Frank wanted his life back. He had been spending hours, sometimes almost all his weekends, in front of his computer, feeling compelled to look at pornographic websites. At our first appointment, he spoke about the importance of ‘getting it out in the open’ and his hope that this might help. Thinking about how things had changed or progressed since our first meeting Frank remembered the feeling of not being in control,

I was feeling very fatalistic, I was trapped in a hole. Every weekend I felt it was something that I had to do or was compelled to do and afterwards you feel so bad about yourself.

Recovering a Sense of Control

Something that comes up quite regularly in my work with people around pornography and sex ‘addiction’ is the idea of trying to ‘control’ the use of pornography. Many therapists and psychologists appear to be in favour of people trying to control themselves by putting boundaries into place around their porn use. However by all reports this just tends to flare up the ‘Addiction’. Frank and I worked together over webcam for a number of months. At our last appointment, I asked him about the benefit in us having this connection over time.

You can only tell a person things, but they have to go through it. I went over in my head what I wanted to say. And a few things you said that opened the blinds. For example, that I didn’t need boundaries when I was younger. I didn’t always have to do stuff like that.

Here Frank was referring to masturbation. During one appointment we had a conversation about the choices he made about masturbation when he was a younger man. There had been times Frank chose to masturbate and times that he decided not to. In other words, even as a teenager, Frank had been capable of making his own decisions about sexual expression. If you take a wild animal and put a cage around it, the first thing the animal will do is to try to break out of the cage. I don’t make people construct rules for their pornography use. This is something they have generally already tried before they come to see me and it has often not worked

Observing the ‘Porn Addiction’

I often encourage people to step back and just watch the ‘Addiction’ come and go without intervening. In doing so, I am inviting the people who work with me to become co-researchers in the problems in their lives. Of course many people start off by assuming the therapist will be an expert or source of all the answers or even an authority figure. This is how therapists are popularly portrayed but it isn’t generally such a helpful idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while there might be similarities of experience, everyone has a different story as to how they came to be using pornography and why they want to stop. And of course, if there was a manual or technique that worked for everyone, it would be sold at the newsagent!

When Frank started making his own observations about the ‘Addiction’ he began to notice times at which it was more likely to ‘take over’ and times at which it took a back seat. He was also in a position to reflect on how he wanted his life to be. He spoke to me about ‘missing out on a real life’, how the time looking at porn was time that he could be doing his sport training and what his family meant for him. He talked about wanting to get back to having respect for his body. This was something he had valued quite early in life but seemed to have slipped in recent years. At the same time, he started to get a new perspective on masturbation.

I don’t have to be scared that it is going to kill me.

Frank started talking about having used pornography as a kind of conditioning he had done to himself. He had got into a pattern around sex and was relying on that. And this gave us the idea that if he had been conditioned to using porn, perhaps it was just a case of re-conditioning himself, like a motor can be re-conditioned, or an athlete can condition himself. These were metaphors that came from the realms of mechanics and sport, both of which were interests for Frank.

As our webcam counselling appointments continued, Frank shared with me some of the discoveries he had made during his re-conditioning…

I’ve started talking to more people. The interaction with people, having a laugh and joking, it’s so much more…
I don’t see it as a major part of my life, or casting a shadow.

A Step by Step Journey Away from Using Porn

For adults, the experiences of life goes back a long way. But without assistance we don’t always easily recall those times in our lives where we had a sense of ourselves as capable or skilled or in control. Narrative Therapy conversations about pornography use or ‘sex addiction’ can help people recover the sense that they have some authority over their own lives again.




I see many clients who report 12 hour workdays suffering either: stress, anxiety, depression or a breakdown in personal relationships but not wanting to reduce the corporate work commitments. They say they are happy working these hours, as they feel fulfilled. They are actually addicted to doing and not being, well their mind is so addicted.

When they return from a long holiday they experience how their lives have been hijacked by a corporate work ethic. After a few weeks back at work they are again addicted – or their brain is. Are you leading a pleasantly full life or a busy life? Is it time to be mindful or thoughtful about how you are living your life? It is an important question to ask don’t you think?

