Joshua Shea - Porn Addiction, Consequences, and Recovery
EP 17: Joshua Shea - Porn Addiction, Consequences, and Recovery
My guest today is bringing to light an addiction people are not willing to talk about. This addiction is destroying marriages, friendships, careers, and overall life satisfaction. Men are struggling with this addiction at an alarming rate. More importantly, our younger generation who have grown up with the internet are suffering from this addiction and their future potential to having healthy relationships is being threatened. Like all addictions, they are difficult to overcome, but it is possible with a lot of support and compassion.
Episode #17 Joshua Shea - Transcript
Hello and welcome to the Strong Men Podcast, Empowering Men to Thrive. I'm Anthony Treas, from StrongMenCoaching.com, where I share how men can start thriving in their life. This is a great time to be a man. Or should I say some of the toughest time to be a man. We're gonna get into a really great conversation right now. And I'm very excited because this is actually a topic that most people probably would be afraid to talk about. But it is a topic that we do need to discuss. It's an important topic because this topic is something that has ruined people's lives, and in trying to empower men to live their best life, I believe this is an important topic that needs to be discussed. Joshua Shea is my next guest. And I'm very excited because he brings real life examples and real life experience in this specific topic. So what we want to share with you today is about porn addiction and Shea, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much, Anthony. I appreciate you giving you some time today.
Absolutely. Now Joshua Shea seemingly had it all. A loving wife, two children and a supportive extended family. In 2010, after nearly 15 years working his way up to journalism ladder, he launched a lifestyle magazine in his hometown. Within a year he was one of the founders of Central Maine's largest Film Festival and then won a seat on the City Council in Auburn, Maine. Accolades, including receiving the key to the city, and being called one of the next 10 people shaping Maine's economy by a state newspaper followed. While the public got one picture of Shea, behind closed doors, his longtime mental health and addiction issues were festering. A workaholic by nature, he actively ignore the red flags surrounding his long existing pornography and alcohol problems. Finding it easier to lose himself in a bottle of tequila and adult websites, Shea's relationships with his family, colleagues, and friends grew distant, his business ventures began to collapse, Shea, Joshua Shea, welcome, once again, how's it going today?
Today is a fantastic day. I am about four and a half years in recovery, now. My book came out about five, six months ago, I've been booking a lot of library, church appearances, just trying to spread the word that porn addiction is real important and porn addiction can affect anybody.
Absolutely. And this is an important topic. And that's why I was really, I'm really excited to be going over this topic with you. So, kind of, let's get into it. What is the state of porn addiction in the world today?
Well, if you try to measure the temperature based on what people are talking about, there's no problem whatsoever. However, if you look at the real statistics of the studies that are finally being done about the subject, we are looking at our next national and international healthcare crisis.
Right now, in a study that was conducted in 2016, there was a study that says that 34% of men who between the ages of 18 and 30 have self diagnosed themselves as either having a porn addiction problem, or a full-on full blown porn addiction. That's one out of three men under 30 years old. Another study came out in early July, which said that in married couples, this isn't necessarily about addiction. But in married couples, 98% of men under the age of 35 access pornography in the last six month's. Be perhaps even more surprised than 98%, one out of 50 did, perhaps even more surprising than that, is that, 73% of married women accessed online pornography in the last six months. Those numbers drop a bit if you go into the last week, but there's still quite high.
And finally, I guess the big news out there is that in early July, the World Health Organization finally approved sexual impulse disorder as a diagnoseable and treatable condition. So this basically means that now people in the mental health field can actually diagnose people with what is a fancy version of saying, porn addiction or sex addiction. That's a huge step forward and getting people help
As a result of all this addiction going on with pornography. What are the negative consequences that are happening as a result?
Well, I mean, what you're seeing in the younger people who grew up with the internet who don't know a world before the internet, what they are having, especially the males, specifically, is a huge rise in the erectile dysfunction rates. They actually have coined the phrase, porn induced erectile dysfunction. What they're finding is that these young males who have grown up since 12 - 13 years old, on porn, they can perform sexually if they're watching porn. If they're not watching porn, if they're just with their partner, they can't finish.
