Recovering Sex Addict, Yogi, Husband, & Father
Shawn is a husband, father, yogi, and a student of overall wellness. He is also a recovering sex and porn addict. After being exposed to pornography at a very young and impressionable age, Shawn found himself grappling with addiction before he had the chance to learn about healthy sexuality. Despite his efforts to quit and even after confiding in his wife, Shawn struggled with his compulsion to watch porn. Eventually, his addiction escalated to having affairs with multiple women. Hear podcast host Garrett Jonsson and Shawn discuss how his addiction escalated over time and how his wife and him have since taken steps toward recovery, both for Shawn and their marriage.
Garrett: What’s up people? I’m Garrett Jonsson and you’re listening to Consider Before Consuming podcasts by Fight the New Drug. Before we jump into this conversation, we want to let you know that during this conversation we discuss things that may be triggering such as infidelity and suicide ideation, listener discretion is advised. Today I am filling a lot of gratitude for this community and for every person around the world who is a part of this movement. So thank you. Um, now with that being said, now that I’ve gotten that gratitude expressed, um, today’s conversation is with Shawn. The conversation was heavy, insightful, and inspiring. We just want to acknowledge that because each of us have unique biology and unique experiences, the negative impacts of pornography will vary. But this is Shawn’s experience. Shawn was exposed to pornography at a young age. His consumption led him to want more, more often and a more hardcore version.
During our discussion, he does a great job expressing how porn negatively impacted him, his relationships and his world. But Shawn is a healthy example showing that when a person takes accountability and gets the help that they need, he or she can transition their mindset back to a healthy state. As you listen to this episode, I think it’s boring to understand some of the science behind how porn can become an escalating behavior. So I’ve added a link in the episode notes. We invite you to check that out prior to listening to this conversation. Now, with all that being said, we hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
We want to welcome to the podcast, Shawn. So, uh, Shawn, welcome.
Shawn: Thank you for having me. And I feel an honor and privilege to be here with you.
Garrett: Yeah, for sure. I don’t know if you’re like me, Shawn, but sometimes when, when I’m starting a conversation like this, I feel a little bit nervous. I don’t know if you feel that way?
Shawn: I have felt nervous for this this week for sure. Building up to it has been a very emotional ride for me for I think, I feel like this has been a work that has been building up in me for two years plus. So…
Garrett: Yeah. Well I think that our audience, I know you’re experience, parts of your experience. But I think our audience will understand why you say that once you give more context as to kind of how the harmful effects of pornography has impacted your life. And then I just want to acknowledge that when it comes to our individual experiences and personal accounts, there’s so many emotions tied into it. And so I just want to acknowledge Shawn and say thank you from, for me and from in behalf of our audience, um, because it really is important to that we talk about these things, but it’s not easy.
Shawn: Yeah, it’s definitely not easy [laughter]
Garrett: So. So thanks man.
Shawn: Well, again, thank you for the opportunity. I feel like this conversation needs to take place for every young man in the world today and I’m, I’m lucky to be part of the conversation.
Garrett: For sure. And also women, right? I think it’s important that we make sure that one of the myths that’s broken is that this only affects men and boys. But the reality is is that they, the harmful effects of pornography don’t discriminate.
Shawn: I agree 100%. I think my perspective being a male, I can speak to the male perspective. I can offer insight into how I’ve impacted my wife for one and the women in my, in my family and my circle. I feel like one of the, some of my favorite people out there, um, Gabby Bernstein and Oprah, they speak, uh, Brene Brown is another one. They speak a lot to a women audience…
Shawn: … and sometimes I get angry at their episodes cause I feel like, Hey, I’m a man and I understand you and I understand the perspective you’re providing. So I want you to speak to me too. So yeah, that’s true. I am speaking to all out there. From my experience, I think everyone has something to gain, but I think the audience of young men out there could benefit the most from this.
Garrett: Cool. I guess the first question that we’ll start with is what’s the first memory you have with pornography?
Shawn: So I actually wrote a letter to document, um, my, my experience, I think it’s easiest to read that, but, um, simple answers. I was about 10 years old, fifth grade. Um, I dunno if you want me to jump into it?
Garrett: Do you wanna read that or would you prefer to talk about it?
Shawn: I think reading it is a good starting point and then we can dissect it from there. So if you’re okay with that?
Garrett: Yeah, let’s do it.
Shawn: So my intention is for the people out there, they’re impacted by pornography. I want you to hear my voice. Um, I believe that males are victims of pornography because it warps our minds. It creates a false reality that becomes normalized. It also arms us to then victimize others. I saw pornography for the first time in the fifth grade, so I was about 10 years old. It was a normal scene in a lot of young boys lives. I remember it very vividly. It was a normal day in elementary school. We were standing in line to head to lunch. My friends all asked if we wanted to sleep over at Daniel’s house. “He has some magazines that have pictures of naked ladies.” I said, “Ooh, that’s gross.” My all my friends all shamed me and mocked me for my reaction, so of course I didn’t want to be made fun of. I agreed to go to the sleepover. I didn’t realize what those magazines would do to me. That night started an addiction for me. From that point on into my adulthood, I use pornography as a crutch. If I felt alone and isolated, I would turn to porn. If I felt insecure and unliked, I would turn to porn. If I got cut from a soccer t…, soccer team, I turned to porn. Porn was a refuge. It was a warm blanket to curl up into wall during life’s everyday challenges. I never realized that it was warping my mind into believing that men’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and pleasures are to come before every woman. That if my appetites were not satisfied, I had the right to make them satisfied.
