So, here I am, back again. I’d like to share a bit about what happened around the last time I was posting here, why I stopped posting here, and why I’m back.
The longest I have been able to abstain from PMO to date was my first attempt, coinciding with when I joined this site and shared my experience with the community- my first time ever to speak openly and unguardedly about it with anyone else. I made it roughly 21 days, before an accidental slip turned to a tumble turned to a freefall back to where I began.
I tried again and again since then, but not a one of those attempts has been as long as that first. The process seemed immensely more difficult. I might describe it as, my ability to be single-minded in my determination to spurn those urges- to be zealous as a fundamentalist regarding that one thing, damn the cost- felt diminished. As hard as the first attempt had been, I told myself that this was all in the service of getting to “the end” of the reboot, which was directly ahead of me, a tangible number that I could count off the weeks remaining to the magical twelve-week number: eleven, ten, nine… Failing had shot doubt through that certainty, leaving me with a fatalistic sense that, no matter how determined I was now, there would be some point in the next three months where I’d be weak, for even just a moment, for any of a hundred possible reasons, and with that, it would all be gone, back to square one, and if that was the case, what was the point of suffering through the death vice urges of day 4 or the numb, foggy darkness of day 8 when it was so likely to be all for naught?
And I got so sick and tired of failing, again and again. I got discouraged by reading some of the stories here; some would break free, many would keep relapsing again and again; I hated to read that, I hated it because I was realizing that my own story was playing out the same way. I’d feel a burst of enthusiasm; but it would be muted as I remembered it as the same sort of enthusiasm I’d had before, which had turned out to be all for naught in the end.
A big part of what going on was that, for me- as with many others who struggle- PMO was not a problem in isolation; it was tied in with other issues going on in my life at that time. There are some that are more directly tied together with- social anxiety and the like- and some where it wasn’t tied directly to, such as frustration with my employment situation; I had this feeling like, if I could just get one of those areas resolved, solidified, it would be something I could lean against to support my weight as I took on another. This didn’t work out for me. I tried to fight PMO and failed; I turned around and tried to resolve the issues I had with work, and that didn’t pan out- and other things in a similar fashion, and I kept feeling that my sense of well-being was being attacked from all sides, and I kept being reduced to just treading water... just using all my available energy to keep my head above the surface.
I felt like a fighter in the ring trying to take on multiple adversaries at once. As if, one-on-one, I could have taken any of them in a fair fight, though not without some trouble; whereas one against three the odds seemed horribly stacked against me. And it didn’t feel like one against three, it felt like one against twenty-seven.
I want to step away from the analogies a moment, and be specific about what I mean. If PMO was an old standby I’d used to both relieve the tension from not having PMO’d in a while- and also a catch-all cure for any sort of anxiety, loneliness, or frustration I’d felt as a result of any other area of life, I felt like I didn’t have any good replacement for it. And that’s one thing I did learn over time; you can’t quit PMO in a vaccuum; you’re not going to do it by sequestering yourself in your room and not letting yourself out until you’re “cured.” Being around people is important. Being around people, and also “doing” things, not just “not doing” things.
I had a huge problem with weekends. Specifically, more often than not, I wouldn’t leave my apartment during weekends at all, except to eat or buy groceries and cigarettes. Weekend after weekend spent that way. I remembered a year ago... no, two, three years ago- when I had a great girlfriend and didn’t have a job I hated, and we’d be going out all the time, and I was always meeting and talking to new people; and I knew that it was a terrible thing to be staying inside all the time, but if I could numb myself out with PMO- PMO, and computer games, and TV and movies, and whatever else, I could distract myself from that; I could separate myself from all that stress for a time, before it would inevitably come back Monday morning. Like clockwork, I’d week I’d tell myself that this weekend would be different; I had plans about the things I’d do. And each Friday night I’d wash the stress and exhaustion away with PMO, and each Saturday morning I’d feel wretchedly agoraphobic; walking to the convenience store to buy cigarettes, and like clockwork I’d begin to feel panic; self-consciousness; quickening my pace to turn around and go home, yielding as if to a dungeon’s torturer, yes, I’ll do what you want; yes, give me the carrot and not the stick.
