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December 15, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Techniques to break porn and masturbation addiction?

I need to stop looking at porn and masturbating. The reason is that it makes me impotent when I try to have real sex. It also makes me much less attracted to real people than I would be otherwise. I have already well established this cause and effect and have already made the decision to change my ways, so I'm not looking for advice on that part.

What I'd like are suggestions and strategies to overcome this addiction.

I have found that being with a woman and deciding for her sake to change my ways is the most effective motivator. My problem is that I have a girlfriend that I don't see for weeks at a time, so it's most often me alone in my apartment with a waiting computer.

I think that I could get better if I just masturbated and didn't look at porn, but it would take longer, so I'd rather cut out both.

Blocking internet or sites at home probably won't work. I might end up doing something really stupid like watching porn at school. This has happened before.

One effective strategy I've found is to stay really, really busy. In other words, from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep, I'm working on stuff. I try to never putz around in my room or just hang out by myself. Being around other people as much as possible really does the trick. The problem is that this will inevitably break down -- I will inevitably find a time when I am alone with nothing to do but putz around.

I'm also a buddhist. This definitely falls under the category of those compulsions that take us off the eightfold path. Just writing this is making me realize that I need to put more effort into meditations on this compulsion.

Any suggestions are much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Would it help if you cut it down to, say, once a week? Or just abstain in the week(s) leading up to your girlfriend visiting?

I'm of the opinion that it's impossible for a man to cut it out of his life completely. There are many jokes and even movies about the failure to do this.
posted by naju at 2:37 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

can you mastubate in front of your partner, can you give her oral sex or manual sex, instead of intercourse? sometimes i find it helps to expand what sex is defined as
posted by PinkMoose at 2:42 PM on December 15, 2011

Some suggestions off the top of my head to keep you busy/distracted:

Computer games, books, learn card tricks, exercise, cook, meditation.

I think that cutting it out cold turkey is the best way of tackling this, and not go on the net to 'just have a quick look'. I think that way is always tempting and you need to cut temptation out of the equation entirely.

It might also be worthwhile thinking about the payoffs if you avoid masturbation, like actually having sex with your partner and not worrying about whether you'll be able to or not.
posted by Scottie_Bob at 2:43 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have a serious addiction then you need to treat it just like any other addiction. With therapy.

People with addictive personalities can get addicted psychologically to anything that gives a pleasure response. Addictive personality
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:53 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Keep really busy, as you've found that helps so much. And keep a list of all the things you Want to do if you get a few free minutes to putz around: meditate, clean, do the one hundred pushups thing, write in a journal, call your girlfriend, read that fabulous book you've been meaning to get to, etc.

You also might find Health Month helpful in setting health goals and tracking them. There's a mefi team, and you can set private goals, or you could use it to track your other activities like meditation and exercise.
posted by ldthomps at 2:54 PM on December 15, 2011

Blocking internet or sites at home probably won't work. I might end up doing something really stupid like watching porn at school. This has happened before.

Do this anyway. At least just to introduce a step for yourself where you can pause and ask yourself if you want to break your will-power chain. Whitelist the sites you regularly visit. Get a usb key with a portable browser and set it up with the whitelist as well.

I break habits by rewarding myself for breaking them ( I put a quid in my clear piggy bank every day I go without a cola for example). That way you get to see your successes accumulate and you use an already established reinforcement to counter the reinforcement effect you want to break.

Also only break/establish one habit at time. Too many things at once and your will power will be too dispersed. I'd suggest breaking the porn habit while leaving the wanking one intact but limited. I'm betting many a single guy on this site doesn't even know how to fall asleep without it.
posted by srboisvert at 3:04 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are both addictions individually or is the collective? What if you just break one addiction at a time---say focus on not looking at porn and let go of controlling the masterbation for now.
posted by murrey at 3:15 PM on December 15, 2011

Fist, delete your stash of material from your hard drive, and delete any pertinent browser bookmarks.

Only use your computer in a public area. If you're using a laptop, use it only in the living room, family room, etc. If you're using a desktop computer, move it into the living room. Basically, make it almost impossible to be off in-private when online.

