PMO – Porn, Masturbation, Orgasm. These three things usually go together. For me it was more often sexual fantasy with masturbation, although I did also PMO.
Fap – a colloquial term for ‘masturbate’.
Nofap – a subreddit where folks discuss giving up porn and masturbation. Also refers to the challenge itself, e.g. ‘Doing nofap can free up a lot of time’.
Summary: I finally overcame PMO addiction after 7 years of failure. It was really easy this time. The solution that worked for me was complete thought control, with a zero-arousal policy, and I enacted it over two stages. Everything explained in detail in the full post.
Section A describes my background and the actual process I went through this time.
Section B describes in detail certain techniques and strategies that I think were crucial.
Section C explains why the two-stage process worked so well for me.
SECTION A – My Story
Basically I wrote all this down on the off chance that someone else might be able to benefit from my experiences. I’m not sure if anyone will find it useful, because we’re all different, and we’re all at different stages on our nofap journeys, and have different starting points. But you never know, there might be something here that others can benefit from, or be encouraged by, in the same way that the nofap subreddit has encouraged me.
So, I’m a 31 year-old Christian male, and I’d been trying on and off to give up porn, sexual fantasy and masturbation for about 7 years (ever since I became a Christian), but to no avail. I could go a week or two if I tried really hard, and once I did a month, but it was an awful struggle, and that one month was the longest I ever managed. Usually I only lasted a few days. Most of the time I thought it must be impossible, and couldn’t even be bothered trying to give it up.
This time (over 70 days so far) I have had almost no struggles, and it has been really, really easy. If you’ve tried to give this stuff up and found it very hard, you’ll understand how surprised I was to find it so easy this time. I haven’t put a filter on my internet, I haven’t consciously avoided any places or people, I can sit at my computer late at night, I don’t have anyone keeping me accountable, I don’t have cold showers and I don’t exercise to burn off ‘sexual energy’. In fact, I don’t think that I have employed any of the recommended strategies at all.
I’m not going to go into detail about the benefits I’ve experienced as a result, as they’ve been well described elsewhere. Basically, I’ve got more confidence, feel better about myself, have a much clearer mind, and feel more in control of all aspects of my life (and I’d swear I have a deeper voice, but is that even possible?). The main benefit for me is that this struggle that I’ve been engaged in for the last eight years has finally been won. And it’s such a huge weight off my shoulders to not have to worry about this issue any more. Such a good feeling.
So why did this struggle become really easy all of a sudden? Well there were a few things that happened this time that were quite different to before. But before I detail the process and strategy, I’ll share my background with this issue. I don’t think I was a typical PMO user, so if my situation seems way too different to yours, I’m sorry – my solution might not work for you. But if someone is in a similar situation to mine, or able to get themselves to that place, then this process might work. Or perhaps you might just be able to take away a couple of principles or ideas that you can put to good use.
I’ve been single most of my life, which I’m pretty happy with, although I am open to getting married in the next few years if I meet the right girl. I’m a virgin, too, and I think I’d like to stay that way unless and until I get married.
I’ve always had a great imagination, and as an introvert who didn’t have many friends as a kid, I spent most of my time at school day-dreaming – living in a fantasy world. Mix puberty into the equation, and the results are predictable.
Age 11 – Started regularly losing myself in sexual fantasy.
Age 19 – Started masturbating (very late, I know).
Age 23 – Started using internet porn.
Age 24 – Became a Christian.
Age 31 – Finally overcame addiction to masturbation, fantasy and porn.
So the last 8 years, between ages 23-31, have been characterised by pretty consistent, although perhaps moderate, PMO and sexual fantasy. I would masturbate once every day or two, but sometimes a couple of times a day. I was using internet porn maybe once or twice a week, although there were times when I would get into it quite heavily for a few days, and then there were months when I would go without altogether. When I wasn’t using porn, I’d normally masturbate to sexual fantasy – stuff that I thought up in my own mind. I’ve generally found that the scenarios I could think up were more interesting to me than the unimaginative stuff on the internet, but that might just be me. Nevertheless, I know that I was addicted to masturbation with fantasy or porn, because I could never give it up for long, even though I was trying on and off for about 7 years.
