Winning my fight against pornography and masturbation

Hello friends and strangers.

I’m glad to share with you that finally there is hope for me after a long battle with “monsters” called pornography and masturbation.

I recently went a whole 69 days clean and free from these timewasters for the first time in almost 3 decades. Below is the article that gave me the first glimpse of hope (you can copy-paste any part of the article in google to get the remaining part as I wasn’t allowed to post a link).

I will like to have you guys as my accountability partners as I badly wish yesterday will be the last time I’m resetting my sober-timer. Not planning to die though.

Hope the article helps someone else and helps me further too as I just re-read it.

Best regards,

Optimistic.

How to Quit Porn
how to quit porn pornography

Editor’s Note: You can get the entire porn series in a book. Buy now.

It’s been interesting to watch this series unfold this week. Though I knew it would be controversial, I wasn’t sure what to expect and how much interest there would actually be in the topic.

As it happened, the posts received massive amounts of traffic. And while there was definitely vocal opposition to the arguments I laid out, these were fewer in number than I expected. This may be partly chalked up to the fact that AoM’s readership tends to skew more traditional and religious (even though we actively welcome men from all backgrounds) – guys who are likely more interested in this topic than the general population. But I also have to think that there are tons of men – conservative and liberal alike — that aren’t completely happy with the role of porn in their lives, for whatever reason. I’ve long felt that there are a bunch of things in our culture towards which the media relentlessly presents a viewpoint that supposedly everyone shares, and people don’t feel comfortable publicly admitting that it just isn’t working that way in their own personal lives. I think the idea of porn use as harmless and casual is one of those things.

At any rate, if you’re reading this post, you or someone you know is trying to quit porn and are looking for some help in doing so. Here’s the good news: in the vast majority of cases, you don’t need expensive rehabs or retreats to rid your life of porn. As I mentioned yesterday, in reading a boatload of books and countless blog and forum postings on “porn addiction recovery,” I discovered that most of the advice given is the exact same advice therapists and cognitive psychologists offer to someone who’s trying to change a bad habit as innocuous as swearing or fingernail biting. Sure, there are a few differences, but overall, quitting porn is just like quitting pretty much any other bad habit.

An important thing to keep in mind with changing any habit — be it smoking, drinking soda, or using porn — is that there’s no magic bullet. Habit change takes time, discipline, and dedication, and the process will look a little different for each individual.

Progress isn’t linear, either. Some weeks you’ll feel like you’re well on your way to kicking the bad habit and replacing it with a new one, and others you’ll have setbacks that will make you feel like crap. That’s normal. The key is to not wallow in your setback, but to dust yourself off, and get back in the saddle.

So if you’re looking for that one thing that will solve all your problems, you won’t find it here. Most of the tips and suggestions below are likely things you already know. The only “secret” to habit implementation is having the will to follow through with your intentions. Experiment with the different tips below and find out what works for you.

Reboot and Rewire
Before we get into the specific tips and strategies for quitting porn, it’s important to know the two basic parts of the process in your brain: rebooting and rewiring.

Rebooting
The brain responds to the onslaught of dopamine that comes with constant and escalating porn use by reducing its number of dopamine receptors. This blunting of dopamine sensitivity may lead to problems like erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, depression, and social anxiety.

“Rebooting” refers to taking a break from all artificial sexual stimuli so that the brain can restore and replenish dopamine receptors that were lost in response to the overconsumption of pornography. As Gary Wilson notes in Your Brain on Porn, rebooting is a metaphor taken from the computer world: “By avoiding artificial sexual stimulation you are shutting down and restarting the brain, restoring it to its original factory settings.” The goal of rebooting is to rediscover what your life was like before porn.

According to men who have quit and Wilson’s observations while working with these men, it may take weeks or months before you begin to see an improvement in porn-related problems. Wilson has noted two patterns of rebooting recovery: One group of men will take just 2-3 weeks before they start seeing improvements to porn-induced ED and the like. The other group, which he calls “long-rebooters,” can take 2-6 months to fully recover. The men comprising this group usually started using internet porn at a young age and have been using it for a while. During their brain resets, some long-rebooters report experiencing what they call a “flatline” in which they lose any and all interest in sex for a period of time. However, once the flatline passes, their drive for natural sexual stimulation comes roaring back.