In the background of my mind, I was being taught by pornography that my pleasure was the ultimate goal. It didn’t matter how I got there. That is where I should find where I would find relief and ecstasy. Throughout my teen and adult years. I’d be taught that pornography was bad for me. I would try to white knuckle it and stop. I would go for periods of time and not look at pictures and images. I would set milestones in my life and say things like, once I have a girlfriend, girlfriend, I won’t need porn anymore. The thing I didn’t realize was that the damage had already been done. In my developing mind. Pornography is so much more than just explicit images on a blue screen. Pornography is the sexualization of a human being. It is the objective cation of women’s bodies for the sexual benefit of men in power.
I was seeing women through this prism. I saw women and evaluated them by their beauty in their image. Their minds and personality were second to their looks. The biggest milestone in my life was marrying my amazing wife. I swore to myself that once I was married that the porn and sexual desire addiction would fade. I was wrong. I just got better at hiding the pornography which eventually turned into hookups with other women and the first years of eight years of my marriage, I was a really good liar. I lied to everyone. I lied to my wife, my friends, my family, and worst of all myself. I made up stories in my mind to justify my actions. I was unhappy. I deserve to feel loved and desired. I needed to fill important. You can see the pornography really warped my mind and lead, see jump a seed on my thoughts and my emotions.
It created narratives to get what it wanted and needed. This disease needs to be flushed out of me. After eight years of marriage, my wife and I were about to move into the first house that we were building. We had owned a condo together, but we were setting roots and building house to raise our family in. That is when all my lies were revealed. Women came forward on Facebook and told my wife about what I was doing. Secretly, she left me. I can’t tell you how big of a wake up call it was when my wife pulled up with her mother, with her mother to pick up all the kids’ things and her things to move out. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life. My mother-in-law gave me a big hug and told me that they loved me and that I could beat this.
That pure expression of love was fuel for me. I attended counseling for about a year and a half, both by myself and with my wife. I was so damn lucky. I’m still lucky that my wife chose to stay and fight with me. I still work hard to fight my work to mind. Reading and exercise have been my new referee refuge. We love to hike and be active outdoors. I’ve also just started music therapy. I read 24 books a year to make sure that I’m learning and progressing. I have dedicated 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM every morning for my physical exercise. I’ve learned that if I’m not progressing, I’m only digressing. We need to educate society of the wrong messages that pornography is spilling into all of our minds. Thank you from an addicted and a perpetrator.
Garrett: Dude, that’s, I remember reading that when you sent it to me and made me tear up a little bit at times and then it fired me up at other times because I love your awareness. That’s one of the things that as I hear you read that again, I think it requires a lot of self awareness. So I love that aspect of it and I love your honesty and I love your discipline. I love that you, I mean, there’s just so much to talk about. So where would you like to start, Shawn?
Shawn: I think, first of all, that as a guide. I think for the conversation from my intent, my purpose of coming forward to admit and take accountability publicly is two parts. Number one is a voice of warning to the vulnerable out there. Those kids out there, they need to understand what pornography can do to you. I’m not saying it’s going to do it to you. I sing, it’s possible to you. It can infect your mind and it can take you places that you never want to go. That’s number one. Number two is I love your podcast because it provides a community for a conversation, a healthy conversation about sexuality. Uh, we’re surrounded by messages in media and from athletes and uh, some of the most notable and popular people in the world to objectify women. And that conversation has to change. We need to have more language around how to provide better respect and, um, give greater wholeness and humanity to the women that we interact with every single day.
And one of the things that Oprah always says that I love is sometimes we don’t have the language to express our personal experiences that we go through. And we need to find ways to gain that language to communicate with one another, our experiences.
Garrett: It’s interesting that that’s kind of one of the first things you talked about was discussing healthy sexuality because earlier today I was looking at a psychology today article. And in this article it says, studies revealed that nine out of 10 children ages eight to 16. Learn about sex from pornography. Yeah. I’m trying to think back at my sexual education because I think there’s two parts, right? You have the anatomy of how it works, but then you also have the emotional experience tied to it as well. And I’ve had multiple conversations within my inner circle, best friends, counseling, um, people that I met at counseling.
And the common theme is that not enough of these conversations are, are being had and in being had in the right light. I feel like a lot of my sexual education was done out of humor, out of joking, out of poking fun and using language. Uh, that was graphic and that wasn’t necessarily educational. That’s a scary thing, right?
Shawn: Yeah. I mean, I think back of my access to porn from magazines or even like finding it on HBO or finding it on cable networks that friends had and you had to stay up late at night in order to access and it became like an adventure to find porn access to it. And that’s what’s terrifying for me. I’ve got a four year old boy, four and a half year old boy. And my daughter’s almost seven, so I know it’s around the corner from my daughter. Her, especially when once they have a smart phone. I’ve seen your episodes, your, your social media, how it’s like one, two clicks away and you type in a word and bam, it’s in your face and it’s not educational. It’s, it’s graphic.
Garrett: Yeah. Yeah. The intent isn’t for education, the mainstream pornography that we discuss it, the intent is not for education. The intent is for arousal. Um,…
Shawn: Yeah. And I loved yours and Clay’s podcast where the mission statement of fight the new drug is to lower the demand through education. Right? So once you learn what goes behind pornography, when you dive into consent, when you dive into a lot of these women don’t know what they’re getting themselves into or they’re forced into it. Once you know that story behind the pornography you’re seeing, for me, it lost a lot of the desire.
