The knock that probably saved my life

1260785_laptop_work22 December 2018

Patrick has been in recovery for almost two years. He had tried to stop using illegal, hardcore pornography many times on his own but he only reached out for help in therapy after the police knocked on his door …

The moment the police came into my house and started telling me why they were there, I realised that at the age of 55, life as I had known it was all over. I can remember some of what happened on the day the police entered our house quite clearly, but other bits are a bit of a haze.

The fear I felt over the next few weeks about my wife and adult children has now subsided; at the time I thought they might harm themselves out of shame, but they were more worried that it would be me who would take suicide as the way out. I promised early on that I wouldn’t, but I won’t pretend that it never crossed my mind.

The guilt I felt and indeed had carried for many years previously, has not gone away, but is more manageable now that my offending and my bad behaviour has stopped. It tends to come in waves when I am feeling low, but I have strategies to cope with it, just as I have strategies to avoid any return to the things that got me into trouble in the first place. I have lost my income, my work, my reputation and almost all of my friends; my house was sold and my wife and I are now divorced. As a result of my conviction I still have a number of restrictions placed on my life for the next six years.

But it could be a lot worse. I could have ended up in prison as well as coverage of my offending appearing in the media. I could have been kicked out by my family and had no help.

I could have not got caught and still be offending today.

Although much of what follows was obvious while it was happening, some of it only really makes sense with hindsight. Attending an all boys school, I didn’t know any girls to talk to. My lack of self-esteem, particularly about my appearance, convinced me that no girl would ever be interested in me, but at the same time I longed for a girlfriend. At thirteen, I bought my first copy of a pornographic magazine and discovered masturbation. From then on, the objects of my fantasies were a mixture of the women in the magazines and local girls of around my age I could see from my bedroom window.

I had no sex education lessons at school and learnt about it largely from a mixture of soft porn magazines, the double entendres of TV comedy and salacious stories in Sunday papers. I think I have always seen sex as ‘a bad thing that bad people do’. It became the bad thing that dominated my life, starting with furtive activities as a teenager in search of porn magazines: visiting newsagents on the other side of town, the second hand market stall, looking in bins, in the woods, behind the seats in train compartments, in London sex shops.

Of course, as an adult I had the chance to leave all this behind. Finally having female friends at university and then finally having sex, I ought to have been relieved that it had just been a teenage phase. For a while, there were only intermittent returns to it.

But at times when things didn’t go so well, I retreated to porn. And magazines with names like ‘Babyface’ now featured younger looking girls, a tempting fusion of my interests as a teenager now I was in my thirties. And then there was the internet, where everything was available. At first it was curiosity but it grew to obsession, and as it worsened, my marriage became strained and I threw myself into working harder, which in turn led to stress, more reliance on the obsession – a vicious circle.

As the obsession grew, so the willingness to go further grew too, until finally at 51, I discovered a masturbation forum where men discussed their particular ‘interests’. I was unleashed. Here were men with the same obsessions as me, the same fantasies- it was such a release to talk to others about it for the first time and then to go into private chat and share pictures and get links to videos.

I was still riddled with guilt and tried several times to stop, destroy the collection, delete all my search histories. But whenever I did stop, paradoxically, I felt more anxious about being caught and couldn’t sleep at night. So I kept coming back.

Until I was caught. And it did stop. I have now been clean for coming up to two years.

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