I'm writing to warn others about relapse - and more specifically, how easy it is to relapse.
I quit all PMO in August, 44 days ago. My story is similar to others. I somehow discovered YBOP and this website. An eye-opening experience. It's a great moment of enlightenment mixed with disappointment over what you've allowed yourself to become (and the years you've wasted). You always knew, deep down, porn was seriously messing you up, but you told yourself that all guys jerk it to porn and it's normal. Call it denial, or call it your brain bullshitting you to keep you looking at porn.
After reading about porn-induced ED, I thought 90 days would be a breeze. I'd found the answer to my ED problems. There would be NO WAY I'd relapse after discovering that porn, which I thought was harmless, was actually ruining my life. Not only that, I was excited to think I could be normal again after a few short months.
I did a lot of reading on the subject, fascinated. I read about the good and bad side effects of quitting, the possibility of relapse, the chaser effect. Then I read about guys who had gone 45 or 60+ days, then had a total relapse; a binge session. I was in shock! I thought, how could you succumb to porn after going a month or 2 (or more) of total abstinence? After you've made it this far?
Well, let me tell you - it happens. Even if you think it can't happen to you because you're just too determined to succumb to a moment of weakness. One day, if you're not extremely careful, it'll get you. It only takes a second. Your brain launches an unexpected assault and your balls are Pearl Harbor. You only have a brief - almost incalculable - instant to stop yourself. For 40 days, you've acted with admirable restraint, fending off intermittent cravings, and now instead of suppressing the urge, you set forth toward your porn "station" with rabid determination. The restraint methods you've been using (adult website blockers, a mental red X over porn-related thoughts, shouting "No!" to an empty room) are wiped away like birdshit off the windshield. You've given yourself the green light to watch porn, and the buzz has begun - and it already feels good.
I think your brain, whether you realize it or not, is always calculating a plan. Inside your head, in some far-away reach, a sinister (and probably horny) little ghoul is busy at work, hellbent on discovering the impulse that will make you cave. He'll try and fail, over and over, but he doesn't get discouraged. Eventually he'll send something up the pipeline that's a little more compelling, something you have to pause and consider.
In my case, the idea he sent was: "maybe you're cured."
Hmm, was it possible? After all, my progress had been astounding over the past month. Regular morning wood, a very healthy libido (no flatline period), and I had great successful sex around day 25. I stayed hard the whole time, thank you very much, even during position changes (a difficulty in the past). Plus, I started my PMO obsession in my 20s, not in the formative years. I didn't have it as bad as some of these other guys. Maybe a 90-day reboot is unnecessary for me. Maybe I'm already cured and my brain has been restored to the factory default. So when it comes to porn, now I should be able to watch it like a "normal" person -- with a clean slate.
Mind you, this irrational thought process occurred in the time it will take me to type the period at the end of this sentence.
Perhaps there's already a term for the initial discovery period, when you stumble upon a website like this and realize you're a porn addict and it's been the sole cause of your problems. It's such an A-ha moment that, despite the accompanying regrets, it's a moment of delight. The answer to your problems, finally. There's an excitement that your whole life is about to get better. This causes a huge surge of confidence in your ability to succeed. However, therein lies the danger. You can become over-confident and underestimate the power of addiction.
My friends, don't let that happen to you. Understand from the get-go that you're up against a formidable foe. You may think you have total control of your brain, but you don't. Just because it's yours doesn't mean you have control of it.
Despite all the reading I'd done from other PMO addicts in recovery, all the blogs warning me that my brain will try everything to fool me, that's exactly what it did. The sinister little ghoul, lurking in my brain-shadows, mixed just the right concoction and sent it through my synapses. It swam undetected amongst my healthy impulses, waiting patiently until it developed enough strength to consume them. On day 40, I allowed my brain to win. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in front my computer cranking out sons and daughters.
Afterward, I was disappointed in myself, but still thought: This is how "normal" guys watch porn. It's OK every once in awhile. Two hours later, the urge was stronger. Now I thought, well if I did it once, what's the difference if I do it twice? And down the spiral I went. A total relapse. Once I had determined that I'd officially failed, I decided to REALLY fail. If I'm going to relapse, I'm going to damn well enjoy it.
I enjoyed it over the course of 2 days. When I came to my senses, I couldn't believe what I'd done. Physically I felt like I was right back to where I'd started. My libido was gone, my penis felt like it'd been out all night participating in a Fight Club, and my introverted nature had returned in full force. I didn't even want to go out to buy milk. I didn't want to face anyone, especially women. All my progress, gone.
They say you're not technically back to square one if you relapse; that your successful days prior to relapse count for something. Though I hope that's true, it sure as hell doesn't feel that way. I'm back at Day 2 and, let me assure you, it FEELS like Day 2. If I attempted intercourse right now, it'd be like trying to tightening a screw with a rubber band. In my interactions with women (yes, I did finally go out and buy milk), the simple thrill I'd rekindled from merely exchanging pleasantries was eradicated. I'm back to my old anxious, sulking self. Back to square one.
Now that I'm on the wagon again, I know every day will feel a little better. I had a 40-day taste of freedom and I intend to get there again and go beyond. I'll use my relapse as a learning tool. I know what it's like to fail, and how easy it is. I know I can NEVER look at porn again. Maybe I should start a blog as Marnia often suggests. Then if I fail, I have to come here and tell all of you about it. Good motivation to succeed. In the meantime, I have to remember that I'm an addict. I may have started my PMO habit later than some, but my affliction is the same; just the same as the next guy, or the last guy - or you.