'Withdrawal is just nasty.'
'This cold turkey thing is just so brutal.'
'Withdrawal initiates a cascade of neurochemical alterations, including:
- further decline in dopamine levels
- further decline in opioids and endorphins
- drop-off in GABA, which is an anti-anxiety neurotransmitter
- rise in brain stress hormones CRF and norepinephrine
- elevated dynorphin which inhibits lowers pleasure response'
Every week on this journey is a surprise layered on surprise. My theme word for week 1 was Discovery. Week 2 is Elation. Week 3 is Healing. Now for the 4th week its Withdrawal. And its not something that i was at all expecting.
[Edit. Sorry, trigger warning as before, Monday only.]
It's actually starting to get light as i write this morning. Back home after a lovely weekend away, and the end of week 3. So much has happened this last week, i don't know where to start.
Yesterday we went for a long beach walk, a strong wind whipping up a huge surf, and we study the wildlife. Before that we lie in bed and read the rest of chapter 4. Its getting quite gripping now, and she's asking to read more. The science in particular is fascinating. As for me I'm getting to read it twice about a chapter ahead and i find that that this is helping my comprehension. While in bed in the morning we look at each other with knowing eyes and she giggles and says 'later, lets cover each of us with oil'. So anticipation of the evening's sex warms us during the day. But this interest in our sex life is radical and new. I'm loving it but at the same time I'm not that surprised somehow , the logic of CPA is pretty compelling.
On the drive home, more sore balls. How much longer will this go on? There's also an interesting incident with another road user, neither I nor the other party was more at fault, just one of those little things that happens. While I let it go, smile and signal that they may go first, they make clear that they aren't happy. While water off my back, she is upset and later we talk about how it reminds her of things that happened in her childhood. I'm glad for her. This process seems to be giving us both permission to heal.
After home, dinner, making the house really warm, and a bit of tv, we notice ourselves yawning so we leap up and strip the bedding off the bed, lay a big towel, strip off our clothes. We are like a couple of builders constructing a foundation, working smoothly and efficiently, like we've been doing this for years. Of course we haven't been doing this for years not at all.
We sit on our knees facing each other she rubbing oil on my penis like a carpenter sharpening her saw. There's some serious purpose here, and while I am still 6 inches away from her the attraction between penis and vagina is really strong and evident to us both. She asks and I rub oil on her chest and nipples. This time she's not scowling, and before you know it we are joined like Marnia's gill worms. It is her turn to be on her back, and i alternate between laying on her, squirming and rotating, our oily breasts caressing, and then sitting up to rest and caress her whole front. Its not that we are thrusting as such, but there's definitely more sexual energy and motion here today. But luckily there is an equal and opposite mental restraint. Mind over matter. After about 45 mins we are done, and we move to scissors and talk idly in review. Maybe this was an experiment in more motion. How gentle is gentle? How much is too much?
What was the result? I notice at the end of the session, and again early this morning a sense of non-completion, wanting more, which could be a result of the excitedness. I reason that maybe that is because we haven't learnt to properly connect, or as the guys put it, to feel the sensation as opposed to the stimulation. Maybe we need to focus on our breathing more. This morning when i awoke, actually observed myself thinking about masturbating for the first time in a week. I let it pass, knowing that we will get better in time. I don't have a sense of hurry.
Day 22 PM0:0,5,1, Post O Me/her:20 days/22 days, POST PVI/Other: 1 days/1 days
5am. Still awaking early, but it doesn't seem to be getting any worse. I have on and off been an early riser my whole life, but this last year, I've been sleeping til 7 and awaking groggy. I do consider myself a morning person, so i feel like im now living truer to my nature.
Yesterday seemed kind of like a day off from all things CPA, we have had quite a dose of it. But such is the stress-free nature of cuddle days. We give each other permission to do our own thing and time to rebalance in ourselves. Later in the day she gets a headache, the second post PVI this week. Then at couch cuddle time, instead of waiting and wondering i just say "Cuddle?", and she semi snuggles up to me without rearranging anything. That's new, and i later find out that she's trying to avoid me holding her so as to avoid falling asleep on me. I do hold her and she doesn't fall asleep and she does call an end to tv around 8.30. We are both tired and we head to bed, where i tell her i wont mind if she falls asleep. I was previously thinking of having an entirely CPA free day, but our process is not completely absent, and stick with the routine. She and i have formed a book-reading club and it's a special time of the day reading together. The last half of chapter 4 is really interesting and she makes it to the end of the chapter, quite awake.
