I’ve written briefly before about how I quit pornography a few years back. Several people have asked me to write more on the topic, so here it is. Obviously this post will be more for men, but ladies are also welcome to read and respond.
Porn and me
Real quick, we’ll start with my story.
I used to be addicted to pornography. By that I mean I couldn’t stop consuming the stuff. Starting in my mid-teens, it wasn’t unusual for me to spend an hour or two at a time (sometimes longer) sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen, clicking from one pornographic image to another, on a relentless search for the perfect scene to help get myself off.
At one point I’m sure I must have had several gigs of hardcore porn downloaded to my computer.
I was always ashamed of this behavior. I wanted to stop but I never could. Even when I started having girlfriends in my twenties, I’d sneak a peek at some porn pretty regularly.
About four years ago I began working hard on my self-discipline and willpower. I decided a good challenge would be to try abstain from porn for forty consecutive days. I managed to do it, and felt so good about myself that I decided not to watch porn ever again.
It’s been more than four years now and I’ve managed to stay true to that decision.
Since you’re reading this there’s a good chance you watch porn yourself and would like to quit, so I probably don’t need to tell you why quitting is a good idea. You probably feel a lot like I did: ashamed of your porn addiction, knowing that your life would be better without it.
But just in case you’re on the fence, take a look at this TEDx Talk by Gary Wilson (16.5 minutes)…
Can’t see the video? Click here.
Relevant points from Wilson’s talk:
- Of all activities on the Internet, porn has the most potential to become addictive.
- The brains of heavy porn users actually become rewired (“structural brain changes”).
- Porn users are less likely to develop social skills, as they spend more time alone.
- Porn users have higher cravings for novelty, shock and surprise.
- Porn users experience a numbed pleasure response and willpower erosion.
- “Internet porn is killing young men’s sexual performance.”
- Men who manage to quit porn report recovery from depression, erectile dysfunction and chronic procrastination.
For me personally, quitting porn led to a boost in social confidence and self-esteem, improved imagination, better and more frequent sex, more intense orgasms, a lot more free time on my hands, and a healthier view of women. Of all the things I’ve tried over the years to enhance my life, quitting porn is easily one of the best. I’m actually struggling here to think of another change that has had such a profound impact.
Okay, so that’s the why. Lots of compelling reasons to quit porn, especially if you find yourself addicted. Probably no big deal if you only watch infrequently.
Now let’s move on to the how…
How to quit pornography
Let me start by saying that there is no magical one way that will work for everyone. Just like there’s no one diet that’s perfect for everyone, or one work situation, or one exercise routine. As such, I’m going to throw out a bunch of ideas here. Some have worked for me personally. Others I’ve only read about but sound pretty smart. Feel free to add any additional tips that have worked for you via the comments.
I’m listing meditation first for the simple reason that it’s one of the best known ways to increase willpower, and quitting porn certainly requires a hefty dose of that. So don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you go sit on the floor and meditate the urge away whenever you feel horny for some pink pixel action.
Most people don’t have a good understanding of meditation. You may believe that the whole purpose is to sit still and to try calm your mind, and then you find yourself getting frustrated when your unruly mind keeps wandering. But the key part of meditation is actually that very practice of noticing your mind wandering, regaining your composure, and refocusing your attention on your breath. Doing this over and over again strengthens your willpower. Or, as Kelly McGonigal refers to it in The Willpower Instinct, your won’t power. That is, your ability to say no to destructive urges.
I never personally used meditation to help quit pornography, but I do meditate frequently now (usually just five minutes a day), and I can attest that it does help strengthen willpower as described above.
Try it. Certainly can’t hurt.
2. 30-day trial
This is what worked for me, although I extended the trial to forty days before I decided to stop counting.
A 30-day trial is basically a promise to yourself that you’ll take up a new habit or quit an old one for thirty consecutive days. You then do your very best to keep that promise.
This works better if you remind yourself regularly that you’re allowed to relapse after the trial. So in the case of quitting pornography, you can stay disciplined throughout the trial by reminding yourself that, come day 31, you’re allowed to revel in 24 consecutive hours of filthy Internet porn. This is a bit of self-trickery because, most likely, if you make it to the end of the trial, your cravings will have whittled away significantly and you’ll no longer feel such a strong urge to indulge.
