How to Break the Cycle of Pornography Addiction

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If you are experiencing addictive behaviors relating to sex or pornography, you know it can be hard to change. Breaking the cycle of sex addiction is possible if you make it a priority and if you work the necessary steps to freedom. If you or someone you love is addicted to porn or sex, it is a ray of hope to know that there are ways out of the compulsive cycle. But, like breaking any addiction, it is one of the greatest challenges of life.

Religious leader Dallin H. Oaks likens breaking addiction to strengthening a weak tree.

[An addict] is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day, the tree bends so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we focus only on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Similarly, a person who is merely sorry to be soiled by sin will sin again in the next high wind. The susceptibility to repetition continues until the tree has been strengthened.

An action plan to overcome pornography addiction must include actions that both "clean the leaves" (deal with the effects of the addiction on others) and "strengthen the tree" (make the addict stronger so he or she is no longer the victim of temptation).

The following components of an action plan to overcome sex addiction are vital.

  • Destroy the cache. An addict who hopes to be successful must eliminate porn and sex addiction and their results from their lives. That means deleting and destroying computer files, games, pictures, videos and stories. It means throwing out magazines, videos, DVD's and books. It means getting rid of old emails, chat transcripts, letters, and other communications. It probably means getting rid of Instant Messenger, changing your email address and maybe your phone number. Destroying the cache of pornography is an important early step in the process. And you must be ruthless.
  • Get it in the open. Like many addictions, the addiction to lust, sex and porn thrive in the dark. Turn the spotlight on. This means confessing to your spouse when appropriate and to a religious leader if there is one in your life. Move your computer into a room where anyone walking by can see what you're doing and what is on the screen.
  • Set you own roadblocks. If Internet porn or cybersex is your challenge, get a good filter or an ISP that filters from the server side, and let your spouse set the password. If you are tempted by the neighborhood strip club or adult bookstore, change your routes to work so you don't pass by. Establish some meaningful limits on your behavior.
  • Find your triggers. Every addict has some feelings, thoughts or experiences that preceded acting out. Identify yours and find ways to minimize them or to react differently to them. For example, if one of your triggers is boredom, commit that when you are feeling bored, you'll get up and walk for ten minutes around the office or the block. If a trigger is rejection, then turn to an affirmation like "I am a person of infinite worth" and repeat if several times out loud.
  • Be accountable. Perhaps the most important thing is to have an accountability partner-someone to whom you report daily (or more often) about your successes and your failures. Join a 12-step group or a similar support group. Or use a close and trusted friend or religious advisor. But have someone to whom you will account and who will check up on you if you don't check in.
  • Set up a bank. Several therapists recommend that you give your accountability partner a large sum of cash that will be returned to you if you have 100 days without acting out. If not, the cash will be donated to charity. This can be a great motivator.