Garrett: The fantasy, the fantasy is kind of gone once you know the full story.
Shawn: Yeah. 100% Right.
Garrett: Well speaking of kids, I saw Disney Plus just came out, you know, and on their uh, Twitter or Disney Plus’ his Twitter account, PornHub commented. It’s one of the top comments because of how much reach PornHub has. The comments said, “Welcome to the streaming club.” Right underneath Disney Plus.
Shawn: Doesn’t that come across disgusting? It’s like no regard.
Garrett: I mean, Twitter, a 13 year old can access Twitter and you can access straight pornography on Twitter anyway.
Shawn: Well that’s what’s so scary is because pornography came, became crippling for me growing up, and I talked about it in my letter here is because what I mean by “crippling” is when I’d have tough emotions that I would face that are normal emotions.
Garrett: Yeah, like the ups and downs of everyday life.
Shawn: Yeah. You have a fight with your friend, you have a score bad on your, your tests. You, you have a bad day in sports, you don’t perform well, you get cut from a team…
Garrett: Just feeling overwhelmed.
Shawn: Yeah. All these negative emotions start crashing down on you. How do you process that? And I think that conversation, we don’t have enough of that as well. Mental health and taking care of your mental mindset, being a gatekeeper to your own mind. That’s a conversation that still part of this. Because for me, when I had those negative experiences, I went to porn. But then the problem was is those negative feelings were processed and then they were compounded.
But for me those negative feelings, their energy and energy has to be released in some manner. It can’t be destroyed. Energy has to be transferred. So in those instances it’d be compounded and then there would be some type of breakout. I’d get in a fight with my parents or with my brother and sister, I’d blow up. Right? So then they see me as this emotional and unstable teenager that’s difficult to deal with, but they didn’t understand what was going on behind it.
Garrett: Yeah. So I watched a YouTube video today and I looked at the comment section and the YouTube video was about, it was a Ted talk on porn and kids watching porn for sex education. And in the comment section, one of the comments was, “Where are the parents?” Like though the problem is in pornography and the problem is the parents. This is what this person’s opinion was.
And then you mentioned your parents.
Garrett: And them not being in the know. What would you say to that? Like was it your parents fault?
Shawn: No, this is a sensitive issue with my family and I think it’s a good thing to talk about because my family wanted to help. They tried to help in their own way and part of the learning process was maybe the approach of shame was not the right approach and they didn’t realize that. And I think they’ve learned a lot from that experience as a fi, uh, because when some, when a teenager is exposed to pornography, it needs to be a safe place to have the conversation. Otherwise you’re going to drive that teenager, that kid away from you. They will never want to have the conversation with you again. My experience is that I was shamed and I was in trouble and so then what it forced me to do is hide it and get better at being secretive about it and not get caught and I don’t want this to come across as my parents are at all to blame. They’re not, I think they’re victims.
Garrett: Yeah, because they didn’t know how to deal with it either. It’s a societal problem.
Shawn: Yeah, it’s nobody’s getting, nobody gives instructions of how to overcome a pornography addiction and how to talk about pornography in a healthy, safe space and I think that needs to change.
Garrett: One question I want to ask right off the bat is, you mentioned the word pornography addiction and what would you say to someone who says that “Pornography addiction isn’t real.”?
Shawn: I, I’ve had have been approached multiple times with this very statement and I’ve tried to remove the emotion because my first initial reaction is,…
Garrett: [laughter] Like “You don’t know what I’ve been through.”
Shawn: [laughter] Yeah. You haven’t lived my life. You haven’t seen my life. And your podcasts with Eli recently was awesome because I can relate to so much of his experience, which we can talk about, but pornography addiction is real because I’ve lived it and however you want to define it, if you want to call it addiction, cool. If you don’t want to call it an addiction, don’t. But for me, addiction is, it’s a mechanism to deal with negative emotions.
Garrett: You’re creating a dependency.
Shawn: Yes, absolutely.
Garrett: That’s where you turn.
Shawn: Yes, and it’s, it’s like your brain builds out these neuro pathways that now becomes automatic. You, you’re almost on auto mode. You’re a drone in a lot of ways. Your body just automatically reacts and it takes something violent to shake you out of that system.
Garrett: Yeah. It’s almost like that saying that you’re the, “The neurons that fire together wire together.” and the more you do that, like one example is why does a person practice an instrument or what does a person practice a sport there? One reason why they practice is for muscle memory and the more they practice, the easier it becomes. And that same concept applies to consuming pornography. And as someone engages with sexual explicit material over and over and over and over and over, that dependency gets stronger and stronger.
Shawn: Well, and I forget there’s a book I read, it’s like once you spend like 10,000 hours in something, you become an expert of it. It’s like, cause your…
Garrett: It’s your Malcolm Gladwell book.
Shawn: Yes, exactly.
Garrett: It’s called Outliers, right?
Shawn: Yes. Yes. You’re spot on. And that’s a funny thing is like it creates these neuro pathways in your mind and that’s why you become a, why you become a expert at it because it’s almost automatic. So…
Garrett: Yeah. Well my question is that you said you went and got therapy.
Garrett: And did insurance help?
