So here I am at 90 days clean from PMO (Porn, Masturbation, Orgasm). After 5 and 1/2 years of addiction and constant struggling to break free.
I want to thank all of the users below for their continued and tireless support in helping me to get where I am now. Without them this community would be nothing.
I sincerely apologize if I forgot to add your name above, it’s not that I don’t appreciate you, it’s just that I am writing this at 2:20 a.m. and I am tired.
Additionally, you might have noticed my profile picture is now my real face. I felt compelled to do this along with other members of this forum, as I feel that it points out that there is nothing wrong with you for dealing with this. You shouldn’t feel alone or ashamed, we are all normal guys here and we can all break free.
Below are some of the specific strategies I have used to get me to where I am now. But before I do that, I highly suggest you read this article shared with me by @Juvenal .
I 100% agree with what this guy is saying and I think you would really be cutting yourself short if you didn’t read it.
The strategies that I share below however are more specific than what is said in the article. If you came back from that article thinking “Wow I feel that I understand my mission on a higher level, but I’m still not sure I know how to combat my urges when they actually come,”
then continue below.
Warning: This is a long post
My biggest tip I can give you, and what I always say on the forums, is to develop mindfulness .
And while generally when people speak about mindfulness they tend to be talking about meditation, I am talking about a more general form of mindfulness. While mindfulness meditation can be super helpful, so I hear and I probably employ some tactics of it, I don’t deliberately meditate.
What I mean by mindfulness is to be aware of what your thoughts are. When we first started out trying to beat this addiction, we may have assumed we knew what was going on inside our head at any given moment, but the fact that we keep relapsing alludes to the reality: We leave a lot of thoughts behind the curtains.
And this brings us to our fundamental problem that plagues all fapstronauts: We can’t control what we can’t see .
Often times you will hear others saying things like “I fought this urge and I lost”, “The devil tempted me and I resisted but I eventually fell”, or “I ran into some triggers and I couldn’t get them out of my head for the whole day, that night I broke down and relapsed”.
What’s wrong with posts like these?
The biggest issue is that they don’t tell you anything. Not just for the reader, but for the sake of the writer as well. You can tell that the writer is still trying to understand what happened too. He has no idea what was actually going on in his head, and so he attributes it to a fight, when in reality he was going to lose the whole time. There’s no specifics in his post because he doesn’t know what he is fighting. If he did know what was going on, he wouldn’t have relapsed. It seems almost falsely simple, and it seems that way because we have struggled with this for so long that it couldn’t have been that simple. But it really is.
This simple solution is mindfulness .
Now getting there isn’t so simple, it will take a lot of hard work and study, but eventually you will get to a point in which the urges are easily refuted.
And this leads us to the three main steps I found to becoming mindful.
** 1. Understand Your Reasons**
Reasons for Addiction
“The past is never where you think you left it.”
- Katherine Anne Porter
Often times, people trying to escape this addiction, any addiction really, don’t realize that there may be things holding them back from truly understanding their thoughts. As they say, no one escapes childhood unscathed. The first step in getting into your head is to realize how any past experiences may have shaped your draw to pornography. This can be anything ranging from childhood sexual abuse to being introduced to pornography by a neighborhood friend at a young age to just being depressed or stressed with school.
You may have nothing in your past that warrants a deep, emotional dive into your personal history, but I wanted to mention it because often people do. And these personal experiences can really shape how a person thinks, whether they want it to or not. Dealing with these things is often the first step to breaking free. Plenty of negative emotions play into this addiction, and they may have stemmed from these past experiences. For example, in my own life I dealt with suicidal depression and self-hatred stemming from my experience with my parents being drug addicts as a child. Once I worked through those emotions, I was able to better defeat them. And working through those may be difficult. But realizing your potential as a human-being to choose your reaction will take you a long way. I recommend reading the book Man’s Search for Meaning or Dibs in Search of Self to better understand these things (I have listed them again with their respective author at the bottom of this post). We can come back from those experiences.
But maybe your reasons are more normal. Stress from school, general depression or low self-esteem, etc. can lead you to want a release.
Whatever your reasons, the first step to becoming mindful is to find what your reasons are for becoming addicted in the first place and what keeps you coming back. I’m going to mention it a lot, but it’s important to write these reasons down.
Important Side-Note: Write, Write, Write
If you want to be mindful, it’s important to get comfortable with writing your thoughts.
Before I started journaling and writing, I thought it was a stupid and weak idea. Plus I didn’t want my thoughts on paper. However, once I started, I realized its power. It’s easy for things to get jumbled up inside your head. It’s hard to remember what you thought 5 days ago if you don’t write it down. Making writing your #1 habit will take you miles ahead on this journey.