This is a whole new thing that we've never had to deal with before. If we don't start dealing with these guys, before they develop this problem. If we don't start dealing with people who are falling from just casual looking into addiction, what happens in 20, 30, 40 years when half the men in the U.S. are addicted to porn, and a quarter of the women are addicted. You know, that's going to make the opioid crisis seem like candy compared to what's going on? Because if you have on, you know, one third to one half of your population addicted to a substance like pornography, that's not a healthy society.
No, absolutely not. And it's really unfortunate for young people, as you mentioned before, they've never had a life outside of the internet. They've always been connected, so to speak. And so for them, this online world, we can talk about this also. But the virtual reality of porn and how that's going to be playing a role in their social life and their ability to have a relationship and have a healthy sexual relationship. And as you mentioned, that they're not able to achieve ejaculation unless they're looking at porn. And so what are the negative consequences for men who are married, who had a life with outside the internet, who are now addicted to porn, and what are the negative consequences as far as their marriage goes?
Well, I mean, as far as marriage goes, it's, it's like any other addiction. Most people who are addicts lie about their usage, they keep secrets about it, they cover it up, that kind of communication, when you're lying, and keeping secrets is never going to be healthy in a marriage. People who are in the ongoing stages of pornography, a lot of time it's taking time away from what they could be doing with their family. And when they're with their family, they're in their head fantasizing about the next time that they can be in front of a computer screen or in front of the TV screen.
There is a disintegration of relationships with family, friends and romantic partners. You know, you're losing the interest in other activities. Maybe you're getting angry, irritable, people talk about the pornography or ask you about your use. And then, you know, ultimately, when it gets really serious, when you reach a critical point, you find yourself starting to view, you know, more intense desire content, because you're trying to reach that little dopamine receptor that you've been frying for so long. So things have to escalate. It's like the alcoholic who moves from beer to wine, to shots or the gambling addict to bets $100, that bets $1,000 and has to bet $10,000 to get that same high in the end.
Most people with their addictions, a lot of times, it actually does start to become their legal issues pop up with your behavior, whether it's drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, whatever it is. Financial issues often pop up. Your physical and mental health begin to deteriorate. Your performance and things like work, or if you're on a sports team or club, that type of performance in your work ethic starts to fall apart. So, you know, addiction is a really insidious thing matter what it what it is. But porn addiction is one that a lot of people, you know, 99% have to hide, because there's just so much shame and so much embarrassment around it. We don't talk about this addiction. So people really don't know about it.
Joshua, you just recently wrote a book. So why did you write a book about your struggle with porn addiction?
I wrote it for two reasons. I made the decision to write it when I was serving six months in jail for engaging an underage female in a chat room. That was really my downfall. That was my rock bottom. But that was also the wake up call that helped me turn things around. I very much deserved to go to six months in jail, can't do what I did without consequences and take full responsibility. I don't minimize. I don't rationalize. I did what I did, and I got what I deserved. Thank God it happened because it was a wake up call.
When I was sitting there in jail. I met so many men who, whether they were there for heroine addiction or meth addiction or domestic violence issues. So many of them came to me and started telling me about problems they had with pornography. Problems they had with sexuality. And in talking to them, it was amazing to recognize they were more ashamed of the fact that they looked at porn three hours a day, than that they, you know, beat their wife. They're more ashamed that they've had 1,000 sex partners in their life than they are about the fact that they're putting a needle in their arm every day; they've going to heroin problem.
So when I saw that, I had already been toying around with the idea of a book, but I realized I need to write a book because we're not talking about this. So I wrote a book, it's called, The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About. And it's not a self-help book, although, you know, I'm sure there's a lot of lessons people are getting out of it. It's not full of statistics, like I've been sharing with you. It's really just my story of the last several years of my life as my took hold, like you mentioned in the introduction; and I'm hoping people get two things out of it.
The first is that there is no stereotypical porn addict. I went to an inpatient rehab facility for porn addiction for seven weeks in Texas in 2015. I met men and women. I met young and old, rich, poor, white, black, Asian, Mexican, geniuses, and morons, there are no stereotypical porn addicts. It's not some 19 year-old kid in his mom's basement was never kissed a girl in real life. I'm sure there are some who are that. But that's not the only guy who is a person was a porn addict. So I wanted the non-porn addict to recognize anybody could be a porn addict.
