Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

—T homas Jefferson

W

e don’t need to tell you it’s a good idea to quit porn. You’ve probably already considered this yourself. When the negative consequences of porn use begin to outweigh the pleasures, most porn users start wanting out of the trap they’re in. They are tired of lying to others and to themselves, tired of pretending to quit in order to simply pacify someone else, and tired of worrying that they might get caught. When people have a genuine desire to quit using porn they often want something better for themselves, like a deeper relationship with a partner, feelings of personal integrity, and being respected by family and community. They want to take back control of their lives.

The decision to quit porn is a positive, life-affirming milestone in a person’s life. It represents a new level of maturity and self-responsibil­ity. It signals the beginning of a person’s recovery from porn and the gateway to a porn-free lifestyle. Unfortunately, the actual task of quitting porn is not easy to accomplish. As we’ve discussed in earlier chapters, porn is extremely powerful and can quickly pull people into a trance­like state, restrict their thinking, and impair their judgment. Porn habits become a learned way of coping with stress and a familiar way of ex­pressing sexual energy.

When people start out with the intention of no longer using porn they often discover, much to their own dismay, that porn is extremely

difficult to give up. It’s not enough to simply make a promise to stop using porn, throw out a porn stash, or disconnect the Internet service in order to succeed at quitting. In spite of a genuine intention to stop, the desire to continue accessing porn can remain strong. Early attempts at quitting frequently fail.

Dale, a forty-year-old doctor, was shocked at how much trouble he encountered when he first tried to go without porn. “I wanted to stop using porn for the sake of my marriage. I thought it would be easy,” he said. “A few nights after I decided to quit, I got in bed and felt an intense urge to watch porn. I forgot about my commitment and got up to go to the computer to get on the Internet. I stopped halfway down the hall and remembered my decision. After thinking about it for a few minutes I thought, Screw my commitment, and kept walking toward my computer. Then I changed my mind again, turned around, and headed back toward my bedroom. This seesawing went on for a few hours, with me going back and forth from my bed down the hall. I got through that night with­out using porn, but it was a nightmare. A week later I went back to using it. I was horrified that porn meant that much to me. It made me realize the extent of my problem and that giving it up wasn’t going to be easy.”

It is discouraging, as well as exhausting, when a person gets caught in a revolving door, attempting to stay away from porn and then going right back in to using it again. Nick, a sixty-two-year-old former porn user, told us, “For a long time in the beginning of my recovery I was stuck in what felt like a never-ending cycle. I’d use porn, feel miserable, and tell myself I was never going to use it again. Then I’d use it again and feel terrible, guilty, and ashamed. Then again I’d tell myself, I’ll never do that again, but break my promise to myself within days. It was amazing how quickly I would forget my vow and go back to porn again.”

Dale’s and Nick’s initial unsuccessful attempts to quit were not only disappointing to them, but brought up strong, conflicting emotions. This is a common experience for many porn users who want to quit. But why? Why is it that a porn user who has gotten to the place in his life where he strongly wants to quit can have so many competing feelings in trying to do so?

The starting point in answering these questions is to understand the key concepts of ambivalence and motivation.

Ambivalence is the coexistence of opposing attitudes and feelings within an individual. Although the person may think he has made a deci­sion, there is a mental conflict that brings about uncertainty about his choice. Ambivalence is a very normal human experience that universally occurs whenever we are trying to quit something that has given us plea­sure, excitement, or fulfillment in the past. For a porn user, it is not un­common to have the simultaneous, opposing thoughts and feelings of “I want to sometimes use porn because of all the pleasure and excitement it gives me,” and “I want to quit porn because of all the problems and pain it causes me and those I care about.” Ambivalence is a big reason why people who initially want to stop using porn can end up bouncing back and forth between quitting porn and returning to it.

To be completely successful in quitting porn, ambivalence eventu­ally has to be resolved. It means the thoughts and feelings of “I want to quit using porn” have to significantly outweigh the thoughts and feel­ings of “I want to use porn.”This is where a person’s motivation comes in and can tip the scales. Motivation is not only having the desire and willingness to accomplish something, it requires directing your behavior in a clear and focused way, with intensity and persistence, to achieve a desired goal. A strong and enduring motivation is a prerequisite for suc­cessfully recovering from any powerful habit or addiction. In quitting porn it creates a stable foundation upon which all the other recovery steps are built. Your desire to quit needs to be conscious and strong for it to prevail when you’re up against the powerful pull of porn. The stronger the motivation, and the more consistently that motivation is sustained over time, the more likely ambivalence will be resolved. “I want to quit” will prevail over “I want to use.”

In this chapter we discuss ways that you can effectively address your ambivalence and strengthen and sustain your motivation. We present methods and exercises to help you become more consciously aware of why you want to quit porn, what goals are more important to you in your life, and how you can develop the right mental attitude in order to suc­cessfully accomplish your goals.

With less ambivalence and more motivation you will be ready and able to persevere in the face of challenges ahead. Rather than spending your time and energy battling with yourself over whether or not you are really ready to quit, you can devote your resources to taking the basic action steps described in chapter 8 that can help you move forward in your recovery. When you have a clear vision for your future, the process of quitting will feel more straightforward and your goals more achievable. And during those times you feel vulnerable to slipping back into using porn, you’ll have a way to channel your thoughts and feel­ings to help you avoid the porn trap and stay inspired and focused on healing.

There are four strategies that are essential in helping to resolve am­bivalence and strengthen and sustain motivation to quit porn—each are discussed in detail in this chapter. Once you’ve read each one, we rec­ommend spending time contemplating your situation and how you can implement that particular strategy to improve your level of motivation. The strategies are:

1. Acknowledge how porn use causes you problems

2. Identify what matters most to you

3. Face your fears

4. Take responsibility for your own recovery