Overcoming

Pornography/Masturbation

Addiction

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There are multiple programs that can be used to help individuals overcome pornography and masturbation addictions.  The number one rule is DON’T DO IT ALONE!  Being accountable to someone else and able to discuss the addiction and get everything out in the open is one of the first steps to recovery.  Many men do amazingly well in 12 Step addiction recovery programs. 

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Other men do well with professional counselors.  Yet other men feel more at ease and able to progress more by having a trusted friend or a mentor that can give them unique perspective and allow them to download and assess their progress.  One size doesn’t fit all – so if something works for you or someone you love, then have them keep working with that group, program, or individual. 

The reason why involving another individual in the recover process is that addictions grow in secrecy, but has difficulties thriving when out in the open.  Typically the best person to be accountable to is either a professional or religious leader, but having at least one adult of the same gender (an adult male) can be key.  In cases where the addict is married, it is often unwise for the spouse to be the person that gets all of the details.  Some young men may find that parents may not be their first choice.  However, fathers can and should be a vital component of their son’s recovery.  This may require them to share challenges they had in their lives as well as gaining valuable information and not feel like they need to tackle this alone.  Getting the assistance of a professional or trained mentor can be very helpful.  However, some young men need the parents to simply be their parents, not their addiction mentors, and a professional counselor or mentor may be a better fit for some individuals.  Even with addiction counselors and religious leaders, many men find that having a mentor they can contact at any time when fighting temptation or after a slip can be extremely helpful in moving forward.  Finding the right fit for each individual is vitally important.

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Next, every recovering addict should have information at their fingertips to better understand their disease and what to expect (both good and bad) in the weeks, months, and even years ahead.  There are many profession and faith-based addiction recovery programs, 12 Step meetings, counselors/therapist, and books on the subject of pornography addiction that are extremely helpful.  A valuable list of books on pornography addiction can be found at the end of this page. 

It’s also important for addicts to understand the times when they are most vulnerable.  One acronym that helps addicts stay aware of these moments of weakness is “BLAST + H”

  • B – Bored

  • L – Lonely

  • A – Angry

  • S – Stressed

  • T – Tired

  • H - Hungry

 

This can help men have a plan if they find they are bored or feeling lonely.  It can involve knowing what activities diffuse anger and stress (like going for a jog).  For men who slip when they’re tired, getting into a good sleep routine or simply taking a nap rather than having a slip can help.  For men who are at greater risk when hungry, carrying around a granola bar or other food to keep them from getting hungry and prevent a craving for food from turning to a craving for porn.

 

Another step in overcoming addiction is to understand that willpower will rarely be enough.  For this reason, certain protections should be put in place to limit access to the internet or pornographic images.  Avoiding masturbation can be a little harder since the penis is “always available”, but the creation of game plans for highly tempting situations can be extremely useful.  Some of these ideas may include:

  • Internet filters (someone else has the passcode)

  • Restrictions on smartphones (someone else has the passcode)

  • Doing computer homework in public places or with someone in the room

  • Limiting shower times or showering during the least tempting times of the day

  • Avoid being alone

  • Have a game plan that can be implemented at any time temptation comes that would get the addict out of the situation for at least 15 minutes

  • Report every slip to someone else

  • Meet regularly with a counselor, religious leader, and/or mentor to assess what’s working and what needs improving

  • Stay busy or avoiding being alone

  • Understanding that viewing pornography from memory can be just as big of a setback to recover as watching it on a device – this is why it becomes crucial for men to learn how to control their thoughts and not engage in fantasizing as a substitute for pornography viewing

 

 

IMPORTANT MILESTONES IN RECOVERY

There are milestones that can be helpful for recovering men to keep in mind.  Namely, because they give a perspective of how long it takes to recover, but second to have step-wise goals that can be achieved over time.

 

The first milestone of addiction recovery is deciding to do something about it.  Meeting with a father, brother, mentor, counselor, 12-step group, or religious leader is perhaps the biggest step on the road to recovery. 

 

The second milestone is making the decision to not quit trying, no matter how many slips come afterwards or how many years it takes to completely overcome the addiction, never giving up is vital.

 

The third milestone is simply the milestone of improvement.  Moving from one stage of addiction to another, watching porn for shorter periods of time during a slip, viewing less hard core porn, getting rid of the sound with videos, masturbating less frequently, etc. is a huge step forward.

 

The fourth milestone often involves the separation of masturbation from pornography viewing.  In the beginning this may be as simple not ejaculating even if masturbation has begun or stopping porn viewing before ejaculation occurs.  Eventually the ability to do not perform one of the two activities during the slip or to stop a slip in progress is a sign that the frontal cortex is taking over and the individual has the ability to make choices in the moment.

The fifth milestone is three weeks of abstinence.  Over the years, I’ve often wondered what’s so magic about three weeks of abstinence, but at this point, men tend to be able to catapult forward rapidly, even if it took them years to reach the three week abstinent point.  Oftentimes at three weeks of abstinence, enough recovery in the dopamine pathways of the brain has occurred to allow a man to have a better ability to choose or not choose to act out on their addiction.

The sixth milestone is 3 months of abstinence.  At three months, it is estimated that the changes to the brain have corrected by about 75%.  At this stage, the frontal cortex often engages first allowing more freedom of choice as to whether or not to act out.

The seventh milestone is 1 year of abstinence.  At this point, it is theorized that the brain has recovered by about 90-95%. 

The eigth milestone is the 3 years of abstinence mark.  At this stage, the brain is 95-99% healed and many men who once had an issue function both in thought and behavior the same as men who did not have a pornography addiction.  The important thing to keep in mind here is that focused attention on recovery needs to continue until a full three years of abstinence.  

The ninth milestone (which can occur at any point along the recovery journey) is to help others who are struggling.  This is actually the last step in many addiction recovery 12-step programs.  Helping others gives men a renewed sense of conviction and allows them to see their addicted selves from the outside by how they view and see those that they mentor and help.

SUGGESTED READING MATERIALS/WEBSITES:

  • Treating Pornography Addiction by Dr. Keven B. Skinner

  • He Restoreth My Soul by Donald L. Hilton, M.D.

  • Willpower is Not Enough by A. Dean Byrd and Mark D. Chamberlain

  • Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction – A Resource for LDS Parents and Leaders

    • Salifeline.org

  • fightthenewdrug.org

  • overcomingpornography.org

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