[Warning - LONG POST AHEAD!]
tl;dr: If I can break free after more than FIVE HUNDRED relapses, then so can you! It’s possible! Seek clarity on why you’ve found it hard, learn how to overcome the addiction, make a solid plan, follow and refine it until you reach your goal!
It feels incredible. I’m crying tears of joy. I’m so grateful to GOD that this day is finally here. I couldn’t have made it without the help and support of my friends and companions, both online and offline. I pray that everyone overcomes the addiction so they can experience how beautiful life is on this side.
Everyone has what it takes. If you’ve managed to go a full 24 hours without pornography or masturbation of any kind, you have all the willpower you need to succeed. You are always stronger than any and every urge you’ve ever had. No matter hard it is, or how long it takes, you can overcome it. Recognise that you don’t need 90 days of constant willpower. You just need to build the habit of choosing to say ‘No’ every time the urge comes. This realisation makes the journey more bearable. It’s not as much of a fight. And every time we succeed in saying ‘No’, we make it easier for ourselves the next time.
Greatly increased confidence and self-esteem - My confidence and self-esteem are through the roof! I’m able to make instant connections with people I meet, and I’m comfortable in my own skin once again. I’ve become the life of the party, even with my terrible dance moves! My social anxiety is gone, and it’s much easier to communicate and connect with others.
Happiness after years of depression - I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression in January 2018, though I’d been living with it for many years. But for the first time since I was a child, I’m actually happy! No dark thoughts are plaguing me throughout the day; I’m glad to be alive and very pleased with where my life is heading!
Better mental clarity and focus - Man, where was this when I was back in school? My brain power has increased, and I have much better problem-solving skills. I can focus on tasks for longer, and I understand new concepts I’m reading much faster. My brain chooses better words in conversation from my vocabulary and aids me in my writing.
Greater ambition for life - It was difficult to accomplish anything while I was in a state of depression and low motivation. I would go weeks without doing anything productive to work on myself or towards my future. Now I’m accomplishing tasks daily and striving to achieve meaningful and fulfilling goals.
Strength in walking into uncomfortable scenarios - I’m more courageous now. I walk into complicated situations with the understanding that I’m strong enough to handle whatever happens. For instance, I had a tough conversation with a close friend about things he was doing that upset me. He was furious at first, but we became better friends for it.
Ease in dealing with stress and negative emotions - In the past, stressful situations would set me back weeks at a time. I even had to leave work for two weeks before to recover. Now, I can bounce back quickly; I accept stress as part of our journey in life and look for ways to manage and deal with the situation at hand.
Return of integrity and self-respect - It’s great to believe in myself again. My word actually means something to me; my promises are valuable, and I respect my commitments. I feel clean, free from guilt and shame. There’s a deep sense of joy in my heart and love for GOD, myself and those around me.
Urges are more manageable than ever before - When you’re battling an overwhelming urge, it’s hard to imagine a day where circumstances will be any different. Nowadays, the urges that come to me are slight suggestions. They are urges to search for a music video on YouTube or check out a tabloid article about some celebrity on a beach. These are suggestions I can easily manage and not go through with. There is no overpowering desire to watch 4KHD videos and bring up dozens of tabs of filth.
But what about superpowers?
Compared to how I was living 3 months ago, or my life in general while engaged in PMO, the benefits feel superhuman. But I see them like this; I started wearing glasses in my late teens. When I put glasses on for the first time, it was like seeing the world in HD. New colours and contrasts, everything was sharper and brighter. But for someone with 20/20 vision, that’s how they see the world regularly.
This is the way we were supposed to live. When we look back through history and see great men and women who changed the world, we notice that they were courageous and took action. They spent their time in diligent pursuit of goals they were incredibly passionate about. Humanity wouldn’t be where we are today if Aristotle, da Vinci, Newton or Steve Jobs were crouched over a screen in a dark room somewhere, repeatedly spilling out their life energy. This journey allows us the chance to reclaim our lives and shape the futures we desire.
• I’ve finished nine books in the past 3 months, and started even more which I’m currently going through. Reading Your Brain on Porn, Man’s Search for Meaning and Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow were real game-changers!
• I’ve started a cleaning business with one of my close friends. The website is up and running, we’re hiring employees very soon and working on marketing.
• I’ve made my first few sales on eBay! I’m learning more about dropshipping and how to make a living on eBay.
• I completed a six-week abs workout program, lost weight and gained definition in my abs. I also started running again and went the farthest distance I’ve ever gone, over 6km. I’m planning to sign up for 5km and 10km races soon.
