When I starting looking at pornography on the internet in the late 1990s I quickly became hooked, at the time I was a young teenager. I was completely unprepared for what I was looking at – it felt thrilling, curious, exciting but it was also shocking and actually with hindsight it was actually quite traumatic. It was a problem that grew out of control over a 20 year period and I would watch pornography and masturbate to it 1, 2, 3 or more times a day. It was out of control. It became a secret I had to keep hidden from everyone – my family, my friends and later on my wife. At a young age I was exposed to indecent images of children on the internet through chat rooms. I didn’t ask for these images but it tapped into a natural curiosity at that age. I didn’t know what my problem was – I just assumed that this is what everyone did – everyone must have a secret like this? But my self-esteem suffered, my sense of self worth suffered. I was so ashamed of myself but didn’t know how to get out of this trap. I got to the point where I gave up trying to fight the addiction and just went with it. Obviously, things got worse – my use got more extreme and risky.

Nearly 20 years after getting addicted to pornography I was arrested for viewing indecent images of children. I lost my career, family members, my standing in the local community, large amounts of savings. It is now very difficult for me to find meaningful employment. I have some very restrictive conditions enforced by the courts and police.

Once I was arrested I asked – for the first time in my life – why? Why was I doing this? It was only then that I began to explore the reasons and I found out that I had an addiction. This started a journey where I received therapy, counselling, psycho-education and peer support. I’ve been in recovery from pornography addiction ever since and I want to share this story because so many will ‘sleep walk’ into huge life crises because they didn’t know they had an addiction and didn’t know where to turn / where to get help.

I consider myself to be a normal / ordinary person. I am married (my married survived thank goodness), with a young family. I was in a professional job prior to my arrest.

All people – especially young people – need to know the dangers of internet pornography / cyber sex. Not only is it highly addictive, but it warps perceptions of sex and intimacy. I’m sharing my story because I don’t want anyone to end up in the position I have, but sadly I don’t see that enough is being done by governments or educationalists to prevent what I believe is a secret epidemic in our society. We must speak up.

TRIGGER WARNING: “Please be mindful when deciding on whether to read these stories that they are emotionally impactful and may be triggering. Within people’s accounts, there is mention of rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse, other forms of abuse and violence, self-harm and suicide. There are various helplines available for support.