Mask, No More. Here I Am…

 

Hey world. It’s me, Seth Kaufman. Over the past 23 years and counting, I’ve learned a lot about the life we live, the world we inhabit, and the people we interact with. But I realized that age the age of 22, I knew absolutely nothing. Very little about all the things I thought I knew, very little about what real pain and struggle are, and very little about myself.

And the more I learned about myself, the more I realized nobody else knew anything about me either. Yeah, they knew the little things like what sports I liked to play, who my favorite athletes are, and that I can scarf down a whole medium dominos pizza… But they didn’t know the real me… Deep down inside… My innermost thoughts and secrets.

And I realized over the past year that it is these secrets that hold power over me. Everytime I’m feeling down about something, and someone asks me “how are you doing?”, and I respond with a passive “great”, I am not only lying to them but I’m lying to myself. I’m also giving these secrets the power they need to grow, and strengthen their hold over me. I’m feeding the very things I’m trying to contain.

But I didn’t realize this. I never realized this, until very recently. In fact, I’ve lived almost my entire life without realizing this. Approximately 22 years, in fact. And that’s why I made this website, that’s why I am writing this write now… I don’t want any more secrets. I don’t want any more lies. I want to express exactly who I am and the struggles I’ve encountered in my life. The truth. World, here I am… NoMoreMasked.Me

When deciding how long I wanted to make this introductory post, I was conflicted between making it the few paragraphs I wrote above, and splitting out the rest of my thoughts over the course of several posts. However, I decided against it. I want to get out everything I have here. Now. I’ve been wanting to write this first post for months now. I can’t even remember how long it’s been.

But I put it off… I’d spend hours that turned into days, and even weeks, just trying to figure out silly little details such as which color my subscribe button should be, or creating the perfectly appealing logo that fits evenly with my navigation bar. Why did I do this? I was scared to write this. I really wanted to do this, like I said. But wanting to do it, and actually doing it… completely different.

This is the first time I am saying any of this stuff to anyone. Some stuff, other people know about me, but again, that’s the general gist of it. The deep, dark details… the secrets… That’s what I was afraid to express. That’s what nobody knows. And honestly, as I sit here writing this, I have no idea who will ever read this, and who won’t, but that doesn’t matter to me, that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing this because I want to let this stuff go, remove the power it holds over me. And a big reason I even developed the courage to and gall to say any of the stuff you’re going to find out about me is because of my sister, Stefanie Kaufman. In the last 5 or so years of her life, she went from a Valedictorian candidate of our high school, to an extremely opinionated and experienced young woman.

And I’m proud to say she’s my sister. She so boldly and courageously took on an initiative to help others, strangers, in fact, deal with and conquer the same mental illnesses and struggles that she’s encountered in her life. And not only did she do this, but she made her cause infinitely more relatable and authentic by revealing many of the struggles and issues she’s had in her life.

To me, this was horrifying. Not for me, personally, but imaging myself doing that, scared the living hell out of me. I am the kind of person who normally keeps my business private, as you could infer. When I know people know details of my life, I always fear and ponder what they’re thinking of me… Thinking “oh they must be talking about me”.

I feared that by letting out the inner most details and secrets about myself, that people would never be able to look at me the same. But that’s needy. That’s giving more weight and value to the opinions of others than to attend to the well being of myself. Now I don’t give a shit. Whoever hears what I have to say and doesn’t like it, doesn’t deserve to be in my life anyway.

That’s the attitude my sister took, and that’s the attitude I’m going to take. I’ve never actually told her any of this, or even talked to her about how she had the courage to write all of this down and begin to tell people about these struggles, but if you ever do one day read this article, Stefanie, thank you for the inspiration.

So… let’s go back to why the beginning. Well, not the very, very beginning of my struggles, but the beginning of the wake up call I needed to even become self aware enough to realize these struggles… Here we go. NoMoreMasked.Me

Every once in a while, I get this gnawing pit in my stomach and extreme encouragement to do something that usually lets me know that’s the right thing to do right now… Something that leads me in the right direction, amongst a set of seemingly equal choices. The first time I can remember this feeling was in college. One night we were deciding between going to a dance club & a regular old bar.

For some reason, I just felt extremely strongly about the dance club, almost as though that’s where I should be on that night. So that’s where I went, and that’s where my friends went. It turns out, me, and my two buddies walked up to these three girls to dance, each entirely at random, and they all happened to be friends. That led to me dating one of them for a bit, and a friend of mine dating one of them for several years. And we stayed friends with the three girls throughout college.

So that overwhelming feeling I got that I should go to that club proved to be right. A great feeling of instinct that rewarded me in my life. I’ve learned to trust that feeling over and over again, and there have been countless examples of how it’s helped me in my life.

Another example is in the summer of 2014, in July, my friend had been living in NYC doing a summer internship. His friends from his hometown and I were friendly, but hadn’t hung out too much as we went throughout college. Then one weekend, a lot of those friends were coming into NYC. I had been exhausted from work and had been putting in a lot of hours to get my new business off the ground at the time.

So I didn’t really want to go in. But I went anyway. Why? Because I got that same overwhelming feeling of this is where I should go. So I went. And it was a great time. I got to re-kindle the bond I had with many of those friends over meals, sports, and going out in the city. Good ol’ fun time. Little did I know that me hanging out with those guys was just a step amongst a larger staircase.

My friends and I are very big into fantasy football. I am in a league with all my friends from Syracuse, and my friend I mentioned before is in a league with all his friends from home, the same ones I just spent a nice weekend with in NYC. But it turns out one of those friends couldn’t do their league this year, and they needed a replacement. I joked it should be me.

I had essentially been their honorary 13th league member, as I had attended each of their past 4 drafts as a guest, and always joked about being in the league one day. But then my friend said he actually was going to push for me to be in the league. And others in the league voted for me too. Wanna guess who voted for me? Those same people who I just spent the weekend with in NYC.

