Nofap has been a Godsend. I was always conflicted: I instinctively knew (P)MO was wrong, but there is a general view that it is ‘healthy’, ‘natural’, ‘good for you’, and that everyone does it.
Briefly Googling whether or not MO is harmful rarely leads to nofap, because there are a lot of sources claiming the opposite, or at least that it does no harm, and particularly if you don’t want to know how bad it is for you. I tried to give up on a number of occasions, and I was most successful when I stopped for a year at age 18 (I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could). For years I’ve kept a calendar so that I could try and look for patterns – you can’t fix what you can’t measure.
My addiction gradually grew from the age of 13. I’m now 24 and on day 92 (counter doesn’t show because I just made this account), and think it’s time to evaluate the experience so far.
Finding nofap was like an awakening – it aligned with my gut instinct and everything began to make sense. As much as it was a hard reality to face, realising I had to quit PMO was a huge relief because at least I knew what I had to do, even though it’s not an easy thing to do. After discovering nofap and reading through sites like Your Brain on Porn, I began my first streak of 11 days, 98 days, relapsed (binged for three weeks), had an 83-day streak, relapsed (binged for two weeks), and now I’ve managed a streak of 92 days. While not out of the woods, I feel that I’ve made enough progress to warrant a post.
Over the course of this almost year-long challenge I’ve identified the following key findings.
1. It gets easier. Once you begin to think (P)MO “is not something I do”, it becomes a lot easier to ignore.
2. Your dreams eventually stop tempting you. In the midst of my addiction, my dreams had moved from wanting to have sex to wanting to watch porn – I would dream about watching porn rather than dream about having sex. This used to freak me out, and I felt I was losing my libido to porn. My dreams are now more vivid, and they feel more ‘meaningful’, but I’m no longer plagued by disgusting images interrupting the mind’s eye during dreams, or the cold light of day (when they’re even more out-of-place and disgusting).
3. No more guilt. There were about three main occasions where it was obvious to others that I used porn – each caused me deep regret and recurring pangs of guilt which would haunt me for weeks and months after the event. These are in more detail below, but to cut to the chase, I at least know that I can try to come to terms with these knowing there will be no more. 3.1 The first of these isn’t too bad, but it was when a distant cousin was over to visit: we got on well, but there was an inevitable social distance between us on account of not seeing each other often. I had an old mobile where I stored images in a folder and occasionally indulged. He asked to see the phone at one point (looking for music, games – this was a long time ago and it had a color screen!), and without thinking I said “Sure, here you go”. It only hit me later that he must’ve found the folder. We haven’t spoken since, so this is only going to add to the awkwardness of awkward family gatherings in the future. 3.2 The second time was when I was showing off a new phone to my friend, and it had a mode where all photos on the thing could be displayed so I was flicking through holiday photos… you can guess the rest. We had already arranged to spend the following day in another city with his family. He was dead cool about it, but the whole day was awkward as fuck for me. 3.3 Standard caught-in-the-act incident at home one day by one of my parents. I had thought I had managed to hide anything obvious, but it was still obvious when the computer started making noises after I hit the spacebar to refresh the screen when the conversation had only just ended. A simple act I regret deeply.
4. A marked increase in confidence. I’ve noticed that I’m now quite comfortable making eye contact in conversations – and particularly with girls I like! They seem to respond to it well. I had never really thought about it before, but I always used to avoid people’s gaze, or at least only make eye contact fleetingly or at key points in the conversation. It’s great to be able to hold someone’s gaze! I’m almost certain that an intrinsic guilt was holding me back before.
5. Immunity to bewitchingly good-looks. It’s empowering to feel completely immune to the pretty girls who think and act like they should be able to hold sway over you by virtue of the fact that they look incredible. Often, they do look incredible, but that’s no longer a priority for me and now I can see manipulative behavior for what it is. Society expects women to look good, and to advertise themselves to men in such a way that men crave a pretty-looking woman so badly that they’ll do everything she says. Now I know that high-heels are just a safety hazard designed to put women in control. I’m free to ridicule them for trying to get their way through flirting and teasing.