Peer pressure, public status, wanting glamorous life goods and the push to get as much money as possible are some of the drivers for people developing exhausting busy lives. What is a pleasantly full life is another question and is it naturally different for everyone? I think it is about increasing the connection with the real world – the natural environment and our relationships with family, work colleagues, our communities and friends.

How many internal thoughts have you had about observing people totally disconnected from the real world? The prime example is watching people texting while walking or driving. This embodies this disconnect, especially when witnessed at pedestrian crossings.

It is time to become thoughtful about spending more time with family, friends, taking walks in the country air, sitting outside watching life, cooking slowly, wearing cosy socks, comfortable clothes and reading a good book on the couch with the dog at our feet. Does this seem more nurturing to you and relaxing into life’s joys?

Our real lives of being rather than doing are under ever increasing threat. The fascination with the latest technology, instant entertainment satisfaction, wanting instant online sex, and experiencing a constant feeling of needing to do things faster robs us of a having a thoughtful pleasant life. Mindfulness is being thoughtful about what your true self wants as a life.

To make life changes we first need to acknowledge there is a problem, as we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Can you put technology down, leave your phone at home, stop texting so much, reduce your work hours, date rather than get casual instant sex and generally develop a plan for a new life of being over constant doing.

Having a simpler life might mean moving to a cheaper house, working less hours, doing creative things rather than only financial pursuits and generally slowing it all down and at the same time having a full life of non work activities.

My partner recently decided to take a year off from the corporate world and is experiencing life anew. But his friends insist he get back into the work force. Can you think of reasons why they pressure him to do so? I find the reasons for this peer pressure very interesting!

So maybe have a good think now on what you are doing with your life. Mindfulness will get you there because now you are being thoughtful rather than repeating unconscious busy pursuits.






I’m presently reading Velvet Rage, which I highly recommend for all gay men, which highlights the subject of gay shame and our constant need for validation from the world. Coming out in a straight rewarding world is difficult for most of us. Then comes the next task to prove to everyone (family, friends and colleagues) that we are worthy individuals. This need to over proof ourselves can result in us wanting it all.

We want the perfect body, the perfect boyfriend, a glamorous apartment, beautiful cars, highly acknowledged career, the right to have children (even if it means via a surrogate Indian donor), a holiday home, the best art, eating at expensive restaurants and enjoying 5 star overseas holidays.

I like all these things as well, except having children, but I don’t really need to have all these things to proof to the world that I am worthy. And that is the point raised in Velvet Rage, we can free ourselves of the need to replace shame with achievement.

For some of us the GFC gave us a chance to realize we can be more austere and still enjoy the world. Maybe the pursuit of material objects does not in the end make us happy – drive the new car for two weeks and it loses its gloss and excitement.

Let’s face it, we can enjoy the world with less and not be so hungry for recognition or possessions. Imagine a world where you did not work so hard, had less of a mortgage, rode a bike instead of driving a car, spent more time with friends, donated money to an Indian woman so she could look after her own children, volunteered to do charity work, planted some trees, took less expensive holidays, got to know the neighbours more and took stock of why our bodies need to be chipped out of stone, and expect others to as well, to be a worthy boyfriend.


Imagine how much more relaxing it would be to enjoy life at this level of peace. The first step to achieving, what appears to be an impossible notion, is to be conscious of what drives us to be such high achievers. Without conscious awareness we merely unconsciously replace shame with the need to have it all and prove we are successful and thereby worthy.


I really like the expression –“Acceptance is Home”. Accepting our authentic selves as gay men, recognizing from the core of our being this is us and it feels home, is one step closer to knocking down any walls of shame. When we knock down walls of shame we also move closer to not needing to prove to the world we are worthy.

We don’t need it all, we just have to re-evaluate our lives to see if we can do with less and we can. In doing so we create a better and more sustainable world. And at the same time make our selves much, much happier.




Surely having a good wank over some Internet porn can do us no harm but when does it turn into an unhealthy addiction, where you just can’t stop yourself doing it. It is very easy to become addicted to porn. The brain releases chemicals like serotonin and dopamine during sexual activity and it makes us feel good. The problem is the brain doesn’t know if it is porn or the real thing. So if you are doing porn more than your boy friend, it might get in the way of your intimacy. For intimacy to continue you are best releasing the yummy brain chemicals together – and there is the added bonus of keeping it up more if you haven’t wanked a lot.

