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  • I Just Watched Porn Again: What Should I Do?

You just watched porn. You probably masturbated. It probably felt great, too. But now it’s all over and you’re staring at the screen feeling sick. What was exciting and enticing only moments ago now confuses and frustrates you. Once you hit that exit button (and probably five other pop-up windows) and you’ve well and truly returned to reality, what do you do? What steps should you take immediately after a porn lapse to protect yourself from spiraling into a full-blown relapse or turning into a puddle of shame?

Good question. I asked these myself just this morning. That’s right I experienced a lapse. I was doing research on porn viewing stats and stumbled across some far less academic content and didn’t practice what I preach. I got sucked in. I started scrolling. I was overwhelmed by desire and masturbated to online video pornography.

I am right here with you on the journey, readers. I know what it’s like. I know what it feels like to be tempted, to indulge and I really know what it feels like to experience the overwhelming shame that follows a lapse. You are not alone.

Let’s get to the practical though, shall we? What do you do immediately after you’ve used porn? I’ve got eight steps for you.

1. Clean up your mess

Let’s be real, whether you’re a guy or a gal, it can get messy. The first step is an obvious one, go and clean yourself up! Do whatever you need to do, grab yourself a fresh pair of underwear, have a shower, whatever you may need. This step is not only about hygiene and making you feel less gross but is about creating a clean space to move forward. Put away anything that triggers a memory of your most recent lapse (laptop and box of tissues included) and allow yourself to start afresh.

2. Tell yourself ‘not today, shame!’

Shame is a crafty little critter. If you’re not on your guard, it will sneak its way into your life and make a home inside your mind, and trust me, shame is one tough tenant to evict once it’s in!

Right from the get-go, you need to assert yourself against shame. You need to say, ‘No. I will not wallow, I will not punish myself, I will not lock myself in a dark room and feel sorry for myself and let shame in!’. Don’t even entertain the thought of indulging in your shame for just a moment. This helps no-one and only makes you feel like trash. I know it’s tempting to sink into negativity and self-hatred after breaking your promises and using porn, but you can’t let it happen.

Decide that you will not punish yourself by restricting food, overexercising, self-harming, verbally bullying yourself, taking away privileges, isolating yourself or allowing yourself to wallow. Decide that you will not continue to act out in compulsive ways by binge-eating, drinking, using drugs, porn or anything else. Tell yourself that your porn lapse was one moment in a long day, a tiny spot in your life and eternity and you will move forward without letting it take more time and space than it deserves.

Say no to shame.

3. Tell someone

Secrets are dangerous. In the isolation of your mind, shame can spread like wildfire and destroy you.

Brene’ Brown says:

‘Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.’ By keeping quiet, Brown says your shame will grow exponentially. The antidote is empathy. She explains that by talking about your shame with a friend who expresses empathy, ‘the painful feeling cannot survive.’

Tell your accountability partner, a friend or support group. If you’re in a relationship, be honest with your partner, too. Let these people love and support you in your pain and practice using your vulnerability muscle in doing so. This will benefit your relationships long term, even if it’s scary right now.

Six Steps Toward Kicking His Porn Addiction
Six Steps Toward Kicking His Porn Addiction

4. Make a change immediately

While your conviction is fresh, use your lapse to make a change. Identify where and how you managed to access porn and make this impossible to repeat. Did you get tripped up on a twitter hashtag? Delete your account and/or block the site. Was it an Instagram or Facebook page that posted a titillating picture or comment that triggered you? Unfriend, delete, block and maybe even take a social media hiatus for a while. Was it straight up porn you accessed on your favorite site?  Friend, you need filtering software. Use this lapse as an opportunity for positive change, consider it a tool for identifying the weak spots in your defenses and take action.

Use this fresh memory to identify your emotional triggers, too. Ask yourself these questions:

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‘Why did I want to watch porn today?’

‘What emotions was I feeling leading up to the event?’

‘What negative experiences have I had today or this week?’

‘Is there anything on my mind or worrying me?’

5. Repent and live in forgiveness

If you’re a Christ-follower, at some point you’re going to want to have a chat with The Big Guy Upstairs. No, not the old guy living in the apartment above yours- I’m talking about Jesus. He offers boundless forgiveness and healing when you approach him. He died and rose again so you could live in relationship with God and experience redemption. Keep coming back to him, not only to repent of sin and ask for forgiveness but for help. Ask God to help you heal, to keep shame at bay and make you wise. He’s good at that, and remember his forgiveness is trustworthy and complete. Your sin truly is wiped away forever.

6. Move

Change your physical and emotional location. Move yourself from a place of darkness to a place of light- whatever that means for you. It’s ideal to get outside in the sun and surround yourself with nature, but you can also move from a negative space to a positive one in different ways. You may want to call a friend, blast some music and have a boogie, hit the gym, take yourself to the kitchen to bake a cake or do some meal prep or head to a local shopping center, museum or any place that brings you joy. The important thing is to step away from the screen and the place where you decided to watch porn and do something else.

7. Vow to change

There’s often a lot of intense emotion after a porn-lapse. Use this to your advantage, not your detriment. Instead of internalizing all this emotion and shoving it deep down inside where it turns to rot, channel it into healing power. You need to throw your emotion into positive change rather than sitting in it and stewing.

You know how much power there is in shame, right? I sure do. It’s one destructive critter! Shame can ravage our bodies, minds, and spirit like we’re the city at the end of an Avengers movie. What if you could experience the same intensity, but with a positive outcome? Immediately after a lapse, you have an opportunity to make powerful change in your life.  It is a time of deep conviction, motivation, and ferocity. Take that power and do all the things that scare you. Get accountability in place, download filtering software, be radically vulnerable and throw away all those things that trigger and hinder you. Do what you know you need to do. Swap shame for courage.

8. Remember, recovery is a marathon

Finally, remember recovery is a marathon, not a video game. If you experience a lapse, you don’t get sent straight back to the beginning. You don’t lose everything you’ve worked so hard to gain- you have just made a mistake. You need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on running toward freedom.

Copyright (c) 2019 Alice Taylor, used with permission. Read more in her book: Restored: A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Pornography