingly, treating people and their bodies like objects can have negative consequences on mental health. Studies show that exposure to sexual objectification has been linked with depression, eating disorders, and low self-confidence.”4 Also, as I mentioned in my last episode, one study found that 50% of the subjects that viewed pornography excessively, experienced erectile dysfunction and sexual dissatisfaction.5 Well, what do you know, who would have guessed it? Do you still think porn is harmless?

Supposing we have our unhealthy habits, we must do something about them. I’ve said it dozens of times; if nothing changes, nothing changes. It’s a fallacy to think that there will come a day when we will get our fill, and walk the straight and narrow path. That is, that we will get it out of our system. That we’ll get to a point when we had enough of drinking, smoking, gambling, and porn viewing. Indeed, I’ve heard sexual promiscuous men say, “Well, I just need to get it out of my system. I’m young and want to experience as much sex and romance as I can before I get old. When I’m forty I’ll settle down.” Or you’ll hear one say, “I like partying, I like drinking. I’ll stop when I’m thirty, I just need to get it out of my system.” And then the goal post moves from thirty to forty to fifty, ad infinitum. We never get it out of our system. Same goes for porn. We must make an effort and do the inside work. We must change.

What I started doing in my sobriety, was looking at myself. No longer putting the blame on others, no longer blaming God for my troubles, no longer playing the victim and complaining about how hard life is. I delved deep. I began to look at myself close-up and personal. I started doing the inside work; the 12 Step work, the spiritual work. I got into my body, by way of a Yoga practice, and opened up to all my traumas, issues, denials, repressions, and brokenness. And the walls of denial came crumbling down. In regards to women, and all my troubles and heartaches concerning them. . . among other things, I stopped viewing porn. More than that, I stopped looking at women up and down. I stopped staring at women. I stopped twisting my neck walking down the street whenever an attractive women walked by. In conversation, whenever I met a woman for the first time, I quickly got to being real, earthy, heartfelt. . . I did anything to stop myself from seeing them as objects. I broke the spell of any stirring infatuation taking place. I put a stop to any sexual flirting. I got genuine, vulnerable, and I stopped playing games. I stifled any intrigue or mystery. I dropped the idea of trying to impress, I stopped trying to hide any of my flaws. I looked at the interaction as a human one. And these methods worked. In time, they changed me, and turned more naturally.

Currently, I do fail sometimes. I may look a little too long at an attractive woman, but I usually catch myself and quickly stop. Not that there is anything wrong with admiring someone’s beauty, as long as we can let it go and not trip off into fantasy and desire. And as long as we are not objectifying. Surely, sometimes I’ll catch myself fantasying, but just for a moment, and then I realize and let it go quickly. Of course, all this happens much less frequently now. Still, I must be watchful, because it’s easy to fall back into old ways. It’s a practice, and it’s a daily practice. I’m reminded of a Zen-Buddhist story. . . .

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side. The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman. Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them. Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could{n’t} contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?” The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”6

Again, it’s vital we practice letting go. It’s a skill we must cultivate. Overtime, our thoughts and actions become a barometer of sorts. . . meaning, if we have a difficult time letting go, if we get stuck, it’s usually a sign of our current state of being. Although it could be that we’ve been slacking off, which is why we must be watchful. We can’t rest on our laurels. We must maintain our practice. And the practice must also evolve. Things change and we must adjust accordingly. Some things work for a awhile, but not on the long term. It’s usually a sign that we must dig deeper and go further into the practice; we must continue walking down the path.

Meditation helped me immensely. It helped me turn more self-aware, more observant, and more able to let go of old habits. And of course, I notice things more quickly. When I catch myself fantasying about a woman I’m looking at; I’m able to let go of the fantasy faster. Meditation helps, no doubt. Also, as far as masturbation, this can be addictive too, whether we view porn or not. We must be mindful about it as well. Now this is tricky business. Masturbating without porn, we might instead dream of past girlfriends, a woman we saw on the street, porn scenes we once viewed that our stuck in our memory. Well, this keeps the pilot light lit, in my view. Meaning, it keeps us in our addiction. My suggestion is to fantasize about your current spouse, wife, partner, or girlfriend. If you’re single, and you must masturbate, well, this gets even trickier. Perhaps view and dream of sexy women you don’t know, women who are on Instagram or YouTube, but not soft porn. Be moderate if you must masturbate. Be mindful. Find what works. Listen to your intuition. Let your conscience be your guide.

Now, being sober and clean, refraining from porn, being moderate with masturbation, being monogamous, doesn’t make one a dry and dull person. And being spiritual doesn’t either. Indeed, one mustn’t take oneself too seriously. Humor and wit are important in life. But at the same time, romance, love, and sex doesn’t have to be a show, a game, and an ego based act. No, it should be open and honest, in my view. Supposing one wants to experience good well-being and healthy relationships. No doubt, when we are honest, life, with all its complexities becomes more real, more soulful, more heartfelt, more passionate, and more connected and intimate with others. That goes for friends, family, colleagues, and especially romantic partners. And then an inner-peace comes, a serenity, a calm, and. . . gratitude.

Well, that’s all I have. . . As always, thank you for listening.

If you’re enjoying the podcast, please Share it with others and give it a rating or review on Apple. Also, please subscribe to my free newsletter or just sign-up for a free membership on my website, carltvreeland.com. This will give you full access to my Blog post, which is where I post the podcast transcriptions. And please don’t forget to follow me on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. My handle is @carltvreeland. Thanks again.

  1. Science Stopped Believing in Porn Addiction. You Should, Too. What does it mean that religion, not porn use, predicts porn-related problems? By David J. Ley, Ph.D. Posted August 21, 2018. Psychology Today.
  2. Watching pornography rewires the brain to a more juvenile state. Source: The Conversation Media Contacts: Rachel Anne Barr. December 29, 2019. NeuroscienceNews.com.
  3. Does Lying Get Easier The More We Do It? By Humintell Admin. October, 2017 https://www.humintell.com/2017/10/adaptation-to-deception/
  4. The Psychological Impact of Sexual Objectification. By Erin Ross. The Viva Center (online).
  5. Studies Show Pornography Changes the Brain. By: NCOSE January 24, 2022. National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
  6. Two monks and a Woman — Zen story. Conveyed by Farmer Sean. June 30, 2018. https://medium.com/@soninilucas/two-monks-and-a-woman-zen-story-c15294c394c1

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