If you don’t feel comfortable writing down on paper because you are worried about someone finding it (like I was), start writing on this forum. It’s way easier to pull out your phone anyway than it is to sit down with a pen and paper, plus people are less likely to notice when you are in public. Additionally, you’ll be able to get the support of everyone here. It’s entirely anonymous and no one is going to judge you. We’ve all been there. You might find you’re not as alone as you thought you were.
Reasons for Quitting
“Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.”
- José Ortega y Gasset
Now that you have your reasons for becoming addicted, it’s important to truly understand why you are trying to break free from it.
Again write these things down. Dig deep into why you are doing this. We are not looking for simple surface level answers. Really, what is your motivation for doing this? Why do you get back up from a relapse and try again and again? What are your values? Once you have identified them, write them down! I can’t emphasize this enough. Putting them on this forum is all the better as you can easily come back to them for later reflection.
In the same light, identify and write down how you see yourself in 90 days, 120 days, 365 days, 1000 days. It’s important to keep your basic goals small, which I’ll address later, but it’s also good to have an overall picture of what you want to be like by the end of this. What kind of benefits do you imagine? What kind of future do you want? I’ll mention the importance of making this happen as you get further into this post.
** 2. Identify/Overcome Your Urges **
Starting to overcome your urges is not an easy thing. If you’ve been trying to beat this for a long time, you know what I mean. Urges can seem to come out of nowhere and can attack suddenly. They draw you in and never let go. Even when you aren’t doing the thing, you’re thinking of the thing. To beat these urges we have to become mindful of them.
Identify Your Triggers
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
- Albert Einstein
To become mindful of our urges, we first have to identify them. The first step to doing this is to identify your triggers in-depth. You’ll hear me say “in-depth” a lot too, because it’s key. I don’t mean surface level, I don’t mean just write it out because I told you to. Write it out because you genuinely want to get to the bottom of it.
What parts of your daily life lead you to the most relapses? Why? What activities or events trigger those urges?
For example, my main triggers come at night or late in the day. This is usually due to me being tired. My second biggest trigger comes from stress, specifically stress related to school work.
Typically, you will find that urges like to hit when you are in need. When you are tired, in need of sleep. When you are stressed, in need of relief. When you are lonely, in need of the comfort of someone’s presence. And so on.
Identify them and write them down .
Overcome Your Urges
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
- Marie Curie
Ok so you know where your urges start. That’s good! You understand what’s going on on a basic level.
But to truly overcome these urges, you have to be able to see and talk to them. Now that may sound a bit weird. Talk to them? What is this? It’s just a thought I’m thinking isn’t it?
Well yes, but in these moments, as you may have noticed, part of your brain is working against you. And he likes to take things into his own hands, work behind the scenes, and make decisions for everyone else. I like to give him an antonymous name, one that is opposite of my username. I call him Common_Bird.
And in fact, this name fits him perfectly, because he really is just a lowly, common pheasant. He’s not very smart and he doesn’t take anything into account except what he wants. That’s how he makes decisions.
But as I said earlier, Common_Bird likes to make decisions behind the scenes. In the comfort of being alone, he doesn’t have to hear anyone’s criticism. If he was challenged by anyone’s criticism, he wouldn’t stand a chance, as he’s about the stupidist bird around.
Okay, okay, I’ll drop the euphemism. Basically your urges are actually super weak. And their arguments and reasons for wanting to relapse are usually really stupid when brought into the light of reason. The problem is that they like to tug on your emotional strings from behind the curtains.
To combat this, you have to do two things.
- You have to pull back those curtains. To do this, you’re going to have to get used to writing. If you’ve been ignoring my advice so far to write things down, this step is really going to require you to actually write stuff down. I’m sorry, but battling with yourself in your head is just too messy. You’ll end up losing. It’s just like trying to keep track of a busy schedule by keeping it all in your head. That’s a recipe for disaster.
So get writing the next time you have an urge, as soon as it appears; don’t wait until your already in front of the screen edging your life away. What I want you to do is to attempt to write everything the urge is saying. Get to the root of it. Don’t worry about semantics, grammar, whether it makes sense or not, don’t go back and correct things. Just dig . What is the urge telling you? What are its arguments? It will be really hard at first. It will feel like you’re trudging through fog and mud. But keep trying.
- When you feel that you have identified what it’s saying, try to counter the argument while still writing all this down. Give your arguments, give your values, and show it reason. As you do this, you might start to notice the urge subside and disappear.
The first few times you try this, you might notice the urge come right back. That’s because your mind is weak, it went back to thinking about it. Repeat the process above. Don’t worry about how long it takes, you want to be clean remember!
For each writing session, it’s important to end the conversation with how you plan on dealing with it. For example, if you identified that the urge was trying to get you to relapse because you are tired, end the conversation with “Now I will truly deal with my problem by getting to bed” and then follow through with your statement.
