Sex and Porn Recovery: Moving From Shame to Grace

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Scott Brassart

Many sex and porn addicts become so focused on the work of recovery that they forget to have fun. Usually, this is because their only goal early in the process is staying sober. While this is an admirable objective, it doesn’t exactly provide them with direction and meaning. Because of this, when the shiny new adventure of recovery inevitably loses its luster, shame creeps back in and they can find themselves struggling with a lack of motivation.

If this is the case for you, it may be time to ask yourself: “What are my goals beyond sobriety? Do I want to start dating? Do I want to join a softball team? Do I want to go on an exciting vacation? Do I want to write a bestselling novel?” If you realize that you want those things (or anything else that seems fun but not directly related to recovery), it might be time to expand the Outer (Green Light) Circle in your Circle Plan.

Put another way, there is more to healing from sex and porn addiction than simply stopping your problem behaviors. You must replace those behaviors with something worthwhile. In the beginning, of course, it is fine to fill your suddenly available free time with nothing but therapy and meetings. But eventually that gets boring and maybe even depressing. So you must learn to care for yourself in ways that cultivate not only your sobriety but your sense of fun. Interestingly, this process can feel so foreign that it ends up being the hardest part of the healing process.

A few general esteem building (shame reducing) Outer Circle suggestions include:

  • Attend to nonsexual friendships.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Do fun things with other people (movies, ballgames, cookouts, and the like).
  • Create a “home” at home.
  • Adopt and care for a pet.
  • Develop a new hobby.
  • Exercise.
  • Improve your spiritual life.
  • Plan and go on an amazing vacation.
  • Volunteer for causes you believe in.

Click Image to access the author’s Daily Reader for Recovery.

This list could go on indefinitely. The important thing is that you continually expand and improve your life in recovery. If you do this, you will find that life in recovery can be incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. Yes, you may occasionally miss the intense dopamine rush of your addiction, but in time you will learn to appreciate the “slow dopamine drip” of healthy pleasures – socializing with friends, providing real support to people you care about, enjoying a hobby, etc. Rather than compulsively seeking a life filled with gigantic ups and downs, you will find yourself enjoying the relative peace and serenity of sobriety. In so doing, you move from shame to grace.

To this end, I suggest that you now take some time to review the Outer (Green Light) Circle of your Circle Plan, adding more activities that you enjoy to the list of mostly recovery-oriented items you’ve likely got. To start, come up with three new goals for your life in sobriety. Perhaps things like, “I want to have friends that I enjoy being around, who enjoy being around me in return.” Then, based on your new goals, add five (or more) Outer Circle activities to your plan. For example, “I will go to lunch or dinner with a friend at least once per week.”

Completing this exercise and then incorporating your revised Outer Circle into your daily life will keep your recovery from getting stale, providing you with motivation to continue your process of healing long-term.

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If you or someone you care about is struggling with pornography, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex and porn addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.