And definitely get counseling.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:25 PM on December 15, 2011

You might want to consider setting yourself some regular porn dates while you're trying to make headway. If you know that you have time set aside for a session each Tuesday night, for example (or however many nights a week, or minutes per session, would still be a meaningful reduction for you), it can make it easier to to hold back on the other days, and during the day leading up to that set-aside time.

Otherwise, the "well there's no end in sight to this torture anyway" feeling often leads to the "oh-fuck-it-I'll-just-get-the-instant-gratification-now" impulse and the guilt that follows. Feeling in control over what you're doing can be very positively reinforcing.

Best of luck.
posted by argonauta at 3:33 PM on December 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Suggest breaking this task down to smaller pieces. For example, focus on first, not watching porn, while allowing yourself as much masturbation as you like. Then focus on not allowing masturbation.

I also suggest therapy to figure out why you are focusing on this. It isn't a coincidence.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:45 PM on December 15, 2011

You have an addiction. The best way the handle this, from the beginning, is to admit that you need resources outside of yourself. Seek treatment.

There are many ways to get treatment for addictions; you'll probably want to dabble in all of them. First is a combination therapy of psychiatric treatment and talk therapy; many psychologists or therapists have specialized in addiction therapy and will be well-versed in ways to help you tackle your particular issue. Medicine will likely be a combination of anti-anxiety meds (which is a common underlying condition as to why many addicts tend to become addicts) and selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors, intended to treat the obsessive-compulsive roots of addiction. You also have the option of 12-step programs, which, depending on your counselor, they may encourage you to go to.

A word or three about 12-step programs. While they had their roots in religious spirituality, that is hardly the end of it; many 12-step attendees are hardcore atheists (or even anti-theists, generally hostile to the notion of God). If the meeting is properly grounded in good 12-step principals, your comments will be met with a respectful "thanks, Anonymous!", indicating that no one is going to judge you or spar with you. All viewpoints are welcome. You may, however feel totally out-of-place and decide not to return. That's cool, too.

I know that you couched your post in terms of "it makes me impotent" not "my life is falling apart", so I hope my response isn't seen as making a mountain out of a mole-hill. The bottom line is that your real life is beginning to suffer -- however slightly -- from your addiction. Seeking real medical treatment and counseling is probably the best way to deal with the neuro-chemical issues that exist, as well as getting professional support to keep you on the right path.
posted by jpolchlopek at 4:32 PM on December 15, 2011

www.yourbrainonporn.com is a very informative resource.
posted by blargerz at 4:33 PM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm buddhist too. I found the zen of recovery to be a very good book. While it doesn't address your specific addiction, all addictions come from the same place - desire. I highly recommend reading the widely available material for other addictions, such as AA's Big Book. There are tons of buddhist-focused recovery material out there and I encourage you to partake of it.

I know you're a guy, but Women, Sex and Addiction is an excellent book that was written by a buddhist, who also has another book on the 12 steps (which I haven't read).

Actually I will send you either book if you're in the US and memail me your address.
posted by desjardins at 5:10 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just writing this is making me realize that I need to put more effort into meditations on this compulsion

But won't that leave you alone in the house and lead to the sound of one hand, um, clapping? I'm not a Buddhist, so don't know, just throwing it out there.

Otherwise, you seem to have a healthy sex drive, but no one to regularly travel that terrain, so to speak. Can that be changed with your girlfriend, can you see each other more often? If not, what about phone sex? Still masturbation, but at least it's with a real person that you know.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:13 PM on December 15, 2011

Pretty sure the practice of Buddhism and wholly abstaining from masturbation don't have very much to do with each other. Behaving as if you have no drives (and this is a basic human drive that won't go away; and this is a woman telling you this, btw) is very different from not doing it so often that it bothers you. You might as well eat only for sustenance and deny yourself anything with a flavor. I mean, if you want to be a monk, be a monk, but you'd better go all the way.

Trying to make yourself superhuman in just this one respect is also being compulsive. It'll control you as much as ever, only you're going to be tempted all the time and hate yourself when you slip up and eat something. Or jack off or whatever. What you're proposing is not so much Buddhist as Puritan. There's no compassion or acceptance in it.

