Transcript: Thanks, Allan. Here’s part two of my interview with Joshua Shea. Like you said, whether it’s food, or baseball cards, or trying to beat the kid around the corner on your trike, I mean, it seems like everybody has some level of an addition, and it can catch you off guard, and get amplified, and just throw your life all over.
Joshua Shea: You’re absolutely right. What people need to keep remembering is that while addiction is the problem, it’s not the big problem. Addiction is a symptom of something else going on. Over 90% of alcohol or drug addicts have some kind of trauma in their youth. That’s not to say everybody does who becomes addicted, but usually addicting is a coping mechanism for something else that’s happening.
When you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses across the street, what is it like you need to? Why are you addicted to always one-upping them? There’s something going on there. What was going on with me when I needed to drink? What was going on with me when I needed to get lost on the internet in pornography? That was the real key to overcoming these issues was understanding the issues behind them.
It’s not hard to stop drinking. It’s not hard to stop looking at pornography on a physical level. On a mental level, complete addiction, and you’ve got to figure out what’s going on there if you’re ever going to have a shot at beating it.
David Brower: How did you figure that out? I mean, was it through these intervention things, or counseling, or …
Joshua Shea: Well, you know, it was going off to alcohol rehab in California. I went to Palm Springs and I thought that I would be there for four weeks like I’ve seen in the movies. I didn’t think I had a problem, and I was going to fake it until I make it, get my certificate to show the judge that I was doing good. I kind of had this little tough guy swagger for five or six days, and then I started to really listen and say, “Oh my [inaudible 00:02:38], they are absolutely describing me.”
I had to come to terms with the fact that I was an alcoholic. Then it’s a matter of, “Well, how did I become an alcoholic? Why did I become an alcoholic?” Thankfully, there I was out in the desert with nothing else to do but figure that out. Rehab is really an amazing thing. They break you down and then build you up. That breaking down process is sad, and angering, and stressful, and just not fun, but so crucially important to figure out what’s going on.
David Brower: Sounds like Marine Corps boot camp.
Joshua Shea: Exactly. That’s exactly it. It’s a reprogramming of your mind. That’s what you need to do, because clearly your mind is going down the wrong path. It was pretty much the exact same thing with my sex and porn addiction rehab in Texas. They have to break you down for you to really understand why you got to that point, and then once you realize why, it’s time to start filling the tool chest with ways to integrate back into society and not need these coping mechanisms and these crutches to function.
David Brower: So you turn the addictions, and the crutches, and the frustration, and the solitude, and all of those things into ways to find tools for your tool chest, to continue to try and stay as positive as you possibly can on any given day to expand your tool chest, I would think.
Joshua Shea: Right, and even more important, you figure out what tools you need on the days that you get negative, because those are the tough ones. I mean, for myself, I wrote the first draft of my book when I was in jail, because that was my way of coping with jail. Sitting down despite all of the rehab I did, despite all of the therapeutic professionals, sitting down and writing my book was one of the most therapeutic things I’ve ever done, because there I have to commit what happened to paper, and in trying to be the most honest version that I possibly can, that was huge in building my tool chest.
David Brower: Well, that makes it real, doesn’t it?
Joshua Shea: That’s exactly true. We are the stories we tell ourselves, but try writing those stories down, and try to make them truthful. Writing the book was a tough process. In some ways, thank God I had all day to do it. The final book here is about 90,000 words. My first draft was written into almost five composition notebooks with those pencils that you use for scoring golf.
David Brower: Oh my god.
Joshua Shea: That’s all we were allowed. I went through about 80 of those pencils. That was about 200,000 words. One of the most useful things in my recovery was sitting down and whittling this giant memoir that I wrote in pencil, and typing it into a computer, and killing off 55% of it. That really forced me to look at, “Okay, what are the anecdotes that don’t matter? What are the details that don’t matter? Where is my resentment? What is important? What do I need to let other people know, so hopefully I can do some help?” Really, even my story was such a huge tool in my recovery.
David Brower: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s … wow. I’m getting goosebumps talking to you man, because it’s such a great story from tragedy to liberty, and being able to pay this forward, and help people that you may not ever know about, may not ever meet. To be able to throw your book out there … Do you do public speaking too?