Yeah, pretty crazy. I really think that if I hadn’t had that weekend hangout here in the city that I wouldn’t have had enough votes to push me into the league. But I did. And the draft was August 9th. I had to drive to Foxwoods Casino, in Connecticut, which was basically all the way to Boston, for the draft. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal to commute that.

But it was this time, because as I mentioned earlier I had just started my business and was working a lot to get it off the ground. Before I was voted into this fantasy football league, I already had planned trips to Boston for our annual Six Flags trip, which was August 25th, and for my friends birthday, which was August 16th. I’d be going to Boston three consecutive weeks in a row.

That was several days off, and several more of being tired and not getting as much as I wanted done throughout that month, work wise, for someone starting a new business. But I thought I’d been working really hard that whole summer and I could afford to spend time with my friends. Which brings me back to the fantasy football draft, August 9th.

We rented out an entire suite at Foxwoods, and did our fantasy draft there. It was awesome. Then after the draft concludes, we all get ready to go out and drink, gamble, and go to the club. My friend tell us that this girl he’s been dating is coming along as well. It turns out she brought a friend. A friend who it turns out, I had a thing for.

At the time, I didn’t consider it anything to clamor about, but she was cute, and we were all out in a group of us drinking and having a good time. I liked her, and I got her number, but I figured I’d never see her again, being that she lived three hours away from me, and I had no connection to this girl whatsoever. And despite that, I just texted her the following Monday to see if she remembered me or any of the night at Foxwoods.

It turns out, she did, and we talked. This is where some more of the steps on the staircase come into play. I’m normally the kind of guy when I start texting a girl, I’m very into it in the beginning, and then I get bored pretty quickly. But that wasn’t the case at all in this situation. I didn’t really feel a desire to stop or slow down the pace of conversation, which surprised me.

Quickly we developed inside jokes and had rapport. But this was extremely aided and assisted by the fact that we had mutual connections of friends. It made it so much easier. That had never really happened to me before, where I had friends who knew a girl I was interested in, and could vouch for her as a person. I felt the chips aligning…

I would get texts from my friend hearing tidbits of what was going on with me and this girl, and asking me questions about what’s going to happen, or when I was going to see her… But like I said, I was three hours away from this girl. A few days of texting wasn’t going to change that. Then the next day, something happened that assured me I wasn’t going to see her again.

She had a boyfriend. She explained the whole situation of how they were still together kind of and that she wouldn’t want to lead me on and just wanted to be my friend. At first I didn’t really care, and just deleted her number without responding. Then I thought… The connection we had after just a few days of talking, combined with the circumstances under which I met her seem to be pretty coincidental, so I scrambled to find her number.

No recent calls, and I wasn’t going to ask my friend to ask for her number, which would involve saying I hastily deleted it after receiving that last text. But, the gosh dang iPhone has recent text history. I remembered the first digit of the number I was given, and was able to pull up the number from recent history… Just so I could text back saying I was okay with just being friends.

I said this because I felt neither of us just wanted to be friends, and I was just being courteous to the situation at hand. Then we continued talking as if that gaffe never occurred. And by the time I was back in Boston on August 16th for my friend’s party, she was single. And everyone knew my business. Like I said, it was the first time I had mutual friends who were friends with a girl I was interested in.

I had told nobody that she broke up with her boyfriend, yet the whole crew knew, and were asking me questions, which was uncomfortable. But now, hanging out seemed more and more like a real possibility. That next weekend I went to Six Flags, again in Boston, and later that day I decided today was the day. I would drive to meet this girl again and leave my friends after Six Flags. And that’s what I did.

From there on, met, and had chemistry, and met again. This led to her being the first girl I would introduce to my family and have over my house, bring around my friends consistently, and have sex with. In thinking back, I honestly was on the fence about her after meeting her several times, but got some good advice about how to proceed in this situation.

I had always been looking for the faults in everyone I’ve dated and met, and have rarely seen it fully through, objectively, without harshly judging. So I decided that I would look for the good, and let the situation play itself out. And it did. We dated from until April 2015. And when we broke up, I was told that “Love is not enough”.

It was that phrase that drove me mad, into thinking how I could possibly have chosen a girl to open myself up to and love, who ultimately decided that that wasn’t enough for her… In the past, I was always the one who was guarded and closed off, where I felt as though whenever I wanted the situation to be right and have a solid connection with girls who were interested in me, it would just be there.

But this was a harsh reality that this wasn’t the case. I found myself ruminating in my thoughts for days, trying to make sense of what was such a fucked up situation. But I couldn’t. Of course, at the time I felt like the only way I could move past such a thing was by making sense of it. So in my mind, I just had to make it fit together.

But because this was unlike any situation I faced in my life, I didn’t know how to make sense of it. Yet at the same time, I was determined not to become one of those people from every romantic comedy ever, who loses someone they love, and then becomes a prisoner to themselves and locks themselves up in their house for weeks on end, binging on doughnuts and ice cream.

So I started going outside of myself to get some help. I didn’t want to see a therapist, mainly because of the money required to do so, but also because it would most likely involve removing this front I tried to put up to make it seem like I was okay. So I found a program online that was made for guys just like me, to help them move on from bad losses, and to get their lives back together.

At first, it was great. I felt like the content was speaking directly to me. And a lot of it was extremely helpful, in turning around my mindset of the whole situation. It was the first initial steps I needed to remove the graduation goggles from the relationship, which basically meant removing the idea I had in my head that it was a love at first sight fairytale with no issues along the way.

This was not true, though it definitely felt like it was. I realized for the first time since the break up that there were a lot of problems I wasn’t really okay with. I realized some of them might have even been deal breakers. And I realized that I did something I told myself, prior to the relationship, that I’d never do… Be one of those people that sacrifices their desires just to not be alone.