• I got my family to sit down together in the living room for two hours, no devices, and talk about our plans for the future and how to live together better as a family. I also reconnected with my sister living abroad after many years.
- On Day Zero, I made the decision that I was going to quit for good this time. I would do whatever it took to make myself believe it. I wrote in my journal that I was done; this was rock bottom, and I was going to be living an incredibly better life a year from that date.
- On day three, I sat down with my journal and wrote down all my feelings about myself, my journey so far and my life in general. I realised the mental barriers which were holding me back from succeeding; Deep down, I believed that I was an unforgivable sinner and that I deserved to continue relapsing. I blamed my younger self for starting me down this journey in the first place. I had so much regret and shame and anger at myself for my past mistakes and failures in all areas of my life. I hated being me, and I didn’t see myself as worthy of being saved, becoming free of the addiction or improving my life. When I understood this, I was able to heal. I forgave myself for the past and pledged to make a better future. I told myself that I was noble for merely wanting to change. I found the will to love myself again and see myself as someone I wanted to help. Here is my analysis: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Q_RKGqxvAzulp7QEnWX1hsMkA80KJs5-zq_NgKeEHmU/edit?usp=drivesdk
- I spent a good two weeks just learning more about the addiction. I read people’s relapse, horror and success stories as well as their strategies and what they did to break free. I took notes on different habits I wanted to work on, and the changes in mindset which I wanted to model from people who had broken free.
- I increased my accountability by returning to regular interaction with others in the forum. I connected with my companions, supported them and learned from them. In return, I gained their support and motivation. I also joined a NoPMO WhatsApp group with heroes that had 180+ day streaks who inspired me to go all the way and provided continuous knowledge and advice about the addiction. Later in the journey, a new accountability partner joined me and really kept me on the straight and narrow. I had to report to him anything that even remotely suggested I was going back towards PMO.
- On day 20, I re-started Brian Brandenburg’s Power over Pornography course and committed to seeing it through to the end. The author promises in the book that whoever sincerely follows the program will not relapse, but I self-sabotaged myself many times before in the past, due to the mental barriers I mentioned. It has impressive cognitive behavioural techniques that rewire the brain to have a positive response to urges and defeat them within minutes.
- I created my own strategy based on the books and success stories I’d read so far. From now on, I would see my life as a movie where I was the hero, finally overcoming adversity. Every day would be the last time I ever needed to pass that day, so I was happy and grateful even in my lower streaks. “Thank GOD for the last day 15! I promise to keep going!” I would say things like this multiple times a day and renew my commitment. Here is my strategy: After relapsing 46 times in 2019, thank GOD I'm now 50 days PMO-free! Here's how I did it
- From now on, all sexual thoughts had to go. No women on the street, no thoughts about colleagues or acquaintances and certainly no memories of my ex-favourite 4KHD videos. I made the habit of purging them all within 2 seconds. I would picture other things instead, like the smiling faces of my family and friends, and the life I wanted to lead when I was clean.
- I set goals for myself to accomplish within the next 90 days that would improve my circumstances. I started reading more, I organised my finances and applied for more jobs, I started an exercise program, I spoke more to my friends and family, I listened to motivational videos and recited affirmations every day. I cut entertainment down, eliminated gaming and slowly stopped watching TV shows and Netflix as well. I replaced them with documentaries and informative videos on YouTube which had been sitting in my ‘Watch Later’ playlist for ages. I spent time brainstorming what I wanted for the future and what life I was working towards. I practised making conversation with other people and developing my listening skills.
- I continued learning more about self-improvement, PMO addiction, building good habits and being successful, and I shared what I had learned with others wherever I could. I stopped second-guessing myself and decided to provide my insights and opinions to help others as best as I could.
Tools for Breaking Free:
- Belief. Believe that it is possible for you, and that you deserve it. Believe that you have what it takes to succeed for good.
- Mindset. Decide that no matter what, PMO is not an option for you anymore. Be determined to succeed and persistent, but do not dwell in shame. If you fall down, be compassionate to yourself. Refine your plan, and go again.
- Prepare. Have an effective method that you can carry out anytime the urges come.
- Connection. Reach out to others; don’t suffer alone. Companions help so much on this journey.
- Fulfillment. Work towards meaningful goals that will improve your life.
- Thoughts. Think positive thoughts and purge your mind of negative ones. Don’t allow harmful thoughts to remain in your mind.
I was 11 when I saw my first pornographic video. I came across it late at night when browsing for Flash games. After that, I was hooked. I would stay awake until everyone had gone to sleep and explore this new side of the Internet.
