Tools For Change: Recovery from Porn Addiction
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
For many, leaving a porn addiction behind involves changing several aspects of their lives. Willpower and "white knuckling" are rarely sufficient to recover from this addiction. While we don't have a " recovery program" at YBOP, this section contains suggestions and tools employed by those who successfully rebooted. A collection of the best "rebooting advice" posts are located here - Rebooting Advice & Observations
The links at the bottom of the page contain many sub-links. Also see the support tab for sites and therapists that do have recovery programs.
1) Gain a clear understanding of how porn has affected your brain and why you need to rewire your brain and return your reward circuitry to normal sensitivity.
With a clear understanding of how you became addicted, what occurred in your brain, and how healing progresses, you are better prepared to steer your own course to recovery.
- If you haven't already, please watch Your Brain on Porn: Porn Addiction, and Adolescent Brain Meets Highspeed Internet Porn.
- If you have porn-induced ED, watch Porn-induced Erectile Dysfunction, and explore this FAQ - Is my erectile dysfunction (ED) related to my porn use?
- To understand clearly how today's Internet porn differs from sex or porn of the past, read the following articles in sequence: Porn, Novelty, and the Coolidge effect, Porn Then and Now: Welcome to Brain Training and Why Shouldn't Johnny Watch Porn If He Likes?
2) Understand rebooting and what it entails.
- Start with the Rebooting Basics article. The best way to understand rebooting is to read the stories of others who have recovered from porn addiction and porn-induced ED. You will find numerous rebooting accounts here, and here, including the majority of ED stories. Shorter porn-induced ED recovery stories are here.
- Our best resource for what to do and not do: Rebooting Advice & Observations contains the cream of the crop advice posts by those who have been there and successfully recovered.
- Rebooting is our term for taking a time out to recover from porn addiction and associated symptoms, including erectile dysfunction and porn-induced sexual fetishes. If you are addicted to porn, your brain has undergone the same fundamental physiological and structural changes that all drug and behavioral addictions share: desensitization, sensitization, and hypofrontality. Porn addiction may affect the innate sexual centers and circuits of the brain, as evidenced by porn-induced ED, DE, loss of libido, and a flatline during withdrawal.
- The quickest way to reboot is to give your brain a rest from artificial sexual stimulation—porn, porn fantasy and masturbation. Most guys eliminate or drastically reduce orgasms during their reboot period. There are no hard rules as everyone is in a different situation. On the other hand, sensual contact with a real person can be beneficial, as long as you don't fantasize about porn.
- With your brain in balance you will find it much easier to avoid the lure of mind-altering habits and substances. Please note that for those with porn-induced ED, Internet porn is the addiction and the cause of ED, not masturbation or orgasm. However, temporarily eliminating masturbation and orgasm may be the way to go as it initiates a withdrawal, un-wires porn from masturbation, reduces cravings, and most important - works.
- Rebooting seems to involve the reversal of two relatively distinct brain changes: desensitization and sexual conditioning (sensitization). As you reboot your brain will return to its prior sensitivity which allows you to feel arousal and satisfaction more normally.
- Addiction leads to the strengthening of sensitized "go for it" neural pathways, and weakening of rational "let's think about this" neural pathways. There's a tug of war between the craving pathways (sensitization) and your executive control, which resides in your frontal cortex. Weakened frontal cortex pathways (hypofrontality) lose the tug of war to cravings, resulting in your being unable to control use. It takes time for your brain to return to normal. See - Unwiring and Rewiring.
Do you think it's a good idea for a recovering alcoholic to spend his/her free time hanging out in bars? Since you are hanging out on the Net, you may want to employ more than sheer willpower. It can be easier to reboot if you block porn from your computer (or at least images) for a while. When porn is available at a click, its looming presence can produce intense inner conflict, and stress makes relapse more likely.
- Start with Taming Your Computer and Phone, an overview of several methods employed by successful rebooters.
- Web Filters - Instructions for ways to filter out porn and erotic images. Almost everyone who recovers successfully uses this tool (eventually), so save yourself some time and use it immediately.
- Use Your Computer Effectively and other tips - Men share their tips for managing computer use.