Garrett: Oh, okay. That was…
Shawn: That’s a very difficult part because I probably spent $20,000 if not more, and in my therapy sessions. And so that, and then Sexaholics anonymous is free. And I did that once a week, every week for a year and a half. And I highly recommend Sexaholics anonymous to anyone that feels addicted. You can even call in, you don’t even have to go to a meeting. You can just call into a meeting and participate that way. And I fell, I felt a lot of healing there. They use the big book alcoholics anonymous as their guide and that book is amazing and pick it up. If you can’t make it to a meeting, go buy it. It’s like $10 online.
Garrett: Cool. What’s a one of the biggest takeaways from the book?
Shawn: Well, the 12 steps and it gives you a guidance of how to dissect and break down your mindset. And that’s really how I came to realize what motivated me and what was behind my actions and behavior. It was, resentments was number one. I used the resentments of when I felt wronged as my fuel to project me to do horrible things, um, and be unfaithful and both in pornography and in hookups. Um, but yeah, I think that was the biggest. Um, and I think now my motivation is the 12th step is helping other people, cause I think it’s a, it’s a full cycle, right? And a lot of the, uh, a lot of the people that attend these addiction meetings for years, that’s one thing they say is they just rework the steps. And I feel like even though I went for a year and a half, two years, I didn’t necessarily dive in to the 12th step.
Garrett: The 12th step just to be clear as help someone else. Right?
Shawn: Yes, exactly. And the part that, um, kind of throws you back into the cycle is guilt and shame and when you start…
Garrett: Is it guilt or is it shame?
Shawn: Good point. Shame. Guilt is a healthy feeling of Brene Brown, in her books, talks a lot about the difference. Guilt is a healthy feeling because it’s something I did, I feel guilty about. Shame is taking, um, taking ownership as that is you.
Garrett: One of the thing that I, I was thinking yesterday actually on the difference between guilt and shame and what I, one of the conclusions I came to is that guilt labels the decision or the action.
Garrett: And shame labels you.
Shawn: Right, exactly.
Garrett: So you were saying that shame throws you, threw you back into the cycle?
Shawn: It does. So it think, you think back at all the horrible acts that you’ve done in your lifetime and to seek refuge from those thoughts, I would dive back into the addiction. But one of the best experiences I was telling you before we started recording is when I called one of my best friends after everything came out, um, and I called him on my best friends told him, and his first response was, “Sean, you know, this isn’t you, right?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “This act is not you. You are not defined by this behavior.” And it stuck with me.
Garrett: Yeah. I just, I think that’s important to hear. One thing I want to address as you read the letter was the progression from seeing the magazines and then to the point where you are wife and your mother-in-law pulled in to the driveway, took them in front you. Um, that’s a lot of years.
Garrett: So there’s a lot to discuss, but can you identify becoming desensitized?
Shawn: So I was fifth grade, 10 years old. My first initial reaction and emotion, I mean, I can go back to the classroom right now. And first initial reaction was that like it felt like a violation, right? When they’re talking about seeing women naked at that age, I felt like that was not acceptable behavior. That was the first thing that popped into my mind. But after the mocking and making fun of by my friends, like calling me names, you can imagine what those are quickly, “Oh, it’s okay, I’ll, I can shut up, I’ll, I’ll come hang out with you.” Right? And so then that started that cycle and once I went to pornography, it felt good. And so then I felt conflicted. I had these two different mindsets of, I still had that feeling in the back of my mind of “This doesn’t feel right, but it feels good at the same time. So how do I come to terms with that?”
Garrett: Yeah. One thing that I think a lot of people misunderstand is they think that someone who has a challenge of pornography, that it’s just a quantitative problem. It’s like “They do too much too often.” but it’s also a qualitative problem because it can mold a person’s sexual template first. Talking to the quantitative problem, did you, I mean to give a little bit of context, you didn’t have access to the internet?
Shawn: Not at that age. I mean it was probably when I was 14 to 16 so like four or five years after that is where we got a computer in my home. You had the dial up that it would take like 45 seconds to a minute for a picture to download.
Garrett: Yeah. And it’s in the, your desktop is usually in a front room of the house. So privacy is not,…
Shawn: We had it in a back office until I was caught the first time and then my parents moved into the front room to try to combat it. But I still found ways.
Garrett: Yeah. When, at what point do you think you became addicted?
Shawn: Ah, that’s a difficult question. I’d have probably in my teen years, I’d probably say between the ages of, you know, junior high age. So 12 to 16 really?
Shawn: Cause I felt like that’s where I would search out for late night television shows. Any opportunity I could every weekend for sleepovers, any opportunity to find a computer isolated from people with or my friends getting access to pornography and there’s so many memories flashing through my mind from one to 16
Garrett: Was is it impulsive at that age? Like was it impulsive meaning that there was no forethought as to the consequences? Just like, “Alright. Yeah. Pornography gives me what I want.”
Shawn: It was more of like a sense of adventure and excitement for me.
Shawn: Now that you make me think about it, I really think that maybe this is a new discovery for me, but it was like being secretive was fun. Like I’m not going to get caught. My parents are never going to find out and I find ways to do it.
Garrett: [Laughter] I shouldn’t be laughing, but I am because I can relate.
Shawn: I think a lot of people can.
Garrett: If my, if my parents came and asked me if I had a challenge with pornography back then when I was in junior high or high school, I would have lied to them a hundred times.
Shawn: Yeah. Would you have believed if you would, would you even thought that you were addicted?
Garrett: No. No way. And I wonder if you were addicted to that age. That’s why I asked the question about, um, the impulsivity of it because at that age, I, I just, I don’t want to sound too skeptical.
Garrett: But I wonder if it was more of an impulsive behavior where you’re just like, “This is fun.” and at least I’m amongst my friends. It was a kind of a common practice.