When I did try to quit I would usually just go cold turkey, resolving to never masturbate again. When I did this, the first few days would be fine, but then I would struggle constantly, and I would feel like it was just getting tougher and tougher – I would feel like the pressure was getting worse and worse – until sooner or later, I would give in, and crash back into a binge of the most hardcore PMO and fantasy that I could think up. I would have a solid few days of indulgence before I would become so appalled that I would resolve to never do it again. Restart cold turkey process, but with the same results every time. Sometimes I would last a week or two, sometimes a month. But the result was always the same – a seemingly inevitable plunge back into acting out on things that I’d been secretly desiring the whole time I was abstaining. In hindsight, I think a major part of the problem was that while I’d tell myself, ‘I’m not going to masturbate’, my brain would seek every other avenue of sexual stimulation, like sexual fantasy, porn, and even edging (as if that’s not masturbation). I’d try to get as much as I could without actually orgasming as a result of masturbating, but of course this would leave me completely fired up, and my brain would constantly be dwelling on sex. I would be aroused 24/7. It’s no wonder I found it really hard to not go the whole way, and would usually relapse within a few days.
Eventually I concluded that quitting masturbation might even be impossible. And here’s where I want to give credit to the NoFap subreddit, because reading it was the first time I realised that it was actually physically and mentally possible to give up masturbation for over a month. Thinking that it was impossible obviously didn’t help me in my previous attempts. Interestingly, thinking that it was impossible was what made me start on Stage 1, so let’s start there.
Stage 1: Mastering the mind, letting the body go (easy mode)
In the two months prior to my current streak, I had decided that cold turkey was too hard, and resolved on a compromise. I realised that what I really wanted to get rid of was the porn and the weird fantasy that I was so into (I’m considering marriage, and I don’t want to have these weird fantasies and desires that my wife will never be able to satisfy. I really want to be satisfied with my wife.) So I resolved to get rid of the fantasy and the porn, but to keep masturbating, because at this stage I still thought it was impossible to go without physical release, and I didn’t want the pressure to ‘build up’ and make me really horny, which then usually led to the weird fantasy that seemed to come out stronger when I was more ‘on edge’.
So I committed to masturbating whenever the heck I wanted to, at even the slightest sexual thought or inclination (assuming I was at home, and not in public, that is). But the one condition of this masturbation free-for-all was that at the instant when I felt the inclination, and had decided to masturbate, I would absolutely stay away from porn, and I would fantasise only about plain-as-vanilla, PIV, nothing else sex. I would visualise a naked female body, but nobody I knew (I don’t want to take sex, even in my mind, from someone I know without permission – I feel it’s disrespectful – but maybe that’s just me). Nor would I fantasise about a movie star or a woman I had seen on the street for the same reasons. I would think, ‘I have no idea who’s wife that woman is, or who’s daughter she is. What right do I have to take her sexually, even in my imagination?’ So I would just imagine making love to an attractive but generic female body.
[A little bit of Christian theory here, I don’t actually think that the physical act of masturbation is sinful. Rather it’s the thoughts and fantasies that are the issue (Matt 5:28). A Christian mentor of mine asked me what my conscience told me after I masturbated to this image of a ‘generic female body’, and I realised that I never felt guilty or bad about it. So I don’t think it is a sin, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend this to others. There is, however, the valid question of whether masturbation is the ideal expression of human sexuality, given that it is not relational. Actually I don’t think it’s ideal, and so I recommend going on to Stage 2 when possible, but I don’t think masturbation is necessarily sinful or wrong, and think it can sometimes be a helpful aid to mental purity if used wisely.]
So I spent about two months letting the physical thing take care of itself in the morning after showering, and just focussing on the mental situation. It was all about keeping control of my thoughts, and not letting them descend into unhealthy sexual fantasy or porn. Sure, there were a few times when I slipped up and went back to some weird fantasies, and a couple of times I watched some porn, but strangely I didn’t really enjoy those times so much.
Now I suspect that for many people who are more heavily addicted to porn than I was, masturbating to a boring mental image like this might not be possible. But I found that after 2-3 days without masturbation I was usually horny enough to find a plain fantasy like this quite adequate. So for moderate PMO users like I was, who nevertheless can’t seem to get past a week without relapsing, and who feel that it just gets harder and harder without release, this might be a plausible arrangement to get away from porn and wrong fantasy. I’ll talk more in Section 3 about why I think Stage 1 was helpful, but it’s probably not absolutely necessary. It was just the process that I went through.