Knowing that there’s a finish line is a strong motivator to continue. One day at a time and you know you’ll get there.
3. Cheat day
Stealing this idea from my current experiments with the Paleo diet. I felt it would be too difficult to go 100% Paleo right from the start. I knew if I tried that I’d likely end up quitting and reverting full-time to a not-so-healthy diet littered with peanut butter and Kit Kat Chunkys. So I allow myself a cheat day, one 24-hour period each week where I can eat whatever the hell I want.
The way I figure it, it’s better to eat Paleo six out of seven days than to half-ass it every day of the week. I find that I usually start craving junk food on about day five each week, but it’s easy to resist the cravings because I know I just have to hold out one more day before I can eat whatever I want again.
I think the cheat day concept would also work well for quitting porn. If you’re having trouble getting through a 30-day trial, try instead to abstain from pornography six days a week, allowing yourself one day to go nuts and indulge. After you get the hang of that, see if you can stretch it out to one cheat day every two weeks. Keep extending until you’re only masturbating in front of a screen every February 29th
If you’re having a really tough time making it six days without porn, start even easier. Try to abstain on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Then only allow yourself to indulge three times a week, then only twice.
You don’t have to fix this thing overnight. Just keep chipping away at it and making steady progress.
4. Delete your stash
To use another diet analogy, it’s much easier to avoid eating the wrong foods if your fridge isn’t stocked with them. Similar deal with porn. If you have a few gigs of the stuff sitting on your hard drive, it’s too easy to succumb to the temptation.
If you’ve got a stash on your computer, take a few minutes now to go and delete it.
Go do it!
Empty it from trash as well so it’s really gone forever.
Now granted, there’s always more where that came from. Nothing stopping you from going online tomorrow and downloading a bunch of fresh stuff. But the extra step now required to get that porn fix is another reminder of what you’re trying to do here, an additional reminder that you’re aiming to give it up. It’s one more checkpoint where you can pause and hopefully reconsider giving into that urge.
The more of these kinds of checkpoints you can set up for yourself, the better. You can rig your browser to prevent you from looking up adult websites. Easy to unrig it, sure, but it’s another checkpoint. Or how about moving your computer out of the bedroom so you’re less likely to be alone in front of that screen? Yeah, you can always move it back, but it’s yet another checkpoint and thus another opportunity to exercise your willpower when temptation takes hold.
For some people, it really helps to have accountability. That is, you want to make your goal of quitting porn somewhat public. You can confide in a friend if you feel comfortable with that, or else you can post about what you’re trying to do anonymously on an Internet forum, such as the NoFap forum on reddit. Having to check in with other people often provides that extra bit of motivation you might need to keep your promise.
Along these same lines, it might help to make a bet with someone. Tell a friend that you’ll pay him $100 if you crack and look at pornography at any time during the next month. Make the consequence a bit painful. We humans are loss averse, usually motivated more by the fear of losing than gaining. Use that knowledge to your advantage and set yourself up for success.
6. Keep masturbating
If you checked out that reddit forum I mentioned you might have noticed that they advocate quitting pornography and masturbation. Unless you have an active sex life, I don’t advocate quitting masturbation. I once went forty days without orgasm and it was torture. I felt really stressed and desperate for female attention. It’s kind of like the concept of jerking off before a big date. You do that so you’re not preoccupied with thoughts of sex while on the date, so you can relax more, be yourself, and look beyond the girl’s boobs.
For me at least, masturbation is beneficial as it takes the edge off and helps me focus on other things. Quitting porn is hard enough without also trying to deny yourself a good fiddle every now and then. If you really do feel bad about jerking off and would like to quit that too, at the very least wait until you’ve killed your porn addiction first. One thing at a time.
Now, you might be wondering how to masturbate without pornography. Well this is where your old friend imagination comes in. And seriously, for me this was one of the biggest benefits of quitting porn. What your mind can imagine is much sexier than anything you’ll see on a computer screen, especially with practice. I found my fantasies growing more vivid, more real, more arousing. Accordingly, I started having much stronger orgasms via images in my head than I ever had via images on a screen.