Garrett: We all, well not all of us, most of us were looking at pornography.
Garrett: And I, I wonder if it was more impulsive or do you, or do you think that at that moment it was, uh, a dependency that could be labeled addiction?
Shawn: Well, uh, my friends have had conversations with me about this with my closest friends because they were participating with me. I mean these friends I’ve known since I was 10 years old, so a lot of times sleepovers at their houses or so they had the same access that I did. Yeah. So they asked me that same question.
Garrett: Back then they did?
Shawn: No, this is recently.
Garrett: Oh, okay.
Shawn: Yeah. At the time we’re teenagers so you don’t even think about it. It’s not even a second thought. It’s like, this is fun, this is exciting. Let’s make sure we don’t get caught. That’s like the only thought we have.
Shawn: But in our mature years, now that we’re in our thirties my, a couple of friends have asked me, he’s like, “What makes you think you were addicted? You were just natural boy. That was curious, looking to discover yourself.” So it’s more reflective now that I answer that way that I think I was addicted. The addiction started at that stage.
Garrett: Did you ever notice sensitization? Which means like some people who if you have a a dependency to either a substance or to a behavior, some cues right, that they can get you like so stoked just based off of cues like as an example is like if your parents were leaving the house and you’re like, okay, like I have the computer myself and you got all stoked about it and just the thought of having the computer gets you like almost like nervous and like some people tremble like their heartbeat might race just based off that thought.
Garrett: Do you feel like that was happening?
Shawn: 100%. I mean you describing that flashes me back to memories of I’d be laying on the couch and my parents say “I’m going to the store.”
Garrett: And boom!
Shawn: As soon as they pull out I’m on the computer.
Garrett: Sensitized porn pathways just poppin’ in at that moment. That’s what it sounds like.
Shawn: Yeah, 100% those memories are flooding back into my mind right now.
Garrett: Another question. How often were you seeking it? Can you give us a little bit of progression from magazine, your first magazine to maybe mid-teens and then going into early twenties? Like how often you were seeking sexual explicit materials?
Shawn: So teen years, I feel like it was like every weekend and it was like, I’m seeking opportunities, can I sleep over at so and so’s house on Friday so we can watch shows so we can seek out magazines so we can whatever.
Garrett: Let’s jump forward to 2007 when the first version of the smart phone comes out. And comparing that quantity and frequency to mid teens.
Shawn: In 2007 I was a college student and I had a laptop and I had access whenever I wanted. So it was daily.
Garrett: Yeah. Interesting. So I went from every weekend and then the ease of access jumped it to daily?
Shawn: Yeah. And again, I was still trying, I had some awareness so I would start, try to combat it because I knew at the time that there were negative effects of it. So I’d fight it for awhile, but then it would always come back.
Garrett: From 2007 when did you meet your wife?
Shawn: So we met, we were married in 2008. Um, so it was actually 2007. Now that you mentioned I was actually 2006 that we started dating and I told her about my pornography problems.
Garrett: Oh, you did?
Shawn: And I told her I was on it and I was working through it, but I obviously hadn’t overcome it.
Garrett: Wow. That’s cool that you told her. That was probably not a fun discussion.
Shawn: No, it definitely wasn’t. Um, I’m very cautious about bringing my wife too much into the conversation because I don’t want people to judge. Um, she’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met. Cause a lot of people might, their first judgment is “Why would she stay with someone that would treat her so poorly?” But I’ll tell you what, um, she set her boundaries and she’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met. For me, there’s no, there’s been no greater example of love than my wife.
Garrett: That’s cool.
Shawn: So please don’t get me wrong. She’s extremely strong. Brave. That’s cool.
Garrett: I liked that you said that she put boundaries. Um, but going back to the conversation, you said you were going to work on it. Um, so where else did you turn for help?
Shawn: At that time? I didn’t know. I mean I just, it was just off and on for years battling it and trying to figure out my own head.
Garrett: So then you were truly white knuckling it at that point.
Garrett: So at this point I think it might be interesting if you talk to, and once again if I ask a question you don’t want to answer and just tell me, but the type of pornography, cause I think a lot of, one of the misconceptions is a person who consumes pornography just has a quantitative problem. Like I mentioned, “They do too much too often.” And if you were, if you were turning to that and creating a dependency on the daily in 2007 with your laptop, that can show um, a dependency in a quantitative problem.
Garrett: But what about a qualitative? Did you notice the type of pornography changing?
Shawn: Well, I think I would like to even rewind to when I was like 16, 17. I had a girlfriend, um, like first girlfriend that were, I was exclusive with everyone knew about her, and us as a couple.
Garrett: And at that time at age 17, you had already seen a lot of naked girls…
Garrett: … through pornography.
Garrett: You’d seen a lot of sexual acts.
Garrett: So do you feel like that affected… even in a 17 year olds mind, do you think that content played out in your relationship with your girlfriend at 17?
Shawn: 100%. And it brings me to modern day where I’ve, I’ve listened to podcasts, read stories where kids now at 14, 13, 14, they’re talking about what kind of graphic action are they going to do with this person before they’ve ever even kissed them. Like, I want them to like me. So am I going to do this sexual act with them? So they do like me. It’s like we’re fast forwarding a lot of the intimacy and the affection that leads up to that. And I think we’re damaging society in doing that.
Garrett: Have you seen or heard of the a HBO series called euphoria?