And I did that. Realizing that was freeing because it made me feel like there were definite lessons to learn for me and my life. Lessons like setting stronger boundaries, and applying what I learned about what I liked and didn’t like about my relationship to go out and meet new girls. Girls who I could be a potentially better fit with. This was all great news, a second chance.

But then I started dating again. At first, I felt like I was truly ready to be back out there meeting new girls. I wasn’t always a relationship person, but I was definitely a guy who was out there meeting new girls. So I met this girl from an online dating site called POF. At first, she seemed great, and we seemed to be able to talk about a lot of different stuff.

We had a good connection when we met in person, and hung out a few times. I was feeling pretty good about her, and about myself and how I was progressing after the breakup. Then one day, she asks me, “so why are you single?”, and I didn’t want to answer. I forgot what I said, but it probably seemed pretty weird, that I was on an online dating site, single, attractive, and has a good group of friends and a lot going on for myself, yet i didn’t know why I was single…

Well, of course, I knew, but I didn’t want her to knew. Or anyone else for that matter. This was another tipping point for me. A point where I realized getting over grief and loss was a non-linear process, and that in reality, it was a process that was up and down. So when I felt like I was on top of the world one day for conquering my feelings and moving on from my ex, the next day I would feel down in the dumps with emotion.

It was at this point that I had realized, while the course I had taken and advice I had gotten was definitely useful, it was dangerous if not applied within context. For me, that context was making sure I was letting go of those old feelings, and replacing old habits with new ones, rather than just suppressing my emotions and feelings and thoughts to give myself the appearance that I was doing better.

Because putting up that front, and holding that appearance did no good. I didn’t let my family members know I wasn’t okay, and I didn’t let my friends know I wasn’t okay, it was only me. And as a result of me suppressing my emotions, there was definite carryover into all aspects of my life. First, my business. I lost a potential client who would’ve raised my revenue significantly.

And at work, I generally just stalled. I couldn’t concentrate, I didn’t want to work, and I seriously debated whether or not I wanted to do my job anymore. A job which I gave up everything for, a job which I risked a lot to do, and a job that I’ve been learning about and desiring to do since high school. This drove me to be disinterested in that.

For nearly two months, I neglected my duties as owner and single employee of my company. I nearly lost my largest client, and had to convince him to stay on, and my revenue had halted after climbing significantly and quickly within the first several months of my company’s inception before I met my ex. And on top of that,  I began to make questionable financial decisions.

I hadn’t increased my revenue at all, yet I took on several significant expenses, increased my allowable credit limit, maxed out my credit card, and left myself with little to no money to be able to even pay my bills barely. I began recycling water bottles & soda cans in my house, not to save the environment, but because I wanted to be able to go to Chipotle without feeling like I was using my last $10 so I didn’t make my checking account negative.

But my business wasn’t the only thing that was suffering as a result of my suppression. In high school, and before college in general, I never drank alcohol. I just didn’t see the point, plus, I wasn’t really in the crowd of people who drank. And quite frankly, it was foreign to me and I was nervous to try it. But once I got to college, I had a group of friends I trusted, and we drank together. I still remember the first time I was drunk, and didn’t even realize it.

But by my senior year, I drank probably once a week, or once every other week, and I’d go out with my friends, but never really had someone who drank with me. We would all drink together, but if I didn’t go out, it wouldn’t really change the way people went about their drinking. This was likely because I wasn’t a very big drinker and didn’t drink quite as often as others.

When I met my ex, I quickly realized she drank a lot more than I did. And at first, I didn’t like it. The first three or four times we hung out, the next morning when we woke up she wouldn’t remember anything. I almost felt like she needed to be drunk to feel comfortable enough to hang out with me. This, of course, wasn’t true, but it seemed that way.

But over time, I just started drinking more. It was nice to, for once, be the reason someone wants to drink. We became drinking buddies. I enjoyed drinking with her, and she enjoyed drinking with me. We looked forward to going out and getting drunk together. It was silly and fun, and in addition to just enjoying drinking and having a good time, it was a way to connect with her.

So after we broke up, I was now left with a habit of drinking… I say habit loosely because I didn’t drink that often, but I was now used to the idea of having someone to go out and drink with, and that was what was missing in my life, in terms of alcohol. So at first alcohol became a way for me to keep my connection with my ex alive. It made me feel closer to her when I drank.

It made me feel less in pain. And it also literally made me forgot, for a very short period of time, about the ruminating thoughts in my head. I was always so eager to drink now. I’d ask my friends all the time to go out and get dinner and drinks, I’d ask my mom if she’d want to go out and drink even. And I never used to do that. The first time she ever saw me drink was my college graduation.

But despite the short amount of time I’d feel free from my thoughts, I’d quickly fall off that peak and come crashing down, realizing what I had just done. I had just used alcohol as a means to connect with others, and to further suppress my emotions and thoughts and feelings. I knew I was doing this too. One night I had a breakdown when my friend asked me how I was doing.

I don’t know why, but I decided to clue him into what was really going on in my life, and explained why I had been so eager to go drink, and to go to eat at places I had gone with my ex. It was the first time I clued anyone into my life for real at the time. But I still didn’t think I had a problem, I just figured that I needed to replace the old drinking habits with new ones.

So I started experimenting with new drinks, new combinations. I was hesitant to go anywhere near the drink combinations that would trigger any sort of thought of my ex. So I’d have anything anyone was willing to suggest. And now I had a bunch of new drink combinations I liked, just in time for my cousin’s wedding, on September 5th, but I’ll get to that.

Another major way I was coping with the suppression of my emotions was through PMO, also known as Porn, Masturbation, Orgasm, as I came to know it. I’m going to get into it in great detail later on in this writing, but I have struggled with PMO for a long time. Since 9th grade, or since I was about 14, in high school. But I hadn’t PMO’d since about my junior year of college, about two years before I met my ex.

