180 Days Free and Clean - Thank GOD!
No pornography whatsoever. No peeking. No touching. No masturbation. For SIX MONTHS! Mindblowing. Absolutely incredible, thank GOD!
Earlier this year, I was a complete PMO zombie. Struggling to escape pornography was an understatement. I fell from my highest ever streak of 58 days on hard mode; a streak which took me 12 years to obtain and became severely depressed. I threw out all the positive habits that led me to that streak and returned to binging on TV shows, movies, junk food and most of all, pornography. I was unemployed, overweight, unhappy with my life and it was an immense struggle to get a 14-day streak going again.
How much my life has changed since June is unbelievable. And I KNOW without a doubt that the same is possible for you too. I pray that this story resonates with you and helps you achieve success in your journey.
A Cautionary Tale
I was over the moon with joy after passing 90 days. I didn’t stop to think clearly about life after achieving that milestone. One dear friend and companion of mine had warned me not to get complacent and that he knew plenty of people who had relapsed at or around the 100-day mark. The book Power over Pornography had cautioned me as well. I didn’t know how real the danger was until I had to battle the strongest urges I’d ever faced on day 95 of my streak.
That day I slipped — big TIME. At the time, I felt bad enough that I wanted to reset and start again. I wish I could take it back, but at the same time, it helped me learn much more about what it takes to stay free and clean, and just how much I didn’t want to return to Day Zero. I’ll walk you through what happened so you can learn from it and not repeat the same mistake.
It started with me browsing online for a new book to read about pornography to understand the addiction better. I downloaded one and started reading it, but it sounded like it was in support of pornography, so I didn’t think it was safe to read. I deleted it. But now thoughts were in my mind - ‘Is it that bad? I didn’t see anything triggering, let me at least browse through it and see if it’s safe.’ I didn’t deal with those thoughts, and hours later, I redownloaded it.
The book was definitely in favour of pornography, and it had images of pornstars. I deleted it straight away after seeing the first picture, but now it was stuck in my head. I hadn’t seen anything for over three months, so it was majorly triggering. I went through my PC and checked to see if I had any other unsafe books, and I did, which I promptly deleted. I felt good about not going any further and turning things around.
But I neglected the tasks I had set for the day and instead proceeded to browse 9GAG looking for funny memes to take my mind away from the triggers. I laughed a few times and started getting into a good mood again, but then I found myself hovering over NSFW memes, debating whether to click on them. I decided to close the page and go to YouTube. ‘YouTube’s safe, right?’
I went there and browsed for NNN meme clips. One of the recommended videos was about catching golddiggers - the YouTuber pretends to be poor or unattractive and tries to ask out a girl, and when she says no, he returns in a Lambo and calls her a golddigger when she agrees the second time. The thumbnail had a beautiful girl. I clicked on it, watched it, then watched a few more. The new recommendation, kissing prank videos - the YouTuber plays pranks on girls to get them to kiss him, like asking them a trick question or rigging a magic trick. I hesitated again. In the pornographic videos I used to watch, the kissing scenes were the most ‘pleasurable’ to me, I was trying to meet my need for love and affection through them. Still, I clicked on it and watched it. Sure as clockwork, those feelings of massive arousal started bubbling up again. I could feel my body preparing for a furious masturbation session and a quick release as we had done in the past. I closed YouTube; no way I was going to let that happen. I asked myself, ‘How was I getting this worked up without even watching pornography?’ I’d watched similar YouTube videos dozens of times in the past without even a tingle.
No more YouTube. I said, let me watch a movie on Netflix and calm down. But the movie I chose was one that I’d already identified would have triggering scenes to me, and I’d discussed it with my accountability partner previously. I got 10 minutes in, before I’d seen anything, and remembered ‘I was supposed to notify my AP before watching this!’ That’s when everything I’d done throughout the day came flooding back to me. I would have to report the slip to him. Was I going to report a slip or a full-blown relapse? That’s when I logged into the forum again. I started reading through my old posts where I’d been advising others. Why wasn’t I following my advice? I re-read my 90-day success story. No way I was going to come back 5 days later and report a relapse. ‘I can’t write this again! This is a once-in-a-lifetime story!’ No more backsliding. A slip IS a relapse from now on. A counter reset, climbing back from Day Zero again, and facing all the negative consequences which that entails. No more slips, GOD willing.
