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  • Writer's pictureJake Kastleman

How to Bounce Back After a Porn Relapse

Updated: Apr 5

When I was addicted to porn, I often struggled to know how to respond to a relapse. I thought that if I relapsed on porn, it meant all of my progress was now down the toilet. The amount of shame, fear, and anger I felt when I slipped was overwhelming.



When I relapsed, I thought, “What reason do I have to stop watching porn now? Afterall, my time clean is zero. So, why not just give in for a while?”


The addict part of my brain often entertained that impulse, crawling into self-pity and indulging in behaviors that I knew (despite their temporary pleasure) would always eventually lead to the same place.


Misery.


Working with other addicts I sponsor and coach has shown me that I was not the only one who felt this way after I relapsed. People often tell me after a slip that they feel like giving up.


After a full year of sobriety, one addict recently told me after he relapsed, “I’m just having trouble finding my meaning again. I don’t know why I should stay sober. I know I want to, but I just don’t feel the drive to stay clean like I did before.”


I could not tell him how much I understood those feelings. I had been there many times after relapses. The will to go on wanes, as the momentum you previously experienced dies down. Getting it going again is painful. But it can be done.


Today, I’m going to teach you how to create what I call your Walk Through Fire Statement: a powerful writing exercise that helps you practice faith in your sobriety, while forming new neural pathways in your brain so you can stay clean of porn easier.


Once you learn how to write this statement, and then write your own, you will have a new weapon in your arsenal against porn addiction that enables you to stand strong in the face of porn cravings, empowering your sobriety in a life-changing way.


This is not simply an exercise in writing down motivations. This is a specific, tailored method based in faith and psychological tactics for creating rock-solid motivations that retrain your mind and redefine your recovery.




When I Relapse on Porn, Why Do I Feel Like Giving Up?

When you relapse on porn, it is easy to feel like giving up and giving in. I understand that feeling, as it happened to me so many times as an addict.


One of the things I came to find out after years of sobriety is that this mentality of giving up was not exclusive to my porn recovery alone. I practiced this type of hopeless thinking in multiple areas of my life. It was not until I began changing my mindset - from an addiction mindset to a recovery mindset - that I started to experience more success staying clean.

Here are some reasons we may feel like giving up when we have a slip with porn:


  1. Dopamine Drain

  2. Questioning Worth

  3. Losing Meaning

  4. Fearing Pain


We’ll address these five points in this article, including how to find our meaning by writing a Walk Through Fire Statement.


If you’ve relapsed on porn, my prayer is that these teachings will help get you back on track.



Minimize Dopamine Drain

If you’re addicted to porn, you’ve felt this more times than you can count. You have a session with porn, and for days afterwards you feel drained, unmotivated, and low energy.


There are many reasons why this is. To an extent, it comes as a result of the amount of shame we feel after engaging in porn. It is also due in part to what we call dopamine drain.


Dopamine is the pleasure and meaning neurotransmitter. In other words, it is a brain chemical that is responsible for helping us feel driven and motivated. When we engage in activities that release a large amount of dopamine for a little amount of effort we can experience dopamine drain. This could include activities like eating junk food, watching violent TV shows, binging hours of video games, watching porn, or having a one-night stand.


Dopamine becomes “drained” when we are consistently doing things that are highly pleasurable but not fulfilling. Dopamine helps drive us to accomplish tasks, form relationships, and pursue goals. It also helps us feel a healthy level of pleasure when we eat food or are entertained. But when we do too much of the latter, the neural receptors in our brains can become “drained”, leaving little dopamine for more fulfilling activities.


The more we engage in highly pleasurable activities, the more we will crave them. The key with dopamine is to spend more time doing things that fulfill and challenge us, and less time doing things that are simply pleasurable. If we do this, we will be less susceptible to seeking out porn.


Learn more in this podcast episode or in the section on Base Pleasures vs. Peace and Meaning in my free ebook The Recovery Core Guidebook.



Know Your Worth: Learn to Let Go of Shame

Shame is at the core of addiction. When we engage in our addiction, we almost always feel shame as a result.


Shame is the belief “I’m not good enough”, and it’s all about questioning our worth as a human being. Everyone feels shame, but not everyone recognizes or admits it. We addicts just so happen to have a more obvious behavior that demonstrates our feeling of shame.


The unfortunate truth about addiction is that we were drawn to it in the first place because of shame. We sought it out as a way to cope with our mental and emotional pain. Before we developed our addiction we may have felt alone, misunderstood, insecure, anxious, or inadequate.


It’s no mistake that many porn addicts are Christian. Christians often struggle with having a healthy sense of self-worth. As a result of our beliefs, we may be perfectionistic, self-critical, or judgmental. These feelings make us susceptible to addiction. Then, when we engage in that addiction, we feel more shame as a result.


