I applaud everyone who has defeated their own demons and moved on. I would benefit from hearing about their struggle and what their strategy was in their victory. Just please don't lecture me. .
I felt that sharing my struggle with masturbation might help, even if not everyone agrees with how I handled it. To begin, I started using masturbation to escape life’s problems when I was thirteen. We are talking several times daily, and binges where I could go perhaps ten times in a day. Raised in a Christian home, I felt that what I was doing was sinful and wrong, and that is where the problems come in. To live in a continual state of sin makes you feel warped, sick, perverted and too many other things to list. What drove it home even more was the way all my friends made fun of it. Naturally, guys never get serious and actually talk about such things, and I just assumed since they made fun of it, they weren’t doing it. All of these misconceptions combined to make me feel out of control and ashamed when I felt compelled to continue doing it.
I always knew I was using sex to escape life, never really denied it. I always knew loosing control over it meant that it was a problem. From the start I knew, but where does a thirteen-year-old boy turn for help? My father was abusive, and I couldn’t talk to him. Forget talking to my friends, because they made fun of people who did that. And no way could I tell my mom what was happening. Basically, I felt isolated and trapped. I knew I had problems, but felt I couldn’t tell anyone. The solution, surrender to your fate of burning in hell, and just go on the best you can.
In 1999, after a tearful night of promising to get help, and begging my wife to stay, the journey began. Through SLAA I found a local support group, and the guys there put me in touch with a therapist who was experienced in addiction. I did the work though. See a therapist is kind of like a guide through all of this, but in the end, you have to do the work. On top of therapy, I read every book I could get my hands on. Before long I was uncovering the abuse, molestation and traumas of my life, and I understood how they made me the way I am. See that is empowering for me. I feed off understanding and knowing, and when I can look at things in a logical way and make them make sense, I can control them.
For years, I rationalized using porn. ‘everyone does it’ or ‘they’re only pictures’ I am sure you all know the drill. When I changed my perspective to make it a clear negative, it was easy for me to walk away. Okay, maybe not easy, but it was easier. I would think things like ‘it victimizes women and children’ or ‘it dulls the feelings I have for my wife’ or ‘what am I passing on to my children’ . I also found that you need to fill the time and the needs that porn or whatever was filling. That was key for me, understanding why I was doing something, and what I was getting out of it. I looked at every part of my life that way, and it is an exhaustive process.
Now to focus on masturbation, because that is what this thread is about. First of all, I wanted to understand why I did it, what I was getting out of it, what I needed that it was filling, what it was costing me, and why I felt so bad about it. Being a Christian, I often begin with the owner’s manual God gave us for these flesh bodies, the Bible. The Bible is very silent on masturbation, and not one time does God come out and call it sinful. The Bible has the tools and guidelines we need to please and be accepted by God, and nowhere did He ever say that you would be unacceptable if you masturbated. He detailed sins right and left, and if it were important, why would He omit this one. If He doesn’t condemn it, why was I?
As I pointed out, society treats it as a taboo thing. We feel that it is wrong not because the word declares it, but because mankind implies it. With the Bible silent on it, I turned to more humanist means to clarify what separated healthy from unhealthy. Over the past few years I have learned more about sex, about the mind, and about the body than even I can fathom sometimes. I learned that there are no studies that have ever linked masturbation to ill effects on your health, outside of physical and mental damage the person might inflict on themselves by doing it. I worried about my prostate, and all the old myths about going blind or whatever. The fact is that no one has ever linked it to anything like that.
From a biological standpoint there is a very good case for doing it. We tend to lump male hormones into one big group and label it testosterone. The fact is that those hormones take many forms and do many things to our bodies. For example, DHT is testosterone, and many of you know that one side effect it causes is hair loss. The body is geared to release semen every two to three days; if it is not released in that time our bodies recycle it. There are changes in hormone levels that drive this cycle on a mental level, and they push us to seek release before the supply has to be recycled, expending energy and time. Strangely one of the most powerful of these hormones is a female one, Oxytocin. In women it is a strong anti-depressant, and strangely enough the only way to increase the amount is through sexual intercourse. Oral sex and masturbation do nothing to increase it, and for some reason only intercourse releases it. A woman abstain from sex has a much lower level, and is at a greater risk for depression. It also comes into play in men, and increases with time. In men it tends to throw our bodies out of sync, and the way we decrease the level and restore balance is with ejaculation. Now there is a set limit, so do think I am saying these hormones build-up to the point where you explode. You can ignore the signals from your brain, and abstain. Your body has a way of dealing with that too, called nocturnal emission (wet dream).