I lay on my bed, battling urges until 7 AM before finally falling asleep, reading posts on the forum, but I didn’t slip any further. I still wasn’t following my advice - I was battling the urges instead of mindfully dealing with them directly - but I hadn’t gone back to pornography or touched myself at all.
As we advance in our streaks, we become more sensitive. It’s even more important to protect ourselves from triggers and stay away from lies like ‘just a peek won’t hurt’ and ‘I’ve come this far so I can look at X or XX now as long as it’s not XXX.’ We must stick to the strategy that helped us get to where we are, and add even more commitment because now we have something to lose. As my AP told me, commitment fades over time. We have to refuel it with new activities and habits and keep the journey exciting, so we don’t become complacent and under threat.
The Importance of Accountability and Community
Without an accountability partner, it’s unlikely I would be here sharing this story with you. Remembering that I’d have to report back to him helped me return to my senses. It’s one extra thought in the back of my mind now; ‘If I do this, would I have to report a slip?’ Knowing that I’d have to report all slips is a barrier against acting out.
I’m very grateful for my AP. The two of us share our plans, strategise, advise and support each other on the journey. Every week we check-in and discuss how our plans are working. I can trust him and open up about things I’m struggling with and share honestly without fear of judgement or shame. I felt alone for many years; it’s great to have someone doing this with me who’s just as passionate about leaving pornography in the dust for good. And that’s key - having an AP with a similar attitude. Knowing that we don’t take this lightly at all. There is no ‘relapses are part of the journey bro, chin up mate.’ If there’s a slip, the investigation follows. ‘Why did you slip, man?’ ‘What will you do about it? What tools have you put in place to prevent it from happening again? Ah, I see you’ve already added those keywords to your site blocker. Great stuff, let’s review in a week.’ You don’t need a hug after a relapse; you need guidance on how to prevent it from happening again - a relapse means there’s a hole in your plan that needs to be repaired. It isn’t friendly to be more concerned about boosting your mood than your recovery - guess what; your mood will be permanently moved up a few notches once you’re no longer binging on pornography every month.
I now have accountability software on my devices as per his suggestion, and we keep track of anything that looks questionable or suggests someone is moving towards a slip. I haven’t had anything like this before in my journey to recovery. I’d become an expert at clearing my tracks and hiding away, and there was no site blocker I couldn’t find a way around. But this brings everything into the light. It’s powerful to have that thought before doing any search, ‘How will this look? What will my AP say if he sees I’ve searched for this?’
And outside of my relationship with my AP, I’ve increased my accountability even further.
After passing 60 days, I placed a physical counter in the living room of our family home, and told my mother I’d passed my highest streak, and had no intention of going back. It’s a marble jar that I add to with every day free and clean. If it ever goes to zero due to a relapse, I have to show her what I watched. Absolutely no way I’m watching pornography. I would never live through the shame of my beloved mother seeing the filth I used to watch. No way no sir, I’ll continue my streak, thank you very much. That helped keep me from turning that slip on day 95 into a binge session.
I’ve shared with most of my close friends about my struggles with this addiction. Two of them have joined me in escaping pornography also, and one checks in with me regularly.
There is so much love, support, advice and encouragement I get from this community. You people have given me new hope in humanity. Being motivated by your brothers, seeing them pass their highest streaks, reading their success stories and learning from them, there is so much healing power in that.
We need connection. This addiction thrives in isolation. Unlike smoking or drinking or drugs which people tend to do in groups, we hide away in our rooms, drowning in negative emotions and continually relapsing. Life changed for me after I started participating in the community in November 2018. And when I left for five months after relapsing, I couldn’t make it to 3 weeks again without that connection. Connect as much as your time permits, share your story and listen to others. Learn from others’ advice, and give some out yourself. You don’t go to war alone unless you’re the Hulk, and even he teamed up with the Avengers.
How Bad Do You Want It?
I say it all the time to people; this is the world’s toughest addiction to escape.
