I’ve been wanting to make a post for a little while now about the things that have really helped me in my recovery. It’s quite a long post, so feel free to only look at the bold titles if you want. If there are any suggestions that interest you, please read the advice that I offer below the point! I’m 24. I originally started pornfree mostly for religious reasons. I am no longer, strictly speaking, “religious”, but I still maintain the value that porn is not a healthy activity, and I know this from experience.
The first 5 have to do with theoretical approaches to recovery, while the last 5 are practical (though I suppose it is difficult to really make a distinction between the two). I hope they help
- 1. Don’t look at the addiction in binary categories. Take a holistic view of recovery instead
In the past I have found myself thinking of my addiction as a matter of failure or success, or as a matter of being “cured” from some sickness. Now I look at it as recovery, because I recognize that everything we do happens across a spectrum of time. Even at day 100, I wouldn’t say that I’m “cured” or “not addicted” or “healed”, but rather I would say that I am in a process of healing, in which each day brings a new opportunity to find myself more healed than before, so long as I remain vigilant.
- 2. Spend much time in self-reflection, not just regarding recovery from porn addiction, but in all areas of your life
Buy a journal, start meditating, see a counselor, do what you have to do to focus on areas of your life that you wish to change that porn addiction has kept you from noticing before. I’ve found that by not looking at porn, I am given clarity in my mental vision to see what’s really going on inside me. Abstaining from porn brings the ability to self-reflect better, and self-reflection helps us to steer away from focusing solely on porn by going to the root of what causes us to look at porn in the first place — there might be something “broken” in us that needs fixing, and by attending to that broken part of us and through healing, we might find that many different aspects of our lives will improve, including our journey in healing from porn addiction.
- 3. In addition to self-reflection, focus on your values, and make them the primary focus of your life
This one is huge. I’ve noticed that by turning away from focusing on how to stop looking at porn, and by focusing on achieving what I find valuable in life, I have struggled way less with temptation than in previous streaks. My primary value, I would say, is that I desire to have genuine and intimate encounters with anyone whose lives intersect with my own: this means that I want to be present and engaged in any sort of relationship that I have, whether it be with strangers, friends, family, or a romantic partner, I want to be the same person with everyone. I don’t want to be a different person to different people, but the same person to all people. I want other people to know me as the person who I know myself to be. Because this is my highest value, I know that porn use cannot play any part in this, and I know that it is a hindrance to living by my values. If I stick to my values first and foremost, then porn will naturally fall out of my life.
In addition to this, I would say that you must make your values your number one reason for quitting porn. I have tried to quit porn for emotional reasons in the past (hatred for what it’s done in my life, hatred for how it corrupts people, etc.), but I have found that after a few months, if that hatred stays with me for that long, the emotions eventually fade away, as all emotional reactions do. I found myself thinking, “I don’t feel that passionate about porn anymore… I want that hatred towards porn again so that I can feel more motivated… therefore I will look at porn again, so that the hatred for it will return!” and it did lead to relapse. Now, I am focused on my primary values, which definitely do not change as quickly or as easily as emotions.
- 4. Treat each month, each week, and each day as an opportunity to “start afresh”
Human beings do much better at achieving their goals if they break things down into small segments of time. The way we categorize change in our minds can be very effective in establishing lasting habits. It is much easier to take on a new habit if you think of each day as something new, rather than seeing each year as something new (like making New Year resolutions once a year, only to see them fail by the end of January). Instead, think of them as New Month resolutions, or New Week resolutions, or even New Day resolutions. I once read advice someone gave on here that really struck me: “The longest you will ever have to go without porn is a single day.” What this means is that we can make this process manageable by focusing on this one day at a time.
- 5. Think of recovery in days, not streaks
This is a pretty recent revelation for me. I was recently thinking that if I don’t look at porn again this year, I will have seen 8 months as completely porn free (Feb – April I relapsed 8 times). But I shouldn’t forget all of those days I was porn-free even between those relapses! Rather than saying “I was porn-free for 8/12 months” I can say “I was porn-free for 357/365 days this year” which sounds so much more encouraging!
Some practical advice:
- 6. Carry a small calendar with you wherever you go, crossing off the days that you are porn-free
I have a small Moleskine notepad which I always carry in my back pocket. Even though I use it only at night to cross off the day, I keep it with me always to remind myself that I want to be porn-free wherever I go.
As the months go by, I have added different symbols which revolve around my recovery. If I don’t look at porn, I put an X through the day. If I look at porn, I circle the day with an O. If I masturbate, I circle with an O, but put an X through the date as well. If I masturbate, but don’t orgasm, I draw a small o with an X. If I have a ‘wet dream’ at night, I make the line between the days that came before and after (so it looks like 14 | 15). Anyway, you get the idea. Be as detailed about your journey as possible.
- 7. Tell as many people as you are comfortable with about your addiction and your desire to be healed
The more people that can hold you accountable, the better. I know that it can be difficult to talk with people about, even with people that are going through the same thing as you. But taking the step in courage and vulnerability is a powerful way to focus on your values. Living in relationship with a community of people around me has helped me to realize that I have a large safety net around me that can help be out if I feel like I’m falling. I’ve also noticed that when I talk to friends about it, I feel less inclined to wanting to look at porn. It strengthens and encourages me whenever I have a good conversation about my addiction.
- 8. Reorganize the furniture of your room wherever it is you find yourself relapsing the most
If it is your bedroom at night that is where you always find yourself looking at porn, spend your free time drastically reorganizing the layout of your room. I have noticed that our environment can even be a trigger for porn usage, even if there is nothing porn-related around us. I spend time between 2 cities, one during the week for work, and one at my mom’s house on weekends. I noticed a little while ago that every time I came back on the weekends, I would relapse, and it wasn’t just because I had more free time: it was because I had mentally associated the pleasure of relapsing with the environment I grew up in, where I relapsed the most. Reorganizing furniture can help break this habitual way of seeing our environment, and therefore help us to break our habit of thoughtlessly looking at porn.
- 9. Remember that masturbation is the lesser of two evils, and discover that it can be just as physically stimulating (if not more so) than porn
I was quite surprised when one day a few months ago I went to masturbate, but rather than just going to the bathroom to “rub one out” I went in my bedroom and actually spent time “exploring my body” (whatever that means). I wasn’t so much focused on getting sexual release, but also on the stimulation of just being present and feeling what it is my body likes to feel, without using any sort of images, whether real or imagined, in order to do so.
A word of caution, however, is necessary. I’ve noticed that at times I still feel the pang of conscience after doing this, and I feel like in some ways, it can just channel the same feelings as looking at porn — that is, it could just become a replacement addiction. Thankfully I don’t think it channels our dopamine levels or whatever as strongly as porn, but it certainly does channel them. So just be careful with this, and perhaps you could even work on cutting back on how much you masturbate.
- 10. Visit and post/comment on /r/pornfree as much as possible
I usually check out what people are posting on here at least daily, making sure to comment and upvote posts that are from people new to this sub and lifestyle. I also recommend participating in the monthly challenges, remembering that this isn’t just a game to beat, nor are we just looking for “superpowers”, or even just about beating a personal record. Being porn free is about living a transformed life, about becoming the person who we have always wanted to be, but have not been able to do in the past, because porn has held us back. Now that we are all here and wanting to change.
The benefits I have seen work in tandem with my counseling that I have been going to since May. I’ve become less anxious around people, feel more confident about myself, I like myself lot more now since I’m actively working on changing my life for the better. You might hear this often, but I feel like I have more clarity in my thinking, like a haze has been lifted from my mind that allows me to see what sort of problems I have (see point 2), and a better ability to interact with others.