How To Break The Relapse Cycle

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

You realize that porn is a problem in your life and you decide to quit.  You are motivated and determined to stop this.  This is finally the time that you’re going to quit for good.  

It starts ok.  You get a few days in.  Things are going great.  You start to gain confidence.  “Hey I can do this!”  

Then out of nowhere, BOOM!  You relapse.

You feel shameful and dejected.  Why can’t I get past this?  I can get a few days or weeks in without any porn but then I inevitably go back to it.

Sound like you?

It definitely sounds like how I used to be.  I could go for a few weeks or even months at a time, but without fail, I would always relapse.  

I would build up this great porn free streak and then throw it all away.

Or did I???

Here’s the mistake so many men make when trying to quit porn.  They focus on the relapses, not on the successes.

Stop counting the times you relapsed to porn.  Start counting the times you won over porn.

Going two weeks without porn and then having relapse isn’t throwing away two weeks of progress.  You were successful 13 days in a row and then fell short one day.  That’s not failure.  That’s success!!!   To put it in sports terms, that’s a .928 batting average.

If you’re going to defeat porn once and for all, you have to shift your mindset.  You cannot continue to let shame control you.  You must start focusing on your wins, not the times you failed.

To continue the baseball analogy, most people know that Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs in his career.  Do you know how many times he struck out?   1,330 times.  Does anyone talk about how many times he struck out?  No!  They focus on his victories.  

That is exactly what you must do in your battle with porn addiction, celebrate the wins and learn from the failures.  

Yes, the goal is zero porn usage.  But if you were watching porn 7-8 times a week and over a couple months you’ve reduced that to once a week, that’s progress, not failure!

You can drive 100 miles and blow a tire.  That sucks.  You wish it didn’t happen.  But it doesn’t undo the 100 miles you’ve already travelled.  You don’t have to go back to mile zero and start over.  You fix the tire and get back on the road.

Relapses don’t destroy your recovery from porn addiction, they are a part of your recovery from porn addiction.  

When you relapse, figure out what went wrong.  What happened?  What could you have done differently to avoid it?  What can you do next time if placed in the same situation?  Then get back on the road and keep driving forward.

Don’t beat yourself up over your relapses, USE them to help you be better the next time. 

In my book, Living Porn Free: 10 Steps to Recovery, Redemption, and Renewal, I teach a method called “Left of Bang” that will help you break down your relapses so that you can learn from them.  

Failure is only failure if you fail to learn. 

I have not worked with a single man who has quit porn cold turkey.  I’m not saying that it can’t happen.  God can do amazing things.  But most men are going to relapse at some point in their recovery.  It happens.  

Shifting your mindset from the negative to the positive is essential in your battle with porn addiction.  You’re not going to make much progress if all you do is beat yourself up everytime you relapse.  It is only going to perpetuate the cycle.  

Try this exercise.

At the end of every day, write down three wins you had that day.  They can be something such as successfully avoiding a trigger, completing your daily Bible reading, or having a good date with your wife. It does not have to be something monumental every day. Sometimes just getting through the day in one piece is a win! 

Focus on positive things you can build on.  Then when you have a bad day, instead of letting it derail you, you can look back at all these wins and victories you had.  You’ll be able to see the progress you’re making and the momentum you’re building.  

Breaking the relapse cycle is not easy.  Many, many men are stuck in the same pattern of trying to quit and relapsing over and over again.  

Yet, you can break free from the cycle.  I did.  Many of the men I have coached have broken out of it.  You can too.

It requires a mindset shift from focusing on failures to focusing on victories.  It requires learning from relapses instead of letting them bury you in shame.  Lastly, and most importantly, it requires never giving up.

Quitting porn is a battle.  There will be good days and bad.  Sometimes you win the day, other times you’re forced to retreat.  But victory is taken by the fighter who refuses to leave the battlefield until the battle is won.

Stay strong, keep fighting, and never give up. 

 


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Published by Timothy Reigle

I’m Timothy Reigle, the founder of Into The Wilderness Ministries. After overcoming a fifteen year addiction to porn and sex, I have made it my life’s mission to help other men break free from the bonds of addiction. As an author, coach, and chaplain, I work with men to transform their lives by renewing their faith, re-energizing their families, and restoring their masculinity.

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