I continue this quest as a happier, outgoing, connected, joyful, driven, focused, centered and hopeful man.
I hit my 90 days over the past weekend. In short: No PMO was an unambiguous success. I'll get into why in a bit, but first I'd like to recap the progress a bit.
I came to this forum via YourBrainOnPorn.com as most of us had. I was right in the starting stages of beginning a serious meditation routine and and exercise regimen. I'd done both before, last year, with seriousness but somewhat lacking in dedication. Especially in the long haul. I picked up those habits to work on the increasing depression I'd been experiencing for the past 5-7 years prior. The episodes were increasing in both frequency and duration. I knew I needed to do something, potentially professional and chemical help (which the control-freak in me wanted to avoid if possible). After much reading over the months and years, I knew the two natural remedies said to help with depression were meditation & exercise.
At any rate, a random Twitter link brought me to YBOP. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The suffering and recovery stories of other Internet porn users resonated with me on a level so deep, I knew immediately that this was a huge piece of the puzzle. Like many others, it was like I knew it all along but never saw it in the right light for it to really hit home.
I didn't like the idea of stacking experiments, since there's no way to know which one was effective. But I knew I had to start immediately on the porn thing. I deleted my stash immediately. I'm surprised that I was able to do that, but I knew it had to go eventually so it might as well happen at the start. I did well the first 31 days. I struggled, I peeked, I persevered. I posted at length on this journal, speaking from little experience. And then I returned from a vacation, and the first counter reset happened. I never binged. But I had a tough time breaking a week or two after that for quite some time.
Eventually I realized I needed to do something different. I'm not exactly sure what it was that triggered it. I think it was being called out by some other forum members. My pride was bruised and I wanted to prove that I could do this. Who knows, maybe that was their intent! I buckled down. I made weekly goals my focus, seeing patterns of the toughest times, cycles and triggers being about every 7 days. Eventually my goal was to beat my old top count of 31 days.
Once I hit 40-50 days, something changed. The process became less of a struggle to fight urges, and more of a decision not to PMO. By this time I was well into working on creating a new me. Things were changing in my perception of myself and the world around me, slowly accumulating. My exercise habit was solidified, I was seeing results, and the same was true for meditation. I began to lose my obsessive self-consciousness, which freed me to start being more of who I am underneath the me I was fighting to portray to the world up to this point. It was something bubbling under the surface for a long while. I lost inhibitions to be myself.
If you knew me in person, you'd probably never have noticed these self-imposed inhibitions. I hid them well. But it was all a mask, a ruse, a misdirection. I wasn't me. I don't think I realized it until I typed that last sentence, but I think the depression was a result of the stifling of my personality I'd been doing for so many years. What changed? I don't know. Based on the science, it seems rewiring your libido and dopamine system to Internet porn can be the culprit. Dopamine seems to be a very powerful moderator of one's perception of themselves. Mess up the dopamine system, mess up your persona.
I gradually felt a change growing within me. I'd had glimpses of this throughout the process earlier on. They were ecstatic, semi-psychedelic experiences of the mundane around me: shadows of trees in perfect perpendicularity across the highway; the variety and richness of type and color of leaves in the canopy of trees bordering a shopping plaza. Is this what I was drugging myself away from all this time? Is this the way the world is supposed to be experienced? What had I done? These moments fueled my resolve to continue the quest.
Eye contact. Who knew how powerful it was, and how little of it I had been doing for all these years! I began to find myself drawn to this practice without consciousness. I began to actively seek out connection with strangers, where in the past I'd shied away from long-time friends. I was no longer afraid of being ridiculous. What other people thought about me was their business, not mine.
It wasn't all great. There were dark, down times as well. there still are. But they happen less, and last less when they do. But they remind me.
But the real value I think was in the dedication to my health and well-being. Staying free of PMO for 90 days wasn't just about being free of porn, but a symbol that I was dedicated to improving my life. This spilled over into nutrition, fitness, and more. I knew it was a waste to spend my time avoiding porn and triggers. My time was much better spent cultivating a new version of myself that wasn't interested in porn, because he wasn't saddled with the psychological anchors that led the old me to that evasion technique. There would be no need for it.
I even got mystical on this stuff. When the realization that dopamine levels play such a profound role in our experience and interpretation of the world, I started to see how other systems of control were in place that were catering to this loophole. Engineered junk "food", designed to overload the senses and cause you to crave for more; sugar; video games; social media. These things were slowly draining my ability to experience a world without external control.