There's some lovely comments on week 3, for which I'm grateful, they encourage me no end. I'll read them to her tonight.
I've been thinking about addiction, addictiveness and addiction proneness. For me i would have said i was the least addiction prone person i know. I've never smoked or used drugs, and for the bulk of my life never used alcohol or caffeine. Turns out i guess PMO was my weak spot. In hindsight, boy was i addicted. And never saw it. Until a year ago, without porn, my masturbation habit settled into a moderately stable twice weekly affair. Once the P got added to the MO, this upped the ante in a dramatic way to more like twice a day. And it was accelerating. I think of those rats hooked up to the reward circuitry machine, pushing the lever til they drop, and i shudder, because that feels like where it was headed.
I also need to confess that my arousal pattern had advanced to at first including then requiring anal stimulation, and I'm talking my ass not hers. First it was silicone toys then multiple fingers, then my whole hand, then her fist. Who knows where that would have gone. I could no longer orgasm without such help. As mind blowing as those orgasms may have been, the pattern of escalation seems to have escaped my awareness completely. Thankfully now that's all fallen away, and the area around my anus has lost all attraction.
The other surprising thing is how incredibly easy i was able to drop the porn and masturbation habits. Maybe things will happen, i don't know, but at this point in time i can almost imagine my PMO tally remaining at 0-5-1 for the rest of time. But you know life, the stronger you get the more challenges get thrown your way. So we'll just have to see. Also I guess that she will not always be there, and its reassuring to know that i can if needed comfort myself in a non arousing non addicting way.
As for her, well that's a different story, she is mrs addiction herself. Historically, tobacco, marijuana, now just wine, coffee and shopping. Swings and round abouts i guess. However she on the other hand doesn't seem to use food the way I do. This past week I've noticed a substantial reduction in my former habit of snacking throughout the day, and looking back it appears that this must be related somehow to dopamine, in some intricate way connected to my masturbation habit. Because the cessation of one seems to have affected the other. Food feels more neutral now and i find myself tasting it more, and being happy with less. Only eating the things I want to eat.
Day 23 PM0:0,5,1, Post O Me/her:21 days/23 days, POST PVI/Other: 2 days/2 days
4.30am and i must have been awake an hour, tossing and turning before that. How much longer does the sleeplessness go on for?
And blast, yesterday was a difficult day, 24 hours of craziness. No sooner had i written the words about food, than i binged, apparently trying to stuff something down again. It was not far to look for the culprit, the incident on the couch the previous evening. It was strange though because the incident seemed trivial and at the time i seemed aware of what had happened and why. She had even given a complete and rational explanation for the change of behavior, and my mind accepted the explanation. Or so i thought. The fact that id felt rejected because she was trying so hard not to reject me, both ironic and quaint. But it seems some part of me must have been hanging on to it.
I spent the morning observing it, but being utterly utterly unable to let it go. It has a fierce grip that i can't shake and I get not one single bit of useful work done the entire day. These things are sent to test us for sure. I feel inexplicably needy, agitated, pacing about, and constantly making trips to the fridge. At one point i even drop my pants and think what would it be like to pleasure myself. However my penis just sits there looking limp as a wet dog, and i put it away again. After the first food binge which left me feeling queasy i return from the fridge empty handed, but it is educational to study my behavior when upset like this. Viz a viz the sense of peace the last 2 weeks, I become aware that this upset state of being was, until recently, my 24/7 'normal' state. It had somehow become my baseline. Far from being normal, the day has shown me clearly the clues to look out for when i am off balance.
