Sex/Porn Addiction: Initial Steps Toward Healing

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Scott Brassart

First and foremost, let me state that sex and porn addicts nearly always require outside assistance if we hope to heal. If we could stop our addictive behavior on our own, we would do so. In fact, we would have done so months or even years ago. But stopping on our own and then staying stopped for more than a few days is not something we’ve been able to manage.

Once we’ve decided to ask for outside help, we should do exactly that. If you are unsure how to reach out, please either email us and ask for a referral to a therapist in your area, or sign up for a personalized online consultation with one of our staff members. The next step is to find an accountability partner of some sort – most often a fellow recovering sex/porn addict met in group therapy or a 12-step sexual recovery meeting.

An accountability partner is a person who holds us accountable for the work we must do, often providing feedback and support as it happens. The best choice for an accountability partner, as stated above, is another recovering sex/porn addict. We should never use our spouse or any other sexual or romantic partner as our accountability partner, as those individuals are too close to the situation to provide the honest, objective, empathetic feedback we require.

Ultimately, the job of an accountability partner is to assist us – in person, by phone, or even online – with identifying our recovery-related commitments and priorities and helping us find ways in which those commitments can be met. Accountability partners are also there for support when we experience moments of weakness.

A few of the early-recovery commitments an accountability partner might ask us to make are:

  • Promise to reach out immediately if we feel triggered toward relapse. (Feeling triggered is inevitable, and there is nothing wrong with it, as long as we start dealing with our triggers in a healthy, non-addictive way.)
  • Promise to reach out immediately if we actually do act out sexually. (Slips are common in early recovery from sex and porn addiction.)
  • Throw away all physical material related to our addiction. This might include books, magazines, VHS tapes, DVDs, flash drives and other digital storage devices, lubricants, sex toys, etc. It is wise to throw this material into a commercial dumpster at least a mile from home. Sometimes our accountability partner will supervise this process to make sure we do not choose to enjoy the material one last time.
  • Go through our computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc., deleting any and all files, emails, texts, sexts, bookmarks, profiles, apps, and contact information related to our addiction. Again, accountability partners often supervise this process to make sure we do not choose to enjoy the material one last time.
  • Cancel memberships to websites, apps, and brick-and-mortar establishments related to our addiction. Also cancel credit cards we’ve used to pay for these memberships to make sure they don’t automatically renew. If we don’t want to cancel these cards, we can call the credit card company and report the card as lost. The company will gladly send us a replacement card with different numbers, and this serves the same purpose as cancellation.
  • Stay away from “gray area” activities. In the same way that alcoholics should not hang out in bars, we shouldn’t peruse the Victoria’s Secret catalog, frequent NC-17 movies, or get massages. People who are not sexually addicted can handle these things without becoming triggered; we cannot. So it is best to stay away from them.
  • Commit to only using digital devices where others can see us. We need to understand that using these devices in private, even for a legitimate nonsexual purpose, is a gray area activity that could easily trigger the desire to act out.
  • Create reminders of why we want to change our behavior. Often, we choose to use pictures of our spouse or kids as background imagery on our digital devices. We might also use our wedding song or our spouse’s voice as our ringtone. Etc.
  • Purchase and install “parental control software.” These filtering and accountability software products prevent access to problematic online venues and monitor our overall use of digital devices, typically providing reports to our accountability partner. Up-to-date reviews of these products can be found at this link.
  • Create and implement a plan for sexual sobriety. This plan will likely take the form of a sexual boundary/circle plan. For more information, click this link.

Again, if you are struggling to get started in sex/porn addiction recovery, please either email us to ask for a referral to a therapist in your area, or sign up for a personalized online consultation with one of our staff members.