What makes it so difficult isn’t the cravings to return or the withdrawal symptoms. Compared to an addiction to strong drugs, our painful experiences are mild. But this addiction is tied to the highest natural source of motivation on Earth - the sexual drive. People will forego the need to eat if the chance for a favourable sexual encounter comes their way. And there’s a significant portion of us (myself included) whose only sexual experiences have been with pixels on a screen. Moreover, our prefrontal cortices have been shot to pieces due to years of addiction. Self-control is low.
And if that wasn’t enough, no addictive substance is this easy to obtain. It’s incredibly easy to relapse. Pornography is everywhere. We come across it when we’re not even looking for it - that’s how many of us became addicted in the first place. We don’t have to pay any money to get it; we don’t have to meet someone in a shady alleyway, we don’t even have to leave our houses. And it’s always available. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. No days off. Pornography offers endless variety; it never rejects us; it never says no, it’s never not in the mood tonight or too tired or too sick or angry with us. On one infamous website, there are enough videos that it would take over 10,000 years to watch each one. Where our ancestors would travel to distant lands, invent new technology and theorise about the world they lived in, we hunch over our devices in the endless and unsatisfying hunt for the perfect video.
To escape from this addiction, we have to be fully committed to growth and change. Determination is NECESSARY. We have to resolve that nothing in this life will ever make a relapse worthwhile. There is no negative emotion I can experience, no mood low enough that will make me relapse. No life circumstance is dark enough to make me self-harm like that again. Any reason is an excuse, and I’d only be lying to myself.
Pornography never helped me anyway - I felt good for a few seconds, then felt horrible afterwards. The pain I was experiencing in life was still there. The need for love, comfort, security, affection, and so on hadn’t been met. And now, I had the added pain of relapsing on top - the guilt, shame and regret at breaking my streak once again, living against my values, throwing my promises and commitments in the garbage. There is no situation where sober you wouldn’t be better able to handle it than addicted you. We all experience pain and suffering in this life, and that won’t go away once you’ve rebooted. But you will be stronger and better prepared to face your problems. You’ll bounce back faster, and your mood regulates quicker. Your mental focus, memory and problem-solving skills are improved. You’ll think, “If I’ve conquered pornography after so many failures, I can conquer this too.”
We have to make it harder to relapse. It’s far too easy. Let me give you an analogy. I work as a security officer. If you give people enough freedom, people will steal from your store. They’ll rationalise it away to themselves, “Well, I didn’t steal something like a TV set, it’s just a few drinks.” Some people will think twice when they see the CCTV camera or a security guard watching them. Others will stop when they see one guard at the door and another two walking up and down the aisles. Then some won’t be stopped unless there are plenty of security cameras that feed to a visible display in the store, two guards at every entrance, multiple guards walking up and down the store. Some will still steal with all of that, but it’s so difficult at that level that they must really want to shoplift that particular store.
Since we don’t want to relapse, let’s increase the difficulty in getting back to pornography. One excellent blocker may be enough for some people, but it definitely wouldn’t work for me. But if there are five blockers set up, each with different passwords like D34rGOD1w0ntr3l4p53 and P0RNRU1N3DMYL1F3 which have to be typed out each time, it gets frustrating, and we’d start to remember that we really don’t want to go back there. Adding accountability software to the mix, some severe consequences if we relapse and remembering that we’ll have to confess what we did afterwards really changes the game.
Be willing to change your lifestyle. We’ve all heard the quote, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.’ It’s a cliché because it’s true. If what we were doing was enough, we’d all have years of recovery on our counters.
If we have to break the silence on this and share with someone in our lives, let’s do it. If we have to read dozens of success stories, learn from the strategies shared and make a plan of our own, let’s get to work. If we have to read a book or two to learn about the addiction, let me find time in my week to get it done. I used to spend 6 hours edging, so I can certainly spend 8 hours to read a book that will significantly improve my life.