Im under an influence of some kind, and mindful that reason is not fully functional, just accept that that is the shitty way that I'm feeling. After she returns home, interestingly we both had retched days. After dinner there is a memorable hand holding, where i feel my countenance shift by a notch. There's hand holds and hand holds i guess but this felt different, almost like an energy exchange. Then after couch cuddle time she offers off of her own bat to massage my genitals, yay! and during this, i tell her about my days observations. Initially im floppy, erection nowhere to be seen anywhere. I tell her that just because i feel rejected doesn't mean she's done anything wrong and i don't need her to change anything as a result. They are just my emotions. I get semi firm for a while then go floppy again, but its a lovely caress and massage, and although we aren't connecting on any sexual level, thats quite fine with me. Thanks emerson the penis knows when a connection is there, ill never forget that. When she and i are well again im sure the spark will fire between us.
But I am not able to shake the feeling completely and its only now as i write that full perspective seems to have returned. It now seems probable to me that some sort of post withdrawal neurochemical dip occurred. In reading chapter 5 lately it's starting to make sense about how dopamine elevation serves to motivate and persuade you to do things. But what is the connection between that and seeking food and sexual stimulation as comfort from an old rejection wound? I'm not sure yet. Hopefully when I'm shot of the residue my brain will come back on line. Nonetheless it's satisfying to be able to study this phenomenon with some detachment. She looks tired, so i let her drift off and start on chapter 6. Lower abdomen still tender to touch.
Day 24 PM0:0,5,1, Post O Me/her:22 days/24 days, POST PVI/Other: 3 days/1 days
Well, looks like i misjudged this whole experience of the last few days. Yesterday was another concentration black hole. I'm just sitting there feeling like a zombie most of the day. My writing yesterday now appears as just so much over-analysing. As a lucky product of browsing randomly around reuniting looking for perspective i ended up at YBOP reading about withdrawal and there's this big aha moment when i realise that the last few days have been nothing more than a heavy withdrawal episode. There's a PDF cataloging the most frequent withdrawal symptoms collected from the rebooting guys. Reading it i have almost all of them. Lack of concentration, irritability, insomnia, constant thirst, headaches, head colds, frequent urination, constipation, loss of appetite, loss of libido, crying, on and on the list goes. I never get headaches, but i have had one a mild one all week.
I just feel wretched. One guy: 'I feel tired all the time, and my head feels like it's stuffed with cotton.' That's it exactly.
But after getting a better mental framework around this experience, and finally doing something about my dehydration, and grabbing myself by the shoulders and shaking vigorously, i finally get a little work done later in the day, but it still feels like I'm chasing nightmare clients round in circles. Its clear I'm a dribbly mess, and, quite seriously, i find myself wanting institutional care and rest. Really, if i start shaking uncontrollably, it wont be any surprise to me, none at all. I suppose melodrama is a symptom too.
The fact that others report a process of withdrawal in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th weeks, catches me unawares. I had not for a second expected to have a withdrawal experience like this, and that shows how insidious this addiction has been. But, it leaves me in a panic. I'm thinking to myself if i had known then what i know now, i would not have embarked on this journey quite so cavalierly. For one thing, i would have read the whole (damn) book before commencing. Faced as i am with a major work contract due before the end of the month and productivity reduced to about 20%, I'm aware of thinking about calling this whole (damn) cold turkey thing off.
As high maintenance as i feel, when she returns home later on, I quickly get the sense that she is not going to be up to the task of supporting me. After all she's still fighting her cough, still working 12 hour days, still sexually closed off. As we cuddle I'm aware that I'm beyond comfort. She does try, but I'm not satisfied. Now she's falling asleep at 8pm, and asks for a back rub, which i do, but it leaves me feeling drained of what little energy i have. I don't blame her, its not her fault, i am impossible, not only these last few days, but since day 1 I've been putting new and unusual pressures on her. Soon asleep, i sit up and read the first half of chapter 6. Its all making sense, but its no work book, and I'm just so past all the nuances of theory, and need practical support.
To this end in my morning reading yesterday, having now completed reading emerson's story, [we are different people for sure, but its a hugely encouraging story] i found myself rereading the 4 steps article by kevin, and realise how much of what i know and have been using came from that one article. I try to find more of his writing. It's scarce but what there is is beautiful, and i soak it up, and i even wrote to him. I feel hungry for male guidance. That's where I'm at. My beloved has shown incredible support all things considered, but it's not enough.
