It’s been interesting to watch this series unfold this week. Though I knew it would be controversial, I wasn’t sure what to expect and how much interest there would actually be in the topic.
As it happened, the posts received massive amounts of traffic. And while there was definitely vocal opposition to the arguments I laid out, these were fewer in number than I expected. This may be partly chalked up to the fact that AoM’s readership tends to skew more traditional and religious (even though we actively welcome men from all backgrounds) – guys who are likely more interested in this topic than the general population. But I also have to think that there are tons of men – conservative and liberal alike — that aren’t completely happy with the role of porn in their lives, for whatever reason. I’ve long felt that there are a bunch of things in our culture towards which the media relentlessly presents a viewpoint that supposedly everyone shares, and people don’t feel comfortable publicly admitting that it just isn’t working that way in their own personal lives. I think the idea of porn use as harmless and casual is one of those things.
At any rate, if you’re reading this post, you or someone you know is trying to quit porn and are looking for some help in doing so. Here’s the good news: in the vast majority of cases, you don’t need expensive rehabs or retreats to rid your life of porn. As I mentioned yesterday, in reading a boatload of books and countless blog and forum postings on “porn addiction recovery,” I discovered that most of the advice given is the exact same advice therapists and cognitive psychologists offer to someone who’s trying to change a bad habit as innocuous as swearing or fingernail biting. Sure, there are a few differences, but overall, quitting porn is just like quitting pretty much any other bad habit.
An important thing to keep in mind with changing any habit — be it smoking, drinking soda, or using porn — is that there’s no magic bullet. Habit change takes time, discipline, and dedication, and the process will look a little different for each individual.
Progress isn’t linear, either. Some weeks you’ll feel like you’re well on your way to kicking the bad habit and replacing it with a new one, and others you’ll have setbacks that will make you feel like crap. That’s normal. The key is to not wallow in your setback, but to dust yourself off, and get back in the saddle.
So if you’re looking for that one thing that will solve all your problems, you won’t find it here. Most of the tips and suggestions below are likely things you already know. The only “secret” to habit implementation is having the will to follow through with your intentions. Experiment with the different tips below and find out what works for you.
Reboot and Rewire
Before we get into the specific tips and strategies for quitting porn, it’s important to know the two basic parts of the process in your brain: rebooting and rewiring.
The brain responds to the onslaught of dopamine that comes with constant and escalating porn use by reducing its number of dopamine receptors. This blunting of dopamine sensitivity may lead to problems like erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, depression, and social anxiety.
“Rebooting” refers to taking a break from all artificial sexual stimuli so that the brain can restore and replenish dopamine receptors that were lost in response to the overconsumption of pornography. As Gary Wilson notes in Your Brain on Porn, rebooting is a metaphor taken from the computer world: “By avoiding artificial sexual stimulation you are shutting down and restarting the brain, restoring it to its original factory settings.” The goal of rebooting is to rediscover what your life was like before porn.
According to men who have quit and Wilson’s observations while working with these men, it may take weeks or months before you begin to see an improvement in porn-related problems. Wilson has noted two patterns of rebooting recovery: One group of men will take just 2-3 weeks before they start seeing improvements to porn-induced ED and the like. The other group, which he calls “long-rebooters,” can take 2-6 months to fully recover. The men comprising this group usually started using internet porn at a young age and have been using it for a while. During their brain resets, some long-rebooters report experiencing what they call a “flatline” in which they lose any and all interest in sex for a period of time. However, once the flatline passes, their drive for natural sexual stimulation comes roaring back…