Since that last time I PMO’d, I’d had some of the most successful relationships I ever had, and in succession, each one was of higher and higher quality. But after my last relationship ended and I was suppressing all of this emotion, it felt as though I was alone for the first time in so very long. I had been suppressing all of my emotion from my breakup with my ex, and the girl I met through online dating didn’t turn out too well.

I realized that I was in no state to be emotionally available, yet I was looking for a girl to want to jump right in to the relationship stage with me. I was looking for a replacement, someone and something to again bring me back to where I was, not where I was looking to go. And since I had been on online dating now, I was browsing the apps constantly.

I’d spend hours and hours browsing. And there were some very attractive women on there, and one night, I just snapped. And I went back to PMO. I immediately regretted it, and said it was a one time thing. But it happened again. And again. And several more times. While I was at my grandparent’s house in Florida, nonetheless.

All those feelings of sneaking around holding in emotion… now multiplied because of this new secret that has been brought back into my life, by me. And when I got home to NY, I thought I was done with this mini binge, but it continued a couple days in NY too. One time even at my office at work. It just goes to show where my head was at because at the time I was in a shared office where anyone could’ve walked in on me.

But I decided that was it… again. Except this time it felt different, I realized something. I realized that I was again using PMO not as an outlet of fun, but as a means of achieving something… connection. And also I noticed a trend. After my trust was severely broken I had been hurt, that’s what I resorted to PMO. But like alcohol, there was only a small peak of joy where my mind was off of my troubles, then… right back where I was just a few minutes before.

At this point I stopped PMO cold turkey, as I had done several times before, but I figured it was different now that I realized the root of my connection to PMO. But this, combined with my drinking and my business led me to finally break down to my parents one day, which I never do. I was just so stressed and felt I needed help that I had to inform them somewhat of my secrets.

I explained to them that I hadn’t been able to focus on my work for some time now, and that my finances were not in good shape. That I needed some help to get out of the situation I was in. Not financial help, but advice on how to fix it, and how to fix myself. Being the parents they are, they offered to help me a bit financially, in exchange for my promising to be honest with them.

Honest about any times in the future I was feeling down about my break up, and any times that I may have been in trouble with my business. They expected me to put my ego aside and trust that they could help me. I reluctantly accepted, despite not wanting to take their money, but is something I’ll always be thankful for. So if you are ever reading this, Mom or Dad, thank you every much.

This brings me back to the wedding, September 5th. From the crack of the happy hour, I was off to the races with my drinking. I remember going into the day thinking, this might be the first time I intentionally drink until I get so sick that I cannot drink anymore. But the weird thing was, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that, I just thought I had the mindset of trying to enjoy the wedding.

And towards the middle of the party, my parents noticed I had been drinking a lot and told me to be careful of how much I was drinking. At this point, I had been drinking basically non-stop from the happy hour, through the wedding ceremony, and the dinner and deserts. I was having a good time, keeping my mind clear and easy. But when I heard those words from my parents, I stopped drinking.

I sobered up a bit, and sure enough, I came tumbling down from that peak I was on, and all of the thoughts of my break up resurfaced. Here I am… at a wedding. Alone. A wedding that my cousins decided to invite my ex. A wedding that they gave me the invitation to invite her, but I decided to wait until they officially mailed the invitations to tell her. This was supposed to be an event we attended together.

This was the last event that I had planned in my head for us to be attending together before we broke up. But up to this point, I was okay… mainly because I had been suppressing my emotions with the repeated orders of cocktails I got from the open bar. But then it just hit me. The reality of my life just hit me. Right there in the middle of the wedding.

There I was, crying. At a table with my parents, my aunts, and uncles. I was so embarrassed because the pain was so great for me at that moment, and I was so evidently upset. But nobody knew why. All I was hoping was that nobody saw me. But someone did. One person. My mom. Who told me to get up and come with her outside of the wedding hall. And my dad followed.

At which point I proceeded to cry and express the raw emotion that I had been suppressing inside of me for so long on how I haven’t been fine at all, and how every single second of every single day of my life up to that point, I had thoughts of my ex, or thoughts of trying to avoid thinking about her. One or the other was always there.

At this point, I realized just how it is that people who commit suicide are able to do so. Did I ever really consider or deal with the reality of a suicide? Not even close. I enjoy living, and I enjoyed living throughout 2015, despite how damn hard it was at times. But by that statement, I just mean that I realize how when you’re in a dark place and you think you have nothing to live for, it could be easy to convince yourself there’s no more reason to continue.

The next day after the wedding, I came home and dumped whatever alcohol I had in my freezer out down the drain, and when my mom saw it she asked me why I had done that. And I told her that I did that because “I could see how people could become addicted to alcohol”. And that was it. I decided I wouldn’t drink for 60 days, to keep my head clear.

This was tough, however. Not because I ever really needed to drink, but because whenever I was at a social gathering and wanted to drink, I couldn’t. I made a decision to go 60 days without drinking, and I stuck to it. That included missing out on drinking at my college homecoming, which was also the same night as my birthday, and missing out on drinking at a Halloween party I went to Philadelphia for.

While this was hard, it made me realize I could have a good time without drinking. And when the 60 days were over, I was very reluctant to actually start drinking again, but I did, with, new kinds of wines, and trying to just drink a few drinks rather than a bunch. It seemed like a good compromise to me. And during the 60 days of no drinking, I also had a couple other habits I was trying to build.

The first related to music. I realized nearly every new song I was downloading on my phone was some kind of love song, either about the artist finding the love of their life, or about the heartbreak they felt when they lost that person. I was escaping into this music throughout the summer prior. I would leave my office, which was five minutes from my house, and take 30 minute drives around the town, listening to these songs.