If you are single you might give up on finding a partner if addicted to porn. The brain receives unrealistic images of men that produce stimulation and excitement. Conditioning the brain this way can result in not getting it up when meeting ordinary guys.

There are some of us who are completely addicted to porn sex where they can’t do anything else like work properly, see friends, play sport and go out and find someone. Giving up a sex habit, that has become an addiction, is difficult because it can now become your brains way of soothing hurt, anxiety or loneliness. In the end only you can determine if porn is an addictive habit where you are not in control, where it becomes an automatic ‘Go To” behaviour in times of  emotional discomfort and you find yourself staying at home too much.

Here are some symptoms where porn addiction might be a problem: feeling out of control and hopelessness, loss of self-esteem, keeping secrets from boy friends and others, loss of interest in other activities, sleep disturbances, feeling isolated and lonely and you just can’t get out of the house like you used to. Also ask yourself these questions:

What is this addiction to porn robbing me of?

How would my life look if I no longer had this addiction?

How would I feel if free from this addiction?

If you think you are addicted to porn or other sex activities, where you no longer have a diverse life and where you lack control, then you can learn to reverse the situation. It is time to do something about it for your own mental health. Avoidant behaviour, such as porn addiction, is based on fear. If you are fearful you cannot be curious about the world and enjoy what life has to offer.

Investigating why you have become addicted to porn takes time. Most addicted people have tried giving up but the strong drive inevitably returns and with it personal disappointment. If it is because of anxiety, stress and self-esteem issues it is best to look at these first. Once you are aware of why you are driven to this addiction you are able to nut out management ideas to tackle it. Finding a plan B with other positive activities, that make you feel good, will give you back your life.

Controlling Addiction is More Than Applying Will Power

By the time clients have come to see me they have tried to give up their addiction many times with will power, so I am not going to make them just do that again. What I try to do is look at the addiction from a multitude of viewpoints. First we need to find a motivation for change, tell stories about what led to the addiction, explore deep feelings of self-worth, discuss what the addiction is robbing them of, review and consider new values to live by and discuss deeper default reactions when confronted with feelings of; loneliness, anxiety, depression or stress that lead to the GO TO addiction.

This comprehensive awareness helps to create an implicit reason for change, rather than just relying on an explicit ‘must do’ behaviour change. In the end what the client wants is to get in control rather than the addiction controlling them.

Not having personal control is deep down frightening to clients. We are all prone to addiction as our brains are built that way. How addicted to your mobile or other Internet cyberspace platforms are you? If you feel pulled to look at your phone more than you secretly want to, and you are not in complete control of this behaviour, then you have a form of addicted behaviour. If you feel a loss without access to a mobile or Internet then your brain is wired to the dopamine hit of finding something interesting, new or exciting. Our brains do not enjoy boredom.

Welcome to the human race. Whether it is Tinder, pot, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, porn or whatever, you will know if the compulsion to repeat uncontrollable behaviour is causing you stress and feelings of negative self-worth by not having complete control. You will feel weak.

With the client’s permission the following is a story written about an addiction to alcohol – an addiction that was destroying a young man’s life and the potential to find a life partner and life happiness. Writing stories like this achieves two things; once written it is history and it then becomes something external for the client to observe the problem – the problem is the problem, they are not the problem. Names and places have been changed for obvious confidentiality. By calling the addiction a name like, IT, the addiction can be seen as a thing. 2 – 3 bottles of wine a night was the problem.

Dear IT (Alcohol)

You have been part of my life for some time now. You began during, if not before, my last relationship. When I was bored you were there, when I was lonely you were there. When I was frustrated and wanting to leave the relationship you were there. As I moved to Sydney, surroundings made me choose you to be there too. You were there every night.

We did a lot together and you were a constant in my life. When Bob came along you increased as Bob had his own IT. When we moved you now became a secret. Drinking in my room to hide IT. Fill the void, Escaping. Excessive and Growing.

Though I was super fit and enjoying being active and sociable, you, IT, were still a big part of outings with friends. I moved in to live with a flatmate. As it turns out he had also an issue with IT. Again you became acceptable and we all drank together. Then I sat up late in my room alone at night consuming so much IT I’d be calling in to work ‘sick’. More damage to myself and my room continued.

