In 2014 I got to know many who have recognized porn’s detrimental effects in their lives and want to give it up for good. Some have been successful. Many have relapsed over and over again, compromising their ideals and gradually losing faith in themselves. Those who successfully quit all had certain things in common. Those who were not successful also have certain things in common.
Before I tell you what those common characteristics are, let me tell you what I mean by relapse. There are recovered addicts who made the commitment never to use porn again and have stuck to it absolutely. But most successful recoveries do include instances of porn use—products of temptation, loneliness, curiosity, drunkenness, etc. What differentiates the successful after such an instance is their willingness to learn from these experiences, using that knowledge to propel themselves forward rather than allowing themselves to be pulled down into a true relapse, i.e. a return to their old ways of life. They refuse to see “failure” as anything other than a paving stone on the path to success. These are not the people I am writing to. The people I write to are those who have never or seldom made it past a few weeks without porn, those who have thus far not accomplished the goals they set out to satisfy, who are not actually making steady progress towards those goals, and who fear they never will.
Ultimately, the difference between the successful and the unsuccessful here is pretty simple: the successful are willing to put in the work. They recognize how serious of a task this is, and, understanding that knowledge is power, they spend hours and hours researching the brain science behind addiction, learning from success stories, seeking out guides to recovery, and making a plan for their own recovery. Then they take dramatic action. They preempt triggers, they destroy their porn collections, they open up and confide in others, they keep a journal, they track their progress, they fill the emptiness with positive and productive activities, they learn from their mistakes, and they empower themselves by changing their lives.
But most people do not do many of these things. Most people see a couple of videos, browse some forums, see how much better their lives could be, and commit to not using porn, at least for awhile.
Then they use porn. They hear the excuses and the rationalizations coming from the addicted part of themselves, and in the moment they choose to believe them, because they had not sufficiently fortified their convictions with knowledge, time, effort, and action.
Frequent relapsers are not necessarily weaker than those who recover. There is not something fundamentally wrong with them. They are not doomed to addiction forever. They just don’t want it enough. Yet.
If you are ready for success, start by learning everything you can. And don’t tell me that you don’t have time to read a book or some research articles. If you have enough time to relapse, then you have enough time to read. See Outside Resources for plenty of places to start. If you’re looking for one complete source, I put everything I thought people would need into my book Wack, including a thorough guide to recovery, but I won’t tell you that buying it is necessary for your journey. All that’s really necessary is a burning desire to change and a persistent, unshakeable belief in your own ability to do so.