The big rule on rebooting is that you abstain from all artificial sexual stimulation. Pornography is the obvious one to abstain from, but veteran rebooters recommend also nixing things like “erotic literature,” sexy YouTube videos, Victoria’s Secret catalogs, etc. Fantasies about porn should also be avoided (which I imagine is easier said than done).

While artificial sexual stimulation must be avoided during the reboot phase, natural sexual stimulation like actual sex is fine. Some say sexual fantasies (about real life sex) and masturbation are okay too, but of course others will have religious compunctions against these practices. While natural sexual stimulation is a-okay, some reboot veterans recommend taking a break from all sex and masturbation for a bit to help speed along the process. Each man is different in his needs and beliefs, so experimenting is key.

If you’ve experienced some of the problems that are associated with heavy porn use, then the reboot phase is a necessary first step for you, and our tips below will help you in your quest to go porn-free.

If you haven’t had any porn-related problems, then you might not notice drastic changes in yourself except for the fact that you’re no longer using porn.

Finally, if you don’t see any improvements after a prolonged reboot, you need to be open to the possibility that there’s some underlying problem with your sexual, erectile health that’s not related to porn, and you may need additional help treating it.

Rewiring
If you feel like you can’t stop looking at porn, that’s because you’ve likely created a very strong habit in the reward circuitry of your brain. Your internet porn use has rewired your neurons so that whenever you encounter an external or internal cue associated with porn, you go into auto-pilot mode and begin the routine of searching for it. For example, sitting down at your computer when no one else is around can serve as a cue that leads you almost automatically to clicking on your porn files.

The goal of the rewiring phase is to replace the routine of looking at porn when you encounter a cue for it, with something that’s not looking at internet porn. For example, you have a journal that sits next to your computer, and whenever you sit down, the first thing you do is write a few sentences in it. We’re replacing a bad habit with a good habit.

One thing to keep in mind with habit change and “rewiring”: neuroscientists have learned that once our brain encodes a habit, it never really disappears. It’s always there looking for that certain cue to initiate the habit sequence.

The permanence of bad habits shouldn’t discourage you; change is still possible according to the latest habit research. While you can’t completely get rid of a bad habit, it is possible to create more powerful good habits that simply override the bad ones. That’s what rewiring is all about.

The tips below will help you stay away from porn, even when the itch remains strong during the reboot phase, as well as help you rewire your brain so your no-porn habit sticks.

Tips on How to Successfully Reboot, Rewire, and Quit Porn for Good
Alright, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to actually quit using porn for good. The tips and suggestions below are based on my research into cognitive psychology over the years as well as from reported experiences of men who have quit using porn. Again, there’s no silver bullet. What works for one man, may not work for you. You need to be ready to experiment and try different things.

The advice below can be broken into two parts: mindset and action.

Mindset

  1. Don’t Give Porn More Power Than It Should Have

“When you characterize porn as an addiction it tells you that it is hard to break free, that it is a struggle, that relapse is inevitable — all things that have nothing to do with porn. But when you characterize online porn as junk food, the solution is obvious: don’t eat it.” – The Last Psychiatrist

Among men who are trying to quit, it’s popular to conjure up images of porn being an unbeatable dark monster/plague/pandemic/war that must be fought tooth and nail and if you succumb to it, you’re destined to becoming a goat rapist, or something. But I don’t think that mindset is very helpful. In fact, firebrand rhetoric like that can actually backfire. Research suggests that this sort of simplistic, over-the-top rhetoric was the big reason the D.A.R.E. Program failed to reduce drug use amongst American teenagers back in the 80s and 90s. One study even showed that compared to middle schoolers who didn’t take part in the program, D.A.R.E. students showed an increase in the use of drugs! D.A.R.E inadvertently made drugs alluring by giving them the aura of “forbidden fruit,” tempting kids who otherwise wouldn’t have given drugs much thought.