I will try to find some of the more successful rebooter accounts. Most of them seem to relapse, but someone must have made it out the other side.
And I STILL have a tender groin.
Day 25 PM0:0,5,1, Post O Me/her:23 days/25 days, POST PVI/Other: 4 days/2 days
4am, feel rotten, and having trouble pulling myself together enough to write.
Yesterday another withdrawal day, but not as bad as the last two. I walk 2 miles briskly at dawn, and spend some time with the animals, but still cant think clear enough to work, so read rebooting accounts, then the second half of chapter 6 where she finally talks about withdrawal. Ironic. All morning I'm fighting urges to scream, a nagging drive to binge on food which i resist with some mixed success. I'm making little rules for myself. Work when i can, don't fight it when i cant. Drink lots of water and take a couple grams of vitc. Stay away from the fridge. The afternoons i seem clearer headed. I alternate reading with pacing about, dancing, crying, and staring out the window for long periods. Keeping some reasonably upbeat music on helps keep my energy moving.
Via YBOP i find likeanidiot's writing, and in particular his mood chart. His age and circumstances and not as far from mine, and i take comfort that while a crisis or two at this stage is likely that an uptrend of sorts is also on the cards.
She returns home, distant, barely says hello and launches into some work she brought home on the couch. I go and sit near her and prod her into conversation about our days. She obliges but i can tell im distracting her. I thank her for talking to me and i mean it. She says I'm being brave, but she says it the same way the guy with ED is told by his new gf that its ok, and who dumps him 2 days later. I get the sense that her distance this week is complicated and leave it at that.
But the bonding behaviors have felt like a chore, and have been minimal. I keep trying, but the distance between us still grows daily. So it's really no surprise that our 'some sort of sexual contact' night is cancelled by her for the first time, as she slips off to bed without a word. Her chest cold feels like its reaching some sort of peak and she is flat for sure, but she's not like me in that sex comforts when ill. In my mind, the same old drama, she's well enough to work, but not well enough to be with me, support me through this nasty withdrawal, and maintain the sexual and cuddle bond between us.
But I'm viewing and feeling all this through a really horrible brain cocktail and i know it, so while I'm not strong enough to support her, i keep my mouth shut and say nothing, only toxicness will spew forth if i do. I can hear her tossing and turning trying to get to sleep, she's made her choices. I stay and read the first half of chapter 7 and am happy to be into more practical terrain. The sexual tension ive built up over the last two days remains, current events notwithstanding so guess that ill have to attend to it myself.
I do give myself a oil massage. It sooths the ache in my groin, which now seems to have taken residence in a generalised form all throughout my crotch area. My penis has been lifeless all week, but after much touch it comes to about 70% erect. I feel briefly like I'm cheating, but am ok about it. Balance is my priority at present and laurels are something i cant afford. I hold my arousal about 5/10 for 20mins, whereupon it fades back to its formerly and utterly lifeless state, and i go to bed at 10 feeling more balanced. I snuggle up to her in her sleep.
After my writing is done the alarm goes as always at 0540, the start of her marathon days. I quickly jump on the bed next to her before she can get up, and just hold her for 5 mins. Micro snuggle. Bonding, bonding, ahh. It feels great to have our peace and my sanity in tact, in spite of what's occurred. It just goes to show how ephemeral bad feelings are. If you can get through it, let them wash over you instead of whatever's controlling you controlling you, those feelings just pass right on by. A reuniting blogger quotes Plato, 'Courage is knowing what not to fear'. Anyway shes really crook, but regardless, gets up and forces herself off to work. Silly old sausage.
I try to piece likeanidiot's story together from posts scattered all over. He and i are blessed or cursed by the same analyticalness.
Lastly this week i feel somewhat like i do when fasting, like somehow I'm being purified. Hence i feel intolerant of dirty dishes, dust and clutter (normally Im a messy person). So i tidy up, then take a hot bath (and yes, i don't normally much like water either). Now it's 8 and ill see what the new day brings.