The other habit I was building was meditation. This habit was a long time coming for me. While I was still with my ex back in March of 2015, we went to a speaker event hosted by Josh Radnor, who plays Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother. I love his character and was stoked about the opportunity to see him speak live. One thing he said he did was meditate.

I didn’t know too much about mediation but the way he described it, it sounded like it could be a pretty cool thing to learn, so I wrote down the name of a book he suggested to read, which was called Wherever You Go There You Are, by John Kabat Zinn. I kept that book name as a tab in my browser to remind me to read it for the longest time.

Then in May when I was doing that course to try and help me learn how to overcome the break up, it was suggested to me to learn how to meditate.  So I began meditating for 15 minutes per day. It really made me feel good, even though I wasn’t fully aware of what meditation was. I essentially used it as a 15 minute “near-nap” session in the middle of my day.

As the summer wore on, I stopped meditating, but there was something that brought me back to it. Mark Manson. Mark Manson is a guy who has a site similar to mine, a guy who also inspired me in part to create this site. I found him by doing a simple Google search. A google search for a term that had driven me mad for months.

“Love is not enough”. Months had gone by, and I had been able to deal with some aspects of this complicated situation, but that was one I never understood. Before this, I always assumed that if two people love each other enough, they can choose to stay together and work through anything they want to, no matter how difficult circumstances got.

A big reason I think I feel this way is because of my parents. When I was growing up, they were always fighting. I was too young to really understand the true nature of a lot of their fights, but from what I remember, a lot of fights were triggered by my mom’s unhappiness with my Dad smoking, and by the stress that came along with money issues.

I never asked my sister directly, but I think we both figured our parents would get divorced one day. I forget how young I was, but I am going to say maybe eight or so, and that would make my sister about five years old. But we organized a night where my mom and dad would sit in the living room, having their favorite Chinese food take-out, and we had their favorite song playing on a CD I burned in the background.

We had essentially set up a date for them to re-kindle their marriage. It’s funny thinking back to what we did at such a young age, and the thoughts we had. But it was definitely always an insecurity of mine that I might see a divorce in my own home. But it never happened. And I don’t really know what the reason is for why my parents stayed together.

Part of me thinks that it’s because of me and my sister. If there’s one thing that you can say defines my parents for how I know them, it’s that they would do anything for me and my sister first before they would do something for themselves. So I thought that they’d stayed together to protect me and my sister. But then there’s also a part of me that thinks something different.

There’s a part of me that thinks, maybe they really do just love each other, and are just so in love that it doesn’t matter what happens with any other issues, because they can see past that, to hold on to their love. And my ex thought my parents love for one another was evident to her, upon meeting them. So this kind of confirmed that my theory on love must be true.

Which is why hearing “love is not enough” absolutely destroyed me. But when I came across Mark Manson’s website, he tried to explain that there three stages of romantic relationships. The first being lust, followed by love. But love was not the top of the ladder here. The last and final step of romantic relationships, beyond love, is commitment.

When two people are in love with one another, if they don’t feel committed to one another, they will leave, as my ex had left me. When two people are committed to one another, they will stay together, as my parents have. Despite the love my parents hold, they have been presented with several huge issues such as struggling to have a child, and multiple instances of cancer, that would have, understandably so, torn apart a number of couples.

But that commitment they share for one another is what held them together, and I credit Mark Manson for teaching me that. And aside from this article I read which I felt blessed to have found, Mark mentioned meditation. He mentioned he learned from a guy named John Kabbat Zinn, whose books Josh Radnor happened to recommend I read.

I thought this was an interested, and funny twist last summer, that showed me I was on the right path. So I started reading this book by John Kabbat Zinn which explained the 8 week meditation course he taught at UMASS hospital. I now had possession of it. He stressed to take it as a matter of life or death, and that’s what I did. I learned a lot, and continue to learn a lot about meditation.

I took those 8 weeks, or approximately 60 days, which was concurrent with the same time period I took away from drinking and my music, to really focus on myself and heal. I felt that these were perhaps the most instrumental 8 weeks I’ve had since the break up, and the clearest my mind had felt as well. The 60 days ended in my getting my business to new heights, and moving my office to New York City.

And the city started off great, I was meeting a ton of new people both in business and socially through events at my new office at WeWork. I really felt like my old self for a while. Then, as I started drinking again, and as the holidays approached, it became harder to keep hold of my new mindset. Every weekend, seemingly, would mark the one year anniversary of another thing I did with my ex.

One night, I had made plans to meet up with a girl I met on online dating. She ended up cancelling and then I had about five weed brownies and nearly 10 shots of Jose Cuervo mixed margaritas. It was a miracle I only had the spins and didn’t get sick. Then, another night shortly after, we had a social mixer type event with WeWork, which had an open bar. I remember this night in great detail.

I had about 10 or so shots of Jack Daniels without even realizing it because it was an open bar. Thinking back on it, I don’t know how I didn’t keep track of my drinks. I always, always count my drinks for the very fear of over drinking. But tonight, I just didn’t do that. But I didn’t really feel drunk either. It was weird. But I didn’t stop there.

After the WeWork party, I met up with my friend at a bar and proceeded to have 3 or 4 more margaritas. He told me I was messed up but I didn’t really understand why he was saying that, I just felt kinda buzzed. Then when we all went our separate ways, I got on the subway. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was going the wrong way.

Then on top of that, as soon as the train started moving, I felt nauseous. I had to get off at the next stop, after going 10 minutes in the wrong direction and sit on the platform. At this point, it was 12 AM and I had no idea where I was, and I was alone and I felt sick. I decided I definitely did not want to throw up on the train, and that I’d rather wait on the platform until I felt balanced enough to ride the train.