Now, truth be told, it wasn’t all like that. There were some times, when I’d break through it. There would be something I was supposed to go to involving friends, and even if I didn’t feel like going I would go; and I’d feel a bit nervous and uncomfortable first, but I’d eventually relax into it, and feel normal; get lost in the moment; have a conversation, consider how others felt and thought and forget to keep creating and experiencing this private hell. I’d get home and just feel great about things; everything felt fine, and maybe all the problems I’d had were all in my head anyway? And I had done so good, going out, being social; and now I was a little tired, and what do I do now? Like the dieter who thinks a workout at the gym has earned her a large fudge sundae, I’d just go back to PMO and figure it was fine, and it would all be balancing out. At those times, the pain and frustration wouldn’t return until later, but return it would.
About all of the above, I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to go any deeper or darker than that right now. So, I’ll switch gears to the next part. Why I’m back, why I have the faith I think it will take to succeed.
Generally it boils down to a couple of key principles:
1) Having something to lean on for my self-esteem besides a number.
As happy as I am that that  up there isn’t a , I’ve learned that that number can’t be the primary thing I lean on, the thing that drives me to keep going. There’s a couple of reasons for that. Quitting PMO is strong, strong stuff. Even folks that don’t feel like they have a “problem” and may never have experienced ED from it can find even a week without it to be unthinkable; for someone who’s reached the point where they’ve been forced to accept it’s that an addiction pure and true to make it “90 days” is a challenge the magnitude of which is difficult to overstate. But unlike someone who trains rigorously to run a marathon, or toils day and night to get their startup off the ground, this isn’t something that can be easily shared with the world, a clear reason to explain the natural ups and downs of confronting such a feat. No- as big as it is, there’s got to be something else. Both because slips are possible, and you don’t want to let your whole sense of self-worth crumble if that happens, and also because engaging with the world is all the more important while undertaking this, and like it or not, being proud of that number is, for most of us, not something we can share with the world.
Right now, I’m fortunate enough to have found projects, art, discipline I’m proud of; where I can feel my strength growing day by day, where I can share my progress with others, receive their feedback, and continue to grow. Recently I made a purchase that helps me create my art; yet even more powerful than any of what this thing does in and of itself, is that it sits right there, smack in the middle of my desk, and it’s simply amazing how strong of a “trigger” it is. It triggers me to do my Work.
2) I train my consciousness on the present, not hanging my hopes on the future.
In my previous entries I’d often get hopeful about some great work opportunity that might come through, or some great woman I thought I might be able to make my girlfriend, or the like, and in any such case, should that thing come to pass, I’d think it would totally change everything. I’d pin my hopes on it; and if it didn’t come through as I’d hoped, which it often didn’t, I’d crumble. These days, I’m focused on releasing my attachment to outcomes, and feeling comfortable staying in the present. Indeed, that was a big part of why I’d use PMO in the first place; when the present would just seem too overwhelming to even perceive, let alone deal with, PMO was always the most handy and effective tool to blot it out.
There are various parts to my life that are on trajectories I am happy about now. A lot of them are still far from where I’d like them to eventually be; and from time to time my mind may drift off to some ideal future where all these efforts have reached their full potential, I refocus on where I am now and experiencing the moment for what it is. Sometimes the present is good. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it sucks for a while. Whatever’s there to feel, I will feel it, I will face it.
And as for the work I do, the effort I make day to day, I focus on the practice of doing it. That part of it where the rubber is meeting the road. What I’m writing now, what I’ve been creating this week. A lot more of where I am and where I can go from here, and less of where I wish I was if only.
3) I remember not alone.
I feel a lot better about where I’m at socially. I don’t want to overstate anything, or talk about where I see things going, as per 2). Weekends are still tough; it’s gonna be a while before PMO is kicked; I still find myself in avoidant behavior patterns more than I’d like, and though I’m working on it, and can observe my progress, I know it won’t be “solved” overnight.
I’ve got to the point where I can go out on weeknights as often as I like, with people I already know, or even places where I’ll meet new people. And I can feel fine. Actually, I can feel a lot better than fine most of those times. Weekends are scary but less so. I often felt like everyone is judging me, laughing at me, like they can see right through me. But I’ve had enough experiences lately that I know that’s a lie, a trick my brain plays on me sometimes. “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself” - I can believe it, although fear itself is still quite scary. But I don’t try to do it all at once. I take it as far as I can right now.
That’s it for now. This is a lot more than I planned to write, but I feel better having written it.