First of, I think it’s amazing that all of you people are here. The fact that you are contributing to a community like this and helping others is beyond beautiful! I’ve been on this journey for soon-to-be three years, and want to share some of my experience with you!
I’ll first tell you short about me, give you quick rundown of recovery journey, then lastly tell you about some of the stuff I’ve learned along the way.
I’m 22 years old, started watching porn when I was 13. Fighting this addiction has led me on the most amazing journey of my life (not the actual fighting part, but the benefits of recovery). I, like many other people, was not aware of the effects caused by daily porn use. I was insecure, low self-esteem and had a very limited social life. Today I’m extremely social, very confident in myself, and experience life as an incredible gift.
I found this community in 13. dec 2017, after stumbling across a video on rebooting on YouTube. My goal became to eliminate porn from my life, and my strategy was NoFap. My first two relapses were on the 20. december, and the 27. december. The next time I relapsed was 24. december, 2018, a 363 day streak.
I did not keep a reboot-journal so I can only remember vaguely how I felt throughout 2018, but I remember having some small craving periods in the first two weeks, and also a some cravings around 60 days in. Afterwards it was all smooth sailing. I did masturbate three times in the summer of 2018, but without porn. I was home with my family for Christmas vacation. Suddenly I got these intense cravings that totally knocked my rationality out and caused me to relapse.
I started 2019 with two 3-month streaks. From summer 2019 to summer 2020 I altered between 1- and 2-month streaks.
Not once after relapsing have I ever given up. Sure I’ve lost a couple of battles over the years, but the second I give up the fight is the second I lose the war.
Two months ago I moved city, and with the move came a lot of uncertainty. This uncertainty got me relapsing a couple of times. I became very narrow-sighted in the picture of relapsing, and ignored the long-term consequences of it. It wasn’t before I zoomed out and actually realized that I’ve been relapsing more and more that I was able to break the evil cycle. (I’ll be talking more about this down below on looking at the bigger picture.)
You may see that I only have a twelve day streak (as of posting) and think: “This guy hasn’t figured it out. If he had, that streak should be in the hundreds.”, and you would be right. Sure, I haven’t I figured it all out, but I have figured out and learned a lot.
In the beginning of your journey, you will be getting more frequent cravings. This also applies if you have been relapsing often within a short period of time. This is because you have a lot of strong neural pathways that link porn to dopamine. But there are some good news.
Cravings, once appeared, do not last forever.
Cravings become less and less frequent as time goes by, given that you don’t relapse.
The neural pathways become weakened with time. Many of them, over time will completely disappear. There may also be some pathways that never go away, which can result in getting sudden craving out of nowhere, years after last relapse. The plasticity of the brain is a double edged sword
Streaks are good in that they can help you keep motivated when you achieve a big streak. If you lose a streak, however, it can quickly become an excuse for the brain to relapse more. “I’m already at 0 days so what does it matter?” – it matters a lot! Even though the streak resets to 0, you don’t reset your progress of recovery back to 0! Say you previously watched porn every day, but you manage to achieve a 7 day streak. If you then relapse, you’ve still made tremendous progress from going from everyday to suddenly having 7 days without porn. Focus on the positive, the days you go without, instead of beating yourself up and focusing on that you may have just relapsed.
Now don’t let your brain start using it as an excuse that losing your streak is not bad since all progress won’t be lost. Losing your streak is bad, since it means you did what you’re trying your best not to do. But if you happen to relapse, don’t beat yourself up, pick yourself up and keep up the fight!
Your mileage may vary with porn blockers. For me, they mostly benefit with keeping away material that may trigger sudden cravings. Once my mind was set on watching porn, I always found a way to tiptoe around the blocker and relapse. Though, the time it took me to get my way around it have also made me realize what I was about to do and stop before it was too late. Ultimately, even with blockers, if you don’t have the right mindset they will not be what makes you porn free.
Since your brain have been conditioned that porn gives dopamine, it believes that it’s a rewarding activity. You may not actually want to watch porn, but the brain wants to and therefore causing you to relapse. I have noticed times where I was in the middle watching porn and getting bored, but my brain was still set on getting dopamine hits by finding new clips till I came.
Though it may be very hard to control a compulsion, you can still control what happens prior to it. Attempt to get rid of all of the obvious triggers, change your habits that previously led you down the path of a relapse. This may require some work, but getting rid of trigger points is extremely helpful in the beginning. Acknowledge what triggers you, acknowledge what leads you down the path of craving, and do your best to avoid these roads.
Boredom is a common trigger for many people. Explore new hobbies, exercise, hike in the nature. Keep yourself busy so you don’t get bored. Escaping boredom forever is not something I recommend, but in the beginning it can definitely help keeping the time you feel bored to a minimum.
If you’re not careful, a relapse can become inspiration to more relapses. If you happen to relapse, and nothing directly negative happens in your life afterwards, your brain can associate the short-term “non-danger” to the relapse, thinking that it’s okay to relapse since nothing bad really happened. Though it may be difficult, it’s important here to “wake up”, zoom out and look at the bigger picture. You may find that you’ve relapsed a lot on a frequent basis, changing your life-trajectory from a road of self-growth down a dangerous cycle of relapsing.
This is what had happened to me the past two months. Since I had just moved, I’ve had a lot of stuff on my mind, and haven’t really had the time to look at the bigger picture of my life situation until recently. I suddenly realized that I’ve been relapsing a lot lately, and experiencing slightly more and more negative consequences for each time. (Since the change was only slightly for reach relapse, I didn’t really notice the difference then and there).
This is my biggest culprit, and not sure if it applies to everyone. I can attribute at least 80% of my relapses to being hangover. When I’m hangover I tend to look very bleak on my future. I’m still working on becoming better on this. Even when I’m fully aware that there are a lot of positive and good stuff waiting for me in the near future, I still become very existential of my life and can’t really seem to look forward to anything. This causes me to watch porn because I end up craving a quick fix, and I end up thinking “does it really matter if I relapse?”. Of course, after every single time I’ve relapsed, I’ve regret it immediately.
Being a student, whose life revolves around partying, this quickly becomes a bad combination. Though, I am very confident that I will get over this “existential crisis” hurdle as well.
Given you are here reading this long post means you are already somewhat doing this. In addition to frequenting this subreddit, I would advice you to read up on more on what’s going on in the brain with addictions. A book I can’t recommend enough is “Your Brain On Porn, by Gary Wilson”. The insight and help this book provided me is immense.
There are many reasons for why you should stay away from porn. The vibrancy it gives life is one of them. Once you get a couple of days without porn, you will start to perceive stuff as more interesting and beautiful. Very few things can compete with the dopamine porn gives you, and therefore nothing will really grip your attention as much. When you start to get a few days without the intense surges of dopamine, your brain will slowly become more accustomed to normal stimuli that many things in life gives you. Being out in the nature will become more enticing, hanging with friends will become more enjoyable. Life, in general, becomes more pleasurable.
I hope this post was helpful, and know that I have immense respect for you and your wish to change! I wish you all the best in your recovery! Even the fact that you are here reading this post means you have made, or are thinking of making, a decision about quitting porn, which is already a giant step in the right direction!
Feel free to message me or comment below if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to help!