Joshua Shea: I do, and I’m hoping to move in that direction. I think that I’m never going to be a therapist, I’m never going to be a research scientist, but with my political background, with my working in communications, I don’t have any trouble standing up in front of a crowd and speaking about things. Really, with the crime that I committed, it was the top news story in Maine for several days. Any time I made a court appearance it popped back in the media.
I’m in a rare position where most guys who get in trouble with this still try to hide it and don’t want to talk about it. Well, my skeletons are out of my closet, so I’m in a rare position I can talk about this. What I hope to do moving forward is to be able to talk to more people, and just let them know that there is no stereotypical porn addict.
We’re not just a bunch of perverts who are 20 years old living in our mom’s basement who’ve never kissed a girl in real life. We are doctors, and teachers, and lawyers, and homeless people, and anybody you can imagine, because there is no stereotypical porn addict.
The other thing I want to do is talk to those one in three guy who they’ll never admit they’re one of those three, but just let them know that, “Hey, you’re not alone. It’s amazing how many people actually have this problem. Nobody wants to talk about it, but you can do something about it.”
David Brower: Well, and the other thing I think, when you get more into the public speaking mode, the other thing that’s going to be totally appealing to draw people to you is it’s genuine. It’s an authentic story. It’s not a therapist trying to sell a book, it’s not a researcher trying to get more information, this is your freaking life, man. To be able to share that candidly with people is going to touch life, after life, after life, I think.
Joshua Shea: Well, and my hope is when the score is tallied at the end, that I’m able to claim that I helped more people, and created more better situations than the victims I created. The victims are not just that girl who was on the computer, it’s my wife, and my kids, and my family, and my community.
If in the end there are more people who are, for a lack of a better term, “Saved,” then maybe this was all for a net good. Maybe there was a bigger power at work that wanted to bring me to this point. I just feel like I better share this story now, and try to make the world a better place, because I was all about taking in the past. Now I’m going to try to be a bit more about giving.
David Brower: Well, I’m so proud of you, man. I can’t even remotely imagine the journey, but to see where you are now, how you’re reaching out to people, touching lives, it’s like I said, it gives me goosebumps. I’ll do what I can in my little world to publicize and promote you, because it is the addiction nobody will talk about.
Joshua Shea: Yeah, I appreciate that so much. For people who wonder how I’m doing now, the book largely ends right at my jail sentence. I do have a website. It’s recoveringpornaddict.com. I update with articles, there’s a little bit more self-help, a little bit more on statistics there. That is kind of where I’m headed if people are interested in that.
David Brower: Outstanding, that was my next question. Yeah.
Joshua Shea: Yeah, you do need to learn about this, and you do need to see the science and see the math. But also, I like to share my stories, and I like to talk to people who are in various stages of their addiction. I was counseling a person this morning from the UK who’s 12 days into not looking at porn, and having a heck of a lot of trouble making it to day 13. Yeah, I’m not putting out a magazine for 30, 40, 50,000 people, I’m helping one guy, but there’s something a little bit more fulfilling in knowing that I’m helping that one guy with something actually important.
David Brower: No question. Well, congratulations on your journey, man.
Joshua Shea: Thank you so much. I appreciate you giving me time today, because it’s not a joke naming the book, The Addiction Nobody Will Talk About.
David Brower: No, absolutely.
Joshua Shea: There are a lot of people who are scared to talk about this topic for a variety of reasons, and I just want to thank you for giving me a platform where I can reach people.
David Brower: You bet, you bet. If people listening out there, if you are one of the one in three, take a few minutes away from your addiction, and check out Josh’s website, and try to nudge your toe towards that good place. He’ll be there for you, I can tell. I could tell.
Joshua Shea: Absolutely. For those wondering, the book is all on your typical spots. Amazon, Barnes & Noble. It’s not hard to find. If you go to my website, there are links right there.
David Brower: The website one more time is …
Joshua Shea: The website is recoveringpornaddict.com.
David Brower: Outstanding. Our guest has been Joshua Shea from Maine. Continued success my friend, and continued successes for people that you
Joshua Shea: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Allan Blackwell: Your 20 Minute Podcast with David Brower has been brought to you by Audible. You can listen to any of David’s podcasts anywhere podcasts can be found, including iHeartRadio, the Spotify mobile app, and the DavidBrowerVO.com/your20minutepodcast. Until next time, thanks for listening.