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How You Can Confront Setbacks While Quitting Porn

If you’ve struggled with repeated setbacks on your journey to quitting porn, this article is for you. Begin again, for as many times as it takes.

By October 27, 2021No Comments
This guest piece was written by Dr. Jacob Hess, the Research Director at JoinFortify.com, a porn addiction recovery platform and affiliate of Fight the New Drug. 5-minute read.
Begin Again, For As Long As It Takes

By Jacob Hess, Ph.D., Fortify Research Director

You did it again. Can you believe it?

Of course, you can. No matter how many times someone who struggles with porn has told themself they want to be done with this, after a few days or weeks, they end up right here…again, in the midst of their struggle.

And again (and again). Is it time for someone who continues to have setbacks to just admit this is how life is going to be?

If this is you, maybe this is just “who you are?” Nope. It’s not. No matter how intense those moments of using can be, the feeling that inevitably follows—the emptiness, the despair, the heaviness, the anxiety, the anger—NONE of that is who (or how) you want to be.

Related: How You Can Quit Watching Porn Today

You deserve something better than all of that—way better. And your future includes something far more than what porn can ever offer.

So, how to get there…for real?

Fortify

What to ask yourself in moments of doubt and setbacks

I’ve spent the last decade supporting many people on their own journey to deeper freedom on the Fortify app. And speaking from my own experience of seeking and finding freedom too…I know how challenging this is—and how worth it is to keep fighting. And never give up.

Related: Tips For Opening Up To A Loved One About Your Struggle With Porn

I wish I could be with you to cheer you on. Here’s what I would say if I was right there with you:

1. What are you still missing?

It’s easy enough to be deeply self-critical in these moments. Don’t. Instead, try something completely different: Let this humble yourself a little, asking, What do I still need to learn? What am I not seeing yet? What lessons am I still missing?  

If you let setbacks become moments to expand your mind and heart (even just a little more), trust me—your “falling forward” may soon translate into some new momentum and deeper healing.

Related: I Tried Giving Up Porn For One Month, Here’s How It Went

2. What are you going to do next?

In the meanwhile, yes this can hurt big time—for you and for others who love you. I’m sorry about that…do whatever you can to nurture and protect the hearts around you—especially if they depend on you.

Don’t feel you need to immediately break down the details with a partner (which can overwhelm them emotionally, pretty quick). If it would help to talk about it, turn to your accountability partner instead.

Along the way, please remember: this doesn’t have to be like this forever.

Tomorrow doesn’t have to be the same as today. I promise. And you don’t even have to wait for tomorrow. Today—right now—can be a new moment.

Related: 6 Things That Motivate People To Stop Watching Porn

That’s not just some nice poetic flourish. It’s true. No matter what has happened before, it’s a scientific fact that THIS moment is different from any moment before.

You’ve never breathed this breath before. So, feeling now that new breath in your chest….what are you going to do with it?

So much depends on what you do next.

BHW - The Brain

3. What can this pain teach you?

As you probably well know, it’s super easy in moments of setback to do something—anything—to try and make the pain “go away.” Eating, distracting, getting mad, or turning to more porn…something to BURY the feelings you don’t want (and chase after more of the feelings you do want).

But after a while, most of us inevitably realize the same thing: Locking painful feelings away doesn’t make them go away. It can actually make them far worse.

So instead of more avoidance and numbing out, try something truly brave: Feel what you are feeling…turning toward these emotions and thoughts, rather than running away from them more.

If you’re struggling, hear this: you’re up to this. And guess what—even the painful stuff has something to teach you. If you let it.

 Watch: How To Get Unstuck From A Cycle Of Watching Porn, According To A Licensed Therapist

Instead of shaming yourself for turning to porn again, pay attention to what’s going on in your body, your mind, and your heart in the minutes and hours afterward… What do you notice?

When I started doing this in my life, over time I came to realize something strongly: I don’t want to feel this way—the rawness I felt toward people I loved after porn, the emptiness toward life, and the deep anguish inside of myself.

Related: Tips To Quit Porn: Why Setbacks Don’t Automatically Mean Failures

No. It really was true: Life really was better without porn. Rather than something an outside authority was instructing me to do, this was something I was learning from my own experience, my own body and my own mind and heart.

Be a good student. Be open to letting this pain teach you its difficult lessons—and give you some new internal motivation.

4. What about the next moment?

All this sounds nice enough, but what if you do it all: you breathe deep…feel what you are feeling…learn what else you can learn…and take some good steps.

But THEN, you struggle again the next day? 

Related: 5 Tips To Help You Stay Strong While You Quit Porn

None of the above changes. All the above still applies. After that next fall, that becomes your new moment.

And your new breath.

Store - Love

In the film, Edge of Tomorrow, an army major (Tom Cruise) and his superior officer (Emily Blunt) are given a chance to repeat the same tragic, complex, and dangerous moment in a war over and over (and over).

And what happens? They get DESTROYED…over and over and over…by overwhelming forces they can barely anticipate or predict, let alone avoid or control.

Sound familiar?

But they keep trying. Over and over…and start to figure out the moves and strategies, adjustments and changes, they need to break free…

Each small adjustment gets them farther.  Each lesson gives them ideas for the next adjustment.  And each time they get destroyed, they gain new insights and new momentum for the next try.

Related: Why Porn Can Be Difficult To Quit

In one scene, the commanding officer, Rita, says, “What do we do now?” The Major replies, “I don’t know, we’ve never gotten this far.”

What if we approached our experiences in a similar way? “Okay, I’m here to learn how to do this. I’m going to keep getting up, keep growing and continue learning till I get this down.”

Fortify

Learning to rise after each fall, again and again

That’s the stubborn resilience you need to get out of this—kind of like a challenging video game level. Each time you fall—you get up…learning something more about how to get to the next step.

RelatedWhy Watching Porn Doesn’t Make You A Bad Person

The important thing in this case isn’t simply “finishing the game”—it’s making sure you’re moving in a healthy direction. Are you? Do you feel yourself learning, growing, and getting stronger?

Be encouraged. Freedom is real—and not just for someone else.

But for you!

__________

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

Fortify

Fight the New Drug may receive financial support from purchases made using affiliate links.

About the Author

Jacob Hess, Ph.D., is the director of research at Fortify and Impact Suite—with a focus on key differences between short-term and long-term healing for depression, anxiety, and addiction. He has taught teens and adults Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction for a number of years, and is the lead author for “The Power of Stillness.” He has published 14 peer-reviewed studies and several books exploring competing narratives of important health and socio-political questions. Jacob is a former board member of the National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation and a founding member of the Council for Sustainable Healing.

Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.