Unfortunately, there are no external warnings and alarms—no sirens or red lights—to tell you when you’re heading into the Relapse Zone. As a result, you may not become aware that you are relapsing until you are already thinking about using porn, in sensory contact with it, or actively involved with it. Regardless of where you are in the relapse process, your best strategy is to take the appropriate steps to get yourself headed back toward the Porn-Free Zone as quickly as possible.

You can effectively reverse a relapse by implementing the following five-part intervention:

1. Stop what you are doing and admit you have entered a danger zone

2. Get away from porn thoughts and materials

3. Calm yourself physiologically and emotionally

4. Reach out for supportive help as quickly as possible

5. Reaffirm your commitment to your recovery

How to Reverse a Relapse
The diagram below shows that you can apply this five-part interven­tion at any point in time to stop yourself from sliding further down into relapse and get yourself back into the Porn-Free Zone.

Let’s explore each of the five parts of the relapse reversal interven­tion in detail.

1. Stop what you are doing and admit you are in a danger zone.

As soon as the thought crosses your mind that you are doing some­thing that could make you susceptible to becoming actively involved with porn again, you need to stop. If you dismiss or rationalize away warning signs of danger, you set yourself up to plunge further down into the Relapse Zone. On the other hand, validating your awareness of being in vulnerable territory and choosing to immediately disengage from your porn-oriented thinking and behavior helps you to break out of the trance-like state that often accompanies a relapse. Stopping is a way of giving yourself an opportunity to acknowledge that what you are doing is dangerous and will lead to problems. “When I realize I’m looking at something that is similar to porn,” Corey told us, “I stop, and tell myself, This is porn and I need to stop! Hearing myself say it out loud brings me into reality again. It keeps me from lying to myself, which, obviously, I had gotten pretty good at doing when I was watch­ing porn.”

The skill of stopping your behavior and honestly admitting to your­self what is happening is vital for being able to successfully deal with re­lapse at any level. If you find yourself thinking about using porn, STOP! If you find yourself purchasing or looking at porn, STOP! Even if you are in the middle of masturbating to porn, just STOP! Interrupting old patterns of porn use allows you to resume control of your thoughts and behavior and make good decisions about what to do next.

2. Get away from porn thoughts and materials. Once you are aware that you’re in a Relapse Zone, take immediate action to create as much distance as you can between yourself and porn. If you had been think­ing about using porn, focus your thinking on something else. Keep your distance from sources of porn.

If you’re at a computer, turn it off and walk away from it. If you’re watching television, change channels, turn it off, or get up and leave the room. Take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, spend time in nature. . . do whatever it takes to shift your consciousness away from porn. (See exercise, “Shifting Your Attention.”)