It will take time but eventually you will be able to just combat urges with your mind, because you have become skilled at pulling back the curtains. But starting out, it’s important to provide yourself with the necessary fire support. And when a big urge comes, writing it down is still my go-to.
Important Side-Note: Combating Basic Triggers
If you run into a conventional trigger (i.e. a raunchy photo, a scandalous ad, a hot scene in a movie, etc.), you may not have the time to write down an argument, plus it might have not turned into an urge yet. To prevent it from getting any bigger and taking space in your thoughts, you can employ the technique. I was first introduced to this technique by @Forerunner but it is also explained in-depth in the book Power Over Pornography which I have listed at the bottom of this post.
Essentially what the technique is is a way of cutting a trigger off at its root, before it grows into an urge. When you see a trigger, the picture and thoughts about it tend to stick in your mind and won’t go away. To get rid of these thoughts, everytime the picture pops back in your head imagine a huge red X in front of it so that you can no longer see it. Focus your attention on the X. Then continue on with whatever else you were doing, meaning shift your physical focus to something else (i.e. back to your homework, back to the movie you were watching, back to the game, etc.). For urges that keep coming back, imagine an exploding X in front of them.
At first, the technique may seem ineffective, like even when you imagine an X, the image just comes right back. That is because your mind is weak, keep throwing that X in front of it, keep focusing on the X and whatever else you were doing before the trigger. The first few times, it will take a lot of back and forth fighting before you conquer it. In fact, for my first few times, it took all day or until something outside of my head actually distracted me.
** 3. Practice Constantly: The Power of Journaling **
“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”
- Robin Sharma
The first two steps are short-term in the moment strategies. But long-term, how do you build the muscle of mindfulness? How do you keep it strong in the time between urges (which can be long once you get farther in your streak)?
The answer is journaling. Write down your everyday experiences, your strong emotions and the goals you aspire to. Did you have any triggers, any urges? Write them down. Did you reach out and try something new today? Write it down. What day are you on in your streak, what day of the year is it? Write these things down too. It’s helpful for your future self so you can look back and see how far you have come.
Journaling is really your canvas. Write what you need to and write what comes to mind. That’s important. When you regularly engage with your mind and what goes through it, you start to become concious of what you are thinking and feeling even when you aren’t journaling. You become skillful at knowing yourself. Knowing what your boundaries are, knowing what your triggers are, knowing what makes you feel bad or good, knowing who you are and what you want in life.
It’s a skill to be developed, so don’t worry about sounding stupid, just write.
**An Unordered List of Important Strategies **
A Life of a Victor: Taking Responsibility for Who You Are
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
- Viktor E. Frankl
This is something that really should have been at the top because it is so foundational to your recovery. If you read the article I gave to you at the beginning, then you probably already have an idea of what I’m going to say, but it’s so important I want to reiterate it here.
For most of my journey through this addiction, and through most of my life really, I lived as a receiver, a passive bystander in my life’s direction. I was a victim. Nowadays, everyone likes to use the word “victim” to describe themselves. I can’t speak for other countries, but at least in western society like the United States, Canada, the UK, etc. it’s all about how many problems you have and how much other people have ruined your life. The more of a victim you are, the more social credit you get. It’s twisted, but it’s the culture I grew up in and what everyone here sulks in everyday.
I believed that I was a victim. I was a victim of my parents’ decisions, I was a victim of society, I was a victim of pornography. All I did was complain, complain, complain. Why does this happen to me? Why do I have to deal with these problems?
The sad thing is, is that when we believe we are victims, we truly become victims. We become slaves to our desires, our laziness, and our lack of motivation and discipline. As I said, I became a bystander to my life’s direction. I gave the wheel over to circumstance. I hoped that something or someone would save me from this addiction, save me from my horrible and meaningless life. I told myself if only I had the right living situation, if only I could find the right porn blocker. If only someone would help me through this.
And I guess someone did help me through it, but they helped me to rid myself of this victim-like thinking and take on the thought of a Victor. It was a mentor I sought out and found, and he gave me the book I mentioned earlier, Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. In the book, Holocaust survivor and neurologist, Frankl, explains his times in the concentration camps. He realized in those camps the fundamental reason why some people mentally survived the camps and others didn’t (not regarding those who physically did not survive due to being murdered). He realized that when it all comes down to it, we can be stripped of everything we have, even our decision to do what we want, but we can’t be stripped of our ability to choose how to react. We may have nothing, yet even then we still have our ability to choose who we are and how we will view what life throws at us. In the camps, when faced with endless torment, people either became what were essentially animals, just trying to survive, or they dedicated themselves to helping their fellow man, even to the last scrap of bread.
