Book Review: The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About
The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About: How I Let My Pornography Addiction Hurt People and Destroy Relationships by Joshua Shea describes the events that culminated in having his life come shattering down, and how he began to rebuild and heal.
Much of the book revolves around the local lifestyle magazine he started, which grew into starting a film festival and getting elected to city council. Interspersed throughout the chronological account were information and insights from the present time related to his behaviours and use of pornography.
Josh explains that he was first introduced to porno magazines as a child by his cousin. This evolved into buying Playboy and renting porn videos as a teenager, with the adrenaline rush of danger at the potential to get caught by his parents.
The book describes some of the factors that likely contributed to problems as an adult. He had an abusive, unstable babysitter as a child, and was diagnosed years later with PTSD. He had a longstanding pattern of adapting his responses to situations by taking on an authority figure role and creating his own reality. He also had bipolar disorder but didn’t take his medications regularly. He had unhealthy drinking patterns as he struggled to cope.
As the book progresses, he describes how his use of porn became increasingly problematic. He would manipulate women on cam chats into doing what he wanted, and was downloading iffy torrent folders, stopping the download once he got the specific file he wanted.
He writes: “In my deteriorating condition, if I wanted to see younger women, a 16- or 17-year-old was just as good to me as a 19- or 20-year-old. It all blended together. I don’t make the laws, though, and that’s a good thing.” He adds that porn never “subtracted the negative feelings of real life. I was never going to feel good. The best I could feel was numb.”
It was after the magazine began falling apart that the police showed up at his door with a warrant, but “As I let the men into the house, my first two thoughts were: ‘Oh my God, my life is about to change forever, and Thank God, my life is about to change forever.’” I thought that was a really effective way of capturing the mindset of someone who realizes they have a problem and they can start to get help.
The charges that ended up moving forward were in relation to images of a 14-year-old girl. As a reader it’s hard not to get judgy and wonder how someone could not realize a) this person is underage, and b) this isn’t acceptable, and it’s hard to wrap one’s head around the cognitive dissonance of recognizing this as an addiction-related impairment of judgment.
Josh describes how he turned his life around in the time between his arrest and his sentencing, which involved getting back on medications, going to rehab, and getting intensive therapy. He ended up pleading guilty to the charges and going to sex addiction rehab, and ultimately serving six months in county jail.
One of the great things about this book is the degree of openness. However, that also means sharing some opinions that aren’t necessarily going to boost his likeability to readers. This one in particular provoked a strong reaction for me:
“I don’t understand the mindset of people who are pedophiliac or violent sex offenders because I’m not wired like them, but I don’t judge them as harshly anymore now that I have spent time with so many of them and can tell you not a single one decided on their own to be that way. They have an illness and that’s not a cop-out.”
I think this book definitely has a role to play. It’s an uncensored and unfiltered look at pornography addiction, and that’s a story that needs to be told. Personally, I accept that it’s a legitimate behavioural addiction much like gambling addiction is a recognized behavioural addiction. But I think the book’s greatest value is for people dealing with porn addiction, either directly or indirectly. For the curious general reader, the key message may not penetrate quite as well through the elements that are likely to stir up negative judgments.
Originally published at https://mentalhealthathome.org on October 23, 2019.