Shawn: Uh, I’ve seen ads for it, but I don’t know much…
Garrett: Just like Instagram ads or something for it?
Garrett: One of my buddies told me about the first episode and he’s like, because I work with Fight the New Drug. He’s like, “You need to watch this first episode.” And just as a warning for our listeners and for you, Shawn is like, it’s a graphic, um, graphic show and this episode shows nudity. For educational purposes, I wanted to see what the scene was about.
Garrett: And I in this scene, the, the girl and then this guy, they’re at a party and they start making out, well, it’s insinuated that they’re going to start to engage in sex. And the guy reaches up and grabs the girl by the neck and starts choking her and she flips out and she’s like, “What are you doing?”
Garrett: And then the scene flashes to PornHub and image after image after image showing girls getting choked. And it just, it wasn’t a one example of how violent and aggressive pornography had molded that kids. I think that’s what they were trying to articulate in this, in this show was that the graphic violent, aggressive, the male being dominant, it played a part in developing and molding his sexual template.
Shawn: Yeah. So, well, I think your sexual template should be developed naturally, right? And from, uh, and maybe that’s another argument that can go much deeper, but consent and sexual template, that’s like a dance that needs to happen, right? So “Do you agree to this act being performed?” or “Do you agree to participate in this behavior with me?” that’s a conversation that needs to happen. A lot of times in sexual relationships, we’re following cues. There’s no language. It’s, I’m leaning in, are you gonna lean back in?
Garrett: It’s emotional intelligence.
Shawn: Right. And I’m, I think back a lot of times of where I just went for a kiss didn’t allow that, that moment for the woman to express consent. And now I’ve learned that’s a violation.
Shawn: You’re not allowing them the right and responsibility to participate there. You’re taking over and you’re asserting your dominance.
Garrett: There’s a, an organization called the NSPCC, the National Society to Prevent Cruelty Against Children. And one of the stats, one of the things they talk about is harmful, harmful sexual behavior. They call it HSB. And they say that one third of child abuse, sexual abuse is a child acting on another child. And so when we’re talking about consent and what pornography can teach a young kid is that you take action and the consent’s not a thing. “My high is most important.” And that stat being that one third of the uh, child sexual abuse is child on child. That’s a stat that could show correlation between pornography consumption, of how high it is and what’s being taught, and how that can form a sexual.
Shawn: Right. Because where else would that be modeled for them to see unless they’re seeing their parents behave in that manner?
Garrett: In some cases they do. There’s correlations there.
Shawn: Fair point.
Garrett: So jumping towards when you get married, what year did you get married in 2009? You said?
Garrett: 2008. I’m sure there was a period of time where like, “Okay, I’m done.” How long… can you remember about how long that lasted for you?
Shawn: I was like, I couldn’t maintain a longer period for a long time of, of staying sober. Um, so it was off and on soon after we were married. Uh, and part of my expectations going into marriage were wrong and I feel like I blame pornography because of that, because I feel like sexuality is a healthy sexual relationship between a marriage is a very delicate thing and I don’t feel like I was educated enough of what that meant. And I feel like that conversation was a difficult one to have when we don’t know what questions and what boundaries to set. The hardest part for me was rejection, right? Well, when I want it and she doesn’t, well, I’d never had that at even remotely imagined in my mind. I thought we were both going to just be…
Garrett: [Laughter] I laugh because I had the same thought. I had to learn a similar thing and it’s such an immature thought, but the reality is is like we weren’t taught that. And I think a lot of people don’t have those meaningful conversations.
Garrett: Porn teaches you that you’re, when you’re in the mood, porn is there.
Shawn: Yeah. And um, you don’t even have to second guess it. Right. That’s the part that’s so beautiful that I’ve learned in recent years is like, I think that’s part of what makes a unity so special is because you have this mind over here that is so unique and so complex. And then another mind over here that’s unique and complex that are always operating in separate realms but then coming together. That’s what makes that moment so special. But I didn’t understand that when I first got married and I wish I had known better.
Garrett: Yeah. As you read the letter, there was a phrase you used. Let’s see. Oh, you said you became a good liar. and then you mentioned that your, um, your high, like your biological urge take took priority.
Garrett: And one thing that I, one of my favorite things that I try to focus on daily is that on your death bed, if you three things you want to avoid, are you one of avoid feeling deceitful, arrogant and resentful and pornography fuels all three of those.
Garrett: Those feelings.
Shawn: It gives you narratives to fuel those.
Garrett: And arrogance. Like when you say that you learned from pornography, when your biologic urge, when you had that desire, pornography was there. When you get into a marriage with another unique and complex mind, like you’re talking about them, sometimes it’s not there, right? But you’ve learned for 15 years that it happens now why would I not get that gratification? You know what I’m saying?
Shawn: Very good point. And that’s where the lines get blurred of what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable behavior. Because my mind, like take judgment out of this, but my mind is already had these neuropathways of
I can get this if I want it and anything that stands in my way, I’ll remove it.
And it wasn’t until a conscious, my conscience grew and I was called out for my behaviors, that my awareness started seeing a lot of that justification of my removal of those barriers to get what I desired. Which is selfish.
Garrett: It’s arrogance because you’re putting yourself, you think you’re more important than anyone else.
Shawn: Yeah. That’s what the ego does, right? Your ego places you above or below others and I definitely was saying, “Hey, my ego, I’m matter more than you. I matter more than your feelings. I’m going to do this.”
Shawn: And it was, it wasn’t a narrative that was like frontal, like it wasn’t the front of my mind. It was processed behind my mind that it wasn’t like it was like subconscious.