Secondly, I wrote the book show people just how far your addiction to go to keep it in check. I was addicted to porn for 20 years, I never would have entered a chat room for 99.5% of that time. To me, that's actually that was like cheating on my wife. But, I was so lost at that point. I was so sick of that point. I got to the point where I could enter a chat room and I could actually not ask somebody their age. If I had any questions. That's just not me. But I want people to recognize who read the book and say, but that's just not me, that it can be you, it can get to that point. If they can get to that point with me, it can get to that point with anybody.
So if you even have a mild porn addiction issue, get some help. A 12-step group a therapist, just go online to a chat room that deals with porn or sex addiction. Talk to other men there about the problems that you're having. There are a lot of ways to get help these days. We're still not talking about it. But I'm hoping that this book will encourage some people to seek help.
Joshua, you mentioned being a porn addict for 20 - 25 years. Would you describe a time; What was your life like as a porn addict?
Most of the time, it was pretty normal. People sensed that I had an alcohol issue and I was also an alcoholic, but with porn you can hide it. My porn use was late at night when I was a single man, I just do it in the living room, my apartment with a laptop. When I had a wife and kids I had to wait for everybody to go to bed. I would do it very very late in the evening after everybody was asleep in bed. You're able to cover your tracks. So the thing about addicts are, you don't know most of them are. You may see that guy laying on the street in his own puke. Well, he's a very extreme case. Most addicts are sitting to the left and right of view at work. They're able to hide their addictions, or they're able to function despite their addictions. And that for 20 years, I built a very solid career for myself, just fighting my addictions. It wasn't until that last six months to a year when I got a lot of extra stress. When I decided to pull myself off of some psych meds for bipolar disorder. That's when things really came to a head. Had I not gone off the psych meds perhaps I would have been able to carry on further, but I know that eventually something was going to get me not keep living the life and living the lies that I was.
You mentioned going to jail. This was kind of your rock bottom. So what has been the recovery process? Is this an ongoing thing? How is it?
Yeah, well, what's funny is I actually went to jail, probably a healthier version of myself than I'd ever been. Because about a week after I was arrested, I hadn't really even thought about porn addiction, because I'm not sure I knew it was a real thing. About a week after I got arrested, I went off to alcohol rehab in California. Spent about 10 weeks out there. Truly understanding I was an alcoholic and starting to unravel some of my attitudes and beliefs and behaviors towards sexuality and what they meant. I came home after that and I got into some very intense one-on-one in group therapy. And it was after about six months of that talking about my sexuality, my behaviors, why I did things I did, how I became the way I was that I recognized I needed some much more intense help.
So about a year after I was arrested, I went to an inpatient porn and sex facility in Texas, and I spent seven-weeks there. When I got home. I continued doing my research, reading about it, going to all the therapy. It wasn't until almost two-years after I was first arrested that a sentence. So when I was sentenced, I had all of this therapy and rehab behind me. So I was a very healthy person going into jail. Since I've got out of jail. I continued on with that my family is in a better state than it ever has been. My book came out five, six months ago. I'm constantly doing shows like this or out lecturing about the topic or writing about it on my website. You know, I feel better than I ever have. I am emotionally, mentally, physically so much healthier than I've ever been. But it's been a hard, hard road to get here. It's recovery is not easy, but I figure in four years, we've basically torn apart 36-37 years of damage, so I'm doing pretty well. And you know if I can do it, anybody else out there can do it.
Well, that's great. I'm glad that this has been your experience. So tell me, why should any of us non- addicts, non-porn addicts really care about porn addiction?
Well, statistically, even if you're not a porn addict, there's going to be porn addiction in your life. Right now. There are 80% of men under 30, look at porn on the Internet of men between the ages of 30 and 50, 67% looking for on the internet, such two thirds. So if you know a guy that's under 50 years old, the odds are much better that he's looking at porn online, and it's not. In fact, when you actually factory all men and all women, 42% of people who use the internet admit looking at pornography. So, if you genuinely don't look at any pornography online, you've got to understand, you're almost in the minority here. There are just as many people who are unlike you. Some of the other statistics, 47% of families in the United States have reported that pornography is a problem now or has been a problem in their home.
Think about that. That's one in two families say pornography has been a problem. Finally, the US Department of Labor Statistics released a while ago the number that 28% of employees have used a work computer to visit pornography in the last six months. That's 37 million American employees who have viewed pornography on their work computer. If they showed up drunk or stoned, you would recognize them. Look around, look around, though, the room you might be working in next time you're there. If you were in a call center, there's 50 people there. Well, guess what, there's probably about 10 of them who have looked at porn at their computer right there. And historically, you know, the other half are looking at it at home.
