23p – A Client’s Story

This article has been kindly shared by a client whose porn addiction escalated into illegal behaviours - viewing child sexual abuse material online. As he left the police station after his arrest the police handed him back an envelope containing the money he had in his wallet - 23p. He has shared this in the hope that even if reading this stops one person from being in his situation, that's a positive thing:

"This post finds me planted in a 12-step recovery group and working the first steps, I also continue in my private therapy and feel it right to share with you something that in my limited experience is pivotal to the chances of recovery from sex addiction. 


Here it comes, unless you accept you have hit rock bottom and you are completely helpless, you will always fall victim to the tricky, slippery monster that is your addiction.

Recently my addiction had landed me at absolute rock bottom. This was the point I truly had to stare at the mirror held up to my face by the long arm of the law. There is no hiding from this mirror and to even stand a chance of a good life beyond this moment I realised I was going to have to stare into the reflection with a diligent and honest approach to what needs to change and more to the point what I have to own and accept.

As my living room was filled with police officers, I felt encircled in my own home, I recalled an experience in my school years when other lads in my year surrounded me on the playing field, pushed me over repeatedly and hurled insults as they laughed. All these years later and I was more scared and more alone.

“I have just got my life in order and this was going to stop” those were my first words as I realised I was in serious trouble. 

I really believed in that moment that my problem was in hand and I was managing it out of my life, my first thoughts were that me getting caught was a cruel twist of fate as I was so close to stopping. It is amazing that the biggest lies an addict will tell are the ones we tell ourselves.

Next, I immediately started to spill how my problem with porn had taken me to the dark web and that I had seen and revisited some horrific stuff. That was the first moment of honesty about this as the spotlight was cast on my dark deeds.

Shortly after this I was led away, I had scrambled together my keys and wallet but not my phone as that was seized along with every other media device in my possession, but all this happened as I was driven away to custody.

As someone who never had a problem with the legal system, I didn’t even know where the police station was, let alone know what happens when you’re arrested. Given the nature of my deeds I thought this was the beginning of the end for me. As I started to piece the puzzle together, I quickly concluded I was done for and likely will have no other choice but to end my own life. Surely there is no surviving this right? I can’t live with that label attached to me. That word.

As I am led in, I stand before a Sgt who books me in and explains that I will be held and interviewed over the course of the day. By this point I just want to finally tell all, share my story, how my porn stash took me from a 12 year old lad to the 30 something offender now stood before them.

My shoes, wallet, keys and anything on my person was handed in, a pair of sliders and a form to sign was placed in front of me on the counter. A couple of questions to ascertain whether I wanted to do myself in and that was me booked.

Before being placed in a holding cell, I was taken to a room for my fingerprints and DNA to be collected, next, a picture taken. As I looked back at the vacant and grey reflection of my face, I asked is this for the picture that will end up in the paper?

As I am walked to my room I am asked if I would like any food or tea or coffee, I nervously decline. I feel so sick I can’t imagine eating a bite, but I will later accept a coffee and a few biscuits.

My room has a hard marble like bed with a gym like mat and a curtain like blanket. I had a toilet in the corner. This was like the worst booking.com accommodation I could imagine and back then I thought that would be where I would remain indefinitely.

In this room I would contemplate my existence, life and deeds, the cost and whether I could even survive this. What I went through that day can safely be described as a very traumatic experience.

My first chance to have a conversation came when I spoke with an NHS support worker who would assess the danger I pose to myself. Obviously the last thing authorities would want or at least admit to, is for someone in my situation to punch out from the world, as though suicide would be some sense of escape or self imposed justice.

In my case I couldn’t do that to the people I love, who would likely already have to go through hell as a result of my actions. My problem was always carried out in silence and isolation so realising just how much impact my poor life decisions could have on others was unbearable. Despite this, I decided that I have to face it and tell the truth to make sure that it is at least understood that I never intended to get to where I did and this was a long journey and descent to the very bottom of the barrel which started with a magazine and ended on the dark web.

I initially refused the offer for legal representation but the man who listened empathetically to my story of self destruction and chaos explained that it would be best if I reconsidered this stance. At this moment of complete anguish I decided I would tell the police and the solicitor the very same story that I had just shared, after all, I had explained the only currency I have is the truth. (How typically poetic of me, if only I could have come to my senses long ago).

After a couple more hours I meet my assigned legal representation. I explain the same thing to him, I always believed solicitors are like the films portray and that the job is to twist and spin the facts to create a narrative, this was something I didn’t want to do.