So when you need that release, go lie down some place private and comfortable, close your eyes, and see what kind of sexual adventures you can conjure up in your mind. You can even light a candle beforehand and turn it into a real romantic wank
One more tip here is to just give yourself a quick seeing to when you feel that urge. Go some place private and pump one out, then get back to doing whatever. Pornography loses much of its appeal right after you orgasm.
7. Learn pickup
It you were having frequent, hot sex with beautiful women, do you think you’d be jerking off to porn quite so much?
Didn’t think so.
I’ll be honest with you: If you’re not very good with women, quitting porn is going to be tough. Doable, but tough. Essentially what you’ll be doing is strengthening your willpower to compensate for your lack of social skills. It’s much smarter to also be leveling up your social skills and thus increasing your chances of having sex with real women.
Now believe me when I say that it’s definitely possible to improve in this area. Take it from a one-time 22-year-old virgin who once went a whole year living in the United States without getting laid despite having an Irish accent!
Things are very different now. I’ve worked hard and pushed through a lot of fear and discomfort (like that time in Amsterdam) to get to the point where I can actually set eyes on a stunningly beautiful woman and have a decent chance of dating her.
Pickup is a huge topic in itself and I won’t get much into it here. I will say that you need to be careful about your intentions. Come at it from a personal development perspective. You’re trying to become a better, more attractive version of yourself, not figure out how to trick women into sleeping with you.
If you want to learn more, I recommend you start with this lengthy talk by DJ Fuji. Not an easy journey, but definitely worth your time and effort.
8. Handle relapses
I lied a little before.
I have managed to steer clear of hardcore pornography ever since I first quit it four years ago, but in the meantime I have had a handful of slight relapses to the softcore. Sexy YouTube videos and the like. And I don’t just mean watching them, but… you know. I’m proud though that I haven’t let those minor relapses lead me back down the slippery slope and once again become a full-blown porn addict.
And I think this is key, because you’ll likely have some relapses yourself, some slight, some serious. It’s wise to be prepared for such and not let them derail you completely. There is a tendency to just say “fuck it” after a relapse and give up trying to quit, telling yourself that you’re powerless to change.
Everybody falls. You just have to keep picking yourself up.
It gets easier, trust me.
The biggest thing with a relapse is to not beat yourself up about it and let the situation snowball. My tendency in the past (I’d tried quitting porn multiple times before) was to get really down on myself after a relapse. This only makes things worse, because the shittier you feel about yourself, the harder it is to exercise your willpower. You’ll find yourself thinking things like, “I’m a loser anyway, might as well just go look up some more porn and spend the whole afternoon jerking off.”
Instead of falling into that trap, fully embrace each relapse. FUCKING OWN THAT RELAPSE! Do it like you mean it!
And then when it’s over, it’s over. Don’t feel bad about what just happened, don’t dwell on it. You get up and you try again.
See, the last thing you need after a relapse is a critic. What you really need is a friend. So instead of being your own biggest critic, try being your own best friend.
9. More tips on how to quit
Above are all the major points I want to mention, but there’s lots of other good advice out there that may work well for you. It’s best to try a few different things and see what proves most effective. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not work for Philip.
No idea. I just picked a name.
Anyways, here’s where I link you off to a bunch of “porn addiction recovery tips” hosted on a site created by that same Gary Wilson chap I introduced you to earlier. Just click on over to that page and keep hitting refresh for plenty of advice and inspiration.
Here’s one such smart tip from that link:
I’ve noticed that really helps me is exercise. Whenever I get the urge now (well, most times), I’ll either go to the gym or put on my shoes and try to beat my 5-mile best run time. That pretty much always kills the urge, usually for the rest of the day. I think one of the keys to beating this addiction, or any for that matter, is to replace the destructive habit with a healthy and productive one.
I wrote this post because I know a lot of guys struggle with quitting porn.
I get it. I’ve been there.
If you find yourself in that struggle now and need some support, you might find it helpful to share in the comments below (you can do so anonymously).
Also, any guys out there who’ve managed to get a handle on this and have some additional tips to share, I’d love to hear from you.