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.