Photo by Justin Luebke. 6 minute read.
The following post is geared towards those in recovery from a struggle with porn. While Fight the New Drug is not a recovery-focused resource, we encourage anyone in need of help to check out our friends at Fortify. Visit Fortify if you’re interested in resources aimed at recovery.
At Fight the New Drug, we talk a lot about the negativity and harms of pornography and porn struggles based on existing science, research, and personal stories. We talk a lot about how it will affect the consumer’s brain, harm their relationships, and how the porn industry is connected to sex trafficking. That information is important for society to understand, but let’s be honest, it can also get discouraging to hear about, especially if you have a porn habit you’re trying to quit.
So let’s look at the other side of the equation. While the effects of porn are negative, struggling with it doesn’t automatically make a person “bad.” We get a lot of stories from people who are not only going through a struggle, but who have recovered from it. Regardless of how long they’ve struggled, recovery is more than possible.
This article is for anyone in the midst of recovery.
All in all, recovery isn’t simple.
Recovery is a journey and a process. More often than not, therapists and psychologists see that pure willpower, quitting cold turkey, and just white-knuckling through your problems don’t really solve anything. This is because habits, compulsions, or in severe cases, addictions are made up of many different facets of the consumer’s life and often tied to deep-rooted issues. It would be easy to blame a porn obsession on a high sex drive, but that is almost never the case. In fact, many porn consumers even suffer from severely low libido.
Different stages of the recovery process may require different focuses and strategies. The basic principles remain the same but as the person grows and progresses, they should be adapting their plans and actions accordingly. It is very important to be aware of where they are in their recovery and what they need to be doing in order to have the most success.
The fact is, recovery is almost never a straight line. If you’ve been at this a while, you’ve probably been in any or all of the phases at some point. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is where you are right now and where you are going to go from here.
Note that the following information has been informed by many stories we have received from thousands of individuals around the world. Do not use the information in this article in place of advice and counseling from a mental health professional.
The main problem consumers usually face at this point of their recovery is negativity. Porn has gotten a handle on their lives and it has really messed up some stuff. Because of this, they feel angry, disappointed and even hateful towards themselves. None of this is helpful. Even if you feel like you deserve it, piling negativity on top of your already existing problems solves nothing. Shame often does not improve a struggle with porn, it only fuels it and intensifies it.
The other huge issue you could be facing is isolation. When life feels this out of control, one of the worst things you can do is try to go it alone. If you don’t have someone in your life you can talk to about this stuff, start looking.
So what can you do about it?
This phase may require a little more structure than the others. It might involve putting filters on your devices or restricting your access to them all together. Staying off of things like social media, dating apps or anything with easily accessible sexual content. Some users of the Fortify Platform will even break their days down into a strict schedule, with their daily goals and responsibilities laid out for them.
Focus on every victory and stay positive. Reaffirm your long-term goals but don’t expect an overnight change. Try to take things one day at a time. Give yourself the space you need to recover.
Now it’s time to start stretching your muscles and expanding your strategies. You’ve learned a lot and you’re doing some really good things, but you might be having trouble gaining some real long-term traction. Try to start examining your setbacks more, look at how you felt before and after each one.
What were you doing before your setback? How was your day going? Are there other habits (video gaming, eating junk food, etc.) you are overindulging that lead you to watching porn? Are they happening in the same places, with the same devices?
You will probably need to start examining some of the deeper issues of your porn obsession at this point. Which can be difficult, but be patient and thoughtful. Try to see past the basic urges and look at what is driving you to watch porn. You’ll also need to practice your in the moment reactions to triggers and urges. Having positive activities to reroute your urges is key, or calling up a friend if you’re on thin ice is a great spur-of-the-moment safety line.
Remember that simply trying to get rid of an unwanted porn habit is easier when that habit is replaced with something healthier and beneficial to you. For example, here are 5 things you can do instead of watch porn.
At this phase, you’re doing really well. You’re probably starting to see pretty long streaks and you’re becoming a master at getting out of the habitual/compulsion/addiction cycle. However, sometimes this stage can be just as difficult, because it comes with its own set of obstacles.
It is really important to stay vigilant—remember that you got here because you got good at the little things, but if you let them slide you could end up sliding back big time.
Another thing to watch out for is backward rationalization. This means that you convince yourself that you’re doing well enough to watch a little porn. (Intentionally “weaning” off of porn is not necessary and can be ultimately unhelpful.) Maybe you convince yourself that you deserve a reward, maybe you believe you aren’t officially struggling anymore, that you are someone who can now moderate your porn patterns. No matter how you spin it, this type of rationale is the same “just this once” mentality that got you stuck in unhealthy and unwanted habits in the first place.
Even after long streaks of victories, things like urges, depression, anxiety, or triggers can crop up regularly. In fact, it is almost a guarantee that they will. Don’t get discouraged because you aren’t “cured” yet. If you expect life to become challenge-free through your recovery, you’re in for a letdown. Keep moving forward.
New growth brings new challenges, so remember what you have learned and be aware of new traps. Full recovery is possible, but that doesn’t mean we should open ourselves up to harm. You may always feel some level of urges or triggers, and you will probably discover new ones as you grow. That’s okay.
As you build personal resilience and positive connections, you will have the capacity to avoid and withstand them.
For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out our friends at 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 compulsive behavior, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.