Day 26 PM0:0,6,1, Post O Me/her:24 days/26 days, POST PVI/Other: 5 days/1 days
It is with relief that i can report that this nasty 4 day withdrawal episode has passed, and that yesterday was a joyous, and productive day. The new day indeed brought clarity and a new found light-heartedness that left me feeling like someone exploring a new world. It's hard to explain but i just felt happy with my own company. Working at home has its ups and downs but yesterday it meant i could indulge periodic random urges to stand naked in the sun streaming thought the patio door, dance, stop to make some nice food, in between bursts of intense work concentration. And i can probably still bill 6 or 7 hours, which in the consulting world is not bad going.
And in spite of the early rise, i don't feel tired all day, including later going out for a meal with some of her work colleagues. If you actually work it out, if you sleep from 10pm til 5am that's still 7 hours sleep, it doesn't quite sound so bad.
That's all i have to report really, but after reading and reviewing the week I did find myself pondering this new state that my penis is in. Its not clear whether its apparent lifelessness is a phase, or whether its a more normal permanency or both. But it's a very common theme from the rebooting accounts that guys experience a distinct loss of erectile interest, which to the ones with ED is probably extremely unnerving. One guy described it like: 'My penis looks and feels dead.' While i can relate to that I'm also more content with it, its a holiday i can use right now. But really he's right, when i look down, where before was previously something constantly itching to awaken, is just empty folds of skin. I've been searching for a metaphor at length and none really do it justice, it's like a pile of kelp washed up on the beach. I don't get it as a retracting away but more hollow. But certainly lifeless, no amount of casual looking or touching will arouse any interest at all. Nothing. Somewhere Marnia says that real arousal requires a vagina, so ill be interested to put that to the test.
Reading about ED, it seems a real tragedy that all these young guys can PMO themselves into a place where they just run out of orgasm and erectile function. I shudder when i think about it, but realise its where i was headed. I mentioned previously it was taking me a lot to orgasm, and it was especially hard to orgasm during sex. In hindsight incidences of arousal failure during sex were starting to crop up as well. I never noticed these signs for what they evidently were.
Reading chapter 8 and about how the brain can wrongly store touch and sex in the fight and flight area, rather than the relaxing and nurturing area. I think that pretty much sums up my beloved at the moment, and look forward to properly negotiating a schedule and BB/EE regime.
Lately I've been having all these ideas about improving my life, you know, i could do this and I could do that. Hopefully at least some of them will happen. Also about how far I've drifted since i met her in achieving my life goals. But today one thing is for certain, i absolutely need to get out of the house, that one thing is for sure, and so put some feelers out for company on some hikes on the weekend. Hopefully she can sleep off her cold.
The 10th day since my initial blue balls marks nearly the end of my genital discomfort. I can still feel it if i poke and prod in various places, but at rest the ache and tenderness has gone. I'm still drinking a lot, around 8 glasses of water a day, and i think its helping. All that pee is probably full of sperm :) Or something.
Day 27 PM0:0,6,1, Post O Me/her:25 days/27 days, POST PVI/Other: 6 days/2 days
Gosh interesting 24 hours. I'm writing at the unusual hour of 8am. Last night she got out of bed and went off to sleep semi upright on the couch. But woke us up lots in the night coughing nonetheless. While i awoke at my (recently anyway) usual hour of 4.30, opted to stay in bed quietly so as not to disturb her, she's finally sleeping.
Yesterday, as i had no bites on offers of company, go hiking on my own. While i was craving company i was also craving fresh air, sunshine, and some good vigorous exercise. I climb a local mountain for 5 hours and its a nice day out. But ive climbed it many times and my mind is wandering. I'm not normally a fantasy prone person, but today i find myself imagining all sorts of situations that might result from the changes I'm making. I notice that I'm doing this and let it happen for a good while.
When it run its course i come back and start to notice things around me. Judging from the footprints in the snow there's been a couple of other people up here recently. The last pair of feet heading down, so i have the mountain to myself. The human male was engineered to sweat, and i do. At last at the top, put on a down jacket, roll out a mat and lie in the sun for a couple of hours and doze the semi sleep of the blessed. Another person comes up at some point but they keep well away. I wonder to myself who they are and why they are so shy. More fantasies.