Think about cutting things off, even if only temporarily. After my slip on YouTube, I discussed it with my AP and realised that 80% of my relapses started on YouTube. I would browse for increasingly more sexual content until my streak felt dirty and I’d finish off the job by returning to a hardcore site. On his advice, I blocked YouTube. We can’t underestimate the pain of giving up some part of our technological lives. Our devices have become a part of us. Since 2009, I had been visiting YouTube for at least 2 hours every day, up to 12 hours on lazy days. It was where I got my entertainment, my education, my news, and it was also where I tended to begin my downward spiral back into pornography. As much as I loved it, it was unsafe for me. I went 70 days without using YouTube - I returned on day 165 after clearing it with my AP and making sure the accountability software monitored all searches. We have to be willing to give things up so we can progress - our favourite apps, unrestricted Internet access… We may even need to transition to a less powerful phone, lock away our tablets and have someone else lock and unlock our computers. The freedom on the other side far outweighs the short-term pain of these restrictions.
Above all else, we have to remind ourselves why we started this journey regularly. We become forgetful over time. We don’t remember the pain of the last relapse; we forget how unsatisfying the previous time was or that moment of clarity we had when we decided enough was enough and we weren’t going back ever again. It’s impossible to make choices for ourselves in the future; we can only make choices in the present moment. Choosing to remind ourselves of strong reasons daily, remembering the pain of the last relapse and the genuine pleasure we’re heading towards as we escape the addiction is critical.
Make a Plan!
Imagine that you’re taking a cross country walk from Mumbai to New Delhi to raise money for a cause you’re deeply passionate about. However, you don’t take any GPS with you, no map, no food or water, no money, no travel guide, nothing but the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. You refuse to look at road signs or ask anyone for directions. When someone asks you how you plan to get to New Delhi, you ignore the fact that the cities are more than 1300km (800 miles) apart, and say, “It’s in India, I’m sure I’ll find my way.” This is the attitude so many of us in this community have when we don’t have a plan on how we’re going to escape this addiction. I had the same attitude for many years, and it didn’t serve me at all. Can we break free without one? Sure, but the chances are so slim, and the journey is so painful - why would we want to put ourselves through that? Why take chances on odds of 1 out of 10 000 when there are proven ways to overcome this?
Breaking free isn’t about luck. You don’t just pull the lever on a slot machine and JACKPOT! You’ve won a 90 Day Streak! Congratulations on your reboot! It’s all about how well your plan works. A relapse isn’t a reflection of your willpower. If you’ve gone a full 24 hour day without touching yourself or watching pornography - things that you have constant access to - and passed the strong urges and the desire to return to binging on day zero, you have all the willpower you need to escape. You have what it takes. You are stronger than every urge you’ve ever had. The problem is your plan (or lack of one) doesn’t help you make the best use of your strength so you can succeed. Write it down, type it out, but it has to be written up. It can’t be floating around in your head, or you’ll forget it when danger returns. A goal not written is merely a wish; a goal without a plan is just a dream. Just a 2-3 page document could save your life from this struggle. Do the work.
What goes into your plan? First of all, so many people don’t even have a method to overcome urges when they come; they’re just ignoring them and hoping for the best. Urges can come to you on day 1, and they can come to you on day 1501. They’re not going anywhere. They may decrease in intensity and frequency over time, but as long as you’re alive, you’ll face that temptation. The temptation to go back is not the problem at all; it’s our response that matters. Most of us have said at some point that we’re so angry we could kill someone. But we haven’t done it since we’re not murderers. That thought doesn’t hold any power over us, and we don’t respond to it by following through. In the same way, urges to return to pornography are only thoughts, and they only have the power we give to them.
Our conscious mind can only focus on one thought at a time. With a method we follow every single time we get an urge, we maintain our power and eliminate those thoughts before they lead us back to a relapse. If we focus on something else, every single time, the triggering thought MUST go away. There are plenty of methods which work - mindfulness, direct confrontation, cognitive behavioural techniques, journaling your thoughts, yelling ten times I AM STRONGER THAN MY URGES. Find out what other people are doing and pick the method you like, then be sure to carry it out every single time you get urges, without fail. I didn’t do this on day 95 and nearly paid a very dear price for it. Don’t make the same mistake. No matter how weak the urge is, eliminate it. One piece of advice is to get a method that you can carry out anywhere you get an urge and at any time, like in the shower or when you’re in bed. Journaling is a brilliant method and effectively destroys temptations to relapse until you get the urge to masturbate while you’re in the shower. Think of something you could do in an emergency that would make the urge go away for the time being. If you jumped out of bed and into a cold shower or called a close friend, would you still be suffering from a strong urge?
