How many times have you told yourself that you’re done with pornography for good?
You installed a filter on your computer, canceled your subscriptions, and removed any tempting social media apps from your phone. You’re sure this is going to be the last time you’re going through this process.
Then two or three days later you’re back on your favorite site.
Until you implement a system in your life, relapse is a common part of compulsive sexual behavior. That’s why I talk about relapse prevention so often. Unless you have some strong skills in place, your behaviors are going to get the best of you every time. Today I’m going to outline 3 more qualities for successful relapse prevention.
Understanding the Stages of Relapse
If you’re familiar with the Porn Reboot system, you know that I believe a relapse begins well before you open up that browser tab. You need to understand the stages of relapse before you can successfully prevent it from happening. I’ve found that there are three stages of relapse you go through before the actual relapse happens.
The emotional relapse kicks off the entire process of a relapse. You don’t experience the urge to act out at this point because you can still recall the pain and regret that encouraged you to stop. You do turn to some negative coping mechanisms during this point of the process, though. Your reboot skills fall to the wayside and unhealthy behaviors take their place. You start isolating, getting too few hours of sleep, cutting back on exercise, and not eating well. Porn isn’t on your mind yet but it’s about to be soon.
The mental relapse is when you start thinking about watching pornography. Your willpower kicks in to keep you from acting out on the thought but it’s not without a fight. You start having this battle between your emotional side and your logical side. The shame and remorse that got you to quit don’t feel as acute anymore. You start bargaining with yourself, insisting that you can keep it to a few times per month but no more than once per week. You’ll read erotica but not watch porn. The urges start settling in at this point and you’re about to slip once again.
The physical relapse occurs when you choose to turn back to porn. It doesn’t matter whether it’s erotica, images, or full videos; turning back to any kind of porn kicks the cycle back into motion. You might be able to hold off the feelings of pain and regret for some time but they’ll be back before you know it. And on the cycle goes. How can you escape it?
3 Qualities for Successful Relapse Prevention
Once you know the stages of relapse and what to look for when you’re feeling on edge, relapse prevention methods will be more useful. There are plenty of tools to keep in your reboot toolkit and these 3 qualities for successful relapse prevention offer a few more ways you can stay on the right path.
No one can stay free from compulsive behavior on motivation alone but that doesn’t mean motivation isn’t a helpful tool at times. Where does this motivation come from, though? You can find motivation in regularly reminding yourself of the negative consequences of your behavior.
Remembering the discomfort and suffering that you went through will help you remember why you started in the first place. It helps to record these feelings in something like a journal where you can go back and refer to it as time passes. It’s a great way to remind yourself how you felt when you first quit during the times when the pain isn’t as present.
You can also remind yourself that you’re not going to achieve your big life goals while still struggling with your out-of-control behavior. This isn’t only the case for you – it’s the case for myself and most of my clients, too. We don’t achieve anything worthwhile while we’re still trapped in the cycle of our compulsive behavior.
I ask new guys all the time what happened leading up to their relapse. They usually give me a simple answer like, “I saw a hot chick, got horny, and ended up watching some porn to handle it.” But they miss the subtle signs that led up to it.
Awareness is the next crucial quality for successful relapse prevention. You probably aren’t very aware when you first start on your reboot. Until you learn to develop a sense of awareness, those stages of relapse listed above happen subconsciously.
Without a keen sense of awareness, you won’t notice when you’re in those early stages of a relapse. You’ll convince yourself that you just want to spend some time alone or that you’ll get back to your usual routine next week. Then it’s not long before you’re stuck in the cycle again. But men with a strong sense of awareness are more likely to realize what’s going on right away.
3. Ability to Be Teachable
The ability to be teachable seems simple. It’s the willingness to learn, to be open to developing new responses to old stimuli you’ve dealt with for years. It’s also having the determination to pick up skills and coping strategies you might struggle with at first.
The reason I say it seems simple is that many men are not teachable. They don’t want to learn something new. They think they do but in reality, they’re stuck in their ways and have a hard time opening themselves up to unfamiliar experiences.
I was like this, too, but I learned to be teachable over time. If I wasn’t willing to humble myself and try things I wasn’t good at right away, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I had to set aside my pride and ego, accept that I didn’t have all the right answers, and take suggestions and guidance from another man.
There’s nothing wrong with not having all the answers. It’s impossible to know everything but only the strongest men can admit this. Until you develop the ability to be teachable, you’re going to dig yourself further into the hole. When you open yourself to learning something new, though, you open yourself to becoming more than you ever thought you could be.