This kind of escalation, you know, with the escalation of it, 18% of all men believe that they have a pornography addiction in the US, that's 21 million men. So if you're lucky enough to not be somebody who looks at porn, or not be somebody who has a problem looking at porn, that's fantastic. But it's just like being somebody who can have a few beers without a problem. Or someone who can go to a casino, drop 50 bucks, walk away with no problem, or win 50 bucks and walk away with no problem. It's around us. And because we're part of a society and because, you know, we want to society to improve, we have to understand what's going on with porn addiction.
I'm not trying to eliminate pornography, that's that's a silly task. It is never going to go away. It's been around since you know, they could make cave drawings. What I don't see with pornography that I do see with drugs, or I do see with some of these other addictions, is that there's no preemptive proactive education. All I want to do is tell people, this can be very bad for you. If you're going into this, you can expect A,B,C, and D. If you go into it and become an addict, well, that's your business. If you and I decide that we're going to start using heroine, we probably know what the dangers of heroin are because society, whether it's school, or TV, or whatever has taught us with the dangers of heroin are. I want people to know what the dangers of pornography are, and then they are free to go use it on their own. But we need to be a proactive, educated society when it comes to pornography. As long as we all have it streaming into our laptops and our phones, we need to know what's, what's capable of doing.
Yeah, you bring up a lot of great points. And when you were talking, I was thinking which possible where someone could have a few beers, and there'd be no problem. There's no desire to drink more, or someone could go and gamble for $50 and totally walk away and maybe not gamble for another year. So would you say that there is a healthy way or a healthy relationship with porn? And I mean, that in the sense where you can go and look at it, and it's one time here and there and it's not an addiction. Is that somewhat, that's okay?
I guess that starts to move more into immoral area, you're not causing any harm to yourself, and you're not causing any harm to somebody else. And what you're doing is legal. Is it okay, sure! It's okay. David Duchovny, the actor who ironically has a sex addiction, he had a great quote once, he said, I love gratuitous nudity in movies. What I've come to realize is, there has never been a movie made where the nudity isn't gratuitous. All nudity is gratuitous. It never has to happen. And I kind of look at pornography the same way where, well, why are you using it? I mean, odds are, if it's a male, you're using it to objectify a female. You're using it to escape reality. You're using it for a lot of the same reasons that an addict uses it. You're just not at that point where you can't control yourself. You're looking at pornography two, three times a week, maybe it's not an addiction. But is it a habit? And why are you doing it? What are you getting out of it? Is, is it escapism? Is it, you know, is it about, you can't form a normal relationship with a female. So this is you going and finding someone who will never say no to you, because it's not real. I'm fine with people using pornography. As long as it's legal, and they're not hurting anybody. But I don't know. I get to hear that great reason why somebody has.
What are some signs and symptoms of pornography addiction?
Well, yeah, we talked about it a little bit earlier. It's really about what you're looking at for it. And someone else when you mentioned porn, they seem to get a little bit more angry or a little bit more irritable or defensive than they do about anything else that you may have a disagreement with them on. If you're their partner sexual dysfunction is going to be a real telltale. Also, avoiding the sex act all together and them choosing porn over sex, is a big tall tale. The inability to form those lasting, and social and intimate romantic relationships. As far as the people who are wondering, gee, maybe my habit is becoming an addiction. Well, you know, are you starting to have intense feelings of depression, shame, or isolation?
Are your relationships starting to disintegrate a little bit?
Do you continue to think about porn during the day? And when you think about it, there's almost a feeling of relief that comes over you when you do view.
Is there some ritual before it? You know, are you putting the computer, your laptop in a special place.
Do you always do it in the same spot?
Do you pour yourself, you know, a glass of lemonade?
Is there a ritual around your use because a lot of people who are addicts have rituals around their use, and if you point them out, they can actually see what's happening there. And then, like I said, you know, when it gets successive is they're starting to be trouble at work or trouble at school? Are you starting to spend too much money on this, money that you don't have? And perhaps the biggest thing, if you want to find out if you're an addict, is to ask yourself, can I stop this, try to stop it and then not stop it? Because addicts understand that their behavior is negative, they just can't stop it. They understand bad things, bad consequences come from this behavior? They feel bad about it, but they just can't stop it. There's no positive payoff.