I think we’d do well to take a lesson from how Superman defeated the KKK in how we should approach porn. Yes, Superman. After WWII, the Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence in membership in some parts of the U.S. A Florida activist and folklorist named Stetson Kennedy decided to take on the Klan and began infiltrating meetings in hopes of exposing the Klan’s secrets. After Kennedy learned how Klansmen identified each other, he went to the local police with the info in the hopes they could use it to start arresting members of the organization. But the police sat on their hands because they were too afraid of the Klan’s power.

So Stetson went to the producers of the mega-popular Superman radio program and asked if they’d be interested in creating a “Superman vs. the Klan” plotline for the show. The producers were game and so began a 16-episode series in which Superman took on the Klan. During the episodes, Klan secrets like handshakes, rituals, and passwords were divulged. Almost overnight, KKK recruitment dried up and local authorities started cracking down on Klansmen who were flagrantly and openly violating the law.

Why the change? Part of the power of the KKK was their “air of menace” that came with clouding themselves in a shroud of secrecy. Once Superman revealed their secrets, the group didn’t seem all that scary or powerful anymore.

I think we can and should do something similar with porn. One of the most powerful things that can help you quit using porn is simply understanding how it affects your brain and why it’s so alluring. (Parts 2 & 3 of this series go a long way in imparting this understanding.) Instead of seeming like some mysterious, menacing, unstoppable force, your attraction for porn is revealed as a perfectly natural drive that’s been hijacked by a supernormal reproductive and evolutionary reinforcer.

Once you understand the science behind porn use, you can see it for what it really is: sexual junk food. You don’t give your bag of potato chips a menacing aura of power. They’re just potato chips. If you want to quit eating potato chips, you learn about the different ways carbs vs. protein and veggies affects your body, you throw away your potato chips, you quit going down the potato chip aisle in the grocery store, and you choose the celery stick at the party. Try doing the same thing with internet pornography.

I know some might think that’s a flippant comparison, particularly if they’ve seen porn destroy marriages and relationships, but I think understanding the problem and making it approachable is truly the key to success here. It puts you in a proactive place where you can confidently start taking steps to kick the habit.

There’s wisdom in following the advice of the 17th century Jesuit priest Baltasar Gracian: Undertake what’s easy as if it were hard, and what’s hard as if it were easy.

A Note on Shame and the Ineffective Way in Which Porn Is Typically Taught at Church

The folks who are most concerned about porn tend to be religious, and they see porn as a spiritual cancer.

And yet the way that porn is more often than not discussed at church tends to be incredibly counterproductive, driving men deeper into porn use instead of away from it.

If you’re a regular reader of AoM, you’ll know I’ve talked about the fact that shame can be an unmatchable motivator for seeking positive improvement. But that’s only if it’s simultaneously accompanied by both the will to do better and the confidence that you can improve. If shame is just a trigger for self-pity and endless rumination about how you’re a terrible person, the effect is exactly the opposite. Excess shame becomes debilitating.

That’s why, and this relates to the points made above, I think it’s actually highly ineffective to go overboard on demonizing porn use. Yes, for Christian guys, it’s a sin, and I’ve got nothing against calling a sin, a sin. But porn frequently gets weighted with more baggage than its fellow transgressions; Jesus said simply looking at a woman with lust was adultery, and yet if we catch a young man ogling a woman’s cleavage we tend to just smack him in the head and tell him to cut it out. Yet if he looks at a pair of breasts online – whoa-ho-ho! — he is sick! Filthy! Depraved! On the pathway to addiction and Hell! All this overweening smack down accomplishes is leading the porn user to withdraw, to hide his dirty secret at all costs from his friends and family, to suffer crushing guilt and anxiety, and to feel hopelessly defective, which all leads back to…more porn to soothe his feelings of stress and isolation! I truly believe that excess shame is frequently what turns casual porn use into a compulsion.

Demonizing porn also has the unfortunate side effect of seeping over into demonizing sexuality itself, which can give some men a complex about their own natural and healthy sexuality, which can in turn frustrate future sexual relationships (again, leading the man back to porn) and his relationships with women in general. Some men go so overboard with their antipathy towards porn that they can’t look at a 1950s pin-up poster without being scandalized, or a scantily-clad woman at church without chastising her for being “living porn” and sabotaging his efforts to keep his mind clean.