I think this may lie at the root of the PMO struggle: control. Or the lack thereof. Self-mastery is the game. We've been trained to hand over the sources of pleasure to corporations. We want them so bad, we can't say no. We don't want to say no. But I think the No PMO struggle teaches us that we can say no. And we can continue to say no to other addictive stimulus overloads.
Porn and fantasy seem like a shortcut to access the dopamine release "jackpot".
We live our lives in a carefully constructed prison designed to keep the real world out. We are perfectionists, setting ideals and goals that are unattainable. This allows us to remain mired in our negative self-talk, mired in the negative familiar, mired in an excuse-laden existence for escape and quick-fix solutions to emotional pain.
These short-term bandages cause more damage over time, but that familiar damage is soothing, reassuring. We know what to expect. It fulfills our rumination of imagined outcomes. We like that. We've created an environment of controlled novelty. We limit and control the input to avoid certain types of pain and anxiety, those that come with real-world living.
Novelty is no longer about a good moment, but instead a grand moment. We raise the bar so high nothing can compete. This raises expectations so high nothing can meet them. This cognitive dissonance requires us to eliminate those signals that conflict with this cancerous system. We limit the input and set external goals so ridiculously high that we can justify ignoring or abandoning them. There is no other choice.
Only by living in a fantasy world we can never achieve, can we justify the exclusion of everyday life. Real women will never meet "porn standards", neither in attractiveness or amount — so why bother? Real people and events will never live up to those vague ideals we value so dearly in our minds, so why involve ourselves with them?
We've created a mental world that justifies the withdrawal from society, our lives, ourselves. We have skewed the rules to fuel the addiction. We don't want what the addiction and fantasy offer, we want what they allow us to hide from.
Unreachable goals justify a withered life. Setting the bar impossibly high secures the need for addiction and amplifies the confirmation bias that we will "never be happy".
This isn't just about porn, and porn addiction. This is about escapism.
So, what's next?
I'm not sure. I found myself in a bit of a funk, and facing some urges and temptations right after my 90-day mark. I wasn't expecting that. I think I might have been expecting (subconsciously) the "superpowers", or at least some other external validation.
But I've mentioned many times on this forum that I've come to believe that there is no goal in this process. Or rather, the goal is the maintaing of the process. I've come to realize that a physically fit body isn't the goal of exercise, rather it is the side-effect of maintaing the fitness process. Enlightenment isn't the goal of meditation, it's the byproduct of maintaining the meditation process.
There's a Zen saying, "after enlightenment, do the dishes". The idea is that you go back to the process. The daily life. The routine. You're in good shape from exercising? Great! Keep exercising. You're 90 days free of PMO? Excellent! Keep doing those things that kept you free from it.
Before I close this, I'd like to summarize with some thoughts on how to reach 90 days. This is a mixture of real-world experience derived from much article reading. It's pretty simple: our minds are literal. The mind takes what it experiences literally. Like a small child. So we need to encourage it with positive feedback. Setting small, easily achievable goals encourages the mind to continue. It needs to experience success, no matter how small. The mind also cannot see too far in the future, or at least it begins to see your future self as another person. So your goals need to be near-term. Focus on today, tomorrow, next week. Forget about 90 Days. Aim for ten chunks of 9 days. The brain has a limited amount of willpower. It's much better to cultivate the habit of creating a new healthy you than trying to swat away all the urges and temptations you'll encounter along this quest. They will never end. Become a guy who does healthy stuff. Porn will not factor into the equation. If you start exercising, you'll eventually want to eat right so as to not waste all that time and to enhance that effort. The same will be true for porn. It will just not fit into the equation.
To wrap this up, I'd like to thank everyone on this forum that has read or commented on my journal. You have no idea how helpful and appreciated your encouragement and support is. I do my best to return that favor. Also a huge thanks to Gary Wilson for all his wonderful science and information collected at YBOP.
This process is indeed worth it. My life has been enhanced in more ways than I am probably aware of. You will see a real change if you stick with it. It won't seem like it until it happens, then you'll look back with hazy memories of the dark struggles.
I started this quest as a lazy, unmotivated, self-deprecating, self-loathing, lost, fog-headed, self-righteous, withdrawn, self-centered, empty shell of a human being. I'm proud to say that I continue this quest as a happier, outgoing, connected, joyful, driven, focused, centered and hopeful man.
And now I am off to literally do some dishes!
[In resonse to question]
I forgot to mention that part of my descent into PMO was related to PIED, and the embarrassment of this happening with a few women back when I was actively dating.
I had a stretch around 40-50 days where morning erections were frequent. Not so much recently. My libido hasn't fully sprung back. I've learned that what I used to think was libido was just the craving for a quick-fix dopamine hit. I've not gotten back into dating just yet so I've not had the opportunity to rewire with a real woman.