- Change Your Email Address - Prevent emails that could trigger porn use.
- Get doctor-recommended apps for your computer to speed brain reprogramming. (Links to apps are embedded in article)
4) Replace porn use with naturally rewarding activities.
As you select the tools you feel drawn to work with, keep in mind that humans are tribal, pair-bonding primates. Our brains didn't evolve to regulate mood very well when we're not interacting with others. That is, it's normal to feel anxious when you are isolated. I suggest reading this post by host of YourBrainRebalanced.com - My Thoughts On Rebooting.
Unfortunately, heavy porn users often find they don't feel like socializing. They may even have developed intense anxiety at the very thought of socializing. Nevertheless, as soon as they can, they benefit from finding ways to connect with others even if they have to push themselves. If you're shy, give extra attention to the tips under Tools to Connect With Others. Once off of porn, their brains soon rediscover some of the prime natural rewards that they evolved to thrive on: soothing close, trusted companionship and regular, affectionate touch. Read users' comments about social improvements.
When you remove one source of dopamine (porn) it's vitally important to replace it with other, healthy sources of dopamine. As you consider which additional tools to try, keep in mind that heavy porn use is actually a synthetic substitute for the activities that naturally help keep your brain in balance. Not surprisingly, the most common tools employed include exercise, time in nature, creative activities, meditation, healthy diet, and socializing. Some of these naturally rewarding activities you can do by yourself, while others require human interaction. Therefore the Tools are split into two groups.
Said one guy:
"I noticed when I want to stop a habit, it's stupidly hard, but I realized that displacing a habit with another is much easier. Find the root of the problem and displace one habit with another entirely to fill the basic root need. The "I don't want something" versus the "I want something", what a subtle semantic! Yet how so deep and important it is!"
- In addition to rebooting, people sometimes need professional help to work through particularly stubborn old patterns. Persistent rage, shame, grief, abandonment, or depression can signal that counseling would be helpful. If you seek help from a therapist, you may want to educate him/her first about some of the symptoms heavy porn users are reporting.
6) Other websites and forums
- Under the support button you will find many other websites, forums and support groups. A support group is a great way to form close, sincere friendships. Recovering users benefit enormously from regular blogging, exchanging tips and support with others. Many of the sites have forums, meetings and recovery programs. Some of the most active forums include:
6) Frequently Asked Questions
- Our FAQ section answers most of the questions that naturally arise and contains tips and suggestions.
- Skim Rebooting Advice & Observations for pages of tips, advice, and motivation from those who have been there.
"OK, but where do I start?"
Advice from forum members:
Browse the appropriate articles on YourBrainOnPorn
- Delete stash
- Destroy all physical porn (DVDs, magazines)
- Install an Internet porn blocker and put it on the strictest settings. Put in a password that you don't have memorized, write it down and put it in a difficult place to retrieve.
- Try to limit computer time, and if you experience a trigger or a serious urge, then shut off your computer and do a pre-set activity that you will now be your "go-to" porn replacement activity. Choose something positive and healthy: chess, exercise, eat a salad, study a language etc.
- Stop masturbating for as long as you can stand. If you must masturbate, then do it without porn.
- Continually update your journal with your experiences insights.
- If you do use porn again, don't give up.
- Do whatever it takes to stay away from porn and do quit masturbating for as long as possible.
- Resist the urge to "test" yourself with porn. That can send you right back into it.
- DO NOT!!! LISTEN TO YOUR BRAIN! If you're gonna reboot, then do it and ignore all rationalizations. After two months or so, you can think whatever you want as far as "Does it really work?" or "Should I continue?"
Said one young guy three weeks into his reboot:
It's strange! I never imagined that stopping this addiction would open up so many other doors and help me in other aspects of life. I always envisaged it would just be my sex life that would see positive changes.
I think after this experience I'm going to take the careful-gardener approach to my reward circuitry. It has been very eye-opening to say the least. It feels like the changes to other aspects of my life are taking place before noticeable libido changes happen—almost as though my brain is building new perceptions and sensations so that when my libido returns it will be back with a bang.
Let us know what worked for you, what didn't, and why. (After registering, "add new comment" below any item.) Also feel free to share your own suggestions and refinements.