Could the problem with masturbation be the way you're going about it? Dan Savage would suggest that your grip is probably just too firm, and you need to re-sensitize yourself. I'm not in a position to link at the moment, but look up Dan Savage and the term "death-grip." If you weren't anonymous I would bet you $10 that it's the way you masturbate or an anxiety problem. Because unless you have a long long refractory period and are perhaps quite old, you should be able to masturbate and also have sex. Even if it means not necessarily thinking about your partner the whole time.
posted by Adventurer at 5:41 PM on December 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Does your girlfriend know about this porn thing? Does she care?

If the answer to either of those is "No," then you are not quitting for her sake.

I might humbly suggest you are feeling some shame and guilt about this porn, masturbation thing, and that feeling is what is causing your, uh, performance issues. That is the issue here, not the act of typing in double-you-double-you-double-you-dot-pornwhatever-dot-com and jerking off.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 6:19 PM on December 15, 2011

You can masturbate just about anywhere. And your brain is so jam packed with porn you can't escape it. The only thing you can do it make it so you are not able to play with yourself. May I suggest Birdlocked. They are the most comfortable devices you can wear and there will be no getting off while you are in it.

You can either make it a game and a gift and have your girlfriend keep the key. Or you can leave the key somewhere you can't easily get it, like your desk at work. Of course, you should keep some bolt cutters just in case.

Yeah, it is kinky and perhaps not what you are looking for. But it is a way to keep yourself from playing with yourself without ruining the pleasures of porn and masturbation (when you are allowed to masturbate).
posted by munchingzombie at 6:55 PM on December 15, 2011

You don't need a special trick, you just stop. I stopped over three months ago. It's no big deal, just don't do it anymore. I didn't delete anything, didn't remove any bookmarks, didn't buy any gimmicky crap, didn't install any sort of monitor, just stopped. So, stop.
posted by The Monkey at 7:58 PM on December 15, 2011

Are there any Buddhist leaders in your area that you can talk about your addiction with? You don't have to mention that it's porn, just say that you have an addiction and you are looking for some advice.

If you are trying to make yourself busy, you could join a gym, join a Buddhist group if you haven't, and look at arts or entertainment in your area.

I once read a zen koan or story about a man who, when he began to really really like things would say to himself "I really really like painting. I'll stop now because this is becoming dangerous." Then he'd abruptly stop and move on to something else.

IA on the person who said delete it from your hard drive and delete bookmarks. Reduce things slowly.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:15 AM on December 16, 2011

I found chains.cc and the mobile version m.chains.cc helpful as a visual representation of how far I'd come. It may sound stupid, but I focused on "not breaking the chain" rather than "no porn". In the moment, I found "no porn" impossible to justify. It was easier to value the chain, especially when the week markers start popping up.

I knew I needed something to fill the time. I started with long walks, but eventually settled on playing an MMO (I don't play games normally). But it has to stay interesting. After a month and a half, I lost interest in the game and broke my chain at the same time. Could be coincidence, I don't know.

This is completely foreign to most people, and if you talk about it you'll get a lot of discouraging feedback. You can look at the other comments here to see the assumptions people have. I found it best to not tell anyone at all.

Good luck!
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 3:28 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would definitely look into therapy for this, if that is a possibility.

[I am not a neuroscientist, so take the following with a grain of salt]
Also, and this isn't second guessing your conclusion about what is causing this, but maybe masturbation isn't the culprit here. Masturbation is the safest and most convenient place for you to learn about your sexuality - what makes you feel good, what holds your interest, blah blah blah. I think it also works in reverse, the way in which you masturbate tends to influence your brain's neural pathways associated with both the physiological and psychological aspects of sexual response. I think when you combine masturbation with porn, if you do it repeatedly, compulsively, with little variation, then you are carving neural pathways in your brain that influence how your sexual response works. Even if you quit cold turkey with masturbation and porn right now, it might take a few weeks or months to jump out of the grooves you have worn in your brain.

