Hurricane Dorian is wreaking havoc already, and it’s still days from making landfall. I have lived in Florida nearly all of my adult life.
As such, I am accustomed to dealing with hurricanes.
By saying that I am accustomed to dealing with hurricanes, I don’t mean to imply that I know how to handle them. Instead, I mean that expecting them, preparing for them, and doing my best to endure them is now a matter of habit.
Indeed, activities I used to give considerable forethought, are now second nature. For example, without much thought, I have already taken the following steps to get ready:
If you want to recover from your porn addiction, you will need to discover the power of habit formation!
Discovering and developing new habits are central to your freedom!
Many reasons, but one is that the porn habit you are now starving is going to get hungry.
When the addiction or compulsion gets hungry, it’s going to want you to feed it – as you have done so many times in the past. That’s why the closer you are to your addiction, the more fiercely you have to fight against it!
I am not talking about white-knuckle fighting. Instead, the intentional, yet determined fight that discovers and develops positive habits that will begin (over time) to replace the old ones!
Habit Formation and Freedom
My recovery road is bumper-to-bumper habit formation. As I review the last two decades of recovery, I see many habits that have come and gone (yes, they can be seasonal) and many more that have continued to serve me to this day.
In this post, I am going to share a few of my personal favorites.
I am also going to recommend some excellent resources.
I will then invite you to share yours with me.
In the early days of my recovery, the battle was, at times, debilitating.
If not for the following five habits, I am not sure where I’d be today, but I know I wouldn’t be here!
Have you ever wondered how to unsee all those pornographic images you’ve spent years viewing?
If so, you’re not alone. In fact, that’s a common – and often misunderstood – part of the journey. Especially when you want to make the transition from a life saturated by free-porn to a life that’s finally porn-free!
Once you decide it’s time to live a porn-free life, you begin to notice how hard it is to get all those images out of your head.
Many of us find ourselves fighting images every moment of the day. Many find that pornographic images also haunt our dreams at night.
In my experience, the toughest part of the battle is unseeing what we’ve seen!
During the early days of my journey out of porn addiction, I remember a time when I had been porn-free for about 90 days (yes, I numbered freedom by days, not months). It was, at that time, the longest I had ever gone without clicking a website, watching a video, or trying to get porn in any form I could.
Then one day I crashed, badly. All the signs were there; I just didn’t see them. Either that or I simply refused to take note of them.
The triggers were:
Fatigue. I was tired: worn out from a busy season of life and ministry.
Isolation. I was alone, even in the company of others.
Boredom. I was restless, unfulfilled, desperately seeking something no human could ever really provide.
After the relapse, or the one bad moment, I suffered a host of unmanageable and debilitating emotions.
I was angry.
I was embarrassed.
I was sad.
I was miserable.
All the purity I had enjoyed?
In one bad moment, with one click of a mouse and one surf on the web, months of purity were flushed down the drain.
If you’ve ever battled pornography addiction, then you can probably relate to my experience. You’ve made it a day, a week, a month or more without feeding the addiction. Then, one day, you stumble.
The question I want to ask, and I think it’s an important one for us, is this:
In my last post, I wrote about the importance of identifying the Trying Season.
The Trying Season is that moment or season of life where stress grows and relief is needed. Porn exploits those times of our life and extracts our dignity in the process.
Today I am going to consider another trigger we need to be aware of in our fight against porn. It is,
The Teasing Sensation.
Life is full of teasers. A teaser is, according to Merriam-Webster, “something that is done, offered, or shown to make people want something or want to see something that will be offered or shown at a later time.”
Teasers Pose Two Significant Challenges
Teasers, or teasing sensations, pose significant challenges for at least two reasons:
We don’t expect them. They can show up out of nowhere and grab a hold of the addict’s heart with ferocious power.
We cannot control or anticipate our initial response to them. Usually, the response if full of energy and excitement that seems almost uncontrollable. Fortunately, it’s not uncontrollable!
Yes, teasers present a host of problems. Teasers, or teasing sensations, are often leveraged by the Trying Season, Tempting Situations and The Trap Day – all triggers and traps this series is designed to help us fight!!
Invariably, teasers become the fertile soil in which porn addiction and consumption seek to take root and grow!
Consider the following teasers one might encounter during an average day:
A ‘pop up’ add on your computer.
A commercial during your favorite program.
A movie trailer at the local theater.
A flirty glance or accidental – but charged – touch from a colleague.
A magazine cover at the ten-item aisle in your local grocery store.
Someone at the local gym.
You get the point. From Starbucks to the grocery store, teasers, or the teasing sensation, occur randomly and unexpectedly and we can NEVER control our initial emotional response.
Let me free you from that trap.
You know the trap that takes your initial excitement or rush of energy and makes you feel like dirt?
I Love, Therefore I Am.
Men and women are creatures of desire. We – all of us – want. We want, deeply so. If longing and desire were not central to what it means to be human, then teasers would gain no ground!
So, if you see someone dressed in a way that stimulates you, or if you are caught off guard by an advertisement that excites you, relax – that’s okay – don’t let your initial reaction lead you to a place of destruction and pain.
It’s just a reaction, a reflex. Do you remember when your doctor used to whack your knee with a rubber hammer? Try as you might you couldn’t stop your knee from responding. Our emotions work in similar ways. They respond to stimulus and stimulating moments.
The enemy of our soul and society seeks to distort godly desire and tease us into a tempting situation. The forces that rule the porn empire know that once one is teased into a tempting situation, it becomes all too easy to click that website and feed the addiction!
The question is, for those of us who want to be porn-free,
“What actions or steps can we take AFTER that initial reflex and response?” Or,
“What can we do to ensure that the emotional response doesn’t digress into a normative way of life and living?”
Here are a few suggestions from my life. I share them not in triumph, but from tragedy. These ideas were birthed in the midst of despair and pain. They are, however, tried-and-true ways I have become aware of and awake to the realities of living in a world bent on Trying, Teasing, and Tempting.
Preparing For and Responding to the Teasing Sensation
Develop a plan for how you will respond in that moment. I simply sat down one day and wrote out all the possible times the teasing sensation might occur. After jotting down eight to ten of them, I developed some ways I would respond in those moments. I sought to develop life-giving, hope-birthing rhythms of response rather than shame-filled, guilt-ridden mechanisms of despair.
Share the moments with a loved one or accountability partner. Share them quickly. I find that when verbally expressed, the sensation reduces its power and pull in my mind and heart. Speaking it to another person proves to be wonderfully healing!
Get out of the situation and away from the sensation! Getting away from the teasing sensation may mean avoiding my computer, leaving the coffee shop, closing or ‘bouncing’ my eyes, etc. If I remain in the moment and entertain the sensation, I give it the power to move me toward temptation.
Negative reinforcement can bring me back to reality. During my initial season or stages of recovery, these moments posed powerful and anxiety producing situations. I found it helpful to wrap a rubber band around my left hand. When such moment occurred, I would snap the band, producing an immediate and equally negative response to the sensation. I would then think of my wife and the joy I have in her, which reinforced a positive affirmation of my identity and sense of personhood.
As I said earlier, those are just a few of mine. Perhaps you have some of your own that you’d like to share with others. If so, I’d love to hear them in the comment section below
In my next post, I will look at the third and fourth triggers. I call them, The Tempting Situation and The Trap Day. These are those days and situations that pose particular problems for us.
I will let you in on how I handle them and their pivotal role in my desire to live a porn-free life!