After I read that book and was guided by my mentor, I realized that all of these shackles of past and present experiences were really just a perception. They were nothing more than shackles that I mentally locked on myself. I started to take responsibility for the ways in which I had been acting. Sure, I couldn’t go back and change what my parents’ did, and I can’t always change what things life throws at me in any given moment. But I can choose how I am going to take it. I can choose what I will do in return. Will I compain, be lazy, not try to clean things up, and spend my time watching porn, or will I do everything in my power to be the best person I can be despite these things?
If you ever want to break free from this addiction, you have to start taking responsibility for your life, for your actions, and realize your potential to do so.
Community: The Key to Healthy Living
“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”
“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.”
- Ani DiFranco
“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.”
- Oliver Sacks
I put three quotes in this category because I want you to understand how important this is. There’s a reason why there are so many support groups for drug addicts. Do you ever hear of drug addicts becoming clean on their own? No.
Community, wherever you find it (I would highly recommend this community) is essential to our growth and success in this journey. And not just passive membership, we must be active. If we don’t reach out, if we don’t apply ourselves and hold each other up, we will all fall.
I’ve been with several different support groups over the years and I’ve been with this forum for quite a long time, even longer than my profile shows as I previously had a different account.
The strength of the community is determined by its individual members. And its individual members are strengthened by the growth of the community. It’s reciprocal. However much you genuinely put in, the more you will genuinely get out.
Surround yourself with those that will be able to hold you up when you are down, and in turn hold those up that are struggling. It’s important to have a community that has members who have already beaten this. They can help to teach you new things and there is plenty to learn from them. That’s why I like this community, it has plenty of those. You can write all of your mindfulness strategies that I explained above in this forum and people will be able to help you. It’s a wonderful thing really.
Find your home and you will succeed.
The Art of Being Adaptable
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
- Leon C. Megginson
Think, think, think!
Jocko Willink, former U.S. Navy Seal, on his podcast the “Jocko Podcast” often explains that the best military leaders are those that stay flexible in combat situations by knowing every possible strategy, every possible move.
When you constantly rethink strategies, question ideas, and reevaluate your lifestyle, you will always survive.
Those that fall, failed to see their flaws.
When a successful someone on this forum gives you a book to read, read it. Digest it. Additionally, read other people’s success stories and relapse stories. What did they do that worked, what did they do that didn’t work. Take what you need. You don’t need to mimic everyone, but not taking something away from what you read is not a good strategy.
Never stop learning. Even when you think you got it, always try to learn more.
Discipline: The Core of Every Battle Won
“Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline.”
- Jocko Willink
This is an important one. Usually when you are first starting out, your life has been out of whack. You wake up late every day, you don’t exercise, you play video-games all day. Maybe it’s not all of that, but you know that there are places in your life that are broken down and in disrepair. It’s important to fix those.
For one, this journey isn’t just about being clean from pornography and masturbation, it’s about getting a handle on your life and being the best you can be. This goes back to values, generally if someone joins this journey wanting to just be clean from PMO (porn, masturbation, orgasm, the cycle of addiction ), they end up failing. You have to want more out of life.
Second, if you want to be clean from PMO you need to build your willpower and strength of mind. Creating discipline in other parts of your life always carries over to beating this addiction.
The best activities I find to build discipline are to make your bed in the morning (every morning), take up running, meditation, and to take cold showers. As these activities are often described in-depth on other parts of this forum and online, I’ll let you research them yourself if you are interested.
“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals.
If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.”
- Roy T. Bennett
Finally, it’s important to know where you are going. This goes hand-in-hand with what I was saying in the discipline section. You need to have something to aspire to.
And this goes beyond just your streak. All those parts of your life in disrepair, all those hobbies and skills you wanted to learn but didn’t because you wasted time relapsing, those are things you should work on. Set reasonable goals. Use the SMART scale (again this is explained very well online, so I’ll let you research that on your own) to figure out what’s attainable and do it.
Side Note: Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself
Often times I see new fapstronauts on Day 1 saying “This is it, I’m going for Day 1000” or Day 90.
This isn’t going to help you. While it’s always good to have overarching goals, it’s better to focus on a small, attainable goal.
If you have never beaten Day 1, don’t set your goal to Day 5. Set it to certain hours and with the ultimate goal of reaching Day 1.
If you have never made it past Day 10, set your goal to Day 5 and eventually Day 10 after you pass Day 5.
If you set your goal too high right off the bat, you’ll eventually lose steam.
Take each day as it comes. Celebrate when you pass the small milestones and keep your eyes on where you’re walking, and before you know it you will meet those once unattainable goals.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia Axline
- Through the Valley: My Captivity in Vietnam by William Reeder Jr.
Discipline/Good Atrributes To Develop:
- Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction by Gary Wilson
- Power Over Pornography: The Breakthrough Formula for Overcoming Pornography Addiction by Brian Brandenburg
- Porn Free Radio with Matt Dobschuetz
- Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink
We can all do this guys! If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask away below.