I heard on the Porn Free Radio podcast that there are two essential needs which we try to meet through pornography; the need for self-care, and the need for excitement. Wise man, with 3000+ days on his counter to back him up. Even though it’s a terrible way of trying to meet our needs, we’ve been doing it so long and so habitually that whenever we need to feel relief from stress, anxiety or discomfort of any sort, that’s where we go. Can’t sleep? Porn. Bad day at work? Porn. Failed an exam? Porn. For some of us, it’s gotten to the stage where we don’t even need to be feeling bad. We may look to it as a CELEBRATION, something to enjoy after a happy accomplishment. Sure, it offers endless variety; however, we’re never left satisfied even after hours of acting out. It always falls short and leaves a terrible aftertaste. We have to become aware of our triggers and have solutions for each one so that we aren’t left defenceless next time life gives us a kick in the teeth. Think of all the excuses for relapsing in the past and come up with effective counters for each one.
Have some positive activities you will engage in instead of returning to pornography. Remember, pornography is no longer an option for helping us meet our needs. It was very inefficient anyway. Just having a few playlists of songs you enjoy can help you get into the right frame of mind much better than pornography ever could. Get one for when you’re feeling stressed that will relieve the tension. Have one that will make you want to dance - hard to feel angry when you’re tapping your feet to the beat. Have an upbeat one that will encourage you that the pain won’t last forever. Go for a walk. Watch your favourite movie. Pray. Journal about your thoughts. Call a loved one. Chat to someone in the community. All of these things will leave a good memory behind and help you feel better. Pornography always leaves a painful memory of relapsing and makes you feel worse afterwards, and that wasn’t your aim.
Figure out what tools you’ll have in place to protect you from a relapse. Write your strong reasons for escaping the addiction. Choose what pornography filters and blockers you’ll have in place. Set up your accountability software and who you will share the reports with. Decide what apps and ‘safe sites’ like YouTube or Instagram you will block and for how long.
Have a trusted friend or companion who you will share your plan with and review it regularly. Without sharing the plan with someone else, it’s a lovely document, but it won’t be helpful. If we could trust ourselves to keep our word, we would have been free a long time ago. It’s having someone else with us on the journey which keeps us accountable to our plan, which leads to progress.
Transform Your Life
Just because we say NoPMO doesn’t mean that’s all this journey is about. This is a journey for self-improvement and growth. Our lives are in urgent need of repair, and we have to start putting in the work now to change them. We can’t wait until we’ve rebooted to begin doing the work.
Forgive yourself for all the pain and damage that addicted you caused in your life. Let go of the guilt, shame and regret. Let go of the past. There’s nothing we can do to change it, but the future is still available and untainted. Resolve to be a new person, a hero. This is your life! You’re the star of the movie, stop living like an extra with no lines. Think of the person you want to become in the future and start living like him now! Don’t wait another day!
Set some goals for yourself which you’ll work on during your streak with a deadline of 90 days. Make them challenging, meaningful and exciting. When you add 90 days to your counter, you’ll feel the benefits when you’ve also added change and structure to your life.
You’ve just left pornography behind, so you have much more free time now! There’s so much you can do with all that time you used to spend thinking about pornography, slowly edging towards pornography, watching it and acting out etc. Just one hour a day of reading in your chosen field will make you an international expert in 7 years. That’s 2500+ hours!
Think seriously about your life and where you want to be a year from now. Five years from now. Write it down. Think also about how painful and miserable your life would be if you’re still stuck in this addiction a year from now. Five years would be a nightmare. Write that down too. Start making a plan for your life. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t need to have all the details, but you do need to get some direction and concrete structure. You only have one life; it’s an urgent priority that you figure out how you want to live it. Break down every area of your life and figure out ways you can improve in each area. Start taking steps to get better and upgrade your life. Make the smallest possible positive step, and grow from that each day; don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking you need to change everything in two weeks. The change has to be sustainable and consistent; you don’t want to burn out.
