Three months ago, when I considered the possibility of ever making a 90 day post, I assumed I’d do it from a throwaway. Now that I’m here though, I’ve decided I’m not going to. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. At the same time, fair warning to anybody reddit-stalking me, this is likely going to be TMI.
I know about addiction. I lost a grandmother to cigarette-related lung cancer and a grandfather to alcohol. While my parents were still together they compulsively used various recreational drugs, and the primary catalyst to their divorce was my dad’s PMO addiction. Now Pop considers himself a semi-pro Poker player, but it’s really just a gambling addiction – a serious enough one I’ve gotten the “I’ve lost everything and I’m going to kill myself” call from him in a Las Vegas hotel room (he didn’t). As for me personally, I’ve kicked a half-a-pack-a-day cigarette habit as well as an unhealthy dependence on alcohol – in addition to several less widely recognized compulsive behaviors, like self-harm, MMO addiction, and teenage thumbsucking. I’d say I’m a pretty textbook addictive personality.
My story with PMO is similar to most people’s. I started in my early teens. By the time I was 16 or 17 I knew I had a problem, but I really didn’t feel like I was able to stop. At that point I had dropped out of high school and was at home, alone, for upwards of 8 hours a day with unrestricted access to broadband internet.
There is a pervasive way of thinking, at least in American culture (I can’t speak for any other) that using pornography is just something that men do. That it’s natural and normal and should just be, if not accepted, at least tolerated. Or even that it’s a required biological function and that you might actually be somehow harming or repressing yourself if you abstain. I won’t try and argue that point one way or the other, but I can tell you that that outlook on the world made for a very convenient justification for what would otherwise be quite obviously a compulsive behavior. The flatline effect (which, of course, before NoFap, I didn’t realize was temporary and to be expected) did a lot to reenforce that way of thinking if I ever managed to exert some self control for a few days.
I got married in my early 20’s. I married a woman that also had her own issues with PMO, and while I don’t think she was ever exactly comfortable with my habit, we at least had an unspoken mutual agreement to turn a blind eye. After getting married I noticed a decrease in the frequency of which I used pornography (because I had less alone time), but a new development in which if I did have an opportunity to use, I was driven to take it, even if I wasn’t particularly ‘in the mood’, because I didn’t want to ‘miss my chance’. If I managed to have a day with my wife out of the house, or was out of town alone for work, I’d binge.
I don’t honestly remember how I found NoFap. I think it may have been sarcastically linked in a comment response. I came and started clicking around. YBOP did a lot to start making me question a lot of the taboos around porn in general. Realizing that a lot of the things I’d experienced when I’d tried to stop before (decreased libido, depression) were normal did a lot to encourage me. More than anything though, NoFap showed me that people really do quit. You always hear jokes like “95% of men masturbate to porn. 5% lie about it.” We’re surrounded by a mentality that everybody does it and you can’t stop. If you’re addicted to cigarettes, there’s patches – if you drink, there’s AA – if you’re on drugs, there’s rehab. But if you have a PMO addiction, not only do you have to dig deeper to find help with your problem, it almost seems like our culture is geared towards not letting you recognize it’s a problem at all.
There is a lot of pseudo-(or ‘bro’) science around NoFap. Some of it is fairly transparent, but for my post I’m not going to try and delineate between a direct result of NoFap, a placebo effect, or just plain coincidence. Because the truth is, on an individual basis, there’s just no way to know. I can’t have a control to compare against, because I don’t know where I’d be today if I hadn’t made the decision that I’d made. All I can offer you is the ways in which my life has changed in the last 90 days.
- While I haven’t noticed any change in my speaking voice, as an amateur musician, I can tell you when I do vocal exercises I’m able to hit notes about two semitones lower than I was before. There’s some natural deepening of the voice that occurs throughout your life as you age, but I find it interesting mine coincided with my 90 days.
- I wasn’t aware that I was suffering from any kind of ED, but apparently the flag hasn’t been flying at full mast. Both I and my wife have noticed an increase in size and rigidity.
- I went through a spurt of women sending friends requests on Facebook – women that I’ve known but for whatever reason had never sought me out. For a while I had a new one almost every day. Admittedly, this inclusion is tongue-in-cheek – while I’d like to think the sudden attention is because they now recognize me as a picture of virile manhood and machismo, I’m betting it’s more like Facebook improved their “People You Might Know” algorithm. I’m happily married, so we’ll never know for sure.
