I don’t like that word—victory. It seems to communicate such finality, a destination rather than the bloody journey it takes to relearn how to relate non-pornographicly to the world.
I have been sober for nearly 15 years now and still don’t feel victorious, much as I do, a survivor. I barely escaped; it nearly killed me, and I still have the scars to prove it. The scars show up at times in how I relate (or don’t relate) to women (Pornographic Style of Relating), especially women who fit with my “sexual arousal template.” Dr. Patrick Carnes calls this, “the total constellation of thoughts, images, behaviors, sounds, smells, sights, fantasies, and objects that arouse us sexually.” This template becomes seared in our bodies depending on what happened at the time of self-abuse, aka porn use. (Side Note: Carnes does not do a good job of naming the abuse of pornography and its impact on the partners of porn abusers, so I prefer the work of Dr. Omar Minwalla.)
You see, long after you stop looking at naked women on the internet, the actual “victory” from porn is just beginning. The long game of recovery is rehabbing your “pornographic mindset” and your “pornographic style of relating,” which takes years and years of rewiring your brain and your body.
My body still remembers. The long marathon nights, the exhilaration of nearly getting caught, the pain from my broken family, the fantasy moments where I felt so high that a beautiful woman could rescue me, and of course the bouts of loneliness that were “cured” even for the briefest of moments. Though now I spend my days working with men who are fighting for healthy sexuality and intimacy, the weight and pull of fantasy will always haunt the younger parts of me.
We must look at the word “victory” through another lens and not just “because I stopped looking at porn, I have now won” which is such a limiting, small view of sobriety. Victory from pornography abuse is not the idea that I have somehow mastered porn seduction (the way the industry distorts beauty will always be confusing for good men), but victory means “maturing” or “outgrowing” pornography in all aspects that it first impacted us. Meaning, recognizing that we need to increase the definition of what pornography actually is, isn’t just looking at naked women but whatever we pornify. This is why the modern idea of “modesty” is so foolish because men who objectify will objectify no matter what a woman is wearing. Anything and everything can be pornified. So “victory” means understanding the reality we share in beauty rather than attempting to devour it. Victory means understanding our pornography use as an adolescent behavior that keeps us trapped in our youngness. We cannot grow into the adults we need to be, keep and maintain steady intimate relationships, or have a healthy genuinely connected marriage when we are stuck in our younger traumatized selves.
Victory means naming our abuses without using self-contempt as a weapon against ourselves.
Victory means using our story to help others be liberated.
Victory means growing up and not objectifying others to self-soothe.
Victory means becoming curious about your own woundedness so you no longer project those wounds onto others.
Victory means coming to peace with what you most fear is true about yourself.
Yes, only then will we have true victory and stop this vicious cycle of pornography abuse.