I started on porn in my early teens with dial up and switched to high speed internet and from there I became addicted. It’s not so important how it all started. What’s important is that I finally made the changes necessary to build solid recovery. It took me about eight years to get to this point through a lot of trial and error, stubbornness and insanity (doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results). My hope is that you can recover much quicker than I did and change your life now.
First things first, I got the help I needed. I was diagnosed with ADHD and depression at an early age, but stopped taking medication when I was a teenager (basically at the height of my addiction). I’d been to different therapists over the years which helped and got me started on a path toward recovery, but I refused to take medicine for the longest time because I thought it would somehow change me or make me less of a person. I was wrong. I finally started taking medicine again after being off it for almost 15 years and it has it made all the difference. I’m also continuing therapy which has been a huge help.
Accountability: You can’t do this alone. That doesn’t mean you have to join a support group or something, but you should have at least one person in your life that you can confide in and who won’t judge you for your past. I recommend telling a family member or a close friend and a therapist. You can tell your significant other and that can be a big help, but as Matt Dobschuetz (creator of the Porn Free Radio podcast) recommends is not making them your sole confidant, because what happens if you get into an argument with them and want to turn to porn? Who are you going to talk to about your urges?
Meditation: Meditation helps to clear the fog and provides clearer thinking. It also builds self-awareness which is crucial to recovery. I can’t recommend it enough. Start small and basic. You don’t have to go into the forest or climb a mountain. Just sit comfortably and focus on your breath. If your mind distracts you that’s okay. Gently return to focusing on your breath. Start small. Do 2 minutes a day then build. I now meditate between 30 and 40 minutes a day and it’s made all the difference.
Exercise: Do something to get moving. It’ll help with depression and anxiety, not to mention you’ll feel better about yourself. I do pushups and run 30 minutes 2-3 times a week. That’s it. I’m looking to get into the gym again soon, but for now I’m building my wrist strength up (got carpal tunnel from years of abusing it thanks to PMO). Exercise!
One day at a time mindfully mentality: This has been huge for me. I used to get caught up in the past or worry about the future and that made me depressed and anxious. Through meditation and self-awareness I’ve gotten much better at being in the moment.
Gave up perfectionism: Did I mention I also have OCD? Yeah, that was a huge obstacle in overcoming addiction. To this day I still get flashbacks and have sexual dreams. OCD used to make it unbearable and try to trick me into thinking I’d somehow relapsed. Thankfully my medicine helps with that, but it’s not perfect (and that’s okay!). This also carried over into my daily actions which I’ll talk about more below.
Kinder toward myself and more forgiving: I used to beat the shit out of myself for relapsing or making mistakes. But now I forgive myself for what I did in the past, what content I looked at. I’m grateful for my addiction because it made me a better person in the long run.
Patience: It takes time to recover. There were times I thought about quitting and relapsing because I didn’t notice any difference for the first few months. Be patient with yourself. Live one day at a time and practice self-care. It was like a light switched on the moment I felt the change. It will be grueling at times, but you can do it! Don’t EVER give up!
Values: Values are how you want to live your life and what’s important to you. I started with three: self-care (taking care of myself), patience and discipline. One day at a time. Now I have more values I can focus on, but if I had started with all of them I would’ve been overwhelmed.
Took action toward goals despite fear: I feel like I’ve done more in the past couple months than I did in the past ten years (including graduating from college and living abroad). I’m now working full-time, getting certified to teach and I’m planning to start a side business to generate extra income. This is coming from a guy who was depressed and unmotivated for YEARS. I’m embracing life boldly and yeah I’m still terrified at times, but now I have more confidence to go after what I want. I also push myself out of my comfort zone to socialize more even though some days I just want to stay at home and do nothing. Yes, procrastination is still there, but I can manage it better by taking a simple, small action.
Found out why I looked at porn: to escape pain/discomfort of any kind. This was one of the biggest revelations to me that I had known internally for years but never addressed in the open. I HATED feeling any kind of discomfort. I remember spraining my foot and hand when I was in high school and how I would medicate with porn. I remember often feeling sleep-deprived and exhausted (my biggest triggers) and wanting to use porn. I remember being rejected socially and turning to porn to numb me. I don’t run from pain and discomfort anymore. It’s hard at times, but with practice and patience I’m getting better. One thing that helps with self-awareness is HALT (Hungry/Angry/Lonely/Tired). It’s a good identifier of where you are feeling emotionally in the moment. There have been times I was tired and/or hungry and felt really down and wanted to turn to porn. But then I realized I was tired and hungry and did something about it. Often eating gives me energy so it takes care of both. Take care of yourself!
Changed the type of content I consumed (non-triggering): I got rid of Netflix, I quit playing online video games and I limit how much I get on my laptop. I even changed the type of movies and shows I watch. If it has sexual references in it I’ll usually skip it. There’s plenty of good content that my life won’t end if I miss out on something. Yes, I can still watch media and play games, but I have so much drive and energy that I don’t really want to do these things so much anymore. I’ve been reading a lot more self-help books and next year I plan to read more fiction. I’ll include a list of books that I recommend at the end.
Realized my needs matter (assertiveness): I used to be a “nice guy” and would say yes to everything even if I didn’t want to. I’m still a nice guy, but I’m getting better at speaking up or saying no when I don’t want to do something. Now I can unselfishly put myself first but still be a caring individual toward others. You don’t have to become a jerk, it’s more about doing what you think is best for you while respecting others and not allowing them to walk all over you.
Made decisions (without being perfect) and stuck with them: One of the most insidious things about this addiction is it messes up your brain and thinking ability. I was indecisive for years and it led to procrastination on everything I wanted to accomplish. I’m feeling more focused now and can get work done daily. I’m slowly moving toward the life I want to be living.
There is hope. It’s never too late. I don’t get on Reddit much anymore, but I’ll try to contribute more often. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I don’t know what day I’m on (the only day that matters is today) and I have no interest in knowing.
Resources I recommend:
Porn Free Radio
Love People Use Things
The Art of Manliness
Your Brain on Porn by Gary Wilson
Rewired by Erica Spiegelman
I Want to Change My Life by Steven Melemis
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover
Models by Mark Manson
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The New Male Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld (careful it has triggers)
I’m 29 years old.
TLDR: I got the help I needed after failing for 8 years and my life changed dramatically. It takes time to recover so be patient and kind to yourself. There is hope.