Here are some thoughts from several men who have overcome porn use:
The first step (I know this is cliche) is recognizing you have a problem- knowing that your chronic masturbation to porn has adversely affected your life and relationships.
It took me multiple attempts (and I learned from each attempt) but I have now been masturbation and porn free for six months.
I could write a book on how much better my life is now. First- I am not some prude against all porn and who condemns masturbation for religious reasons. There are plenty of people who can masturbate in moderation. I am just not one of them so I made the decision to stop entirely.
The first "gift" of abstaining from porn/masturbation is time. The amount of time I wasted each week was substantial. I could go a whole weekend inside mostly consuming porn and jacking. During the week I would do an hour a night- sometimes more. And then be totally worn out for the evening and just watch tube (another dumb addiction). The amount of time to do the things that I always told myself I should do- that I imagined myself doing? I am doing! And it is awesome. Hobbies, reading, social contact, I even have a dog now.
The second "gift" - and this will differ for different people- is money. I wasn't spending mad amounts of money on porn- but enough to be stupid and wasteful. The couple hundred bucks I have not spent is nice to have- bought a new ipod recently as a "Reward".
The third "gift" (and the one that I think matters the most and I am truly grateful for) is a far improved self image and much better self esteem. I am FAR more confident in social situations now- like night and day- like people ask me what have I changed about myself because I am so much more outgoing.
As far as relations with the opposite sex? I have never . . . . NEVER. . . been more confident about approaching women than I am now. I am far more motivated to seek and engage actual real women now. (And though this might develop as a problem itself- I am actually getting real sex now! But I am not going to worry about that now- just enjoy it for awhile.)
While I was consuming porn and beating off- I had severe performance anxiety when it came to actual real sex. That is gone. I have no problem. It is nice to actually get aroused by little things like a revealing blouse or some innocent cleavage or a summer dress or just a woman's flowing shiny hair and fragrance and not "Cum Gurgling sluts" video clips.
The time, the money, the feelings of confidence, vastly improved self image, and just getting a normal satisfying sex life- makes my complete abstinence from masturbation SO WORTH IT.
So if you are someone who can beat off to internet porn in moderation? Hey- great. I ain't judging you and more power to you. But if you are not - (and you know if you are not)- then you need to stop entirely. I tried the "once a week" promise- and it never held. You need to stop totally.
Steps I took.
-Cancelled my "porn" credit card that I would use to buy memberships to porn sites.
-Cleaned my computer with an adware removal program.
-Deleted all links.
-Purchased and installed a comprehensive porn blocker which would further make it tougher for me to succumb to temptation on the spur of the moment (and to be honest- the porn blocker blocks a lot of stuff that isn't porn- and it can be a pain in the ass- but again- something I am willing to put up with because of the benefits overall).
-Kept a journal for the first three months- just typing out my feelings and logging improvements.
- Call friends and family nightly- even old friends. Engage people socially. Go to a corner coffee shop. DO NOT WATCH TUBE and BITE YOUR FINGERNAILS- DO SOMETHING!
And the improvements do come almost immediately. I noticed after three days of no masturbation- increased energy, increased attention, and higher self esteem. After a month? Those were all through the roof (and before the second month was over I had had real sex for the first time in months because I could approach women with confidence.)
What really is amazing- is how little of the porn I consumed do I actually have a clear memory of. It is all like a big blur now. I have to literally concentrate hard to recall particular porn scenes or video clips. It clears out of your brain pretty fast- and the things that should get you aroused- like just a pretty girl on the train in a nice dress? Do again.
I would also like to bring up a couple more things for the men reading this.
Re-reading my journal last night- I noted how tough the first three days were (like people say about quitting cigarettes.) I wrote that it felt like I was withdrawing from caffeine (I have a coffee addiction I am never giving up)- felt edgy and nervous.
That passed however after three days and was replaced with increased energy levels.
So do what you have to for the first three days - and if you falter a bit- but still don't ejaculate- don't beat yourself up. Keep going. It gets easier.
Also - from my earlier attempts I learned I had "triggers" and times that I was more susceptible to the temptation to masturbate. Learn yours and then devise ways to avoid them or lesson them. For example- for me- the time of day that I was most prone to succumb was after dinner around 7PM. I changed my schedule and instead of going to the gym in the mornings- I went at 7PM.
The thing that finally made me successful was keeping a daily journal- just remembering daily why I was doing this- why I wanted to stop. I had stopped before - got up to 30 days- but I wasn't keeping a journal- had lost my reasons- felt I was "cured"- blah blah. Keep a journal!
With all the ridiculous pro masturbation propaganda out there it took me years to recognize my problem and come to terms with it. It is vital to ignore this complete horse crap. Masturbation is not "healthy". Porn is not "normal".