After the sun gets low in the sky i head on down not much less than the speed of gravity. On the way home i pick up some flowers for my love, but get back to find her, far from sleeping off her bug, working in bed. At first I'm disappointed, but anyway, its my job to hold the space, and our relationship is badly in need of a good dose of bonding. So i make a nice meal, warm the house up, we share a bath and nonchalantly say at one point in reply to her woes, nothing a dose of nice hot oil won't cure. No smile, changes subject. Again i brush it off. When i get out of the bath i notice two things, my balls are aching from the climb, and that my penis while not aroused has some body and color. I give her some soft caresses to thighs knees and legs as we sit on the couch naked. Next thing i am really firmly and quickly erect and i point out that this is something we haven't seen for at least a week.
I say come on then, and lay her on the mat by the fire. She's still coughing and is complaining about it, and trying to suppress it with drugs. But i am trying to sooth and nurture her, and our relationship, even though its clear that this is the last thing she wants to do. After rubbing oil on her upper torso for a while she needs to move, so sit her up and holding her closely from behind continue to massage the same areas while supporting her weight. It feels to me like if someone did that to me it would be the most bliss-y thing in the whole world, but she's quite grumpy and resisting. I mentioned in the bath some of what I'm reading in chapter 8, about the amygdala. Now i remind her to take long breaths because that associates with relaxation not flight. I don't think I am putting any pressure on her to have PVI, nor really even thinking about it. Just making, or trying to make a space for whatever intimacy we might discover. But she remains tense and her knees remain firmly glued together, and eventually i ask her if she wants to go to bed. Which she jumps at, but its only 8pm and she tosses and turns coughs and curses for a good while. Before she went i say to her that i am going to stay and do it my self, and that she shouldn't take this as anything against her, just that staying in balance is important for me right now. Strangely i mean it, I'm not at all upset. Ok there's some guilt that i cant seem to figure out what her needs are, but attending to my own for a change, seems like a good start.
So I'm reading further through chapter 8, in between periods of rubbing oil all over my own chest and upper body. That's lovely but strange to think I've never done that before. I'm particularly drawn to my belly. In the last year and a half I've rubbed 3 full litres of glycerine-based lube onto the two smallest geographical areas of my body. Now, with such sleepy genitals, i finally notice the other parts of my body, that have been long taken for granted. I have nice legs, and my arms have potential. While I have grown a bit of a belly this last year, and as for my upper torso, well that's a sunken wreck, but hopefully that can all be fixed.
This chapter seems incredibly relevant to us right now. I start to ponder, cogs turning. Is it any coincidence that she's caught such a bad cold right now? Ive known this person for 6 years and she never or at least extremely rarely gets colds. From previous experience when one partner changes, the other can sometimes respond by pulling back in the opposite direction. To maintain the previous balance or status quo. Is this what's happening here? My desire for more intimacy bumping up against an intimacy barrier of some kind.
Also Marnia's talking about how if intimacy gets stored in the amygdala and viewed as a threat, then raised cortisol leads to stress and stress leads to lowered immune system. Hence sickness. It seems to me that the more i change, the sicker she gets. She's had this cough for weeks now, and i recall the one time in my own life when i had such a cough. It was the singularly most stressful time in my life. Studying full time, working part time, building a house, babies, indifferent wife, the classic american horror story. That cough went on for months, literally.
Anyway it's not my place to say what her process is, and leave it at that, but i will read the chapter to her. I hope we can get through this.
I complete my 1-hour massage with gentle attention to my crotch with lots of oil. The more slippery it is the less arousing i find it, arousal being about 2 or 3. BTW I've been counting my self-massages as both M, and Sex other. I'm no longer certain that that's really right. Post PVI is now up to 7 days, and these massages are filling a gap this week. Though i am curious whether sexual tension is an absolute. Also can you raise oxytocin through self-touch. Who knows, but i feel great.
She's up to 4 weeks no orgasm. What of it? It's still a mystery to me.
Day 28 PM0:0,7,1, Post O Me/her:26 days/28 days, POST PVI/Other: 7 days/1 days