In this video coaching newsletter I read an update from a client who had just surpassed 90 days pornfree for the first time; he was feeling recovered from PIED and looking forward to finding a romantic relationship soon. However, he didn’t know how to handle his recently returned libido and ending up binging to porn. Understandably, he’s beating himself up for throwing away his hard-earned progress and wonders how he gets back on his feet from here.
The full text of his message to me is below in italics. My comments are in bold.
Hello Noah! It happened, I relapsed. I made it to 87 days, i made it over my 80 day mark and was working towards 100. The relapse was pretty innocent, and I didn’t feel that bad about it. I was laying in bed, felt a urge, touched it a little, then a little more and then I went off.
First, let’s talk about what a relapse actually is. A relapse isn’t masturbating without porn once. Relapse means a backslide to the kind of damaging behavior that you started with. Your damaging behavior was the overuse of porn to the point of addiction and sexual dysfunction–not masturbation itself. So whether masturbating on day 87 was a good idea or not, it wasn’t a relapse. Binging on porn is.
If you think of pornfree masturbation as a relapse, then it creates the false idea that doing so is just as bad as masturbating to porn. This is absolutely untrue, and by thinking so you make it easy to justify using porn when you get an urge after “relapsing” without masturbation. Most guys can masturbate pornfree in moderation or even frequently without developing sexual dysfunctions.
I don’t think it was that bad of a thing… the problem came with the chaser effect I got from it. I could hold for 7 days after that, then I relapsed. This time with porn, binging.
Reintroducing masturbation in a reboot is definitely possible, but it can be tricky at first. The “chaser effect” he mentions makes us more horny after having our first orgasm in awhile, and since we’re so used to seeking arousal in porn, that can lead to more urges. You want to be sure that if you fantasize, that it’s realistic and first-person imagery—not memories of porn or porn-inspired scenes. These kinds of fantasies can lead to more drive to use.
I feel awful. How do i move forward from this? The problem was that I think i was really cured. I got random boners when i saw attractive girls, stronger and longer lasting boners than ever. This was at the 84 day mark, and i began thinking that i could let masturbation into my life again.
An incident like this is very common along this journey, and sometimes it can be a necessary learning experience. I know how disheartening it is to think that you’ve lost that progress that you worked so hard for, but in all likelihood it’s not all gone, though it will be if you continue to use and binge.
A critical point in recovery from PIED is when your libido and erections return in force. That’s exactly what you were working for, but the irony is that your stronger sex drive can lead you right back to porn and square one unless you plan for it and know how to manage yourself.
If you’re in a relationship or have prospects for one soon, I recommend abstaining from masturbation entirely at least until you’re having good, consistent sex and know that the PIED is gone. However, if you’re single and think you will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, pornfree masturbation can be helpful for some people. If you do choose to masturbate, just make sure you’re not going to feel ashamed of it. Shame doesn’t lead anywhere good. Masturbate when you feel like you really want to, then move on with your life. If you notice that you start needing more intense porn-like fantasies to masturbate to or need rougher physical stimulation than before, these are signs that you should give it a break for awhile and/or reduce your frequency.
I feel hopeless now. I don’t know how to keep a healthy life like I had for 87 days for the rest of my life. Especially when i don’t have a girlfriend or stuff.. I felt like I was on a mission to be cured, then I got cured and didn’t have a girl available kind of.. I’m rambling. How do you think i should move forward?
Your friend Anon
I personally know all of the self-sabotaging BS that can swirl around in your head after a relapse. You have to find a way to flush all of that doubt out of your head, get back on your feet, and continue moving forward. You can’t do anything about yesterday, but you can do a lot about today. Think a lot less about your regrets and realign your focus onto building the life you want.
Decide whether or not pornfree masturbation is allowable for you or not–don’t wait until you’re aroused to make that decision, or you’ll regret it afterwards. Since you just relapsed, I’d recommend at least a couple weeks completely abstinent before starting to masturbate if you do decide to. Whatever happens, don’t let porn become an option. Stay vigilant about it, maintain your daily regimens, and don’t forget the lessons you have learned. You’re an addict, which doesn’t mean that your quality of life will be any lesser or that the drive for porn will always control you, but it does mean that you’ll always have a vulnerability to returning to your old ways that you’ll have to watch out for.