Shawn: I didn’t recognize that until after. That was one thing Eli talked about in the podcast is that it felt like a magic magnet to the strip club. I had similar experiences of like I had in my mind to, it was almost like two voices like, “No, I’m not going to do this.” You’re yelling at yourself, “Turn around, go back home!” But then the other one was like, “No, we’re doing this!” So yeah.
Garrett: Well the, some of the triggers can be like anger.
Garrett: Or loneliness or depression or rejection. All of these things. Everyone’s different. So we can all have different triggers.
Shawn: Rejection was my biggest one. I felt like I anytime I, I mean this is my whole life I’m speaking about, right. So anytime I felt rejection, that’s where I go.
Garrett: Let’s go to when your, uh, your wife and your mother-in-law pull up, was that the worst moment of your life or you’re the one of the better moments of your life?
Shawn: Emotionally is the hardest, worst day of my life. In retrospect. I’m grateful for the moment because I, it, it projected me to where I am today. When they pulled up and they got the things, I, I tried to be civil, trying to help them carry the stuff to the car when I carried the stuff to the car, cause my two kids, they put them in the car with all their belongings. And my mother-in-law, we hadn’t talked much. She and she just grabbed me and it kind of shocked me like, “Oh crap, like this is going to be a conflict. She’s going to get mad at me.” But she just wrapped her arms around me and she said, “We love you and you can beat this.” And that was the greatest example of love that I felt immediately. But then after that I went and I was alone and I, I wallowed in my tears and I, I was so upset with myself. Like, “What did you just do? You could, you just lost your two beautiful kids. You just lost your beautiful wife. Why did you do this? How’d you let this happen?” And the heaviness of that was the darkest day of my life and I hope, I hope other people don’t have to face it.
Garrett: Well I just think that it’s pretty powerful to hear some of your experiences. What role you, you’ve mentioned two people that showed you love. You said your mother-in-law and you mentioned your best friend, words of encouragement.
Garrett: Your best friend said you are not this. Yeah. And your mother in law said you can beat this. Yeah. Do you think that you would be here today if those two things didn’t happen?
Shawn: No. No. I had thoughts of suicide. I had thoughts of like, you’re a burden. You’re a pain to everyone in your family, your friends, your family, you’ve hurt everyone. How can you live with yourself? I mean… I had thoughts and I had plants to take my own life and those, those were thoughts that saved me.
Garrett: I think it’s, I think that might be one of the most important takeaways from this conversation.
Shawn: Yeah. For parents out there seeking ways of understanding how to deal with this issue. First thing you need to do is understand, express love. Say “I love you. No matter what, you are worth so much. No matter what broken. I love you!” and that’s all I think they need to hear. I think my family and some of my circle wanted to do the healing for me, but that was not what I needed. What I needed was for me to seek my healing myself, but for me to know that I was loved regardless…
Garrett: Past actions.
Shawn: … of what horrible things I’ve done.
Garrett: From that moment, were you perfect in your decision making?
Shawn: Was I perfect in my mindset and my thought process? No. Did I ever act out in a way that was like before? No.
Garrett: Yeah. I just, I think that’s important to hear because perfection is not the goal, you know?
Garrett: And I think so often as someone attempts to transition their mindset, it’s all or nothing.
Garrett: And if there’s a hiccup, it’s like, “Okay, well I’m done. I’m back to square one.” And that’s just not true.
Shawn: It’s like “Eff it!” Right? “I messed up again. I’m going to go back to my past behavior.”
Shawn: That’s what’s been, I think that’s the most important message that I care to give at towards the end of this message in the story is a growth mindset is really what broke me out of this cycle.
Garrett: A what mindset?
Shawn: Growth. Meaning I sought out knowledge not just on sexual issues, but on life.
Garrett: Yeah. On the greatest knowledge that’s available to man. So I made a goal to read 24 books a year, two books a month. Because my theory, my theory was that I had heard that CEOs on average read 60 books a year. That’s five books a month. So I was like, “Okay, let’s break that down. I can’t do that pace to start off. So let’s, let’s just start out with two books a year or two books a month.”
And I did that and I started finding things that lit me up.
Shawn: That I could get passionate about history and, and some of the best leaders. Right now I’m reading Steve jobs and Steve walked in John’s autobiography in the whole history of Pixar and Apple and it’s super fascinating. Right? And the other thing was podcasts. When I’d go to the, when I go to the gym in the morning, I’ll, I’ll plug in a podcast SuperSoul Sunday with Oprah. That’s where I get a lot of my book suggestions cause she has a book club and a lot of times she’s interviewing authors. And so then that started this mind recovery process of, okay,…
Garrett: So now you’re creating new pathways.
Shawn: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s what gave me hope of, okay, I’m not this thing that is negative and it’s caused pain. I can provide the light and truth and happiness and hope to the world through my works and producing. And that’s been my goal ever since.
Garrett: That’s cool. And I think it’s important that you talked about what helped you transition your mindset because it’s easy to say, “Okay, I’m done.” White knuckle it and then you’re going to fall again, fall back into it. But you got to replace those…
Shawn: Yeah. Replacement behaviors. I think the proper terminology is find something that’s constructive, that’s gonna build you up.
Garrett: Yeah. Growth verse decay. Right? As you were talking before we started recording the conversation, you mentioned that if you’re not growing your…
Garrett: And that’s one thing that I truly believe is like there’s two options. Every decision is going to lead us towards growth or towards decay.
