Today I want to talk about relapse. I don’t want to talk about relapse in the traditional sense, though. I want to talk about those relapses that seem like they might not be one. Those that sneak up on you without you realizing it’s happened.
We had a brother write in with this scenario:
I’m here to report a slip. The interesting thing is that it’s an intentional slip. I purposely removed my boundaries and got a female escort. Everything worked out fine, though. And, I proved to myself, the “wrong” way, that I have a healthy sex drive and I’m still attracted to women.
The last time I got a female escort, I lost my erection during sex due to some emotional things I was going through with another woman I know at work. Since then, I thought I lost my erection because I acted out with shemales, and I watched shemale pornography in the past. I thought that made me lose interest in women.
You know, it’s been months, even before the program, that I’ve been doubting my sexuality. I even developed homosexual obsessive-compulsive disorder (this is similar to OCD, the only difference being that you compulsively obsess over whether or not you are gay).
Today, though, I do regret getting a female escort. I don’t want to get escorts anymore. It disgusts me, and it’s not what I want. What I want is really a healthy relationship with intimacy. Now my head is clear of all of those irrational beliefs. Now boundaries are set back and will continue, and I will continue implementing the program as it should be.”
There were two camps of people who responded to his post. One group said, “Oh wow, that’s an interesting approach to dealing with this.” The other group said, “Hmm, that sounds like a load of crap.”
I agree with the latter. It’s still a relapse.
First of all, I appreciate his honesty. There is no judgment in our group at all. We’re a private, supportive group so guys feel very comfortable sharing stuff like this. Also, anyone who mentioned feeling like our brother’s thoughts were B.S. said it in a very loving way. We’re very direct, and we tell it like it is.
What our brother shared about is a typical justification after a relapse. It’s not bad, and it’s not wrong but it does require our brother to sit back and analyze what happened. He needed to separate the story he was telling himself from the facts. He’s simply at the restoration stage of the porn addiction cycle.
The restoration is an important stage in the process. Many men need to build themselves up during this time because they’re experiencing shame. They feel bad. Some very strong emotions come up during the restoration period. Oftentimes you’ll reset your boundaries, re-write your goals, and make a huge recommitment to ending your behaviors.
Even during the restoration stage, though, you’re still addicted. Many men find themselves intellectualizing their emotions and triggers before a slip instead of dealing with them directly. In the case of our brother, he asked a few questions and also mentioned shemale pornography specifically.
He wasn’t sitting down and doing the work necessary to prevent a slip. When you feel a slip coming on, you need to use whatever tools and coping strategies you have developed so far. You have to address the emotions coming up before the slip happens.
Understanding the process of addiction isn’t enough, though. It’s why the men who buy all those books on quitting pornography still can’t make progress. You have to have tools in place and you need a supportive group that encourages you to use those tools.
If you aren’t doing the work to combat your addiction, then after the restoration stage comes the dormant stage. Some men confuse this with progress but it’s really a return to the first stage of the porn addiction cycle. This is when men will tell themselves, “Oh, I’m just going to try this behavior or to watch that type of porn to see if I’m still addicted.”
What really happens, is whatever you feel you gained from your experience so far, whatever insight you might have found ,will be wiped away by the reality of your behavior. That’s why you’re still struggling with this behavior right now. Stop lying to yourself. You’ve played this game many times.
The truth is, our brother chose sex with an escort over putting his trust in the system and again, that’s fine. I’ve done it myself many times. I’ve chosen to act out a certain way instead of using the tools I had available to me.
This is what we call a “Trial Reboot.” It simply means that while you might be serious about ending your out of control behavior, you haven’t fully committed. Commitment is simply doing the thing you said you’re going to do long after the emotion you felt when you made the decision has passed.
This means that, although you really want to end the behavior, your priority is something else. In our brother’s case, his priority is his sexual performance, his anxiety, and his porn-induced erectile dysfunction. The anxiety comes up because he isn’t ready to fully trust the process because he’s not committed.
I want to make it clear that I share these stories from a place of love, a place of brotherhood, and a place of struggle because I’ve been through it. I’m in the trenches every single day helping hundreds of men. I understand it.
But it also comes from a place of accountability. You deserve someone who will call you out on it. Over the past nine years of coaching, I’ve seen it again and again. A man will step out on his wife after he hasn’t cheated for months or years. He says, “I just wanted to find out if I wanted intimacy with my wife. I wanted to find out if I could still do it.”
Whatever the excuse is, it’s still a relapse, especially if secrecy is involved. I’m telling you guys: you’re just playing games with yourself. Everything you say after that is just being in the restoration stage.
So gentlemen, for those of you who are curious, this relates to the different stages of the point addiction cycle. You can hear more about the porn addiction cycle here. And if you’re ready to take the final step back from pornography addiction, the Porn Reboot group is here to help you.