Some examples of the advice you’ll typically hear are: you must count the number of days, you must meditate, you must take cold showers, or you should work out and eat fruits and vegetables.
Left with this predicament most of us will pursue the ideas that are either the easiest or the shiniest, when in reality we should pursue the ideas that are the most effective for long term success.
This is just like if you wanted to start a business and you asked people for advice. People would tell you things like: you need a website, you need a blog, you need SEO, you need paid advertising, you need Twitter, and the list just goes on. But the fact is if you don’t have customers or a product then guess what, you don’t have a business.
Now that’s not to say that the advice is completely wrong, but don’t lose sight of the castle because you’re stuck in the weeds. If you want to start a business the most important steps are validating you have a market (customers) and having a product. All the other steps could help you later on but they’re not where you should focus your energy. If you focus on SEO and twitter you’ll end up spending a lot of time getting no results and making no money.
The same goes with porn addiction. If you spend all your time on steps that are not particularly effective then you’ll feel productive at first but you’ll become increasingly discouraged when you don’t see results. And the worst part is that because you’re trying so hard the discouragement from relapses can lead you to just give up completely.
However, if you focus on steps that are effective but might require you to invest more time and energy implementing them you can have much greater success. It’s just like the principle where if you work twice as hard as everyone else you can see 10x the results.
So don’t just pursue the easy steps or the ones that sound cool. The steps that really work might require more time and they might not sound as exciting, but if you’re serious about quitting the results will be worth it.
If you’re like me, you might also try to over achieve and implement every tactic you can get your hands on. This is not a good idea because we’re all cognitive misers by default, which means we have limited attention and focus. We can’t take a million different tactics and use them to beat our addiction. We need to use our limited focus and attention on the most effective tactics and implement them well.
First, let’s look at the tactics that are common but might not be serving you. We’ll call these the expendables. By expendables what I mean is you could abandon any of these tactics and still quit porn, in fact I didn’t use any of these methods. Then we’ll dive into the areas where if you apply your time you can quit porn for good. We’ll call these the essential tactics.
Let’s start with the expendables.
A. Counting the days. This sounds good, many of you are doing it, but for how many of you is this actually working? I tried it for years and it never worked for me, so I stopped. I see people reset their timers everyday, get depressed about having a relapse, and lose their momentum for quitting porn.
Just take a look at this screenshot from Reddit/r/pornfree where 6 of the topics are about either relapses or counting the days.
Counting the days might be easy and feel productive, but if you’re serious about quitting I would recommend trying a different strategy and remember if you invest more time and energy on your recovery than other people, you’ll have more success than them too.
Again, not to say this can’t work, but it’s pretty obvious that for many porn users it’s not working.
B. Cold showers and meditation. Living a healthy lifestyle and implementing these techniques might help you stay clean, and it may have helped some people, but these are not critical to your success.
The biggest problem with this type of advice is that these activities are really unappealing to many people and will be a huge turn-off. And the fact is, you could substitute these things with any number of activities that better suit you and your personality and still have success.
Don't get caught up feeling like you won’t succeed if you don’t do these steps. They could help you if you want to try them but if they don’t interest you then don’t worry about it.
C. Making public proclamations on an online community. I can’t tell you how many times I proclaimed I would quit porn only to fail and feel worse about myself with each failure. And people continue to do this everyday, just look on Reddit/r/Nofap and you’ll see many examples.
The biggest problem with this step is that while it might feel good there’s no teeth in it. It’s just a hollow statement that’s not supported by action. And action is the only thing that will make you quit porn.
Don’t focus your energy here. The biggest value of an online community is support, to share knowledge about what works, and to learn from other members who have succeeded so we can benefit from their experiences.
I don’t mean this to sound cruel, I totally respect and sympathize with anyone that wants to quit porn and make a change in their life. What I’m saying is that this step isn’t really going to help you. Action is the only thing that will separate you from the pack and lead you to success.
D. Internet Filters. For many people these help to ward off the temptation, especially in the beginning. The pitfall here is that people rely on them too much. And, if you’re relying on filters to keep you porn free that is going to fail at some point.
Internet filters won’t kill your desire to look at porn and unless you kill the desire you will always be vulnerable to a relapse and you’ll find a way around the Internet filters. We’re all smart and we can find loopholes such as using a smart phone, borrowing someone’s tablet, using someone else’s computer, you get the idea.
The fact is, use them if you have to, but myself and many others have quit porn without the use of Internet filters so it’s not an essential.
E. 12 step programs. Many find these programs helpful because of the community and access to real life support. This can certainly be helpful but there are several pitfalls to this approach.
The biggest pitfall is that the 12-Step program treats an addiction as a life long struggle, and while many will argue that it is, I believe this approach limits you from seeing the possibility of a more permanent solution.
One final word of caution, most 12 step programs for porn addiction actually cater to sex addiction, and the issue here is that porn addiction is very different from sex addiction.
Do 12 step programs work? Absolutely, they have helped many people with alcohol, drug, and other addictions. Are there better solutions for porn addiction? Absolutely.
For a more critical look at the success and failure of 12 Step programs check out the book, The Sober Truth.
F. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables. No that’s not a typo, that’s actually a recommended step for overcoming porn addiction. I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence and attempt to explain this one. I trust you get the idea.
Check out this video to hear this advice for yourself.
Again, a healthy lifestyle could surely benefit all of us but it’s not the most effective approach when you’re in the middle of battling porn addiction. That’s like sending you into a war zone with a pen and some paper.
Some of you may have had success with some of these techniques, or you may know someone who has. Now this isn’t to say these can’t help but rather they’re not the most effective approaches and the payoff for your effort is going to be small.