Stage 2: Trying it on hard mode
While I was managing things in Stage 1, I learned a few things that made me reconsider the idea that ‘sexual pressure’ just builds up and up until you have to give in. For starters, there were guys just like you on the nofap reddit who were actually going months without ejaculation. And I read articles online that suggested that masturbation was not at all necessary. So why did I always find it harder the longer I went without masturbation? I read a few studies on abstinence that suggest that the male sex drive takes up to two weeks to recover from an ejaculation, which means that when you first stop masturbating, your sex-drive increases and you gradually become much more sensitive to arousal and being triggered by sexual thoughts, ideas or images. But it’s not an ever-increasing level of difficulty – after two weeks, the sex drive should be as high as it will go. So I saw that there are basically two levels on which you can play the mental game. The “releasing yourself every 48 hours or so” level of hormones (easy mode), and the “haven’t ejaculated for a week or two” level of hormones (hard mode). I was doing really well at controlling my thoughts on easy mode, so I thought, ‘what the heck, let’s see how I go on hard mode – with no masturbation’.
I decided to run it as an experiment – ten days to start with. I’ve read that there is a temporary boost of testosterone on the seventh day after stopping, so I was interested to see if Day 7 was noticeably harder than Days 5 and 6. Then I was interested to see how Days 8-10 were. I figured if I could handle the 8th-10th days (which I thought would be hard mode), I should be good to go 90 days, or forever. So in I went, keeping a journal every night of whether I found the day hard, where my head was at, how my mood was generally, whether there were any random sexual thoughts or visual stimulation that caused a feeling of arousal etc. And it was a great success. There were a few times in the first week when I felt quite aroused, or had a real longing to masturbate, but I just rode it out and turned my mind to other things, and the feelings subsided within an hour or so. Day 7 was the hardest, as expected. But since I was expecting it, I just rode it out and kept doing whatever other stuff I had to do. After Day 7 I found Days 8-10 pretty easy, and at the end of the ten-day experiment I was feeling confident, in control and just great, so I signed up for another ten.
There were a few days the next ten that were a bit tough, but not really. There was the odd burst of hormones when I was triggered by a sexual cue, and the occasional sense of longing, but I just rode them out for the sake of the experiment – I was mainly interested to see whether the arousal and urges subsided by themselves as I expected them to. They did. Also when I had a real desire to masturbate, I would just tell myself to wait until the ten days were up. But at Day 20 I was feeling totally baller, and so I decided to sign up for another ten days…
The third set of ten days were even easier, with hardly any temptation worth reporting, and in fact, since Day 20, things have been pretty much on cruise control and I haven’t felt much in the way of temptation at all. I still keep a journal each night, but there’s less and less to report. These days I’m so stoked that I’ve finally cracked this thing that at the end of every ten day period, when I ask myself whether I should go back to Stage 1 (easy mode), I’m like, ‘Heck NO!’
SECTION B – Things that seemed to make a difference this time
So here are eight things that I did differently this time, that I think made a real difference.
Note: I have copied and expanded on this list in this post.
1. Understanding the physiology and endocrinology of sexual arousal
One thing that really helped me was being aware that it is hormones and endorphins that make me feel aroused, horny, or ‘on edge’. I learned that these hormones are released in response to my mind dwelling on sexual cues, and I discovered that they are only temporary and don’t continue to escalate indefinitely (unless I continually dwell on sexual thoughts). I’ve come to realise that the minute I stop dwelling on sexual thoughts, the hormones start to subside, and they are usually gone within an hour, and always overnight. Knowing this makes it much easier to get through rough patches. Even if I find myself really aroused, I know that it will pass. Sometimes I’m even curious to see how long the arousal takes to subside – treating it like an experiment really helps. Interesting note: the other day a very arousing image came to mind while I was in the shower, and ‘BOOM!’, my body exploded with endorphins. I turned my mind away immediately and refused to give the image any more consideration. Twenty minutes later, the arousal was completely gone, and I was back to baseline. All it took was twenty minutes. That’s pretty sweet. Anyway, I’ve written a lot more on the physiology and endocrinology of sexual arousal, here. Have a look if you are interested.
