Want to Quit Porn? Here are 4 Things You Must Do

quit pornI’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to help people who are wanting to quit pornography but aren’t able to kick it. Of course, I talk almost everyday with men mostly about changing unwanted sexual behavior. But I wanted to learn more about how people were struggling.

 

I’ve had conversations with people all around the world in recent weeks. Men who have told me that they cannot stop masturbating. Men who have shared that they relapse again and again without understanding why. Men who have asked me in desperation for tips, strategies, and tools to stop.

 

I’ve listened. Based on all of my experience, training, and these conversations, here are four things you need to do to quit porn for good.

 

Tip to Quit Porn #1: Get Off of “Autopilot”

All of us have times when we act without thinking or fully being aware of what we are doing. We check out a bit mentally and zone out, letting our minds use the thousands of hours of experience to go on “autopilot” for a while.

 

What’s autopilot? Autopilot happens when we turn off our conscious minds and allow our unconscious minds to take over for a time.

 

When we do this, we use fewer brain cells but we’re not fully engaged in the moment. Autopilot can happen when we do laundry, when we listen to a coworker tell a boring story about his weekend, or when we turn to “mindless” activities like TV or—you guessed it—porn.

 

Often we turn to “mindless” activities for some kind of emotional comfort. Maybe it’s vegging out on the couch after a stressful day. Or maybe it’s visiting a favorite porn site when you’re anxious or bored.

 

Doing mindless things sometimes is okay, of course, but if you want to quit porn, you need to start teaching yourself to pay attention to what you’re thinking, feeling, and doing in any given moment. Practicing mindfulness can help with this, or simply by adding a brief meditation to your daily routine.

 

Tip to Quit Porn #2: Have a Plan to Train Your Brain

You have to plan for getting off of porn. Why? Because porn has become embedded in your daily life, and you need to plan ways to get out of your daily routine to pull the plug on porn.

 

To create your plan, first consider what unwanted sexual behaviors you need to avoid. Is it just porn? Or masturbation too? Chances are it’s both, so consider taking a break at least from masturbating for a month, two months, or more, and then reevaluate.

 

Next, make a list of your triggers and what makes you more susceptible to watching porn. Be sure to include:

  • Emotional triggers (boredom, anxiety, depression, etc.)
  • Relational triggers (e.g., a fight with your partner, a reprimand at work)
  • Situational or environmental triggers (e.g., being alone at home with your phone or computer, having blocks of time with nothing to do)
  • Other vulnerabilities, which tend to be more chronic (e.g., financial stress, relationship strain, work/life imbalance)

 

Finally, make a list of at least 6 to 10 healthy activities and coping strategies that you can use to replace porn. It’s critical that you identify alternative activities that you can do when you feel the urge to watch porn. For example:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Prayer
  • Taking a walk
  • Calling a friend or family member
  • Leaving the house (if you feel you’re in danger of watching porn and not sure what else to do)
  • Going to a 12-step meeting or other support group
  • Reading recovery-related books or articles

 

In the end, you still have to make the conscious choice to engage in these activities, even when you may really want to watch porn instead. And that’s why it’s important to work through what I call ambivalence.

 

Tip to Quit Porn #3: Work through Ambivalence

What’s ambivalence? Ambivalence simply means having mixed feelings about anything. Whenever we make changes in our lives, we always have mixed feelings at first about making that change. But as we work through those feelings, we become able to prepare for and make the changes we want.

 

Sounds easy enough, right?

 

Well, here’s the thing. With porn, often we’re so focused on strategies to quit, how to stop, and so on, which indicate that we have strong feelings that we want to stop, feelings you’re probably very aware of. So it’s completely confusing and frustrating why you keep relapsing with porn again and again.

 

Usually, when this keeps happening, it means that there are other feelings about porn that you’re probably not aware of. That is, as much as a part of you doesn’t want porn in your life, there’s another part of you that isn’t thrilled to see it go.

 

Maybe that part of you likes the comfort that porn brings. Maybe that part might miss the excitement. Maybe porn has been there when no one else has been, and it’s not that easy to give that up.

 

Whatever it is, using your plan successfully depends on acknowledging the hidden functions or purposes that porn has been serving in your life. Once you acknowledge these and all of your mixed feelings, you need to find other ways of meeting those needs.

 

Tip to Quit Porn #4: Understand Your Porn Use

Understanding a behavior is key to changing it, especially with a behavior that has become habitual and addictive. Understanding why you were drawn to porn and kept using it will help you work through your ambivalence.

 

Understanding your porn use will also help you discover unmet, underlying emotional needs for connection and love. Often, for people struggling with porn, these needs haven’t been met for a long time and have gone “underground” as they isolate and are stuck in a rut.

 

Exploring your relationship with porn is the hardest of all of these things you need to do, because I think it takes more courage, time, and vulnerability to do this kind of “deep work” on yourself.

 

But it’s critically important. Think of it this way: Porn is a problem, yes, but it’s a symptom of a deeper problem and a deeper pain. With the right help, you can understand your porn (yes, even why you like Asian porn or big-breasted porn stars) and use that understanding to reveal the pain that is longing to be healed.

 

Live near Ventura, Camarillo, or Oxnard, CA?

I’d love to connect.

Contact me today to get started.

 

Jeremy Mast
jeremy@jeremymast.com

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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