If a loved one or someone at your church is having a problem with porn, it’s okay to express disappointment, and it’s okay for the man to feel some healthy shame for the way in which he’s fallen short of your shared ideals. But don’t heap on the scorn. Teach young men that sexuality is a healthy, wonderful thing. Teach them that their attraction to porn is a very normal consequence of their biology and brains, that they should try not to slip up, but if they do, to just get right back in the saddle and keep on trucking.

  1. Accept the Fact That You’re the Kind of Guy Who Looks at Porn (And Understand That the Goal is to Become the Kind of Guy Who Doesn’t Look at Porn)

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” And it’s true. Cognitive psychology has shown again and again that our behavior shapes how we think and feel. Action shapes who we are.

If you look at porn on a regular basis, you need to accept the fact that you’re the kind of guy who looks at porn.

That might be a hard pill to swallow, especially if porn viewing goes against your religious beliefs. But pathologizing away the fact by calling your porn viewing an addiction just makes the problem harder to overcome because you’re giving yourself an external locus of control.

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. You’re not doomed to being “that guy who looks at porn” for the rest of your life. It just means you see the situation for what it is so you can start making proactive changes.

Instead of trying to “beat” the “addiction,” a more helpful goal is to simply become the kind of guy who doesn’t look at porn. I know. Easier said than done. But think about it this way: if you see yourself as a guy who has to try really, really hard not to look at porn, instead of as a guy who just doesn’t look at porn because he’s got other interests, you’re in for a real slog through life.

The way you get to be the “guy who doesn’t look at porn” is to start acting like a guy who doesn’t look at porn. Act as if; fake it until you make it. I’m not saying this approach will make things easy, particularly in the beginning of trying to quit, but it can help make quitting porn feel like less of a battle and more of an effort to change for the better.

  1. Address Underlying Issues

Sometimes guys get depressed because they use porn, and sometimes they use porn because they’re depressed. If it’s the latter case for you, simply quitting porn is not going to solve all your problems. So an important first step in quitting porn is to address any underlying issues you have going on. Are you simply bored? Get involved in more hobbies, social activities, and working out. You’ll be amazed at how simply having a fun, full, busy life will take away your need for porn and masturbation. Has your sex life died down with your significant other? Talk to her about your needs.

It can be tempting to think that the changing of life’s circumstances will be the thing that finally helps you quit. “Once I graduate and I’m a real man, then I’ll be done with porn.” “Once I have a regular sex life, then I’ll be done with porn.” “Once I get married and start a family, then I’ll be done with porn.” While it can be true for some guys that all they need is a single life trigger like this, expecting it to happen that way will only delay your addressing these underlying issues. If you find yourself coming up with these types of excuses, know that there’s likely something else that needs to be changed in your life that you are in control of, even if it just comes down to boredom.

  1. Believe You Can Change

Yes, you can change. Research shows that even the most ingrained habits or traits can be modified and improved upon. But you have to believe you can change.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, points out that research suggests that the people who have the most success in changing bad habits simply believe that change is possible. The importance of belief in changing habits may explain the correlation between religious belief and how long a person stays sober when trying to quit alcohol. A study found that alcoholics who had a belief in a higher power were more likely to stay on the wagon even during stressful moments than alcoholics who didn’t have that belief.

So if you’re a religious guy, embrace your faith. Say your prayers, fast, read your scriptures. Along with some of the techniques provided below, they can help turn not watching porn into a permanent behavior change.

But what if you’re not religious? Well, here’s the thing: these same researchers found that believing in a higher power, like God, wasn’t necessary. You just had to have the capacity to believe that things can get better. Being part of a group of other people who have changed a bad habit can help spur belief. You can look around the room or forum and think, “If it worked for that guy, maybe it can work for me.”

Change is possible. You’re not stuck with your bad habits, but you have to believe it in order for it to fully work.

  1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up If and When You Backslide

As we mentioned in previous posts, your emotions can serve as a cue to start looking at porn. Many guys will pull up a browser when they’re depressed or feel down as a way to self-soothe. But the problem that many men who are trying to quit porn run into is that their setbacks make them feel down or depressed, which in turn triggers the itch to look at porn again. It’s a vicious cycle.