2. Learning to recognise a sexual thought, image or cue
I believe that the single most important thing that I’ve changed this time, is that the instant I register a sexual thought or image or cue, I turn away immediately, and shut it out. That’s the key to my success, I have no doubt. But before you can shut out such a thought or image, you need to know when you’re onto one. I know when I’ve hit a sexual thought now because I feel a warm burst of endorphins flooding into the region just above my stomach, I feel my chest tighten, and sometimes my groin muscles start to loosen or contract. It’s pretty obvious to me now when that happens. The cue could be a cute girl who walks past in short shorts, a billboard of a model in lingerie, or a random thought about sex that my mind wanders into while I’m thinking about other things (trains of thought can be be pretty strange at times). Even if you don’t get a really obvious burst of endorphins, you’re probably aware of what a sexual thought is. Algebra is not sexual. Boobs are sexual. A sexual cue could even be situational, like a sense of anticipation as I get into the shower, or close my bedroom door and drop my bag after a long day. It might be the thought process that goes ‘Now that I’m done with that task, I can take a break. What would I like to do? I could have a coffee, a nap, a fap…’. Or if I’m on the computer, it could be the thought, ‘I wonder if there are any new videos at that site?’ or ‘Hey, I could just check out that site for a bit – it might be interesting.’ Sometimes a sexual cue is nothing more than a bodily sense of longing for sexual gratification, with no real object of desire. Whatever the cue is that triggers your arousal (or even just piques your interest), you need to get good at recognising such a cue. Over time you’ll be able to know when you’ve hit a cue when you get a burst of endorphins. For me the endorphin burst became much more acute after a week without ejaculation, as my sex drive increased.
3. Learning to instantly turn the mind away from the sexual thought, image or cue
It’s important to know that these sexual ‘cues’ result in the release of endorphins into your system, which makes you feel interested, aroused, and warm and fuzzy, but also shuts down your prefrontal cortex (the higher, more rational part of your brain) which is telling you that you shouldn’t fap. For this reason, you need to block out the sexual thought or mental image immediately. Don’t entertain the thought or flirt with it just a little because you enjoy the warm feeling it brings. The same goes for edging. That warm feeling is hormones putting your body into sex mode and shutting down that part of your brain that reminds you why you don’t want to fap. That feeling is warm, creeping death. The instant you feel even a tiny bit aroused or curious, you need to shut out that thought. No arguments. But here’s the good news. Make that reaction automatic and you’ll never have to struggle with this again. You will have already won.
By now you will see that what I am suggesting is complete absence of intentional sexual thought. Random thoughts come whether we like it or not, but what I’m suggesting is that you instantly reject and block them. Now I know that’s something that not everyone is prepared to do. If you’re like me, you probably want to entertain and enjoy sexual thoughts and fantasies, and would rather not sacrifice all sexual thought. We just want to not fap. Of course this is up to each of us, and if people want to keep going with the sexual thought and fantasy, that’s their choice. But the only thing that worked for me was cutting out all sexual thought and arousal, so that might be something to consider. What I love about this method is that I don’t spend hours in that ‘warzone’ middle ground between feeling on top of things, and relapsing. I used to be constantly in that place, where my body and mind are completely on fire, and I’m just trying not to touch my junk, or where I’m edging but trying not to accidentally release. Or where I’m looking at sketchy pictures but rationalising that they’re not ‘porn’ etc. In the past there was so much struggle – it was frankly exhausting at times. Many times I would give in and masturbate just to end the conflict. But the zero-arousal approach I’ve adopted this time has made it really easy. I just stop the process before the struggle even begins.
