Someone on Reddit recently asked me, “Does this addiction ever officially go away? My future dreams and goals can’t rely on me consistently maintaining sobriety from this addiction. I want it gone forever and always.”
That’s a damn great question, and one that leads many of us to relapse when we envision a lifetime of fighting cravings. My answer is: yes and no. Someone without a porn addiction can use porn in moderation without overt negative consequences, without bingeing unhealthily, and without coming to rely on it emotionally. If you are addicted to porn, my experience and education says that you will never have this ability. The pathways of addiction have been deeply and permanently carved into our brains by actions repeated hundreds or thousands of times. Though we can heal ourselves completely of porn-induced symptoms and neutralize these addiction pathways with prolonged abstention, we can never destroy them. They will always be prone to reactivation should you relapse. If we learn to ride a bike once, it will always be easier to pick it up a second time—even after decades without riding. The same goes for compulsive behaviors, and so in that sense we are always addicts and can never use pornography healthily.
On the other hand, by cutting the addictive behavior (PMO or others) out of our lives completely and refocusing our energies on positive pursuits, we can heal ourselves of all porn-induced symptoms and leave the negative effects of addiction in our past, robbing cravings of their power over us in the process. I’m not saying that we can eliminate urges altogether. It’s been half a year since I looked at porn or masturbated at all, and just last night I had a dream about using pornography. But when thoughts of porn arise, I know without a doubt that those thoughts lead nowhere I want to go. I have made pursuing sexual arousal without a partner a total non-option in my life, so urges pass without really bothering me at all. I went from qualifying for 9 out of 11 porn addiction criteria to 0 out of 11. I am no longer chained by my addiction, and life is so, so much better. In this sense I am not an addict, and you don’t have to be either.