- During my first month, I dealt with the worst case of hemorrhoids I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was related, but it made things fairly difficult for me, as in the past I’d usually use PMO to help get to sleep when I was having issues. Once that cleared up though, they haven’t returned.
- I moved out my mom’s house. Yes, I’m married, but my wife and I had moved back to mom’s. It was a pretty miserable situation that started due to financial issues and continued due to stagnation. Granted, we had started planning to leave before I started NoFap, but we’ve planned before and backed out. This time we pulled the trigger. Increased confidence due to higher levels of manjuice, or just something that would’ve happened anyway? You decide. The new place is great, though.
- Speaking of confidence, I don’t know that I’ve seen a big change there, as I was already relatively comfortable in my skin. One area that I have noticed a change in though is that I’m a lot more open with my wife about my desires. Maybe that’s more related to not living at home anymore, or maybe it’s just with PMO off the table as an option I know I have to brave the possibility of rejection in order to find fulfillment, rather than take the path of least resistance and opt for fantasy.
- I initially didn’t think I was seeing any kind of increase in energy, but then I realized that while, yes, I am about the same amount of tired in the evening, I’m getting a lot more done during the day. I find myself procrastinating less, and picking active outdoor pastimes (like going swimming or taking a walk) over sedentary indoor ones (aimless websurfing, video games, etc).
- Probably directly related to that, I seem to be losing some weight (which is good).
- The biggest benefit is the freedom of not being chained by a compulsive behavior anymore. Take or leave everything else, that’s the one that makes it worth it.
One of the best things about NoFap is being able to learn from each other’s experience. I doubt very much that any advice I have to give is completely novel, but I would like to share a few of the things that kept me going.
- Get a badge. Any time you think you’re going to relapse, make yourself look at your badge – it’ll be on the NoFap sidebar. Make a mental deal with yourself that you refuse to use without looking at your badge first. I know once I hit about 10 days, not wanting to have to reset my badge got me past a bad patch or two.
- If you’re having a tough time, don’t always try to assuage yourself with sex. Single fapstronauts often envy those of us doing the challenge while in a relationship. What that attitude neglects is that the chaser effect is a killer. It’s what caused my first few relapses, in fact. Rather than learn to control that compulsion, I tried to appease it through sex, only to find that the next day (or few days) all I’d done was make it stronger.
- This battle is for your mind. You can’t control every thought that pops into your head, but you can choose what you dwell on. You clicked a link you shouldn’t have, flipped past a cable movie channel at the wrong time, or maybe even just passed a cute girl on the street. It happens. Don’t keep thinking about it. Don’t keep replaying it in your mind. There’s a seed there, stop watering it. Once it takes root it’s a lot harder to fight. It’s difficult at first, but just like regular physical exercise leads to a stronger and more disciplined body, routinely taking stock of where your mind is wandering leads to a stronger and more disciplined mind.
- Change your routine. This was easy for me, because I moved, and my whole routine was upended, anyway. But do what you can. Go to bed early and start walking the dog first thing in the morning. Have a standing invitation for friends to come over at certain times or days (we started Walking Dead parties). If you don’t have friends, get out of the house and make some. Join a club. Start going to church.
So where do we go from here? For me, I can’t really see going back to the old ways. If you haven’t made your 90 days yet, keep that as your goal. Trying to say “Okay, as of today, I’ll NEVER DO IT AGAIN” can be pretty overwhelming. But if you have made your 90 days, I encourage you to seriously evaluate what you want your life to look like going forward. Maybe it is normal for some guys to have swimsuit models for phone wallpaper, or ‘relieve some stress’ in the shower now and then – I’m not a psychologist and I’m not going to try and argue one way or the other. For me though, I think it’s just playing with fire. Similar to how lots of people have a glass of red wine with a nice dinner or a bottle of champagne at New Year’s – but for me, because of old habits, I don’t even keep cooking sherry in the house – I’m likely going to adopt similar personal guidelines for both P and MO. Don’t let terms like ‘rebooting’ make you think you’re ‘safe’ now. Those old neural pathways are still there. And from a guy that hasn’t bought a pack of cigarettes in years but still wants one after a plate of Mexican food, I can tell you when you’re talking addiction, they don’t ever really go away.