While I’ve made it sound easy, I acknowledge that perhaps not everyone will be able to control their thoughts just like that, so it might help if I explain it a little. To me it’s like a blocking out, or a redirecting of the sexual thought. When I feel the burst of endorphins above my stomach, I have an immediate reaction that’s like, ‘Woooaah, uh uh!’ And then rather than focussing on the image or the thought, or ‘investigating’ it, which I would naturally want to do, instead I sideline it, look past it, or around it. It’s like your grandpa’s just walked into the kitchen in his Y-fronts and struck up a conversation, and you’re looking everywhere in the room but at him. Or as if there’s an object suspended a couple of feet in front of your face, and you’re focussing on the wall behind it, or on the ceiling above it, or on the person next to it, but never focussing on the object itself. I don’t say, ‘Don’t think about sex. Don’t think about sex!’ That doesn’t seem to work. Rather, the image stays there in my consciousness, and I’m aware of it, but is shifted out of focus, so that it is diffused and loses its power. It’s as though it moves into your peripheral vision, as you look at things around it. A good way to do this is to grab any other thought or idea that is available to you and focus on that instead. Sometimes it’s as easy as just refocussing on the task at hand (if I’m working or studying at that time), or refocussing on the book I’m reading, or the TV show that I’m watching. It’s easy if you’re with other people, because you can just refocus on what they are saying. That sort of thing.
Sometimes when I feel a burst of arousal hormones, I turn and focus on the actual sensation of the hormones in my body, make a note of their intensity, and try to predict how long that dose will take to leave my bloodstream. While that might seem like a bad idea, I don’t usually find that the sensations themselves are mentally arousing, because once you identify them and objectify them, and predict their demise, they actually lose some of their power. Usually by the time I’m done analysing the hormones and the sensation above my stomach, I’ve forgotten about the original sexual image or cue. More on this in point 4.
I actually believe that learning to instantly turn the mind away from the sexual thought, image or cue is the key to my success in overcoming porn, fantasy and masturbation. For this reason, I have explained this process in much more detail here. Feel free to have a look if you are finding it hard to control your thoughts, or if you are perhaps not quite sure what I am talking about.
4. Transcending your emotions
In order to control your thoughts and ride out sexual arousal, it is very helpful if you can ‘transcend’ your emotions, as it were. Take a step back from them, lift your mind up out of the fog of emotion and hormones, and look down on your feelings objectively, as though they are something to be observed from a distance, rather than something that you are immersed in and being carried along by. This is something that I have learned to do over the past three years as I’ve struggled with anxiety. Now, when I have a feeling of anxiety and dread in my gut, rather than panicking or thinking that there is actually something to be afraid of, I just say to myself, ‘Oh, there’s that old familiar feeling of anxiety just above my stomach. That feeling is actually adrenaline that’s being released into my blood stream. It’s nothing to worry about, it’s just because my endocrine system is a little messed up.’ And so I ignore it. It’s the same with feelings of sexual longing or arousal, if you can lift your mind above the feeling, and look down on it, you can say, ‘Oh, I’m very aroused right now. In fact, my blood is pumping with endorphins and adrenaline. That’s because I just had a random thought about sex, and a whole lot of chemicals got dumped into my bloodstream. They’ll be gone in 10-30 minutes though, so just ignore it and get back to work.’ Being aware of your emotions and rising above them is a sweet skill to have, if you can cultivate it. This could be a great opportunity to learn it.
5. Being realistic about the increased sex drive in Stage 2 (hard mode)
It was very important for me to realise that “sexual pressure” does not relentlessly build up, making it harder and harder to keep my mind off sex, and leading to inevitable relapse. But my experience had always been that things seemed to get harder the longer I went without masturbation. Why was that? As explained above, I learned that regular ejaculation dulls the sex drive, and that after a week or two of abstaining, the sex drive returns to full strength, making it much harder to control. This was a whole new league that I was stepping into, and something I was not used to at all. But it was important to understand why this was happening, and to expect it, and to not freak out and think that I can’t handle it. On the plus side, the enhanced sensitivity to visual and mental sexual cues can actually be advantageous, because the burst of hormones which functions as a warning system, alerting you to turn the mind away from a sexual cue, becomes much more clear and noticeable. There is far less danger of finding yourself accidentally a long way down the path to masturbation, when the initial warning sign is so distinct.
6. Committing to short periods only, and using delaying tactics
By signing up to a ten-day experiment, I was motivated to finish the ten-day experiment, just to see how it went (particularly to see how Day 7 was, and whether Days 8-10 were easier than Day 7). And when I was tempted to masturbate during those ten days I was able to just stall for time, and put it off until the end of the ten days, with the promise that I could go back to masturbating then, if I liked. It’s much easier to say to yourself ‘wait a few days, then masturbate’, than it is to say ‘don’t masturbate now or ever again.’ And ten days seems so much easier and more manageable than ‘forever’. But by the time the ten-day marker came around, I was feeling great, and I realised that the ten days hadn’t been all that hard, and I was pumped at having gotten through the ten days. So I was ready to sign up for another ten days. I’m now on my seventh lot of ten days, and I still haven’t decided to go back to masturbating, although I’m open to it if I decide that it’s a better lifestyle.