Let me ask you this, would you rather focus on a few easy steps and continue to pick yourself up off the pavement after each relapse, or would you rather spend some real time focusing on a few key tactics and be able to quit porn forever? Invest the time in yourself, you are worth it.
Now that we’ve discussed the expendables, let’s move on to the essential tactics. Let’s get started.
1. Knowledge. I recommend you spend a lot of time on this step. As G.I. Joe said, “knowing is half the battle”, so if you really build your knowledge base you’re going to be half way there.
As many have recommended before, go to YourBrainOnPorn.com and read everything you can. This will help you understand how the addiction works, the research behind it, the effects, and much more.
But don’t stop there. Look into what’s bad about porn, who does porn hurt, who has quit porn successfully and how did they accomplish it. Follow your curiosity and do as much research as you need to. The more the better.
Giving yourself a strong base in knowledge will help you formulate your solid reasons for quitting porn, your goals, and give you understanding. This step is the groundwork for all other steps, the foundation of your success. Without a strong foundation your house will continue to fall, burn, and blow down.
Here’s some additional sources for building your knowledge base:
- Read this post and watch all of the linked videos: Knowledge Is Your Most Powerful Weapon Against Porn Addiction
- Read these books: Your Brain on Porn & Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality
- Watch this movie: Don Jon
Go ahead, do it now, this post will still be here when you come back.
2. Make Goals. Once you’ve got a solid foundation in knowledge, the next step is to clearly define your reasons for quitting porn.
For example, some good reasons that have motivated many successful ex-porn users are: to eliminate the influence porn has on your sexuality, to have more natural and intimate sex with your partner, to not support an industry that manipulates and abuses women, to change your perspective so you see women as people and not sex objects, to become less socially awkward so you can get a girlfriend, to stop supporting and partaking in an industry that goes against your personal values, to stop doing something that you are ashamed of, to be your best self, and to stop wasting time on porn so you can be more productive.
Whatever reasons are nearest and dearest to you, take 15 minutes to think about this and write down 3-5 reasons that motivate you. Do this now. Again, I’m not going anywhere :).
Worth mentioning: Don’t underestimate the value of these first two steps. Earlier I mentioned killing your desire to look at porn and the way to achieve that is spending time building a solid foundation with knowledge and goals.
I don’t have to fight the urge to not look at porn anymore. Any time I even think about porn I feel repulsed at the idea because with enough research you’ll realize that porn is always ugly, no matter what kind it is.
Your goals will reinforce this and remind you of your resolve and the many good reasons to never look at porn again.
3. Define Alternative Activities. OK, so now that you’ve built your knowledge and defined your goals it’s time to get technical and work on our strategy. The most important technique is that of activity substitution, also known as the technique for habit change.
But, before we get into the nitty-gritty, we need to define some alternative activities that work for us. These are the activities that you’re going to use to substitute porn anytime that you get an urge or feel vulnerable to looking at porn.
It’s important to pick activities that you like and that work for you. No one else can tell you which activities to supply here. Here’s some common examples of activities people use: jogging, working out, going for a walk, playing an instrument, doing a hobby, making art, writing, and working on a goal.
The point is to get away from your computer and go do something else. It should be something easy for you to do when an urge arises, because you could get an urge at midnight or really at any time.
Take 15 minutes now and select at least 2-3 activities you can do when an urge arises. Write them down so you remember them.
4. Implement the Techniques of Habit Change. First, let’s briefly explain how the habit loop works. Then we’ll dive into how you can apply this to quit porn.
Habits consist of three elements: the trigger, the routine, and the reward. The trigger is something that sparks an urge to do a routine (look at porn) which leads to some kind of reward (dopamine in the brain). The trigger and the reward are unchangeable variables meaning the trigger will continue to occur no matter what and the reward will always be the same.
So the variable that you can change is the routine. By finding a new routine to do every time the trigger occurs you can achieve the same reward but without looking at porn. And the good news is that many activities release dopamine in your brain. Basically any form of exercise or anything that gives you a sense of achievement. The substitution activities you defined in the last step will be your new routines.
The next question is how to identify your trigger. Your trigger could be procrastination, loneliness, boredom, horniness, or any number of cues. Become aware of what you are feeling when you have a desire to look at porn and that is your trigger. You want to become aware of them so you can quickly know when a trigger is occurring.
Once you know your triggers, anytime you notice a trigger you want to stop what you are doing immediately and go do one of your substitution activities. By doing this you will satisfy the craving without looking at porn. Keep doing this and it will become progressively easier to substitute porn with other activities.
For a more in-depth explanation on changing bad habits to good habits read this post on habit change and buy the book, the Power of Habit.
To summarize, anytime an urge arises you need to stop what you’re doing, get off your computer, and go do one of those substitution activities you defined in the last step.
5. Take Strong Deliberate Action. Action is the key to success here just as it is in many other situations.
Reverting back to what our good friend G.I.Joe said, “knowing is half the battle”. The other half of that battle is action.
No matter how solid your foundation is in knowledge, and how strongly you’ve formulated your reasons, you must apply that knowledge if you want to succeed.
We can talk about it on forums, complain, make proclamations, and do any variety of things but if we don’t take action this is all meaningless.
It’s not enough to think about it. It’s not enough to think you want to quit. Action is really the only thing standing between you and success.
So why are you still reading this post? Get out there and implement these five steps and you will be on your way to real success with quitting porn. They worked for me and I’m here to assure you that despite what my parents told me growing up, I’m not special; If I did it then you can do it too.