I guess it's just like any other addiction, right? You can't stop and you keep going. It's difficult. And if you can imagine without it, and not having access to it. What's your reaction to that, just like any other addiction, you briefly mentioned about being bipolar. And I'd like to talk about mental health. How does mental health play a role in this addiction?
In my case, I know that not taking my pills was probably the largest contributing factor in lighting the fields for the bomb that eventually went off. And that's one of the reasons why I say, despite the fact that at the peak of my addiction, I wasn't completely of my faculties. I also let myself get there because I understood I had mental issues. I understood I needed to watch my mental health. I felt like if I pulled myself off my medication, I would have more hours in a day and I have be more creative at solving some of the problems that we're facing me at work. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, I needed more porn and I needed more alcohol to deal with them.
Mental Health absolutely plays hand in hand, there are people who will tell you that addiction is a condition. There are people tell you that addiction is a disease. People who tell you it's directly mental health. To me, that's all labels. If you have poor mental health, you are more likely to be an addict. If you look at addicts, something like 90% of them have some other secondary mental health condition. lot of times, it's a form of medication. I didn't drink the same way my friends did. Even when we were 16 - 17 years old they're sneaking beers. I can tell they were drinking beer to have a good time and I was drinking beer to numb myself from the world. If I went to a family gathering. I didn't have a beer like a lot of people. I didn't drink because I never saw the sense of having one or two beers. I wanted 10 beers. And I knew I couldn't do that around my family. So I didn't drink around my family, they found out that my alcoholism was almost as much as a surprises as the porn addiction because I didn't do it around them, because I couldn't do it to excess around them. That was the flawed, you know, poor thinking on my part.
So if there's somebody in your life who is an addict, or if you are an addict, therapy is such a big part of it. Because addiction, for the most part is a symptom. It's a band-aid, you put over a great big wound, and you can rip that band-aid of addiction off that that big wound is still there. That's why so many people relapse. They need to put the band-aid back on. And what you really need to do is bring that wound to a professional who can help you clean it out and yeah, there's gonna be a scar. There's always going to be a scar, but you don't need that band-aid once it heals up enough.
You know that that's the best analogy I can give because there are a lot of people out there there's some big movements called like no fat, but just abstinence, complete abstinence, and the thing is sexuality isn't like alcohol, sexuality isn't like drugs. The way to deal with it is not complete abstinence. You actually, that's, that's just as sick, most people believe because you become almost sexually anorexic, you have to develop a healthy sexuality. I still have my wife. We have us. We have a healthy sex life right now. It's not about staying away from it completely. I don't have to stay away from R rated movies that might flash of breast or something like that in it. Because I don't use that as pornography. You have to build healthy boundaries. You have to build a healthy lifestyle. It's not about strict abstinence. If you are not with somebody who's a mental health professional helping you guide you through this process. Well, then Good luck to you. Because I don't see many people who get by the willpower alone because willpower doesn't heal anything.
Well, Joshua, you bring up a lot of great points. And this has been great information. Where can listeners get more resources about pornography addiction?
I urge people, head to my website, I have a resources page there. It has links to 12 step groups that you can attend. It has links to online message boards and chat rooms and forums where you can meet other people, both men and women who have sex or porn addiction. There's links to the rehab centers that I went to. Really anything you want to know, and, you know, a reading list of more resources. If you need to take that first step and want to learn a little bit more, just head to my website, which is a recoveringpornaddict.com, click on the Resources tab, and you'll be met with a long list of ways that you can get help.
Perfect! Joshua I want to thank you very much for your time, for this information. And for our listeners head on over to his website at recoveringpornaddict.com. Joshua. It's been an absolute pleasure. Any last words for our listeners?
Just like I said, said once again, if you don't happen to look at pornography, if you're not having to be a porn addict. Don't think that the rest of the world is like you, the rest of the world is just pretending that they're like you. Just because you're not when these people doesn't mean you can't talk about it. We need to start talking about this publicly. I know it's about naked people. I know it's about sex. I know it's about masturbation, but it's a conversation we need to start having. So, don't be afraid. Don't shy away from it. We're going to be a healthier people. We can start about it.
And that is where we will end once again. Thank you, Joshua. For all the listeners. This is Anthony Treas from strongmencoaching.com and until next time, stay strong!
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