Now, I started putting things together in my mind. God designed us to want sex, and set up this cycle of two to three days, but he gave us control over it as well. Masturbation is not called a sin, and from a physical point of view the relief of stress, and the anti-depressant effects on the body are positives. Science has linked it to no ill health effects, so why was I feeling so bad about it? I felt bad because something controlled me, instead of the other way. I felt bad because I felt a woman should meet those needs. I felt bad because I was taking something from my wife by doing it. I felt bad because the fantasies I used for motivation reduced the attachment and feeling I had for my wife. It wasn’t the masturbation that made me feel bad, it was the way I used it that did.
For a time I abstained completely, dried out if you will. The increased intimacy and closeness I felt for my wife was incredible. I had never experienced true intimacy before, and believe me it is worth making the effort to stay free of it. Like all things in recovery, you swing from one way to the other, but eventually you stabilize somewhere in the middle. That first rush of feeling close for the first time dies away some, and you are left with a new comfortable life. I did quite well at that for a long time.
Now the wife and I get pregnant, and the frequency falls as she gets sick and bigger. I continue my abstaining, but now fill with resentment because I am stressed all the time. I was watching a show on the health channel, and the guy from Love Line was on it. They were addressing sexual problems, and he pointed out something I found very interesting. Just because a person recovers from some problem, doesn’t mean that it still isn’t part of who he is. Yes, I am recovering, but because of my past I can’t expect my libido to just dry up and go away. It is part of me, a healthy, normal part of everyone’s life. Mine will always be strong and high because that is who and what I am. The key is to express it in healthy ways, and to avoid the addictive ones. Abstaining from masturbation is a good way of doing that, but what about the ill effects depression, resentment and stress have on your body? For me there had to be some middle ground. The high blood pressure, hypertension and wallowing in depression were every bit as unhealthy as any of the rest.
The solution was simple, to set and hold myself to a set of guidelines for using masturbation in a way that I could look at myself and feel good about whom I was. You will not find a husband that is more affectionate, caring and supportive of his wife. My guidelines demand that I meet her needs first, but the bottom line is she works nights, and I work days. We have a baby that places demands on our time and energy, and an older son I have to get to sports and that is always around to hamper intimacy. I could live with the once or twice a month we get to have sex, and the resentment that goes with it, or I can bridge the gap with masturbation.
Currently, I maintain a level of once or twice a week, and I limit my motivating thoughts exclusively to my wife. I always try to initiate something with her first, which is another limiting factor. I demand of myself that I try to meet those needs with her first, and because I don’t always feel like making that effort, that places limits on my masturbation. Another limit I have placed on it is that if I have had a sexual release within two days prior, I can’t masturbate. That instantly limits me to at least every third day, even if I have met my first requirement. Finally, I shared all of this with my wife. She knows what I am doing, and how I go about it. That gives her the opportunity to meet my needs if she doesn’t want me doing that, and has resulted in a level of masturbation that I am very happy with. I can look myself in the mirror, and I no longer feel controlled by it, nor do I feel guilty for using it. I wont pretend that this will work for everyone, nor will I pretend to force my thoughts of views on anyone. I shared this because some here might be able to take parts of it to use in their own life. If masturbation causes you to feel ashamed or guilty, then you may not be able to make peace with it. That doesn’t make you wrong or anything, only different from me. In the end you alone have to account to your god and your life for how you live. Normal and healthy are very fluid terms when dealing with recovery and healing, so all I can say is if it makes you happy, go for it.
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those that are evil, but because of those who do nothing about them- Albert Einstein