Get excited about your life again! You’ll face difficulty and challenges along the way - I know I sure have - but you’ll reach a point where ticking items off your to-do list and checking them off on your calendar gives you more pleasure than a 4-hour edging session ever could. Pursuing your purpose in life is far more enjoyable than pornography ever was.
There’s a whole bunch of fun and exciting things that have happened, thank GOD. The benefits I’ve experienced after rebooting have only increased. I’ll share the main ones within the last three months:
- I transitioned into a better job - with an 8% raise, lower stress and more fulfilment. I can shape my day around it better and accomplish more towards my future.
- I had the energy and mental strength to run more than 15km! (9 miles) I’ve never run that far in my life! This time last year, I could barely run 400m without stopping.
- I’ve experienced a deeper connection with my loved ones and the damage I caused our relationships as an addict is being repaired more and more each day.
- I discovered my life’s mission, part of which is giving this addiction a serious fight. I want to help myself and others break free of this for good and make a real difference. Alexander Rhodes is an inspiration. I made a plan to get back into education so I can learn the skills I need for my contribution to this fight.
- I started recording videos about this NoPMO journey and set up a YouTube channel with more than 30 videos. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbG7ClW63sjhM4desl2KONQ
The Porn Free Radio Podcast - Has to be the best advice I’ve seen so far on how to gain real recovery from this addiction. The host, Matt Dobschuetz, has over 3000+ days porn-free, and his 200+ podcast episodes are a wealth of knowledge, advice and support. If you follow his advice, you’ll break out of the cycle of constant relapses and finally see changes in your life.
NoPMO Plan Template - I made a template as a good start for getting a plan in place:
Here’s a link to my previous success story after passing 90 days so you can see how I reached my reboot:
EasyPeasyWay - This book completely shattered my previous views about pornography. I highly recommend this book to everyone fighting to escape this addiction. It’s less than 150 pages and can transform your life forever. The author has provided it online for free, so here’s a link to a PDF version:
Power over Pornography: The Proven Solution to Overcoming Pornography Addiction by Brian Brandenburg - The author promises that if you follow the strategy laid out in the book, you will not relapse. Massive promise to make, but I agree. The one day that I neglected to follow the strategy was when I had a slip. It works.
Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction by Gary Wilson - The book ought to be required reading for anyone on this journey. So powerful to read stories of people reversing severe damage in their lives after a year free and clean. To know that the brain is changeable and to understand all the withdrawal symptoms. Like the flatline and why cravings are so bad in the initial stages and the cycle of shame-binge-shame-binge-shame etc. And to read the methods people used when the urge struck them, from the ‘Why didn’t I think of that?!’ to the ‘Man, that’s bizarre but glad it worked for him…’ I wrote up a summary for this book, but read it in full when you get the chance if you haven’t already. Gamechanger.
Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow by Marnia Robinson - It explains so much about the neurochemistry of sexual addiction and the harmful effects of orgasm on the body, and advocates for an updated understanding of human sexual relationships. GoldJacketLuke on YouTube was able to pass 250 days and beyond merely by reading it and understanding its concepts.
Why You Should Never Masturbate by David Baldwin - At the very least, you have some doubt about the prevalent theories of healthy masturbation. It will make you start to wonder if there is something to this semen retention thing people mention. You’ll wish someone handed it to you before your first PMO session. A compelling and thought-provoking book.
The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems caused by Pornography by Wendy and Larry Maltz. A very insightful book written by therapists who help clients every day with this addiction.
We’re all capable of breaking free; it entirely depends on how badly we want it and how far we’re willing to go to change. I pray that my story helps you. If you’re struggling, let me tell you, there is HOPE! Life is beautiful without pornography; you won’t miss it. I sure don’t. Take action now. Start today; don’t put it off for tomorrow. At the very least, download the plan template and schedule a time when you’ll start filling it out. If you’ve read this far, you’re serious about your recovery. I already know that you can do it, but it’s you who needs convincing. You have to prove it to yourself!
Very grateful to my AP, close family, friends and companions for their love and support. I would have relapsed long ago without them.
We can all do this, brothers!
All praise is due to GOD, Lord of the Universe.