6. Freedom from creepy-staring. You know that way when you’re going about your business and a woman so beautiful walks past that you just can’t help but verify how attractive she is for yourself? In other words, you quickly glance in her direction and give her attention, just because she’s pretty, and even though you’ve never met and are unlikely to ever speak to one another? It’s an in-built behavior; it’s not your fault… Well, I believe it’s a behavior conditioned as a result of porn. I occasionally still do this, but it’s something I’m working on, and it feels liberating not to care how they look.
7. Girls are interested. I’ve read plenty of posts on here claiming that nofap makes girls interested in you, and I was always skeptical, but let me put my own spin on this: nofap allows you to recognize when girls are interested in you, because you’re not continually berating yourself internally such that you wouldn’t believe it if they were. In other words, when a girl starts dropping hints, you can begin to believe that she might actually be interested in you, and you’d probably be right. When on PMO, even if a girl drops hints, you instinctively dismiss them because you don’t see yourself as being worthy of their affection. Just before I found nofap, there was a girl I was very interested in and got on well with, but we had only spoken once or twice (she just started at my work). On a night out, I caught her eye once or twice across the room and at one point I stopped mid-sentence: she was way out of my league, by my count. The night wore on, and she floated by to interrupt a conversation between me and a friend. I gladly dropped the conversation to talk to her, but I felt paralyzed, continually on the back-foot in the conversation, so much so that she eventually asked me for my number (which isn’t how it is supposed to work, I don’t suppose). In any case, she never used it. We’re now good acquaintances, but that is, unfortunately, all. With hindsight, I know she was interested in me. I couldn’t allow myself to believe it at the time. Had I been on nofap, I might have noticed and had the balls to ask her out.
8. You get the balls to make decisions. By leaving the guilt of PMO behind, your internal monologue changes from things like “That sounds unlikely / difficult” to “Sure, why not? It might be out of my comfort zone, but that’s okay”, and from things like “I’m definitely not good enough for her”, to things like “Why not me? If I don’t ask, I’ll never know.” Somewhere in my first streak, I found the guts to ask out a girl. She’s really cool… dead relaxed, and she had been talking to me all night at a show: it was awesome. It was stop-start: she said no, then invited me to a party anyway, flirted too heavily and I eventually paralyzed. I haven’t felt so strongly for anyone in years. It didn’t work out, but I would never have been able to ask her without first being able to think “I’ve nothing to feel bad about, and if I can complete challenges like nofap, I can ask her out.” I’m also thinking of changing to a better job, which I would never have the guts to do without the same kind of attitude – I know I’d likely settle for what I have now.
9. You can usually tell when a relapse is about to happen. You can learn to identify the signs as a prior warning of a relapse. My relapses have happened a few days after I have had severe urges (I note it all down on a calendar). Triggers can start a cycle back to old habits, and you have to find a way to firstly detect that a relapse is likely, and then to avoid it. The way to avoid them is to give up something worse (like food), or to distract yourself with a trip, a visit, or even a less harmful indulgence like computer games if you’re house-bound. It does get easier, but never accept complacency; when you are complacent – when you think you’re cured – you are most likely to relapse.
10. Recovery only lets you see your real problems. Recovering from an addiction only allows you to see the problems behind the addiction for what they are. In my case, I turned to porn to hide from the fact that I was alone and hopeless with women, which in turn is likely due to a fear of being rejected or ridiculed. Having brought the addiction under a degree of control, I find myself still not short of other problems which I was previously unaware of, and now need to address. The best example here is the paralysis I feel when a relationship begins to get serious in any way (albeit, the longer I’ve spent on nofap the longer it takes before it sets in). I used to think that only people who had many options with women had a fear of commitment because they felt like they might miss out on prettier girls by committing to one of them (IE, not something I’d have to worry about). Now I realize that it more likely results from a fear of rejection further down the line.
The struggle continues.