I don't know about your porn and masturbation habits, but often the kind of masturbation that accompanies porn functions primarily as a release, and not necessarily as an exploration of sexuality. Additionally, I feel, as you seem to have picked up in your thinking/meditating on the subject, that it tends to stunt some people's sexual imagination and even perception of sexual reality.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that maybe you just need to cut out the porn, and continue masturbating - i.e. explore your sexuality in ways that don't bring you shame, or create habits that you find hard to break and which affect the sex life you share with other people.

Also, keep up with the meditating. Maybe the books desjardins recommends cover this, but the awareness that meditation brings seems to have positive effects on some sexual dysfunctions.

Good Luck!
posted by baniak at 8:37 AM on December 16, 2011

Also... might your girlfriend be interested in phone sex with you?
posted by argonauta at 9:11 AM on December 16, 2011

I strongly oppose the idea that more or different sexual activity is the answer. It's like telling an alcoholic to switch from whiskey to beer. There's an underlying issue here. Clinging is clinging is clinging, and for you it happens to be to sexual activity. I am not suggesting you become celibate, but simply switching forms is not going to relieve your suffering.

Here's a good, short passage from the Pali Canon about clinging. Here's a much, much longer essay that delves into how clinging arises and its forms.

I call myself a "half-assed buddhist" because I do drink and use porn and masturbation, but I don't suffer over those things, and returning to my faith helps me be mindful so that I keep things in moderation.

Keeping busy is an excellent solution* but only if you are also mindful of the desires as they arise and are not merely distracting yourself.

*It's, not of course, a solution to suffering in general, which is inevitable, but you knew that.
posted by desjardins at 9:47 AM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I started watching porn at a relatively young age, and coupled with my addictive personality, this eventually progressed into relationship ending behavior, due to the amount, the types, and the effects this "private, harmless" behavior had on my sexual psyche. Over the years, I was unable to admit to anyone that I had somehow come to prefer porn over real, physical intimacy.

My porn watching started harmless enough, with the standard "Playboy-esque" scenes, but over decades devolved into a search for how taboo I could possibly get. The effect this had on me, was that the more I liked a woman, the less sexually attracted I was to her.

For some reason, unrealistic expectations of body or appearance never was an issue for me. The standard, svelt, "conventionally attractive" women found in mainstream pornography frankly bore me.

I did, however, come to view sex as something that was degrading, dirty and should not be done with (or to, rather) someone I cared about. This, combined with selfish, self-centered thoughts, fears and irritations about the anxiety about performance and pleasuring a woman, having to work to excite my partner versus hitting a "play" button, and just being able to finish, reset Safari and go about what I wanted to do, resulted in a preference for pleasuring myself over what I viewed as the intricacies, annoyances and degradations of being with a person, with their own wants, desires, and feelings.

The women who were in my life for long periods often felt unattractive, neglected and even thought I was gay. My initial reaction to sex was normal, but after the 3rd or 4th time, I began to get sexually bored, though my emotions continued to grow. That resulted in a highly affectionate, cuddly, compassionate, asexual relationship. Which I've been told confused the shit out of the women in my life.

Since then, I have worked a program in recovery (not for Porn, for another addiction) and I have tried several times to excise porn from my life. The longest I was able to was for about 4 months. One thing that I find helps is to have a close-mouthed very close friend or confidant who I tell every time I watch porn during the ensuing guilt (I have to do this within a few hours, or my rationalization kicks in, and I deny my own guilt) storm... This helps as thinking about having to call this person while I'm trying to get off is not very conducive to the mood, though it did take a few times before it held water enough to change my behavior.

I have talked with close friends, therapists, and consulted the universe about this issue, and it has subsided and is not damaging my current relationship. I don't have access to a computer where I am staying, which certainly helps, but even when I did, I would fantasize in my head. What led me back to the little porn watching I currently do is thinking that watching exercise and other videos on YouTube wasn't "porn." I'm still struggling with this, but in its current frequency of 1-2 times every couple weeks, it has yet to be an issue, though I am not hopeful if it does increase again. I just wanted to let you know that you're not alone in this, and I'm sure there are many many more with this same issue.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:49 AM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's a reddit group that you may find helpful: http://www.reddit.com/r/NoFap/
posted by dobie at 3:22 PM on December 21, 2011

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