tl;dr: The book The Power of Habit was key. Two years after reading it I FINALLY quit soda, which led me to realize I could start exercising, which set the foundation for getting over PMO, meaning no longer being sexually attracted to my hand. (Note: 1,600 words = about 3 single-spaced pages in a Word Document.)
I’m writing this post so I can hopefully help one of you out and share what’s worked for me. Three weeks ago if you told me I’d go three weeks without PMO, I would’ve been really surprised–what a crazy amount of time!
Here are the main ingredients that have got me to this point for the first time. Sorry that this isn’t that organized, but sharing it and paying it forward feels important to me.
- Believing that I’m not done with this struggle and don’t think I will ever be. That’s okay, though. Once I say ‘PMO isn’t a problem for me,’ I believe I’ll fall for it again. I guess I’d say I’m optimistically vigilant. No one item on my list was a magic cure–it was a combination of a lot of things, above all, the willingness to try again and again. Each time you try to quit something, you have a higher chance of success. Progress, not perfection, is a great mantra for me.
- The book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It explains, in easy-to-digest terms, how habits work. Changing a habit is work, but thanks to this book, I realized that it’s possible and that I’m not just weak or flawed or something. It was three years between reading it and this PMO-free streak–again, nothing is magic, but this book helped shape my thinking.
It helped me realize that each time I PMO’d it was NOT a conscious choice, but a habit that I activated when I took certain actions–laying on my bed, feeling bored, and getting on my computer, normally. It’s not like I was actively and logically choosing to PMO several times a week–it’s that I was falling into the same old habit. I just had to change the situations I put myself in, which is much easier and helps me avoid temptation in the first place.
- iProcrastinate (a podcast and website from Tim Pychyl, a psychology researcher in Canada). He explains research into willpower and behaviour. Very compatible with the work in The Power of Habit.
- Getting a partner who did not put up with or pity my PMO. This was the first time in years that I had realized that what I was doing every day was fucked up–that had gotten away from me.
(Note: we’ve been broken up for almost a year now, so it’s not like they’re currently a part of this streak. Still, though, if I excluded their influence from this list of ‘ingredients’ that has worked for me, I wouldn’t be totally honest.)
- Changing a different habit first. In The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains what a keystone habit is. A keystone habit is one habit that you successfully change, which helps you change other habits. For about a year, I’ve realized that after I drink soda, I feel physically and mentally like crap. Because I realized this, I started drink it less and less frequently.
Still, I would ‘relapse’ and drink one, then feel mentally and physically awful, even suicidal at times. Sound familiar? The gaps between each time I had a soda grew and grew, until last fall, I realized I hadn’t had one in about a month. At that point, each time I was in a situation that used to trigger soda-drinking, I thought, ‘Do I want to give up this streak,’ and drank some cool, refreshing water instead.
About the same time, I made exercise a habit for the first time in my life EVER. (Shoutout to r/bodyweightfitness .) I was always the weakest guy in the room, but after practice, I’ve been seeing steady improvements in my strength. I’m convinced that both exercising and avoiding PMO, came about thanks to reshaping that original habit of drinking soda. (Side note: if you’re not an exercise-person, r/bodyweightfitness is the only place I know to endorse. Friendly and very accessible.)
- Gotta thank NoFap itself. I check in about once a week, or sometimes when I was feeling an urge, but knew PMO’d make me feel like crap right after I was finished. Some of you take this topic that’s normally so shameful and write with the gusto of fucking Spartans. The over-the-top posts are my favorite. I laugh, I think, I get the opportunity to replace my temptation with something much better. Thanks for being here.
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Lots of it is about addiction. Here’s a (long) key quote, that, funnily enough, u/Oats__McGoats posted a year ago. It’s a character named Joelle explaining her recovery from crack:
She said “This was why I couldn’t get off and stay off. Just as the cliche warns. I literally wasn’t keeping it in the day. I was adding the clean days up in my head.” She cocked her head at him. “Did you ever hear of this fellow Evel Knievel? This motorcycle-jumper?” Gately nods slightly… He actually has an old cutout action picture of the historical Evel Knievel, from an old Life magazine, in a white leather Elvisish suit, in the air, aloft, haloed in spotlights, upright on a bike, a row of well-waxed trucks below.
“At St. Collie only the Crocodiles’d heard of him. My own Daddy’d followed him, cut out pictures, as a boy.” Gately can tell she’s smiling under there. “But what I used to do, I’d throw away the pipe and shake my fist at the sky and say As God is my fucking witness NEVER AGAIN, as of this minute right here I QUIT FOR ALL TIME.” She also has this habit of absently patting the top of her head when she talks, where little barrettes and spongy clamps hold the veil in place. “And I’d bunker up all white-knuckled and stay straight. And count the days. I was proud of each day I stayed off. Each day seemed evidence of something, and I counted them. I’d add them up. Line them up end to end. You know?” Gately knows very well but doesn’t nod, lets her do this on just her own steam. She says “And soon it would get… improbable. As if each day was a car Knievel had to clear. One car, two cars. By the time I’d get up to say like maybe about 14 cars, it would begin to seem like this staggering number. Jumping over 14 cars. And the rest of the year, looking ahead, hundreds of cars, me in the air trying to clear them.” She left her head alone and cocked it. “Who could do it? How did I ever think anyone could do it that way?
“And yet it wasn’t til that poor new pipe-fellow from home pointed at me and hauled me up there and I said it that I realized,” Joelle said. “I don’t have to do it that way. I get to choose how to do it and they’ll help me stick to the choice. I don’t think I’d realized before that I could—I can really do this. I can do this for one endless day. I can. Don.”
-David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
^ Long, but for me, key.
- Hitting bottom–for me, I’d define this as a situation where I KNEW I’d feel especially awful and especially ashamed before PMO’ing, but did it anyway, and felt even worse than I expected. Once I had this experience, skipping the rest of the day was a no-brainer. The memory of how shitty I felt was still with me. And the following day, I had a memory of how bad the previous day was, so I skipped that day, too. This stretched out to four or five days, which was the only time I’d abstained that long without constantly being right on the edge of giving in to my PMO addiction.
Four or five days without doing it was one thing–but four or five days without wanting to do it–I’d never been there before.
Once I realized I had a little streak going, I still had periodic temptations to PMO–think of how extra good it would feel!–but thanks to NoFap, I knew I had an opportunity to push through and didn’t want to waste it. This streak has led me to…:
- No longer looking at my hand and thinking ‘oh you are a sexy motherfucker.’ Think of all the beautiful other people out there! Now, think of….your hand. The same hand with which you wipe your butt, eat your cereal, and pick your nose. I look at mine now, and reflect on how fucked-up P was for me that it made me believe my hand was like a nymphomatic sex partner.
I still haven’t found anyone else yet to kiss (or more), but waiting and looking for them feels so much better than touching myself would.
- Just trying. Trying again. Again and again and again. I’ve been trying for years to get here. Here’s the difference in why I’m succeeding: My motivation is now internal, not external. It used to be: “I shouldn’t fap, because it’s gross/wrong.” Now, it’s “I don’t want to fap, because I’ve connected fapping with immediately feeling physically and mentally like shit.”
Reeeeeead The Power of Habit. Try, keep trying, keep trying.
With Love, Internet– u/quandjpenseafernande