You won't get prostate cancer. You don't need to "clear the pipes". Semen rotates naturally in and out of your testicles without you needing to burp the worm.
Adolescent exploration is one thing. It can arguably be called natural to masturbate when you are 15.
But if you are a 40 year old single man still beating off daily (and using internet or other porn) that is not "natural" and it certainly isn't healthy (in both mental and physical ways- not to mention spiritual- ways.)
I really believe the pro masturbation sentiments in the medical community for the past 40 years or so approach the level of criminal irresponsibility. Whole generations of men have been warped by this nonsense.
For me masturbation to porn seemed like an endless cycle, and I kept at it even when I "knew" that I was hurting myself. Looking back, I fuzzily see that what helped me stop completely was that it became painful. … I discovered masturbation as a child, barely 7 or 8, and orgasmic masturbation when I was 11 or 12. I incorporated imagination and porn much, much later, maybe when I was 15.
For me, awareness was the key to kicking the habit. You can be aware of when you are starting to watch porn, you can see yourself clicking at the link, you can see your thoughts starting to jump, drawing on memory and on images from the past, only then does the body reaction begin (after the thoughts). Become aware. That is my advice to someone who knows masturbation is hurting him, but can't stop.
Gradually, I became aware of my thoughts before I got the urge. And since I didn’t know when I would get it, I got to know how I think, and thus to know who I was. Eventually I had a choice about whether to proceed. This didn't involve punishing myself, or running away from those thoughts, it just involved watching them—without judgment.
I'm dating a woman now for the first time since quitting porn and masturbation. It's amazing! I am finding her so attractive, just as she is. She's in her 30's, has two kids, and an "average" body. She's not supple and "perky" like the "fake" girls in the videos. But I find myself more attracted to her real body than I ever was to porn. If an 18-year old came over, got naked and offered herself to me—if I would leave the woman I am with—I would refuse flat-out, and it would not even be a contest!
I never imagined that would happen, and it is so exciting. All you have to do is be true to yourself and keep yourself off of porn for an extended period of time. To do that you need to stop orgasming. Totally. That gets easier the longer you do it. And eventually, when you least expect it, you will look around and realize that "the colors" are back in your life!
Part of recovery is discovering what is underlying these feelings over time. More important than "success" from abstaining is how you are changing your brain. Thoughts create habits, but habits also create thoughts. This is how we arrived at our terrible situation in the first place. Our habits in particular, tied with orgasm are very reinforcing. And we've been doing this our entire life. Over time, if you practice better habits (social interactions, etc.) and good virtue, even if you do not feel like it at times, youll eventually start influencing your thoughts. Thats one powerful tool. If you start to change your thinking, youll eventually change your habits. At some point, our addiction has exploited this and has made a mess, in that state, its even hard to know what to do and in some ways we are even isolated from ourselves. All the small things do help like changing habits etc to change thinking, but I would suggest striking the heart of this thing. Which is sounds like you are doing. Then you at least have your good habits to fall back on when it starts to get rough.
Withdrawal is just nasty. I had very bad insomnia for a stretch, I even got violently sick. Maybe it was from withdrawals, maybe something else, I still dont know, but it was brutal from all angles regardless. Emotional things come up heavily, depression, strange anxieties, worthlessness, it was everything that I had been struggling with all at once. Its like having a really bad day times 10! And of course the horniness. You really start to learn to control your fantasies this way because if you dont, well, youll feel the discomfort. You will develop ways to deal with it that are unique to your mind and emotional needs. Support groups help a lot for this.
This addiction is just the tip of the iceberg though, once you start pulling one thread, youll start to realize that behind it is a major knot of clustered emotions, pain, shame, and habits. In fact, it can span the entirety of your personality. Removing this thing can be painful.
Hang in there, the best you can do is to keep trying to develop your awareness on it. It takes time and patience, but you will succeed eventually. Speed up the whole thing by making sure your hanging around healthy people and being a present and active part of society, being present in the things that you do, and learning to truly take care of yourself.
Here's another inspirig story: http://www.reuniting.info/node/2744
On average, it seems to take about six weeks without orgasm to regain a sense of control. (It may take longer than that to feel ready to begin a new relationship, however.) In the interim, sufferers have periods of clarity interspersed with periods of despair and intense cravings, as recounted in Chapter 6 of Cupid's Poisoned Arrow. Gradually the moments of despair occur farther apart, and the desire to connect with a real partner begins to outweigh discouragement and self-doubt.
