The following post is geared toward 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.
Watching porn, scrolling endlessly through your Instagram feed, biting your nails, slouching, eating junk food—you get the picture. These, and unhealthy habits like them, plague our lives threaten our mental and physical wellbeing, and waste our time and energy.
Yet, for some reason, we still do them. And, when those brave few of us attempt to break unwanted habits that are negatively affecting our lives, it seems like we all too often end up right back at square one.
But we don’t think that has to be the case. More specifically, we’d like to suggest that the reason many of us so frequently fail in eliminating these unwanted behaviors is due to a flawed approach.
So then, how exactly should we approach kicking unwanted habits like watching porn?
Let’s get into it. While these tips apply to kicking a porn habit, these pointers can be applied to any habit or behavior you’re trying to leave behind.
1. Can vs. can’t
The first piece of the puzzle is attitude. When attempting to kick a habit, one should focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t.
In other words, not watching porn—or whatever one’s unwanted habit may be—shouldn’t just be that person telling himself or herself over and over again, “I’m not going to watch porn.” Instead, that negative disposition toward the habit is best replaced with a positive disposition toward something they can replace their habit with.
For example, “Because I’m not watching porn, I get to…” and then the person can fill in the blank with a replacement action, like reading a book, calling a friend, exercising, etc.
According to the author of New York Times bestseller “Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones,” James Clear, the positive attitude that leads to healthy replacement habits is crucial if one is to replace their unwanted habits which takes us to the second piece of the puzzle: replacement.
2. The importance of replacement
Replacement is essential because all the habits people have right now, whether healthy or unhealthy, are providing them some benefit (or perceived benefit, in porn’s case). Because an unhealthy habit provides one with some type of benefit, it’s hard to “just stop doing it.” Instead, one must replace the habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.
Take porn, for example. It can be a crutch that someone turns to, to help cope with stress and boredom, and give the illusion of connection. These benefits make the habit more difficult to kick. That’s why replacing porn with something like calling a friend (which can legitimately help with stress and boredom, and provide true connection) can make all the difference in the world.
Kicking porn and adding a replacement habit (like calling a friend) to your life is totally worth doing—just look at the research! The “benefits” of watching porn are far outweighed by how porn negatively affects the individual, relationships, and society.
3. Obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying
The third and final piece of the puzzle is understanding what one must do practically to quit their undesired habit and replace it.
Clear suggests eight simple ideas to breaking unwanted habits and thinking about the process of doing so in a new way.
- Choose a substitute for your habit. When stress or boredom strikes you need to have a plan! What will you do instead of your habit you’re trying to kick?
- Cut out as many triggers as possible. If you tend to look at porn on Wednesdays after school because your parents are out of the house, then head over to a friend’s place. In other words, make it easier on yourself to break habits by avoiding the things that cause them.
- Join forces with somebody. Fighting a habit with a friend provides you with accountability and someone to celebrate the little victories with. It also can be extremely motivating to know someone else is expecting you to accomplish your goals.
- Surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live. Clear isn’t saying to get rid of all people in your life who have the same habit you’re trying to kick. What he is saying though is that new friends can help to shake things up. Look around you and see if the people in your life are helping you achieve your goals, whether it be to kick porn or do something else.
- Visualize yourself succeeding. See yourself ignoring the porn site that you crave and going over to a friend’s house instead. Celebrate your success in turning down that old habit, and visualize over and over how you can make your goal a reality one step at a time.
- You don’t need to be someone else, you just need to return to the old you. So often we think that we need to change entirely to conquer our habit when, in fact, we already have it in us to conquer the habit. You don’t need to quit porn, you just need to return to being a non-porn watcher. Even if that was years ago, you already lived without porn as a habit, which means you can totally do it again.
- Use the word “but” to overcome negative self-talk. When you battle an undesired habit, it can be easy to punish yourself up when you make a mistake. That’s why, whatever happens, you finish your sentence with a “but…” It’ll look something like this: “I slipped up today, but that was the first time I’d watched in 17 days.”
- Plan for failure. Clear quotes one of his close friends here: “When you screw up….it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Welcome to the club.” Don’t punish yourself up, bounce back! Check out this article for help on doing exactly that.
Also, don’t make things more difficult for yourself by having an “all or nothing” attitude. Quitting a deeply engrained habit isn’t linear. That doesn’t mean you should give yourself permission to indulge sometimes, but it does mean giving yourself a break when you slip-up and get back to chasing your goal—instead of giving up completely. Don’t make it “all or nothing.” You’re only human, but you can do this.
Why this matters
According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80%, and most lose their resolve by mid-February to keep trying.
We are through month one of 2021. For those of you who are still working to achieve your New Year’s resolution, good for you—keep going! For those of you that have given up, we recommend you give it another shot. For those of you that have yet to set resolutions, it’s never too late to get started.
Regardless of what boat you find yourself in, use our guide. And that’s especially true if porn is the habit you want to kick this year.
We get it, it’s tough, but you’re not alone. And we’ve got the resources to assist you in your journey.
Kicking porn is worth it, trust us. Keep at it.
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.