Monday, January 2, 2012

How Therapy Helped Him Stop Looking at Porn

Image: Surachai /
Last week I talked with Jacob, a 22 year old young man who has been porn free for three years. That’s no mean feat, since he indulged regularly during his teen years. “How have you done it?” I asked.

“Group therapy helped quite a bit,” he responded.

“In what way?” I wondered.

“We were accountable to each other. We all wanted to stay on track so that we could report back that we were successful. We would celebrate each other’s victories.

“Also, it helped to talk about the addiction. If someone had lapsed, we’d help them problem-solve. We would ask about the events leading up to it.

“Back then, when I gave in, I was pretty hard on myself. It helped to have others ask about it who weren’t inclined to beat me up. They weren’t angry or frustrated. They were just curious. They cared about me and wanted to see me conquer. They were convinced that this problem would respond to our combined efforts, and that gave me hope.

“It turned out to be true: all our heads together were better than mine alone. After talking out what had gone wrong--for me or for one of the other group members--I started to see contributing factors I hadn’t recognized before. Little things, some of them: what time I got up in the morning, what I’d been watching on TV.

“It honed my senses. Then I was more on guard against those risk factors in my life. I could see them coming and I saw them for what they were: gateways into the danger zone. I knew those things heightened my risk, and I was able to steer clear of problems by interrupting the sequence earlier on.”

Jacob also learned that merely recognizing the risk and mentally deciding not to pursue porn wasn’t enough. “I couldn’t remain passive. Once I saw that I was at risk I had to actively do something positive to replace the seeds of thought that were starting to sprout in my brain. I would review a scripture I was memorizing or do a kind act for someone.” Proactively moving in a positive direction rather than just trying to avoid problems was a key in getting his recovery back on solid footing.

Talking with Jacob reminded me of a principle described by the relapse prevention guru Alan Marlatt. He encouraged us to scrutinize failures in order to flesh out the details of our personal “cycle” back into addictive behavior. He advocated taking particular interest in those little, everyday forks in the road where one direction mildly heightens the risk of later faltering. He called these “Seemingly Unimportant Decisions”--SUDs for short.

I’m sure there were many other factors that also played a role for Jacob, but he attributes much of his success in recovery to the group therapy process that illuminated these earliest steps on his usual pathways back to porn. He started to see those SUDs and turn the other direction instead. And now he has three years of freedom to show for it!

Of everything you’ve tried, what’s helped you the most? What boosts your recovery and helps you stay on track? Even if you’re not porn free yet, you’ve learned some valuable lessons. Please share them with us!

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