I can say that it was impossible to get an erection or masturbate without porn in the past, now it's not a problem to at least masturbate without even fantasy. I've been keeping that to a minimum though. I think I may have some more time to go on the process. But it's improving.
Link to post - Omega Man's 90-Day Recap
Also See - Omega Man's Journal
This was originally a reply to a fellow member here via PM, but I thought I'd share this with everyone. I'm nearing 300 days and I feel like this sums up my perspective on the No PMO path from far down the trail.
I hear you on the struggles. It's still a daily struggle at times for me too. It's just that the physical cravings have toned down, and my self-discipline has increased.
Some days are better than others. Some days are amazing, others I doubt this whole process. I'm not one of those guys here who claims freedom from porn, or that it no longer holds any interest. I know I could fall back into the Porn Pit if I let up my guard.
I was disillusioned on my 90/100 day mark. "Where are the superpowers?" But I looked back on all the other positive changes I've also made in my life in the past year, and PMO just seems incongruous now. I believe meditation (twice daily) has been a big help for me on two levels: one, the process of training the mind to not get caught up in streams of thoughts prevents you from mentally going down the path to porn. Two, the establishment of a rigorous, daily routine helped mix up my schedule and have me a new anchor for other positive health changes.
Knowing I will meditate before morning & evening meals, I have little rituals planned around these times. I defrost my meat for dinner before meditating for example. And eating more veggies has created a new routine of prepping food. I have less time in my day now, so I had to cut out other nonsense like TV and Internet surfing. I just have no time.
Now, I don't want to break the streaks of all these positive changes. I have apps that visually track calendar days for progress.
A big insight for me was exercise. When I realized there was no such thing as "getting in shape", since it's an ongoing thing, it's actually "staying in shape", and even more specifically it's "enjoy and look forward to the actual activity needed to be performed in order to stay in shape". The same goes for No PMO.
Nobody is going to throw us a parade for doing this. Nobody cares but us ourselves. A mind shift has to take place where this is not about pride or receiving praise for giving something up, but pride for maintaining one's self in an ongoing effort.
Incrementally make yourself so busy, the PMO and the old you who fell into its clutches just has no room. Really get into the new you. Take it t the next level. Redefine who you are.
I have a bit of a lone wolf streak in me, so the idea that I've abstained from porn for 9 months — even if nobody knows about it — fuels the fire for me. Part of me likes being able to say "yeah, I can do this and others wouldn't even try!"
Stop waiting for external congratulations (we all do it).
What other changes to your routine, what new healthy habits have you cultivated alongside dropping PMO? If none, start today. My answer is to go for a walk every day, either down the street or around the block. Forget "exercise", just establish the habit of doing it every single day. That's the toughest part of all this, turning it into an autopilot activity. Once the habit is established, expand from there. You'll find it does it on its own.
And track everything: research shows that just tracking habits (not even changing them) leads to profound changes in numerous aspects of your life. Get an app. Buy a yearly calendar. Track the days and (time spent) when you meditate, exercise, walk, drink, smoke, watch TV, etc. Track the mileage, steps, calories, hours and ounces. Log every meal. Start paying attention to your life.
I'm guessing the big issue you have is looking for a "reward" of some sort for making this heroic effort. It will never happen. I realized one day recently that the novelty buzz of all these new healthy habits was wearing off. I thought, "shit, now I have to just keep doing this forever!" But success articles I've read talk about champion athletes having a unique sills that sets them apart: the ability to put in the work and effort through the tedious and boring stages, which comprise 90% of training.
In a way, meditation has been like that for me. Weeks can go by where little in the way of results during or in-between sits happens. But then I'll have a breakthrough where I am reminded of the benefit of all the effort. And then it's back to the grind. The book Mastery by George Leonard helped me become aware of, and to keep an eye our for, these patterns.
The last thing that I think helps me persist: giving the middle finger to being manipulated by these urges. This means porn, sugar, peer pressure, alcohol, drugs, TV, etc. I like being able to stand back and say that I can walk away from any of it if I choose. I think the Stoic philosophers helped me establish that mindset. But i think those of us on this path have all seen how the media uses sex to manipulate us, especially now that we made a choice to restrict/eliminate the porn. I think many of us are seeing other avenues where society and the advertising industry has been manipulating us for their bottom line. I like being able to say that it affects me less and less every day.
I think we all need to have a different perspective on who we are to get through this in the long haul. Brute force and stubbornness can get us to 90 days, but the path from there on out will be lacking any direct rewards from this ongoing effort, and we need to cultivate a life that doesn't require them.