In addition, many of us Christians have an implicit belief that sex is a sinful thing we should be ashamed of. This belief runs deep in our minds due to often unintentional messages from well-meaning ecclesiastical leaders and misinterpreted holy scripture.


The Christian faith is not inherently a shame-oriented faith. I believe Christ’s message was the opposite of that. But unfortunately, our egos will turn anything they can into a tool for our spiritual and mental destruction.


When you relapse with porn, remember that your worth as a human being - as a child of a loving Heavenly Father - can never be diminished by any choice that you make. It can be hard to feel this sometimes, but remember that Christ performed the Atonement for you simply because He loves you. Not because He thought you would live perfectly. That was never the goal, nor the purpose of this earth life.


Christ died for your sins to empower you to change. “Sin” means “to miss the mark”, and this life is an opportunity to miss that mark as many times as you need in order to learn. The Atonement was infinite, meaning it will cover as many opportunities for learning as are necessary for you.


When you sin, remember it is not a condemnation. Christ looked the adulterer in the eye right after she was caught in the act and said “I do not condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”


Sin is a learning opportunity - it shows you what you still have yet to change; what you have yet to surrender to your Father in Heaven. Christ can change you, but not if you are caught up in self-loathing.


Shame holds down. Forgiveness releases. If you want to overcome your addiction, you must give up punishing yourself for your sins. Christ already paid that price.


Accept that you are worthy of God’s love, and you will act in accordance with that acceptance. You will seek to be better because you know that you are good - because God made you that way. Attempting to earn your worth through right actions will never satisfy your mind’s hunger for self-worth, because you cannot earn what is already there.



Discover Your Rock-Solid Meaning for Getting Sober

When I was addicted to porn, I tried to motivate myself to stay sober. I wrote down my motivations and read them each day. I tried to think about them when I would feel cravings. Unfortunately though, in the face of lust and desire, my motivations fell by the wayside.


I believed this made me a bad person. I thought somehow I just didn’t care about doing the right thing, despite my best intentions. It seemed like no matter how much I focused on my motivations, they simply didn’t mean anything to me when it came down to it.


The thing I didn’t realize was that my motivations simply weren’t effective. Motivations for staying clean of pornography need to really hit home if we want to quit. There are several guidelines we must follow if we want our motivations to empower our recovery long-term.


It took me years to develop a method to write motivations in a way that actually helped me quit porn. It’s called the Walk Through Fire Statement, and I want to share it with you for free. Click here to download the lesson.



Live Sober Just for Today

It’s easy to get stuck in fear when we’ve relapsed and are trying to quit porn all over again. Or at least it feels like starting all over again.


I often faced trepidation after I had a slip, thinking of all the days I would now need to endure cravings for pornography that were stronger than ever. But the thing I didn’t realize, that I think is hard for many of us addicts, is to remember that recovery is not lived in the future.


Getting clean is not about all of the days you are going to abstain from your unwanted behavior. It’s not about a commitment to “never do this again”. It’s not about ensuring you will never have a slip with porn for the rest of your life.


It’s just about staying sober for today. That’s it.


Making a commitment to do something for the rest of your life can feel intimidating. Making a commitment to do that thing just for one day, on the other hand, can feel empowering.


What could you not do for just one day? How many things are so hard that you can’t endure them for 24 hours?


When you relapse on porn, acknowledge your mind’s complaints and fears about the future. Hear it scream and whine that living clean of porn for a lifetime is simply too much.


Then, once you’ve acknowledged that, accept that you are not living in the future, nor will you ever be. You’re here, in this present moment. And that’s all recovery (and life) ever is.


Sobriety is never certain. Anything could happen. Even 8 years after quitting porn, I still need to accept this every day.


I don’t know that I will never go back to porn again. And that’s the point. I cannot live with a mindset of certainty and control - these are the attitudes that fueled the stress that led to my addiction in the first place.


To stay sober, I must live one day at a time. I must believe that God will provide for me - just for today - and accept His help in all that I do, say, and think.


This, as best I know it, is the way to long-lasting recovery.



If I Had a Relapse with Porn, What Can I Do Now?

If you’ve relapsed on porn, I hope the points above have helped. To take these teachings to the next level, I recommend writing a Walk Through Fire Statement.


This statement is a powerful writing exercise that helps you practice faith in your sobriety, while forming new neural pathways in your brain so you can quit porn easier.


Once you write this statement, you will have a new weapon in your arsenal against porn addiction that enables you to stand strong in the face of cravings.


This is not simply an exercise in writing down motivations. This is a specific, tailored method based in faith and psychology. This free lesson will help you write rock-solid motivations that retrain your mind and enable you to bounce back quickly from a relapse with porn.



More resources for porn addiction help:

Still the Mind & Break Free From Porn Addiction



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