Once you understand that porn addiction is a learned behavior, and that your challenge is to "unlearn" it, there is a tool that can help a lot when the urge to look at it strikes. Tell yourself that you won't look for at least 15 minutes, and meanwhile turn your attention to a pre-selected constructive alternative activity. Examples might be a breathing exercise, a favorite exercise routine, meditation, making your favorite healthy snack, putting on some music you like, recording your thoughts in a journal, taking a cold shower ;-), or whatever. It doesn't matter, as long as it's something you can do immediately, and automatically, instead of looking at porn.
At first selecting the alternative activity will require a mighty exercise of your will. However, when you consciously direct your attention to something, it grows easier to turn your attention to it again in the future. You are actually rewiring your brain. So each time you turn your attention away from your cravings, toward your chosen activity, you strengthen the new pathway in your brain, and weaken the old automatic response. (For an excellent book on this, see "The Mind and the Brain" by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, MD, who uses this technique successfully with obsessive-compulsive disorder patients.)
NOTE: a former porn user will remain hyper-sensitive to any cues his brain (helpfully?) associated with porn, for a very long time, and possibly indefinitely. This means that even a casual peek can trigger the old response in the brain.
Some men have mentioned the following factors as being helpful: encouraging each other, reading inspiring materials, avoiding sugary food, the compassion and understanding of women about their plight, meditation, strenuous exercise, more interaction with three-dimensional people, and releasing old resentments. Other helpful tactics are: setting short-term goals, getting as much sleep as possible, avoiding stress, obtaining a homeopathic remedy, parking one’s computer with a friend for a while, and energy circulation exercises from various sacred sex traditions.
Finally, you may also find it helpful to treat yourself to healthy activities that activate your reward circuitry, even if they initially seem pale by comparison with a quick series of orgasms. Connections with others are an obvious choice, but there are others. Can you throw yourself into a creative project? Do something athletic? Help someone else? Meditate? Take a warm bath? Go for a swim? Keep a list of the things you enjoy, which don’t throw you into a cycle of highs and lows.
There are many support groups for sex addiction. Be aware, though, that groups that emphasize religious guilt can make cravings worse. Indeed, “sin” is a surprisingly powerful aphrodisiac. The rational mind thinks that risk (a threat of punishment, for example) makes an activity less appealing, but the mammalian brain can actually register risk as more appealing. As explained in Chapter 6, risky things (like bungee jumping, for example) raise dopamine. Not only that, dopamine goes even higher when a payoff is uncertain. So if someone goes through a passionate moral struggle (or any other powerful emotional buildup) before he climaxes, s/he is raising her/his dopamine.
The situation is actually similar to that of a flasher, who warms up with an intensely exciting pre-game ritual before he goes out to strut his stuff. Dopamine is all about anticipation. So a "guilt-ridden masturbator" is actually raising his dopamine by "wrestling with his soul." That can throw him into an altered state that is very compelling. It can also make the ultimate payoff (sexual satiation) more intense—and addictive. As long as there’s intense inner conflict, there's unlikely to be much progress in finding a healthy balance. The struggle itself is just too stimulating. It’s simpler to ease your way past the orgasm reflex by realizing that you have made an error that naturally led to a temporary compulsion, than it is to threaten yourself with an overly warm afterlife.
Because porn users tend toward isolation, some of the recovering men found it really helpful to have an anonymous pen pal of the other sex. We set up a “Courtly Companion” program at our website, which proved to be a boon to both sexes. Everyone gained compassion for what the other half of the human race has been going through—while all of us are missing the bonding behaviors that would help us find equilibrium naturally. One of the issues that typically arise for recovering addicts is the realization that they are dependent upon relationships for a sense of wellbeing; self-sufficiency just won’t do the job of maintaining wellbeing. The loss of a favorite mood-altering mechanism brings up feelings of vulnerability. A platonic female Companion was soothing during the transition phase before the men were ready to make connections with living people.
With all that in mind, if you’re hooked on porn, can you make it through two weeks without orgasm? Four days? Find out. If you can’t, don’t be discouraged, but do recognize that something other than your free will is operating. See What do I do about this surplus? No matter how insatiable your libido now feels, know that you will feel different as your progress toward balance.
Also, remember that you’re molded to find supportive and cooperative interactions with others rewarding. If you think about it, how else could tribes function? You're not designed to meet every challenge on your own. Working through this challenge with others can actually be comforting. Reach out and make some new friends. Porn use is so common today, that you will be amazed at the wonderful men who innocently wandered into this seeming source of ready comfort.
I have now been practicing no orgasms for about 6 weeks, and the withdrawal, as it turns out, was harder than cocaine, opiates, booze, or nicotine. I spent a solid week weeping every night after returning from the University where I teach. I couldn't sleep, and I had almost zero appetite. The thought of dating made me want to curl up into a ball and quit.
But here I am. I feel free.—Andy