I have now decided again to try to let go of you IT. Small steps and more control.
So far I have now taken nights away from you. Begun gym, lost 7kgs, walk to work with no hangover. Now more alert at work. No more drinking IT watching Internet till late and drinking in my room.

As I slowly approach the point of no return, it’s time to begin to let you go IT. You have been there for some horrible times, just yourself being many of them. Only in the good times ahead are you are allowed.

You will still be around and it is very, very hard to let go. Harder than I ever imagined it would be. Can’t sleep without you but I’ll keep trying. I don’t want you this much in my life when I move to another state but I’m sure we will still cross paths again, just socially is my goal. Though it has been extremely hard, and it will get harder, I have to let go, I have to let go and build my own life without you IT.

I left you jingle, IT…

“Oh the weather outside if delightful
Drinking alone is frightful
There’s only one thing to know
Let IT go, Let IT go, Let IT go”

My client has made incredible progress and can experience faith rather than fear. He has a long way to go but he has the courage to take control of this addiction rather than it controlling him. Will power only is a tool that works for a small number of clients. There is neuroscience proof that if we stop doing a habit for a certain amount of time that GO TO pathway will become smaller. Providing the client with an implicit reason for change rather than just explicit behaviour change with a comprehensive look at the addiction story greatly assists in beating the addiction.

Gerry North is a couple counsellor who also specialising in the treatment of addictions, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and sexual matters.
Email: www.

Help, My Partner is Drinking Too Much!

So what do you do if you find your partner has upped the anti and is drinking much more than usual? And because you drink with them, you find your own drinking at an uncomfortable level. Well unfortunately you can try to make your partner cut down but in the end if they do not want to, you are only left to address your own drinking.

In changing your own alcohol consumption you can also, by example, encourage your partner to address theirs. Can I suggest the first thing to do is talk about the issue with your partner to see what can be negotiated. As in any addiction you are likely to experience a defensive response at first but if you can get through, request you write a mutual drinking contract. Sign it a store it. Things like: not drinking 2 days a week – Mondays and Tuesdays are easier, sharing only one bottle in restaurants, stop drinking shots, drink water between drinks, etc. You can be really creative here with this contract.

I like to think drinking can be put in 5 stages of use. Stage 1 – not drinking every day and not binging, stage 2 is drinking most nights but limited to 4 drinks (half a bottle of wine), stage 3 is drinking every night and a bottle a night, stage 4 is drinking 2 bottles of wine a day and stage 5 is drinking before noon all day after.

If you feel you are at stage 3 or 4 how ask yourself how can I get it back to stage 2 or 1, where you feel more comfortable having a drink without damaging your health and experiencing constant hangovers? (If you are in stage 3 or 4 you are probably close to a functioning alcoholic and if in stage 5, AA is your only real alternative).

So say you try to introduce a creative drinking contract with your partner but they are not committed to real change, what then? First if you clean up the bottles each morning, buy drinks for them on the way home and support your partner’s drinking by always joining them, you are only enabling them to continue as they were.

The great thing is if you instigate change, like not drinking for 2 days a week, within weeks your brain will create a new pathway where it establishes a new habit. (Habits are created by repeated behaviours, so we can reverse unwanted habits by not doing what we normally do. Simple – it’s not rocket science and you knew this anyway – right?)

One other good thing to do is consider why you drink. Is it because you like the taste of wine? Do you use alcohol to relax? Do you drink to help being social? Do you drink to become numb or to forget? Do you drink to get drunk? Knowing why you drink helps you see important messages about drinking.

There is evidence that people, who drink within their own limits, are happier than non-drinkers. Maybe it’s the gaiety of drinking with others and relaxing as a break from life’s stresses. There is also evidence that we are likely to drink more as we get older, especially in retirement, so having a check on it as we age is a good idea.

Having a discussion with your partner about drinking is an adult conversation to have and if you can draft an agreed contract, you are both on your way to enjoy drinking more without damage. If this can’t be done with your partner then it is up to you to lead the way by example in drafting your own contract. Good luck!