What’s more, as we noted previously, intense emotions like shame and guilt can also cause spikes in dopamine. So if you experience a lot of guilt and shame after a setback, you may be making the porn habit worse.

Just accept the fact that you may have setbacks. Maybe you won’t, but most men who are trying to quit do. When those setbacks happen, don’t beat yourself up or wallow in self-pity. Just recognize the setback and then get back at it again. You may even consider “parenting” yourself like a video game by setting up some sort of swift, dispassionate “punishment” for your slip-ups, like donating a few bucks to a charity you dislike, or to the political party opposite of yours. The key is to be consistent and dispassionate with your negative feedback.

  1. Find Ways to Conserve and Strengthen Willpower

A big part of kicking the porn habit is resisting those impulses to watch porn when you encounter one of your behavioral cues. That takes willpower. Read our series on how to conserve and strengthen your willpower so you can say no to the itch to itch your wiener.

The cool thing is that by quitting porn, you’ll strengthen your overall willpower supply, so you’ll have more of this potent power to use on all the other goals in your life.

  1. Strengthen Your Resilience

One thing the can help you handle setbacks and shift from an external to an internal locus of control is working on building your resilience. We did a whole series on it a few years ago that you can access for free on the site. If you’d like all the content in one place, check out our ebook version.

Actions
8. Get Rid of All Your Porn

Start off with a clean slate by going through your house and computer and clearing out any porn you have. Clear out your computer’s and smartphone’s web history, cache, and bookmarks. If you have magazines and DVDs, throw those out too.

  1. Hack the Habit Loop

This is probably the most important tip, so pay special attention. The rewiring process is essentially the same as hacking the habit loop, which we wrote about a few years ago. Your goal is to identify the cues that trigger your porn surfing routine and then to substitute that routine with something else while keeping the reward the same (or similar). Each time you do that you’re creating a new reward connection that can eventually become stronger than your porn routine connection.

With porn use, the reward your brain is craving is dopamine, so the most effective way to hack your habit loop is to replace it with something that gives you that hit. Here are some activities that produce dopamine:

Eat a carby snack
Exercise
Play video games
Take a nap
Work on a goal
Call a friend who can make you laugh
Obviously, some of these rewards aren’t strictly healthy either, but they may constitute the lesser of two evils in your life.

Here’s an example of how hacking the habit loop works. If one of your internal cues to look at porn is feeling bored, decide that whenever a bout of boredom hits, instead of getting on the computer, where your search for porn will assuredly begin, you practice your guitar.

For more tips on how to hack the habit loop, and advice on identifying cues and substituting routines, read the article or watch the video below:

You can also listen to my in-depth podcast with Charles Duhigg about habits:

  1. Have Implementation Intentions at the Ready

An important part of hacking the habit loop is establishing implementation intentions. In a nutshell, an implementation intention is an “if-then” phrase that links a situational cue to a specific action. It’s a plan of what you’re going to do differently whenever you encounter one of your porn cues.

So if one of your cues is feeling depressed, an implementation intention would look something like: When I feel depressed, I will go outside and take a walk.

You may need multiple implementation intentions if you have multiple cues. It’s also a good idea to have a plan for what you’re going to do when you randomly stumble upon porn or a provocative image that sets off a trigger. It could be something as drastic as shutting down the computer or something as simple as immediately closing your browser. Or if you come across something on TV, you get up and leave.

Jumping up from your chair at the sight of porn may make you feel rather silly, and contradict your image of yourself as cool and rational, but it’s just a way of dislodging your brain from following the well-worn groove that porn has carved out in your neurons. You’ve got to shake those neurons up. Don’t let feeling cool and calm get in the way of improving your life.

For more on implementation intentions, check out this detailed post.

  1. Install Blocking Software on All Your Digital Devices

Many men find putting blocking software on their devices helpful, especially in the early stages of rebooting when willpower to check porn is weakest and the habit to do it is strongest. However, it should be noted that blocking software isn’t fail-proof and is easy to get around. Its main benefit is to put up a barrier or speed bump between the cue to look at porn and you actually scratching that itch. Hopefully as you start going through settings and entering in passwords to remove the block, you’ll catch yourself and begin using one of your implementation intentions.