My advice to you, he said, tell the police everything you just told me, after all, this was my truth so whether he advised me or not, this was going to happen. You really are quite a remarkable young man, he said. I have never seen anyone in your situation speak with such a resigned and remorseful demeanour and communicate something like this as effectively, this could be a lot worse and it is not the end of your life. His words offered me very little consolation.

My interview followed a similar path, I explained everything and left little need for further questioning, I explained that my life was lately very much like being a computer with two conflicting operating systems. Until today I had separated the real life and me from this Mr Hyde like figure that would take the driving seat from time to time. I said porn has been like a drug to me and while I had always coped with lesser drugs, the dark web was like finding a vault full of crack and after crossing that line, I was just stuck in a cycle of destructive behaviour.

I said I was completely confused at how I had so removed myself from my deeds as I was in fact a highly empathetic person in my real life and that only when they turned up, did I register the humans on the other side of the screen. These were children, not jpegs or mp4s, they said how could you have not made this connection?

I didn’t really have an answer, I was as baffled as they are, but I did say that I guess we as a society dehumanise people when we pass them tutting on the streets while they beg to fund their addictions, when we don’t register the real human plight in the news about refugees.

I guess in an extreme case of compartmentalization I had disassociated the victims from the footage I had viewed. I explained I never paid for, interacted or uploaded anything. It was all just clicking away.

As the pages on the desk of the officer were rustled I saw it, a print out of a young girls face, I recognised her from a short video I had seen. It dawned on me what had happened the file had hit my desktop and backed up to the cloud after one of my attempts to wipe the slate clean and “never do it again”, and thus I was on the radar through my own attempts to manage and stop my compulsions. My life had truly become unmanageable.

They questioned whether I knew this girl in the picture? No, of course not, the video was in something that sounded like Russian. And this video is all over the forums, I go on to explain I would go onto these sites to just download and see what was out there. I was what people on these sites refer to as a leech, never joining in or contributing, I was a viewer and not a do’er. That’s not what it was for me. I was disgusted at my frequenting of these sites and would mostly go through deletion immediately, other times thought if I compressed and hid it well enough I wouldn’t need to revisit any of it but could never relax with it in my possession, and whether days, weeks or months later, I would inevitably come back and do the same again. That’s how escalation of addiction works.

With that cycle of shame in mind they could recover thousands of residual files from my machine as I would download and delete massive files from these sites.

When my acting out didn’t involve the dark web it was all screen grabbing girls photos on social media like some sort of spank bank stalking, and I would keep myself occupied with trans porn and the ever more common bestiality girls that in recent years had gone from grainy 70s style films to hi resolution glamourous girls doing the most depraved perverted stuff.

As the interview was closed, I was told I should be released later that day pending further investigation. To make sure they ruled out the girl in the image wasn’t someone in my life they would ask my partner to confirm this. An ordeal I would never have wanted a loved one to be put through.

An hour or so later I was led out to be processed. It turned out my partner came to pick me up. On my face was the most hopeless and sad countenance I had ever displayed, my clothes, wallet, keys and an envelope with 23p in it.

In that moment the value of my very being felt little more than that 23p. Thank God others in my life place a higher price tag on my life than I did.

So began life after the knock. What came next was a month or so of depression, social anxiety, self loathing, low self esteem, thoughts of suicide and flashbacks of both arrest and seeing faces of victims in the faces I passed on the street or in the supermarket.

Within a week I had resigned from my job, committed to private therapy and reached out to rehabilitation through charity’s that pick up those societal issues that we don’t want to look at or think about.

Statistics show that online offender cases have skyrocketed and the police cannot keep up with the workload. 3% of these offenders commit suicide and figures suggest that more than 85% of online offenders do not go on to reoffend.

What I and others do when downloading and viewing this stuff is create copies of evidential files of abuse. It is not porn, it is child sex abuse material. Individuals that are caught make up just a small part of the bigger picture, experts believe that we are on the cusp of a tsunami of sex addiction that manifests with a rewiring of the brain due to prolonged dopamine bingeing of internet porn.

Three months on and I am not the first and sadly, I will not be the last. My rehabilitation and recovery will hopefully serve as a template to other addicts. I share this in the hope that if someone is skating on the thin ice of extreme sexual content driven compulsive behaviour I hope my story jolts you with sense of clarity, get help and do something now. Stop it now!"

- Anonymous Client

If your online use of pornography has escalated into using child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and you want to seek help before you get an early morning knock at the door from the police, there are a number of organisations that can help you begin to make changes:

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation


The Association For The Treatment Of Sex Addiction And Compulsivity - ATSAC



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