One late night, my mother saw the light on in the living room and caught me red-handed with 70-80 Internet Explorer windows open. For an hour, she explained to me many negative consequences of continuing to engage in this behaviour, among them being that I wouldn’t be satisfied as time passes and I would soon want to act out what I had seen, in ways which could have severe consequences like pregnancy or even prison. I was terrified. I promised her that I’d never do it again, and went and cried myself to sleep. She removed my Internet privileges until I turned 12, telling my younger siblings not to let me use the Internet at all. But the seed had been planted.
When I started using the Internet again, I got back into dangerous territory. I started searching for borderline things, so I could lie to myself and say they weren’t actually pornography. Things at school were worse. It was Year 7, and everyone had seen sex education videos in science. One friend was bringing hardcore videos to school on his phone. Soon, I was borrowing friends’ phones to go watch in the school toilets or watching videos on the bus on the way home. My mood was like a yo-yo, and I knew I had to stop. I told myself, no more. I would delete all the videos and try not to visit the sites. In the morning, I would promise GOD that I was done. Then I would go back the same evening after school; re-downloading the same videos and more. I continued in this manner for a long time, slowly gaining streaks of 2 days, 3 days, 5 days, but I would always go back and feel like a complete failure.
When I was about 15, I had a transformative religious experience, and my desire to break free was further fortified. I confessed again to my mother that I had never stopped PMO and she tried to help me, but she had no knowledge on how to deal with someone with addiction. She stopped checking up on me after 2-3 weeks, thinking that I was clean. I began to tell my friends about my struggles, but no one understood. Most were engaged in PMO as well, and they didn’t want to quit. Why did I? What was wrong with me? The girls just thought I was a disgusting creep. My Muslim friends simply told me that it was forbidden and to leave it behind immediately, not understanding I’d been trying for years without success. There were times I really wanted to blurt out to someone that I seriously needed help. Anyone. A teacher. A mentor. A stranger on the bus.
I had an even greater desire to quit now, but all I felt was more shame at being unable to control myself. Not only that, but the categories I was watching were becoming increasingly more violent and disturbing to me. I didn’t understand how such things could arouse me. Why was I seeking them out? At times, I started to question my sexuality. Other times, I wondered if I was broken morally, and would eventually do something criminal like I’d seen in the videos. I tried all the usual things. I installed pornography blockers on my computer, but I ended up using my friend’s laptop when he wasn’t watching. The blockers also never helped because I would exploit loopholes and find sites that slipped through. A diligent addict will search till the 50th page of Google to get his fix, and I never had to look that far. I made countless promises and commitments to myself. I swore that I’d never carry the addiction into a new year of life or a new calendar year. I would delete all the progress in my games after relapsing, bathe in cold water, forbid myself to watch my favourite shows and more. When I was 18, I decided to undertake a 30 day water fast to purge the addiction from my system. I had the discipline to go 30 days without eating as much as a crumb of bread. But as weak as I was, I managed to PMO on day 27. At 22, I made a covenant with my friends where I’d have to pay them if I relapsed again. They were so unhappy to take my money, but I had to keep my word, whatever it was worth. Nothing seemed to work.
All the while, my life was falling apart around me. I felt like a complete hypocrite in my daily prayers and when speaking to others, so I stopped discussing religion completely. People either mistook me for an atheist or thought I was deep and contemplative - they came to me for religious advice! My studies suffered. I was an A student, projected to go on to study at the UK’s top universities like Oxford, UCL or Imperial College, but I barely made it out with Cs. I said, I don’t care though, I want to start up my own business – I don’t need a degree. However, every business project I started ended in failure, and I found myself in crippling debt. My relationships with family and friends were strained. I felt constant shame around my mother and my friends who believed I was free. I was gaining weight from constant comfort eating. I lived with depression and suicidal thoughts for years. Although I was naturally extroverted, I had deep social anxiety, and wanted to hide away from new people. In 2018 I went to the doctor and confirmed I had severe depression, and I knew I had to break out somehow. If I was trying hard before, I had to pull out all the stops. But I still continued to fail again and again, even after breaking past my highest streaks.
My close friend called me on June 12 this year, and woke me up to how much I was destroying my life. I chose to fight like I would never get the chance again. And by GOD’s Grace, here I am today. I’ve relapsed over 500 times, but the pain of the past is nothing compared to the joy of the present moment, and my anticipation of a better future. I sincerely pray everyone can break free and lead their best lives.