I really could’ve used the help of someone to just reassure me of where I was, or that I’d be okay, but I didn’t even think for a second to just pull my phone out of my pocket and call a friend. So I sat on the platform for nearly an hour. And now this is where the night got really hazy for me. I’m not sure if I decided I felt good enough to get on the train, or if I threw up on the platform first.

In the past, any time I’ve gotten sick from drinking, I never threw up more than once, so I might’ve gotten sick and then decided I was okay to get on the train. But there was one thing I wasn’t accounting for. I’ve never drank this much alcohol in my life. So when I got on that train, I began throwing up. I was in the corner of the train and nobody was near me so I thought nobody saw.

I got off where I needed to transfer to get home, and I figured, okay I definitely am okay now and I wont be sick anymore. But I was wrong. On the next train, I began throwing up repeatedly. Gagging, dry heaving, and vomiting. Right there. Only this time, I was in the middle of a crowded E Train, and everyone near me decided to get up and start moving away toward the other side of the train.

I remember feeling both the most humiliation I’ve ever felt, along with the biggest expression of I don’t give a fuck right now. The former because, I was on a train, in public, and I was vomiting, and I saw people who were visibly disgusted by the sight… And the latter because, I was really drunk, and really sick, and there was absolutely nothing I could do.

If you know me, you’d know how hard I was trying to avoid throwing up at all costs, but it did nothing, as I couldn’t stop it. So it just was what it was. There was nothing that I, nor anybody else on that train, could do about it. And that was the last time I ever drank. For a while, I didn’t even make it a point to decide I didn’t want to drink anymore, but I just didn’t.

I realized I no longer wanted to drink, that alcohol is no longer bringing me the recreational fun it used to, and that I could have way more fun, without it. Also, not drinking alcohol would keep my mind clear and able to focus on what I need to, which is my business, and my personal development. Anything else is a distraction. Alcohol was a distraction, a diversion, from me dealing with my thoughts, and my life, directly.

And just like alcohol was no longer bringing me the recreational fun it used to, thats the same as PMO. Again, that stands for Porn, Masturbation, Orgasm. For me, this is the hardest topic to discuss. It’s something that’s been a big dark cloud over my head for a long time, for about 9 years. And reaching my breaking point and my rock bottom with PMO was what ultimately gave me that last kick in the ass to get out there and change my life.

So let’s start from the beginning. Back in 9th grade around the time when I just turned 14 years old, I was what they call sexually inactive. I’ve had crushes, and I liked girls, but what do people in middle school do in relationships? They peck each other on the cheek, and talk on AIM. I had no idea what it meant to be in a real relationship, or what really was involved in sexual activity.

That changed in 9th grade when I was introduced to PMO. I overheard guys in my class discussing the porn they were watching, and masturbating to it to achieve orgasm. I was curious. So I began masturbating. I actually didn’t even orgasm for a while, I had to learn how to do so, and finally did. The first time was without pornography. Then I started watching porn.

It would first be of still images of naked women’s breasts, or just fully naked women. I had a Playstation Portable, which was how I was able to access the internet in my room, in private areas, to view these images. I then escalated to videos. I would watch videos of naked women, which escalated into videos of people having sex, and fetish videos, and everything you can imagine, I was watching.

I would even scour the late night movie and adult channels because they would have shows on sex, brothels, and things of that nature. I would even sit through entire movies for the excitement of potentially getting to PMO during a scene where there might be a naked women. It was fun for me. I was 14, and it was the first time I was seeing naked girls before.

But like I said before with alcohol, this quickly went from a recreational activity that I started truly because it was enjoyable, it become almost second nature… a habit. I was PMO’ing basically every day, if not multiple times per day. And if I wasn’t PMO’ing, I was thinking about it. That became my reality. I didn’t realize it, but I was living to watch porn and I basically became a zombie and tuned out everything else.

Even while I was in school, I would be thinking about porn. I remember one time I had urges so great that I went to the bathroom in my high school to masturbate. And I didn’t even realize how disturbing of a fact that was back then. I just learned PMO at a young age, and it became wired into me that this is what guys do… It became normal to me.

Then when year two and three of PMO’ing came, I was doing it multiple times per day basically every day and it had began to take a physical toll on me. No longer would basic images of naked women provide the joy it once did, I had to get creative in many ways to provide the same amount of pleasure. I was always looking for that perfect picture, or perfect video to orgasm to.

But, of course, that perfect one never came. It just always seemed just out of reach, and the orgasms took longer to achieve, and were increasingly less pleasurable, with lower climaxes. I also became depleted emotionally and physically. I was isolating myself from the world without even realizing it, and I was unable concentrate on anything and was extremely fatigued.

I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what. But then one day, I somehow, thank God, came across the idea in my head that all of this emotional and physical drain could be due to excessive masturbation and orgasm. I did some basic research, which confirmed my beliefs, that mood changes, fatigue, and many other symptoms I’ve expressed all can result from excessive MO, masturbation and orgasm.

So then I decided I didn’t want to watch anymore. I made a concerted effort my senior year of high school to become more outgoing again, be more social, be more vocal with my interactions with people and my feelings in general, and to get back to me. I did just that. By the end of my senior year, I felt great. I had gotten into and accepted an offer with Syracuse University, did well on the SAT’s, and made some new friends along the way.

I felt I had moved on from the hardships high school had to offer, and was ready to make new friends at college. I had one of my most memorable summers after I graduated high school, and for the first time in a long time, I felt very care free and me. This carried over into my freshman year of college as I made friends quickly and became engaged in many different activities on campus.

I was PMO free the entire year, until the end of my freshman year, when I thought I had beat PMO, permanently. I would think nothing of just putting my hand inside of my shorts casually, thinking it would lead to nothing, but I was wrong. During my finals week, I PMO’d and I felt extremely guilty afterwards. I hoped and prayed I’d be able to take my finals at the high level I performed at for the past couple years. I did, thankfully, and I didn’t PMO for a while.

