The Only Thing That Worked

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My parents were highly educated, and in the 1980s we were one of the few families in the neighborhood that had TV and computers at home. I remember that on the weekends I would watch the four hour morning cartoon show for children. I also was fascinated by the computers. As a kid I was a real computer nerd, typing in game codes from computer magazines, debugging the programs, and then playing computer games. Computers also gave me status and a way to connect to neighborhood kids, as I could invite them to play on our computer which they didn’t have. 

When I was 12 years old, my parents divorced and I moved with my mother and sister to a new town. There I wasn’t able to connect to peers and I became increasingly isolated. That was when TV and computer games became increasingly important to fill up the loneliness. At some point when I was around 15 years old, my parents gave me a television and computer in my room as a present. From then on I isolated myself fully in my room, spending my free time watching sports and news on TV and playing computer games. That was also the first time that I wanted to diminish my use of TV and computer but discovered that I couldn’t stop watching and playing. I was somehow glued to those machines. Obviously my homework suffered from it and sometimes I would fail tests because of it, but overall I had good grades in high school. 

At university, life got better. I finally got an active social life. For the first three years I didn’t have a computer at home. I did have my TV at home and I do remember a strong compulsion to watch the weekly broadcasted porn movie, as well as the yearly sports events, but for the rest my compulsion was pretty much contained. I was pretty obsessed about technology though. I still identified myself as the tech nerd and made sure I was the technological frontrunner. For example, I was the first among my friends to buy a cell phone (we are talking about the late 90s here). 

My compulsion really took off when I bought my own computer with internet at home. In particular internet porn became very addictive to me, and this is what really brought me to self-destruction. This is when I started to consider myself an addict, and when I really tried to control my addiction to internet porn. It started by deleting files and subscriptions to news services after acting out to raise the barrier to start again. It didn’t work. In a similar vein, I tried to hide the modem from myself by unplugging all the wires, putting the modem back in its box, and putting it in the closet. It didn’t work. My brain still knew where the modem was. (Looking back at it now, it is incredible that I thought these things work.) 

I fell in love and got into a romantic relationship. It didn’t stop the addiction. I simply kept my internet porn problem completely secret and continued to act out behind her back. After three years I revealed my internet porn problem to her. At that moment she was very supportive and loving, which gave me hope to overcome my problem. I also went to a sex therapist for my problem. It didn’t work. After a while I would start acting out on internet porn, keeping it secret from my girlfriend, until she discovered, I felt compelled to confess, and I made new resolutions to stop this time for real. Until the next wave of secretly acting out, discovery, promises, etc, etc, ad infinitum. 

New things I tried: a brand new clean laptop. For sure I’m not going to pollute such a virgin-like machine—that will save me. It didn’t. Then I tried parent controls. I blocked certain websites, sites with particular key words, and access in the evening and night. I kept the password at a different place. That was very inconvenient. I remember that at some point I was working on the computer with a colleague and we needed to look at something on the intranet. However, that parent control was blocking the website, so this stupid parent control warning showed up. I had to explain to my colleague that I couldn’t access the site now. Of course all these parent control things were my own plan, and I kept it completely secret from the rest of the world. I felt very embarrassed and ashamed about it. Moreover, sometimes I needed to make an exception and I looked up the password—at moments that I decided of course. The consequence was that I still kept relapsing with the internet binges, because at some point I started to remember the password by heart. I also managed to find ways to bypass the internet filter. All in all, it didn’t work, and it only created stress. Nowadays, I see these parent control internet filters as just another way to control my addiction, just another way to do it my way. Now in recovery, I don’t use parent controls or internet filters anymore. I feel much safer and more relaxed without them.

Here I should mention that my attempts to control the internet were not only related to stopping watching porn. At work, I didn’t watch porn on my computer, but I still looked at a lot of blogs, videos, and news stories. Often I spent more working hours surfing on the internet than on actual work. 

In the end, after ten years of internet and porn addiction, my life crashed. I was suicidal, my relationship was a nightmare, and I even got in touch with the police. I came to realize that I was heading towards one of the three Cs: correctional facilities, the psychiatric clinic, or the cemetery. 

Luckily, through a helpline I got into twelve step recovery for sex addiction and I threw myself completely into it. I gave up my job and moved in with my mom just to focus fully on recovery. In my first two years of recovery I didn’t have my own computer. The first half-year I would sometimes use my mom’s computer which she had the password to, and I also used the computers in the public library. I think this period helped me tremendously withdrawing from my porn addiction. 

After half a year, I got a job again and moved to my own place, still without a computer or internet at home. But now I could also use the internet at work. This initially worked well, and I tried to use the internet at work for work purposes, but slowly I spent more and more time for non-work related purposes as well. And I sometimes had binges at work, in which I stopped working and I started surfing on the internet for the rest of the work day. 

I discussed this with my sponsor, and he suggested that I take a computer and internet at home again. I did that. That was scary in the beginning, but it worked quite well. Most importantly my cravings to watch porn on my computer had disappeared. I still consider that one of the miracles of recovery. I’m grateful to my sponsor that he insisted that I do not use any internet filters or time control applications on my computer. God is my internet filter and time control, and if I want to keep my internet use manageable, I will have to rely on my Higher Power rather than on internet filters or parent controls. Having said that, while in recovery from sex addiction, my internet use still remained unmanageable at times, falling into internet binges either at home or at work. Having worked through other character defects first, this internet thing became more stubborn to resolve with steps six and seven alone. 

With it, my desire to stop increased. I felt my recovery was fake. I had internet binges until deep in the night, just totally powerless to stop. It was exactly the same as before I got into twelve step recovery, the only difference was that there was no porn involved. My sponsor suggested that I look up a twelve step program for internet addiction. I did that, and finally a fellow told me about ITAA. 

However, I didn’t want to go to ITAA. I had no confidence at all that going to ITAA would help me. Finally, another internet binge in December 2018 convinced me to call in to my first ITAA meeting. 

Did it help? You bet it did. 

I was really surprised, but it turned out that I really needed ITAA—I needed to admit that I’m an internet and technology addict by calling in and saying it aloud to other understanding internet and technology addicts. And I needed to hear the voices, the suffering and successful recovery stories, of other internet and technology addicts. Yes, I am an internet and technology addict. I cannot control it, and my life is unmanageable. I need a Higher Power to manage my life, and ITAA fellows to stay away from internet binges. 

And the miracle is that since I joined ITAA I haven’t had a severe internet binge (although I have briefly crossed my bottom lines a few times). I feel my recovery and my life have reached a new level. I’m very grateful for that.

Page last updated on ספטמבר 3, 2023