Last week I was having an informal conversation with one of my accountability partners. Our chat flowed through normal catch-up material and soon the quintessential question arose: How are you doing with pornography?
Having anticipated this, I delivered a rehearsed answer, one that gave the truth but left out the true emotions that ran underneath the surface: I was getting tired of the fight. Truly, I was exhausted, and down to the core I knew that I needed to speak up. I started to say things like, “I am tired of this being so hard,” “Isn’t it supposed to get easier as time goes on,” and even “I don’t think it’s worth all these sacrifices anymore.”
As I heard myself speak, I started to understand that I had hit a point that many before me had warned me about: recovery burn-out. In my discussions with those who are battling addictions of many kinds, I have observed that almost all suffer with this in some context.
At the beginning of one’s recovery, the desire to make a change and be free from that addiction fuels them, driving them forward with a determination to gain back control of their life. Everything is hard, but they were warned of this, and they have the necessary support (therapists, accountability partners, friends, etc.) to wrestle through the withdrawal stage.
Now fast-forward to a few months or even years down the road. Are they still surrounded with support, or even seeking out help? Are they still as dedicated to their recovery as they were in the beginning? Honestly, it depends on the person, but too often I find that many (including myself) get tired of asking for help.
I hear in my own head too often, “You were supposed to be over this by now, so get a handle on it without bringing anyone else into this mess.” I know that I am not alone in these angst-filled contemplations, because many times the process of recovery is viewed as peak-and-dive, where the degree of difficulty peaks during the initial withdrawal and forming of healthy thought-patterns and habits, and then drastically declines with time. Instead, the recovery process looks a lot more jagged, with ups and downs in unpredictable configurations that cause frustration and feelings of hopelessness and defeat.
Why does this matter? Ultimately, it means that all of those in recovery and those helping need to have postures of grace that adequately take into account the long-term nature of recovering from pornography addiction. With any addiction, there should be the continual reminder that this most likely will be something that will be struggled with for years, if not for a lifetime. In my recovery, I have found some thought-patterns and practical ideas that have helped me survive the reality of this long-term journey of overcoming.
1. Be realistic about the long haul.
A porn addiction is just that: an addiction. It means that this process most likely will be a temptation and a battle for months, years, if not a lifetime. When we hold ourselves to standards or expectations that demand complete deliverance from our addictions, we set ourselves up for failure.
Recovery is a process, and included in that will be many seasons of hardships, others of great success. All of those seasons are a part of the the inclusive redemption of God’s story, no matter if this is something that we struggle with until our last day. We need to continually prepare our hearts for a battle that can be won, but a battle that will need new energy, motivation and strategy as time goes on and the circumstances of our lives change.
2. Find ways to channel that energy with a new hobby/idea.
Honestly, this has been one of the most helpful tips that I have found in my recovery process thus far. Find an interest, a hobby, a talent, and throw your energies into it.
The less time that we spend idle means that there is less time to fall into temptation. When I notice that I am having a harder week fighting temptation, I will work even harder to be intentional about what I do with my time. It makes an incredible difference in my life when I can be using so much of my frustration and angst into something productive, one that leads me away from pornography and promotes a healthy lifestyle at the same time.
3. Recognize that falling into sin may happen, but it does not discount the effort that has been taken in the recovery process thus far.
In my journey, It makes me so upset when I fall back into sin that I have already confessed and made the commitment to rid my life of. When I confessed my sin of watching pornography and found accountability, I finally felt like I could get rid my life of it. However, that process of healing did not happen in a continuous forward motion of resisting temptation. Too often, it meant that I would be resisting for a while and then eventually falling right back to where I was before I made that promise. Every time I found myself in a place of sin again, I felt more and more dejected and that the effort I had put in thus far was useless.
Yet, how beautiful is it that even when we make a commitment to resist sin and yet fall into it again, we have a God that welcomes us with open arms. His relentless love does not hold a limit of the amount of times we can fail before He begins to walk away.
In recovery, meditate on the truth that each day that is a victory! Each minute, hour, day, month is a testament to God’s strength that gives us determination. It is not about counting the number of days that we have resisted, but about the power of Jesus that weaves in our story, whether we have made it 1 day or 150, or made it a year and lost sight of the purpose for a day.
It is not a success countdown that allows us to go the distance, but a mentality and thought process that lives and breathes grace and victory.
4. Celebrate the little victories.
I already touched on this point a bit, but I want to emphasize just how important it is to this process. At the beginning, it seemed like I could not actually feel that I was winning the battle until I had reached a year without pornography. The problem was I did not make it that far. And during those times, I found no reason to celebrate that I had made it months without it.
It is critical that we learn to celebrate all the victories in this recovery, even the little ones. Did you resist going on the computer today because you were feeling tempted? Yeah, it might have been yesterday that you did not, but today you did! Were you able to make it a week without it? That is incredible! Find ways to be thankful in each and every step, however seemingly small.
God walks us through, and He gives us strength in the moment to overcome temptation. It has made my process full of much more joy when I am able to thank God for the minutes, hours, days, and months where He has walked in this with me.
5. Document the process.
It does not have to be anything fancy or creative. I have a friend who writes down on little pieces of paper the little victories or where she has seen God move in her battle against pornography. When she is feeling particularly disheartened, she reads a few of them to be reminded of God’s faithfulness in her journey.
Do whatever feels most comfortable for you and make sure you can come back to it in the future. What a blessing it is to be able to look at how God has provided for us before and be reminded that He can and will do that for us again.
Sometimes the relentless battle of fighting darkness seems too much to press on. Be encouraged that the power of Christ already has victory, and His strength will be sufficient for you. Whatever season you are in, however fall you have fallen or pushed through, God will provide for you. Find reason to celebrate in that!