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This was an interesting read and while I disagree with calling it a “bad habit” instead of an “addiction”, research has shown that the same parts of the brain that are triggered by heroin use are triggered by porn use, most of the tools listed are ones I’ve used in my own recovery and that I’ve suggested.

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@Pirate I completely agree with you that it is an addiction, a very terrible one at that. But I believe what the writer was trying to say is giving them a name that kinda trivialises their powers. Interestingly, this point is the single most important strategy that helped me through my longest (69 days) sober period. Whenever the urge came or I sensed any of the cues, I just made fun of the addictions in my subconscious mind like: “hey guys, I just realized you are not as powerful as I always thought you were”. Each day I did that I became stronger and less scared of them until…hmmmm. Well, today is a new 3rd day of mocking them.

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Day 15…still winning.

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Day 3 stil had a control

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@Saipavan…I can definitely relate. But I believe we can do it.

I found so much strength in reading the stories of others here so I know I’m not alone, we are not alone.

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Thankyou for your support Mr optimistic​:blush::blush:

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Its so hard, been relapsing for 2 years now. But i can’t give up. I need help in this battle.

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Have you posted your story yet

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There’s hope to be found when you actively look for it and that’s what you’ve done by coming here.

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Thank you, the fact that you took time out of your day to respind to me helps.

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I’m also in this battle dear soldiers…
Masturbation was my relaxing drug against my stressful student life for many many many years… (more than 10 years)
I would love stop that because I have lost all feelings of sexual pleasure and want to feel that again.

Today is my best score.
1 months and 5 days without anything.
During my last trip a was 8 months without porn but not without Masturbation.

The worst for me was my 3 first weeks…
And also each mornings…

But now I’m feel better. Stay strong guys we can do it

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Have a plan in place for the mornings or any other time when you know it’s going to be difficult. It does get better!

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That’s the spirit bro, we can NEVER give up. Even after opening this thread (about 3 months ago), I’ve relapsed twice. I encountered a new and worst trigger of my life: new neighbours who have really loud sex multiple times per day.

Initially I was kinda cursing them and using my wife as an escape route, but on two occasions that she failed to have sex with me (not deliberately), I relapsed and in a way blamed her for my misfortune.

The truth is, when I sat down and looked at the whole situation objectively, nobody was at fault. My new neighbour paid for their apartment so that they can enjoy their amorous life, my wife never singned contract that she will always have sex with me whenever our neighbours are doing it.

Then, I shifted the whole blame back to myself. But one of the key things have learnt in this recovery process is to learn from one’s mistakes and forgive. I did that and moved on. Now, I love my neighbours, my wife and myself more and the new trigger lost it’s power immediately.

Back on track now, 19 days +

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Yea, you are right, its a powerful drug against stress but it comes with numerous more powerful side effects.

I knew there was a serious problem when I was losing my erection sometimes when I was with my wife, but always rock solid everytime watching porn or masturbating.

The habits made me believe that they were better than real sex, that was a big LIE. Now that I’m parting ways with them, sex feels natural and great with wifey, I’m always rock solid now: no more lie such as “don’t be offended dear, it’s just stress from work” or “hmmm, bear with me, I have a lot on my mind that’s why I cant get it up”

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Im on Day 20. We’re basically sober twins.

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Ho god thanks I’m not alone with the neighbours love issues…
It’s probably my second big difficult time…

You’re lucky to have your wife with you.
My girlfriend is far for a long time…

I know very well all my addiction signs. So I can avoid some of them sometimes.
No movie with explicit scenes.
No more hot ads on my computer.

I try to have a perfect live environment.
Thanks for your help buddy.

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There’s strength in unity, we can do this together.

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You are welcome, but we are in it together, so thank you for sharing your story too.

True talk about doing away with movies with explicit scenes. Reason why I discontinued series like GOT and the likes, it really helped.

I will advice you take up new positive habits as your are dropping the old ones. I noticed learning piano and touch-typing at my free time now keep my mind busy instead of wondering aimlessly or fantasizing about erotic images/figures I’ve seen before.

The good news from this is, now I can beautifully play “for he’s a jolly good fellow” for my kids, and I’ve moved from looking at keys on my laptop to typing at around 80WPM in a very short time.

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