Ideas that have helped me
Coming off a recent relapse, I felt I needed some new tools to continue making progress and to make sure I don't relapse again.
Here are a few ideas I've come up with that seem to be very effective. I apologize if these have been suggested before by others--I'm certainly not trying to take credit for their ideas but haven't seen them mentioned before. I hope these are of some help to some of you.
**Fighting off flashbacks/pornographic images-->
During the first six to seven weeks of my initial reboot, I used the "Red X" method with some success. For those not familiar, the idea is that when a porn image or scene appears unwillingly in your mind, you block it out with an image of a giant red X. I also used an image of one of my favorite breeds of dogs (something innocent and positive) as an alternative to this. Lately, this hasn't really worked. My new strategy is to use something more complex and detailed: a sentence or paragraph from any kind of text...the longer the better. This has really worked. When an image pops up, I immediately visualize the text itself, and then I try my best to read it in full to the best that my memory will allow. This process takes long enough and requires enough concentration that it rids the mind of the previous "pop-up." The simple Red X image was just too easy and quick and would often be overwhelmed by additional porn images. It also may help if the text has something to do with recovery/addiction, say for instance, one of Gary's YBOP video slides, which brings me to my next strategy.
**Reinforcing the reasons you are rebooting/abstaining/recovering-->
For me, I was really determined when starting my reboot, and I went about it all in a very organized and calculated manner. Lately, this attitude and resolve has declined. I thought it might be helpful to re-enact some of the things I did back at the start. So, I RE-WATCHED Gary's YBOP videos. After all, they were the catalyst for starting me on this road to recovery, and having watched them in their entirety again, I can confirm that they are invaluable tools and should probably be viewed once or twice a month, just as healthy reinforcement. They really do wonders.
**Finding healthy sources of dopamine-->
It is widely accepted that exercise is a huge benefit when it comes to recovery. Exercise helps to increase dopamine and serotonin levels and gives you a "high" that can help curb cravings for "other" things. Of course, you can't just exercise every minute of every day, so it's helpful to have some alternatives. Obviously, hobbies, activities, and socializing are other sources of dopamine and pleasure, and as your reward circuitry balances out, you'll get more pleasure and excitement from these things--these are your main outlets. Getting dopamine from these sources is very important, because as your dopamine declines during withdrawal, you'll be more likely to cave in and binge. I recently stumbled upon a new, smaller but effective source.
When I had abstained from PMO for over 50 days, I'd never felt better. Now, if dopamine is the "expectation neurochemical," I realized that if I teach myself to feel excitement about returning to that happy state, to that time when I felt so good, and if I clearly visualized all the ways I had improved and began to grow excited about getting back there, I could literally feel a dopamine response.
As an example, in one of my previous blog posts I wrote about how I met eyes with a waitress and we smiled at one another...I hadn't felt so good about a simple smile in YEARS. This morning, I simply relived that experience in my head, and then began to have some expectations and excitement for such an event happening again, and I found that it gave me satisfaction and pleasure and, most importantly, motivation. So, take some happy feeling from your past and make it real in your mind's eye. Realize that you won't have that happy feeling if your brain is desensitized by porn, but teach yourself to anticipate the return of those kinds of feelings as you go through the healing process. That will help shift your sources of dopamine from negative places to positive ones.