Shawn: Yeah. Light versus darkness of Star Wars got it right. [Laughter]
Garrett: [Laughter] For sure.
Shawn: Um, I think one thing of note too that I am so lucky I sent this to the end of the letter is I’m so damn lucky because you mentioned the two expressions of love. My mother-in-law, my best friend, but even in my wife’s pain and her trauma, the first time of this stuff being revealed to her, she still expressed love. Of course the first reaction was anger and hurt.
But I can’t even think of like her finding out. I can’t think of moments where she didn’t try to express love. And if you can find people like that in your life, you better find a way to figure it out.
Garrett: To keep them.
Garrett: Yeah, for sure. Do you think, going back to, I think one of the, probably the lows that you had based on the conversation we’ve had was the suicide ideation and the moment of putting your kids in the car and the realization of “What did I just do?” Going back to some of those moments, did you ever think that you would be having a conversation like this, be able to have a conversation like this?
Shawn: No. The scariest thing. And even we thought about using a pseudonym, fake name to not… to protect my family, it was the number one concern. But shame doesn’t heal. And if you allow shame to guide your decisions, you’re not going to heal. And that’s why I’m taking ownership of my own name and my own accountability of what I’ve done wrong in my life. Even those, those, even though those decisions have caused pain for my family and friends, I’m taking accountability for it. And if you’re going to be with someone that attack someone for taking accountability and is vulnerable, maybe you should take a look at the mirror and see what your, what demons you’re facing. If you’re attacking someone that’s trying to grow.
Garrett: For sure. That’s cool man. Well I just think that um, it’s pretty powerful to hear some of your experiences and some of the, the lows that you had, some of the aha moments you’ve had. And we’re fortunate that your, I’m strong enough to talk about these things, you know, and address them. And we’re also fortunate cause it’s not just this conversation you’ve had years you, you said you spent $20,000 on transitioning your mindset.
Shawn: Yeah, lad to do something cause I was in a bad place. So I hope that people don’t have to do that.
Shawn: This should be a free service for those that are impacted from pornography. Find a way out and I’ve given you a free source resources that, well books aren’t free. Podcasts are. So start with podcasts. If that’s your first thing, you’re already at a podcast, right? Well listen to this but Super Soul Sunday provides tons of light for me so I highly recommend to you if you to listen to that.
Garrett: This would also probably be a good time to mention fortify cause it is, they have a free version for people who are looking for an option to help them address their dependency to pornography. And so those listeners out there will link fortify as an option, um, for you to check out. Um, Shawn, you’ve already left us with some words of wisdom. Is there one last thing you want to leave us with that you haven’t discussed so far?
Shawn: Uh, I would like to just read a short paragraph cause it was like the ultimate motivator for me, um, to show up today. My closing thoughts would be this, we all tend to protect ourselves. We don’t expose all of ourselves because we were fearful of rejection. We need more people to show up with their complete and true imperfect selves. Speak about their struggles and challenges. Stop trying to edit the material to fit to fit the audience in front of you. Love is expressed through connection through our connections. This is why we need to choose love, choose to serve it, to channel it to those in need. Let the communication from the universe flow through like a waterfall full of power and energy.
Garrett: I like that. Well thanks man. Thanks for showing up today.
Shawn: I just want to thank you and clay for the work that you guys do. You obviously you’ve done so much already and I think of you guys as mentors and coaches for all so thank you.
Garrett: I can say you welcome for the things that I’ve done, but it’s very little. But I think what’s important is to realize that we each play a role in the movement and um, we have so many fighters around the globe who are doing their part who um, yeah, doing their part in their way and you are one of them. You know, we’re all in this together so thanks for showing up today bro.
Shawn: Thanks for having me.
Garrett: Thanks for joining us on this episode of Considered Before Consuming. Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug. Fight the New Drug is a nonreligious and non legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science facts and personal accounts. If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest and the conversation we had, you can check out the links attached to this episode. As I’ve mentioned in this episode, Fight the New Drug is a nonprofit. For over 10 years. We’ve relied on donations from our fighters from around the world that have helped mobilize this movement and because of everyone’s effort, we’ve been able to reach some cool milestones. We’ve reached nearly 1 million people with our live presentations. We’ve been trusted by over 500 schools from around the world and uh, now we have over 5 million followers across our social media platforms, which is a pretty big deal and we’re so stoked about it.
It’s about getting the information out there so that people can consider the four consuming. Now with all that being said, there are nearly 8 billion people in the world, so we have a lot of work to do, so we’re encouraging fighters to do your part in the fight for love by signing up for a small recurring donation of $1 per month. Your small donation when combined with the other fighters from around the world will make a huge difference in helping to educate individuals on the harms pornography can have on individuals, relationships and society. You can go to ftnd.org/give1 (That’s the number one). Once again, that’s ftnd.org/give1 or you can use the link in the episode notes. Now moving on from that, we often talk about how many decisions each of us make every day, and it’s been said that the average person makes about 35,000 decisions every day. With all that decision making in a given day, we are sincerely grateful that one of your decisions today was to listen to this conversation. So thank you. As you go about your day, we invite you to increase your self awareness. Look both ways, check your blind spots and consider before consuming.
MORE RESOURCES FROM FTND
A three-part documentary about porn’s impacts on consumers, relationships, and society.
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Successfully navigate conversations about porn with your partner, child, or friend.
A database of the ever-growing body of research on the harmful effects of porn.
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