I reckon that making just a few big decisions in your right mind is better than making a whole lot of little decisions when you’re aroused. Who has the energy to repeatedly review all the reasons why they don’t want to fap every time a sexual thought pops into your head (especially in the fog of horniness)? Just trust yourself and trust that your decision/commitment to abstain for ten days is a good one, with the promise that you can fap at the end of the ten days if you still want to.
7. Keeping a journal
Keeping the journal was really helpful in reinforcing the experimental aspect of it, and also giving me some perspective in the couple of harder patches – I could look at it from a 20-day perspective, or wherever I was up to, which would show me that what I was feeling was out of the ordinary, and temporary, and had only lasted a short time in the past. I used to think that the longer you go without orgasm, the harder it becomes. And that the pressure just builds and builds until you just can’t help yourself. Keeping this journal has shown me that the pressure actually resets overnight, and that I generally feel fine the next morning, even if I was feeling really aroused or ‘on edge’ the night before. As someone, somewhere, once said, ‘You can’t improve what you can’t measure’ (or something like that).
8. Remembering past struggles, relapses and why you are doing NoFap
Although the last 70 days have been pretty easy, there have been a couple of times where I’ve thought, ‘I’m not enjoying this sense of sexual longing. I think I’d prefer to just go back to how it was, with the PMO.’ Or times when I really miss the nice feeling that masturbation used to give me. What was really helpful at those times was to look back over some journal entries I had made previously, and to see how frustrated and depressed I was that I simply could not overcome this habit, no matter how hard I tried. Having seen this, it was a no-brainer to keep going. I could clearly see that I am much happier overall now than I was back when I was masturbating regularly. Similar to this, sometimes when I’m tempted I visualise that moment right after I masturbate, when I’ve just broken a long period of successful abstinence. I remember how bad that feels, and how disappointed I am when I do that. This reality check usually puts to rest any illusions that I have that I’d be happier if I went back to the old ways, and reminds me that I’m actually feeling much better right now than I will be after I fap.
SECTION C – Why the two-stage approach worked so well for me
1. It was like training wheels
One possible benefit of Stage 1 (easy mode) was that it gave me a couple of months to learn to control my thoughts in a less intense and easier setting. With regular ejaculation, my sex drive was dulled to a level that I was used to, which made my mind easier to control. Only when I had learned to control my thoughts on easy mode was I able to control my thoughts on hard mode. Having said this, I’m sure it’s possible for someone to learn to control their thoughts on hard mode, and skip Stage 1 if they prefer.
2. It took me halfway with very little effort
My past addiction was partly to the intense mental arousal that accompanied porn and sexual fantasy, and partly to the physical pleasure of masturbation. Going through Stage 1 for a couple of months probably went a long way towards breaking the first half of that addiction – the addiction to porn and sexual fantasy. Once that was under control, I then went on to tackle the addiction to physical masturbation. I know that the general feel on the internet is that you should go cold turkey on porn and masturbation all at once, but it kind of makes sense to me to break down a really hard task into more manageable halves. Well, it worked for me anyway. Another benefit of Stage 1 was that it probably reset a lot of my brain wiring that had associated arousal and orgasm with porn and weird fantasy, and rewired it to associate arousal and orgasm with plain-as-vanilla, PIV, nothing else sex. Since Stage 1 was not really a challenge at all (hey, I can masturbate any time I want!), this meant that I could wean myself off porn and fantasy with no real effort.