Then I started again during my sophomore year. I remember the first time I did it, I said I wouldn’t do it again. But then I had a binge where I would PMO four or five times in a single day. Then I’d stop, until the next time… And until the next time after that. But then I told myself I was done for real. And I didn’t PMO the rest of my sophomore year, or junior year, or my senior year, all the way until July of 2015, as I mentioned earlier in my writing.

Looking back, during those two periods where I didn’t PMO for 1+ years at a time, were the periods in my life where I made the most remarkable amounts of growth. In high school, from a guy who struggled with losing a lot of his friends he grew up with to a guy ready and able to conquer college… And in college, I went from a guy who didn’t really understand the dynamics of a true mature friendship, to having maintained close friendships with a large amount of people.

Also in that second period of not PMO’ing, I dated three girls, which were three of the most successful relationships I’ve ever had. The only one that was really serious was the one with my ex, while the other two, along with a bunch of other girls I met, weren’t serious at all, and left my very confused on what I was really looking for with a girl, but more on that in a bit.

As I mentioned above, when I PMO’d in July, I figured that I had conquered it once and for all because I understood the root cause of what made me resort to PMO. But now fast forward to February, 2016. Just a couple short weeks after my incident with vomiting on the subway, I PMO. After the first time, I say to myself, “okay that’s the only time, don’t beat yourself up, just move on”.

Then I PMO’d again. And again. And I can’t even remember how many times, but the only time ended up turning into a 5 day binge. Now I don’t know what happened this week, but I had a slight cold before I PMO’d, then I did the Polar Bear Plunge, in combination with my 5 day PMO binge. But I haven’t felt worse in a really long time. It brought me back to 11th grade and how crappy I felt that whole year.

How aloneisolated, and scared I felt all the time. I felt these things because of keeping this secret from everyone. Not wanting anybody else to know that I PMO’d, or why I had resorted to PMO, because of how alone, and isolated, I felt… And feeling scared because of the fear that someone would find out. It wasn’t fun and I felt so crappy that I really considered this the rock bottom in my life.

I know I’ve said that I thought about PMO before and the negative consequences it had on my life, and thought I wanted to stop, but this was different. This time, I knew exactly why I wanted to PMO, and it had nothing to do with pleasure or fun, it had to do with escaping from the pain of my breakup with my ex, giving myself a distraction from dealing with the acute, sharp pain and thoughts I had.

And knowing all of this, I still PMO’d anyway. And as I said above, not once, but repeatedly. So much that I felt as though I literally had depleted all the resources in my body and that I had nothing left to give. Before this weekend, I always thought to myself, “I don’t have a problem with porn, or masturbating to orgasm, I just like it and can stop whenever, as I’ve demonstrated to myself”.

But this was different. For the first time in my life, I was ready to explore the possibility that I needed to seek help, for my addiction with pornography. And again, thanks to Mark Manson for this in large part, because he had an article on overcoming pornography addiction on his website, linking to a site called YBOP, or Your Brain On Porn.

It’s this site that gave me access to the education I needed to learn just how damaging pornography can be for an adolescent’s brain, and learn for real, what some of the effects of my addiction to pornography had given me. The first thing I got access to on the site was seeing that there are literally thousands of people just like me going through the same thing.

That there are communities of people out there to support and understand, nonjudgementally, the issue I have been dealing with for 9 years. That was a big help. The next step was actually understanding just how addiction works. Basically, certain substances or activities cause an excessive amount of pleasure in the form of dopamine to be released into your brain, through your reward circuitry pathways.

I’m not 100% sure if I gave the scientifically correct explanation of that, but in plain english, activities such as gambling, heroine, alcohol, or pornography, provide extreme amounts of pleasure that our body now relies on these substances or activities to get that same pleasure. Then when you need more pleasure, you do more and more, and elevate to higher extremes.

This is why with pornography for me, at first, seeing a picture of a naked women would be enough to provide a great deal of pleasure, but later on, I would need to PMO more and more often, and need more and more extreme, and unique, pornographic content to achieve pleasure. That is why when I said above that my search for that perfect picture never came to a conclusion… That’s because with addiction there is no conclusion.

Our brains, to get their fix, will do any kind of rationalization it has to do get what it wants. Pornography no longer was a recreational activity for me, it was something I turned to when I couldn’t deal with certain realities and needed to feel a certain way, and then I kept doing it as a way to get a fix to my brain. And once you develop these pathways, they never close.

That’s why even though I stopped PMO’ing for 1+ years on two separate occasions, as soon as I started again, I felt the need to binge. Because once just wasn’t enough. Understanding this reality that exposure to pornography provides for an opportunity for our brain to respond similarly to how someone who does heroine’s brain reacts, was monumental in me realizing just how serious this is.

And I didn’t want to ever admit that I have an addiction to pornography because I didn’t believe in addiction before this. I always believed that people who were addicted to something just used that buzzword as a means to remove the responsibility from themselves onto a supposed brain defect. And I do think there are people who do that, still. And for those people, I don’t think they understand what addiction is.

And that was me too, someone who didn’t understand what addiction was. Having an addiction doesn’t absolve you of all responsibilities for doing something. When I was PMO’ing, I was always responsible for every time I PMO’d. No addiction was responsible for that. The addiction was responsible for me having severe cravings and many rationalizations on why it would be okay to PMO just once more.

But that’s where it stops for me. Once you succumb to those cravings and desires, it still is your responsibility. When I PMO’d, it was my responsibility. The addiction was not to blame. But that’s why admitting you have an addiction is good. If you are truly clear on what an addiction actually is, because it is not the distributing or omission of responsibility, it’s the owning up to and accepting of responsibility for your addiction.

