Breaking the habit of a lifetime: A life without porn

In this guest post, one of Alison's clients reflects on the role of sex coaching in addressing a complex but common issue: porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

Like many people in their thirties, pornography has been part of my life since my teenage years.

Back then, much of what I knew about sex came from watching porn on the internet, and until my twenties I was far more familiar with the world of fantasy than I was with real sexual interactions or intimacy.

As I grew older and entered long-term relationships, my sex life developed in what might be described as a normal way. But the availability of pornography increased to the point where I was never more than a swipe of my phone away from videos depicting almost anything I could imagine wanting to see.

Breaking point

I didn't see my use of pornography as anything to worry about. Lots of my friends had similar habits and porn was just a normal part of modern life.

But in my early thirties I started to experience what I now believe to be the negative impact of porn on my life.

When I had problems getting an erection with a partner for the first time, I didn't worry too much. But when a pattern started to emerge, I began to look more closely at why I was having trouble all of a sudden.

After getting mixed advice online, I decided to reach out for some support. I contacted a sex coach, Alison Pilling, via Skype and explained to her what was happening.

What Alison did first was incredibly helpful: she listened. Without judgement.

I hadn't anticipated just how valuable it would be to have someone make the space for me to talk about something so sensitive and personal.

She offered me reassurance that I was "not broken", which came as a genuine relief. When your sexual confidence is low, it is a huge boost to have someone with expertise let you know that what you are going through is not uncommon.

Towards the end of our first call, she flagged up some helpful resources and emailed me some of her own practical guides and exercises for me to try.

Reframing pleasure

I soon realised that, far from being alone with my problem, I was part of a growing epidemic – and this again came as a relief. I discovered that erectile dysfunction was a common symptom of pornography addiction.

At first I was hesitant to call my porn use "an addiction", but after trying out some internet addiction tests it was clear to me that this was a relevant and helpful way to frame the issue.

It wasn't a case of taking people's word for it either; there is solid science to support the idea that pornography is not good for your brain's reward circuit.

Gary Wilson's TedX talk on The Great Porn Experiment really crystalised this for me; porn had altered my brain's pleasure threshold and left me unable to feel aroused by normal amounts of stimulation.

I knew I needed a drastic change.

Giving up and letting go

Encouraged by success stories I had read from members of the 'No Fap' community on Reddit, I took the 90-Day Challenge, which involved no masturbation, pornography or orgasms for the entire period.

The abstinence period wasn't easy, but I made it and felt a sense of satisfaction. However, I had no idea what to do next. Without a partner, how was I supposed to start to rebuild my sex life?

What came next was the challenge of facing up to my natural longing for connection, love and pleasure – without my old coping mechanisms. 

One of Alison's areas of expertise is the rediscovery of sensual touch. She works with couples and individuals who, for whatever reason, have lost the ability to find pleasure through touch.

She helped me to alter my expectations of sex and relieve the pressure I was putting on myself. My sex drive had taken a hammering over the preceding months, and I was fearful about re-entering the world of dating and the possibility of disappointing myself or other people, but Alison offered me new ways of looking at my body and sexual connection that are helping to restore my confidence and reduce my anxiety.

The road to recovery is a long one, but through working with Alison I am building a healthier relationship between my brain and my body.

She is helping me to reimagine sex, connection, touch and sensuality, and the possibilities that this work is opening up are far more exciting than pornography ever was.