3. It defused the whole issue
In the past when I was trying to give up PMO, as I have mentioned, I would find it a constant struggle, and rarely last more than a week at best. And then when I had given up trying to quit, I would feel bad about it, so either way it was an issue. But when I did Stage 1, and just masturbated whenever I wanted to without fantasy or porn, what was interesting was that I felt no shame or guilt. And I no longer had to struggle against anything, because I was satisfying myself whenever I wanted to. What was really cool was that in the absence of the struggle and the guilt, and in the routine of masturbating very morning if I felt like it, I ended up more or less forgetting about the whole thing – it just became a bit of a non-issue. During the day, I would just get on with whatever I had to do, and not bother thinking about sex or seeking mental sexual stimulation, because I knew that I would be able to masturbate when I got home if I felt like it. This obviously helped me in my attempts to free my mind from dwelling on porn and sexual fantasy. I’m not sure why, but knowing that I’m not supposed to do something just makes me think about it more, and makes it more appealing. By contrast, having permission to masturbate made it less appealing. Anyway, it became such a non-issue that before long I found myself going three or four days without even masturbating, because I was busy doing other things, or just couldn’t be bothered. Sometimes I’d think about masturbating, but then say, ‘Nah, I’m too tired. Maybe I’ll do it tomorrow’. From this starting point, giving up masturbation in Stage 2 was then not such a big deal as it might have been.
4. It gave me a fall-back position, which removed both the fear of relapse and the appeal of relapse
I was raised to be a ‘moral’ person who places a lot of value on being good and upstanding, and so I naturally feel guilty when I do something bad or wrong. Now that I’m a Christian, however, I know that guilt is no longer a part of my life, and that I am acceptable before God because of his grace, not because of what I have done or not done. Christ has taken away my guilt. But old habits die hard, and still the feelings of guilt persist. But here’s why I don’t think guilt works: guilt leads to fear, and fear leads to failure. If I’m doing well at nofap, then I’m feeling good about myself. Then when I start to struggle, I remember all the times that I’ve relapsed, and logically conclude that relapse is inevitable or at least probable. Then I start to fear relapse and the associated guilt. Now the problem with fear is that, like arousal, it shuts down the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for higher, more rational functions, like decision making, and making plans and commitments. So when the fear of guilt kicks in, there goes my decision-making capacity, along with all the carefully thought-out reasons that I have for doing nofap. Paradoxically, the fear of fapping leads to fapping.
But after I had done Stage 1 for a few months, which was relaxed, easy and guilt-free, when I decided to try Stage 2 (hard mode) for ten days, I had safety net to fall back on. I no longer feared relapse, because all that failure would mean was going back to Stage 1, which was fine anyway. I was doing Stage 2 a bit like an experiment. I just wanted to see if I could go 10 days without masturbating, and I wanted to keep a record of how I felt over the ten days. If I couldn’t last ten days, that was fine, I would just go back to Stage 1 (guilt free), and count it as a successful experiment. So that took away all of the fear and intensity, which made it a lot easier. I no longer feared relapse, so I would just laugh at the temptation – it lost it’s power over me. Stage 2 became a light-hearted, interesting and fun process, which made it so much easier than the white-knuckle, legalistic, fearful, “Must. Not. Fap.” process of the past.
Not only did the fall-back position of Stage 1 take away the fear of relapse, it also made it less appealing. When I was attempting Stage 2, whenever I felt a strong urge to masturbate, and thought to myself ‘giving up all ejaculation is just too tough, I can’t do this’, I told myself, ‘Fine, go back to Stage 1 if you like, where you can masturbate whenever you need to.’ But as described above masturbation wasn’t all that interesting in Stage 1 after a while. It dealt with my urges, and left me comfortable and happy, but it wasn’t all that interesting or appealing. So when faced with the choice of going back to Stage 1, which would deal effectively with my urges but still not be very exciting, or staying on Stage 2 where I could feel like a total baller 24/7, but suffer the occasional urge, I always chose to stay on Stage 2. I guess I was tricking my brain by offering only two alternatives, but it worked.
Well, that’s pretty much all I can think of that might be important to mention. Reading back over it, a lot of it looks kind of weird and idiosyncratic, so it might be stuff that only works for me. But I hope that someone might be able to get some ideas from some of the things that worked for me, and perhaps adapt them to their own circumstances and journey. If you have any questions at all, please do ask. I would be delighted to do whatever I can to help someone else get to where I am today. Like I said at the beginning, I’m still shocked that I finally overcame this thing, and that it was so easy this time. I also hope that in all this I don’t come across as smug or proud. For seven years I failed miserably to make any significant process by exercising my feeble self-control and making promises to myself and to God. I clearly have no reason to be proud.
If you have any questions at all, comment below and I will get back to you!
Soli Deo Gloria