As my journey with addiction has seemed to step down in phases. The final step has not been accomplished at this point. I continue the challenging work of fully eradicating my negative habit. Having put into place many tools along the path of healing. Things like reading consistently, writing for the blog, playing golf, and skiing. There have been other positive activities to help my walk along the path, but these have played the largest role. The aspect of my journey bringing on the most difficulty has been self-gratification. In other words, a chronic habit of masturbation. A term I don’t feel comfortable using, so I refer to the action as self-gratification. With or without the use of pornographic images, self-gratification has been a part of my life since junior high school. it was an absolute daily occurrence for decades of my daily world, until the spring of 2020. My habit slowed to a basic stop during a couple points, throughout those years. When dating my high school sweetheart and during the first couple years of living in a dormitory for college. The addiction to self-gratification would also stop during vacations with my family. During the years when there was no girlfriend, or college dormitory to curb my behavior. I would venture to guess that my negative habit of self-gratification took place, not less than 340 days of each year. My watching of pornographic images really began around 2008, but my objectification of woman was happening long before that period.
I had little idea of the impact my habit was having on myself and others. From the beginning, when I was in junior high school, guilt would fill my body after each episode of self-gratification. Telling me, the action I was participating in wasn’t good. The unhealthy emotion corresponding with the action would have me promising not to repeat the behavior. But, the following day would find me doing it all over, again. My justification was my cerebral palsy and the challenges it brought. Telling myself how the girls around me each day weren’t interested in my weird movements. They were choosing my friends and peers, as partners to explore intimacy. The other option open to me, was fantasizing about the idea of being wanted. The fantasies inside my imagination helped relieve the feeling of isolation. At school, I felt like the kid with the handicap, who struggled with most every physical task. My disability left me feeling as though I was always behind in some capacity. Often, requiring the help of someone to complete tasks that appeared routine. It was challenging to understand how to manage my cerebral palsy in my world. The fear, found me running away from school, dealing with uncontrollable frustration, and threatening to run from home. The times were tumultuous and I had no idea my self-gratification was complicating my emotional stability.
School wasn’t the only place of challenge. It would take me until later in life to understand, home wasn’t much better. With a father having his own demons of narcissism and addiction. My evenings and weekends were less than a respite from the challenge of my school days. The home felt more and more like a deep pool of water, where emotionally treading water for hours was key to survival. The desperation of grasping onto some form of sanity, in order for the waters not to swallow me whole. The chaos and fear felt ongoing, without any sign of stoppage. So, I found a place in which to escape the emotional trauma. My momentary refuge was inside a fantasy I could build from something attractive during the day. My mind would start forming a story to support my attraction. The fantasy would rescue me out of the life I was living. Into another situation with another person. Inside my stories, having cerebral palsy wasn’t anything to cause shame. My disability could be normal to someone, creating a world where they loved me anyway. I wanted to somehow live in a space were cerebral palsy carried less impact and emotional manipulation didn’t exist. The thing I was unable to understand was the escaping happening inside my brain. My daily fantasies, left me numb to the world happening around. Providing me little chance of developing valuable connections.
As the challenges of my childhood home left my world. The challenges of my school days also vanished. But, my negative habit of daily fantasizing didn’t leave with the challenges. Self-gratification had become a soothing habit. Helping me escape new challenges in my world. I had developed relationships helping me remain emerged in the chaos I understood from childhood. At least these people seemed to accept me, was the line I used inside my mind. They provided something for me to fill my weekends with. However, the socialization with these people continue my need for escaping. My daily self-gratification turned into a larger problem when a pornography habit showed up, in my late 20’s. My anger, which had originated with running away from school and home. Along with, throwing tantrums when I wasn’t getting my way, turned into episodes of rage filled behavior and threats of self-harm, that continued into adulthood. The influence of the world I had created around me, helped fuel the fire. Life was unfair because I had a disability. In order to change my addiction and anger, pretty much everything had to be transformed. The work has been put in to stop the negative habit of pornographic images. Working of decreasing the elevation of my addiction, taking place in my late 20s. Now, I work away at the last step of the puzzle. Trying to rid myself of the original trouble from my childhood. Attempting to stop pulling sexual fantasies out of my daily world.
The last step has been the most challenging part. It feels like the success of completely letting go of fantasizing has been a large hurtle. Requiring me to learn how to support the child who felt there was nowhere to fit. The years of working with a psychologist, Dr. Dave, has brought me miles in helping improve self-esteem. Helping me feel as though I have something of value to provide the world. Which, was part of the foundation starting this blog. To find something I could sink my heart into, that would provide purpose. But, the journey of moving away from a habit so entrenched inside the way I view the world, would never be that simple. Life hasn’t miraculously changed because I began writing this blog, seven years ago. The process has been slow and the emotional work, challenging. Two years ago, with my commitment to abstain from viewing any forms of pornography, I began tracking my self-gratification. If I engaged in the behavior during a day, it was marked on the calendar. My streaks of consecutive days, remaining clean of masturbation, would also be noted on the calendar. It would help motivate me, while also holding me accountable. Stopping the behavior completely hasn’t been achievable to this point. My goal has been to continue reducing my frequency year over year. With my first target being, achieving the point of gaining better control over my emotions. The feelings of uncontrollable anger and frustration needed to subside. I knew sexual fantasizing was a major culprit.
Numbers have never really been a strong suit in my toolbox. Though, I enjoyed math in school, it was never something feeling like a talent. However, inside my research around trying to improve my negative habit, numbers helped me understand. They can feel cold and unforgiving during my journey. Numbers seem to tell the story with more clarity about the emotional impact of my addiction. They have provided a space for me to work from, towards healing. When I began the journey of trying to curb my self-gratification habit, I guessed it was happening around 340 days a year. Taking into consideration abstaining on vacations and some random days of feeling content. It was the number I started to work from. Some other numbers I gathered through research were 2-7. If I were self-gratifying between 2 and 7 times per week, there was a problem. So, I knew there was a problem in my life with masturbation frequency. I also came to understand that the challenge dated back more than 25 years. There was work for me to do and it would be more difficult than removing pornography. The first year of commitment to tracking my frequency, I came up with 115 days. The total amounted came to an average of over twice per week, leaving me with sadness. But, my frequency was miles down from the mental calculation of the previous 25 years, so maybe there was hope.
I want to rid myself of this particular challenge in my life. After spending the time researching the impact of this behavior. I have come to understand how it toxically influences all relationships in my world. How the escape from reality steals my ability to find joy in the world. As we move toward the years end of tracking my behavior. The year turns over at the end of March. This year I have cut into my frequency, again. Leaving me with 85 days of self-gratification for the previous year. The result feels encouraging, as it comes in 30 days less than last years. The number of 85 also averages out to less than the twice per week number. Giving me hope that I can move toward a healthy form of sexuality. However, my research has also informed me, with my history of chronic masturbation, my number needs to reach zero. It seems the only way for me to form healthy relationships, it feels like a tall task. But, I will continue working toward the lofty goal. Attempting to heal my mental health even further, with the support of those in my world. I will need better commitment to my healthy habits. In hopes of reducing further, my fears and anxieties. There remains a feeling of hope, this goal can be achieved. But, the work is far from done.