Quitting Porn – For Realsies

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If you look at porn, you’ve probably realized by now that beating yourself up about it doesn’t really help anything. Sometimes feeling ashamed just makes it worse.

One major observation I have made is that a person doesn’t “quit” porn simply by stopping it, or avoiding it. Yes, those two things seem like common-sense solutions when trying to kick the habit, but they rarely actually work. There are multiple reasons why:

1. Merely discontinuing a bad habit does not remedy, or even address, what’s causing the bad habit.

2. Adjustments to thoughts and feelings usually precede changes in behavior. Behavior is just the tip of the iceberg.

3. Quitting one thing usually isn’t enough change. Often entire routines have to be switched up, with multiple new positive habits thrown in the mix

4. We get nowhere in life by simply avoiding the bad. NOT doing something bad does not equal doing something good.

A big mistake that a lot of Mormons make – and I assume those of other faith traditions make also – is thinking that NOT BREAKING RULES is equivalent to living righteously. We get the idea that we are making all this progress by merely not doing a bunch of stuff.

Don’t Quit Something – Start something!

Yes, avoiding is good, but only when accompanied by new positive and engaging habits. Indeed, the key to living a happy, healthy life isn’t just avoiding bad things; it’s proactively engaging in good, constructive, and positive things.

Example Time

Let’s take love for example. How do you show someone that you love them? By not hating their guts? Heck NO! Love is not merely avoiding hatred, prejudice, or offending someone; it’s devising ways to compliment somebody, lift somebody, and make somebody laugh. It’s doing things and feeling things above and beyond the status quo. It goes far beyond, avoiding things that would be hurtful to a person.

Life is not about avoiding bad habits that hurt you, it’s about adopting good habits that help you.

Simple right? Well not really. Sometimes we think living “righteously” is all about keeping rules – religious or otherwise. Thinking like this isn’t only lazy and simplistic, it’s also hurtful. Hurtful to ourselves. There are essentially three ways to live,

1, Doing bad things,
2, Avoiding bad things by focusing on rules, or
3, Proactively doing good things beyond merely keeping rules,

and only one of them brings desirable results.

Example Time, Again

Suppose that no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get along with a particular person.

1. You can do bad: Hurt them – show them they’re wrong and need to change with insults, neglect, violence, or humiliation.

2. You can avoid the bad: Focus on all the behaviors you must avoid, like fights, arguments, gossip, and criticism. Avoid the person. Maybe offer a quick apology to absolve yourself of guilt and be fair, or 

3. You can proactively do good: Go far beyond a mere apology, and seek to understand the person, befriend the person, find ways to serve them, and finally use your talents and creativity to build bridges around their irritating quirks. You can do all of this until you have actually created a habit of liking this person, even loving them.

I can pretty much guarantee that if someone follows one of the first two options, they won’t like the results.

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Back to Porn

The same goes with porn. The key is to realize that avoiding bad stuff won’t bring you good results, like you think it will. You must proactively create positive habits IN ADDITION to your efforts to avoid negative ones. And if you don’t, you will get no where.

Let’s be clear: avoiding porn does have benefits in and of itself, but the reality behind most porn addictions is that there is a lot of depression, loneliness, shame, frustration, etc. Merely avoiding porn won’t make any of that go away.

In fact, being addicted to shame is worse than being addicted to porn. SO STOP FREAKING HATING YOURSELF!!!

Make a habit of remembering your achievements no matter how small you think they are. Think about your strengths, gifts, and talents. Don’t think about what you are afraid of; replace fear with goals or dreams. Tape pictures of things you want to achieve on your wall. Fortunately for us, there is a thing called “neuroplasticity” which basically means that each of us can literally rewire our own brains to habitually think about positive, constructive things. Negative thoughts almost always accompany a porn habit. Negative thoughts, amazingly, are completely within your ability to change – for free! Imagine that! Take advantage of that neuroplasticity because it’s probably the single coolest attribute of the human body.

White-knuckling it. Bad idea

Whatever you do, don’t just white-knuckle it. If you try to force yourself to go without on sheer will power, you’ll fail most likely. It’s not a wise approach because the craving is still there, and can continue to get worse. The point is to avoid the behavior AS WELL AS remedy the craving. If you’re just white-knuckling it, you are not necessarily getting stronger, better, or developing greater will power. Please remember that!

Maybe ask yourself

You Have Needs. They are real

What type of physical, spiritual, or emotional needs are you trying to meet with porn? Figuring out why you look will help you develop a plan of attack. What new habits can you implement that will help meet those needs that aren’t currently being met?

A porn addiction is not just an addiction to watching pornographic videos; it’s an addiction to thinking a certain way, feeling a certain way, and coping a certain way. Giving in to the urge to look at porn is the result of repetitive thoughts and repetitive feelings we don’t realize we’re having.

People who habitually view porn tend to be self-critical. SO AGAIN, don’t allow thoughts of self-hatred or shame to smother you during the day or night. Surround yourself with things you love and enjoy, and use your talents. Laugh. Dance. Be social. Think positively.

One of the reasons the porn culture has become such a problem in the U.S. is that so many people become isolated from one another. They spend time on apps rather than in groups, so their need for human contact starts throbbing. Having fun with other people in a group will go a long way to kick your porn habit.

Love is the End-game

Lastly, fall in love with something. Love has the power to pull people out of dark places. Love is stronger than the craving for sex. Love literally makes a task easier, just as passion makes work not seem like work.

When I was a teenager, falling in love with Book of Mormon characters like Nephi and Alma gave me the motivation to quit drugs and an immoral life-style. It enabled me to join the church. All because of a newfound love for a crazy blue book with shiny gold print on the cover.

Then again, when I was in college, I fell in love. No, I didn’t find the one. Amid a bout of depression and loneliness, I had a vision of my future wife and kids standing at the end of a hallway. I remember being filled with so much love as I looked at my daughters, that any temptation to break the law of chastity vanished immediately. It was a stronger sense of love than I had ever experienced. I recommitted right then and there to stay away from sex until marriage. Seeing my little girls made me think, “I’ll gladly do whatever is required of me, including abstinence, to see those precious girls again.”

So find something to love.

The end. Now go out and love yourself because you’re awesome!


For additional resources check out Fight the New Drug 



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About the Author–  Nathan Reo is the Founder of the ZIryse Foundation and thatmormonboy Youtube Channel. As a documentary filmmaker he was the Head Producer for the Voices of Hope initiative found at ldsvoicesofhope.org. He has worked in wilderness therapy, behavioral health, and rehabilitation programs with troubled inner-city teens in his hometown of Ogden, UT. Reo served his mission in Puebla, Mexico (2004-2006), studied film at the University of Utah and UVU, and got married at age 29 in the Logan, Utah temple. Always passionate about history and Mormon issues, Reo has weathered several major crisis of faith and has taken an interest in reaching out to fellow Latter-day Saints who struggle with their own convictions. Reo is most passionate about reaching out to the rising generation of Mormons, and building an authentic community for them among the Saints. Currently he is working on building his ZIryse Foundation, aimed at doing for LDS singles what efy has done for LDS teens.

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