When you admit you have an addiction, you’re becoming responsible to making the changes necessary to make sure you control the addiction, understand the addiction, and never let the addiction gain power over you and your life again. It also means being responsible enough and self aware enough to understand your triggers, so you avoid them.

As I said, the pathways never close up, so for me, looking at attractive girls in a movie would be a trigger. I feel it inside of me, I feel the pathways getting going. So I avoid that. One of the most scary things about pornography addiction is that you’re literally re-wiring your brain to tell your body to become stimulated at the sight of girls on a monitor, as opposed to girls in real life.

Hearing that really was a wake up call too. And it’s something I dealt with, but wasn’t entirely aware of, for years. There would be times I was super into the girl I was dating, then PMO, I wasn’t as into her. And even the times I was not PMO’ing actively, I wasn’t aware of how my brain had been re-wired and how I now viewed girls in an altered, distorted manner.

I literally forgot how I viewed girls before I started PMO’ing. They became almost sexual figures to me, figures to conquer, rather than wanting to get to know and form a mutually beneficial tandem with. And not all of me forgot, however. Looking back, there were times I would feel so contemplated on whether I was looking for just a random fling, or a serious relationship.

The addiction and craving in me was always after the random fling, to get its quick fix, while me, the real me, was after a serious relationship, knowing that a quick fix wouldn’t solve anything. This combined with the fact that for years I was scared of how having sexual activity with real, live girls would set me back after I stopped PMO’ing, and would be nervous to do anything at all. This created many awkward sexual encounters.

There was one time with a girl where we had both been drinking and we were just fooling around, and I thought she wanted to go further, so I tried advancing further, but when she got up the next morning, she felt weird and uncomfortable around me. We didn’t have sex or anything, but I felt so bad and ashamed that I could have let a craving drive me to the point of making a girl feeling uncomfortable with me sexually.

I didn’t know this at the time, but from recent research, I realized that sexual activity of any kind with real, live girls in person, is desired. That will help re-wire the brain to be stimulated by real girls I would date, rather than girls on a monitor or screen. Knowing this also has made a monumental difference to me in eliminating my desire to even want to PMO.

Everything I described above, combined with so much more I’ve learned has led to me gaining a true understanding of this whole process. Understanding that there is no putting it behind me, it’s something I always have to be aware of, and bring awareness to. But I know and understand when certain feelings are coming on, and how to deal with them, in a healthy way.

I watched a video that had a phrase that will stick with me the rest of my life, and a phrase that I say almost every day… “99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze.” #100%NonNegotiableNo. That’s the motto I adopted for moving beyond PMO. From reading the stories of people who have been successful so far in not PMO’ing for a large amount of time, combined with how crappy I felt, I knew when I made the decision to quit PMO forever, it was going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

And on February 10th, 2016, I made that decision to never PMO again. No more 99%, because that implies there’s some scenario where I would PMO again. I am at 100% now, which means there is nothing under any scenario that would ever make me PMO again. That is being responsible to your addiction, and taking responsibility for your addiction… Oh, and speaking of…

I’ve never actually said this out loud to anyone on any platform ever, so hear it is… My name is Seth Kaufman, and I have an addiction to pornography. And I take full responsibility over it. And it no longer has any power over me. And typing that out loud kind of gives me a nervous, anxious feeling, but freeing and lightening both at the same time.

This is something I’ve held in for nine years. Nine years. And now it’s out on paper. In ink. Written on the internet. It’s been a long journey to get here, and the journey isn’t over at all, it’s just getting started, but I’m glad I got to where I am today, and I know that I wouldn’t have gotten here without having had to go through my excruciatingly painful breakup, and for that I will always be thankful.

Without learning how to deal with this pain every single day since April, 2015, I am confident I wouldn’t have ever reached my potential in terms of personal development, health, my business, and social life. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons over the past year that I don’t think I would’ve learned otherwise, and I am so thankful for this opportunity.

Every single day, I take with me now a growth mindset where I am constantly interacting with others seeing what I can learn from them and how I can provide value to the, in addition to constantly reading and listening to videos of people much smarter and more successful than myself, trying to learn what drives their success, and how I can learn from them to get where I want to be.

And a big part of reaching my full potential as a person, and in various aspects of my life, is letting go. I talked about the phrase, “99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze”… #100%NonNegotiableNo… And how I applied it to my addiction to pornography. But I am also applying it to drinking as well. This is the first time I’m even making this declaration right now.

I am never going to have another sip of alcohol as long as I live. #100%NonNegotiableNo. That’s it. Boom. I’m free.

And I am also going to apply this concept of letting go, and #100%NonNegotiableNo, to my ex. For the last year, I both tried to tell myself I’d never be with you again, or not try to reach out to you ever again, while also hanging on to the hope that some how, some where you’d text me, or bump into me on the street and want me back.

But today, I’m choosing to let go of those feelings. This is my declaration that I am never going to be with my ex, ever again. Under no circumstance will I ever date her ever again,  at all. No matter what. #100%NonNegotiableNo.

And wow, here we are. My word count right now is 11,200+ and counting. I am confident that I’ve never written anything this long in my life, and who knows if I will ever again. But one thing is for certain, that I damn well enjoyed doing this. If you’ve made it this far, I want to thank you so much for reading, you have no idea how much it took for me to write this, and how much it took for me to accept that this will be published online for anyone to see.

I initially contemplated making this site without posting my name on it, under an alias, and putting a picture of myself with as mask on. But I felt that wouldn’t be as genuine to my cause, and my purpose of writing this website, of coming clean with myself, and with the world, and to have no more secrets.

It was fun writing this, and it’s a big goal of mine that I’ve accomplished today, on March 30, 2016, at 7:24 PM EST, by coming up on completing my first introductory post of my new website, NoMoreMasked.Me

This is my author bio that is going to get shared on many websites. It’s cool.