Just as you need to be prepared to handle sudden unplanned exposures to porn, you also must be ready to deal with a desire to use porn, which can strike at any time. Taking a deep breath and counting to ten may work for some people, but this doesn’t work for most porn users. The impulse to use porn can be too powerful to manage on your own—it helps to have a support team to whom you can turn to when you are struggling to escape the urge.

After Mitch lost his job as a teacher and coach because of using porn on school grounds, he decided to quit using porn for good. “Was I tempted? Did I have a habit I had to break? Absolutely! But my men’s sexual addiction recovery group at church helped me stay on track.” As he moved forward in his recovery plan, Mitch found that he needed more support to help him resist his strong urges to use porn again. “I es­tablished an understanding with my pastor that I could call him any time I needed. That first year of my recovery I ended up calling him three to four times a week. I’d tell him, ‘I’m really struggling right now. Can you pray for me? Do you have any suggestions for what I can do?’ My pastor would listen, say something soothing, and give me ideas. His support and the strength of our friendship got me through the rough times and helped me break my habitual patterns.”

You may want to consider any of the following people as members of your support team—professional counselors, clergy members, twelve – step program sponsors, recovery group members (sometimes referred to as “accountability partners”), your intimate partner, family mem­bers, friends, or counselors at local and national hotlines (see Resources section).

It’s good to have several options to call upon as needed so you don’t overwhelm any one person, and in case that person is not available when you need them. Tom told us that both his mother and sister have been the most important people in his recovery. “They are there and they listen. They know my history and know how much I was exposed to porn as a child through my dad’s problem with it. They understand the magnitude of how it can affect a person and the kind of struggle that I’ve had to go through to get porn out of my life.”

Tom doesn’t limit his support to his mom and sister, however. He said, “I also talk with my brother-in-law who is a real strong supporter. It’s nice having the guys in my twelve-step group and the people at church aware of where I’ve been and what I’m going through too. I’ve told so many people. I thought that I would never tell anybody. I thought people would hate me if they knew. But that isn’t the case. I have some awesome friends who know, really care about me, and back up my recovery.”

Intimate partners can also be helpful supports, but the extent to which it is productive for them to be involved in the recovering porn user’s healing work varies. Many intimate partners become easily upset hearing details about porn cravings, contents, and slip-ups. It’s often dif­ficult for them to not fall into old dysfunctional patterns of wanting to control, pass judgment on, or monitor the recovering porn user’s behav­ior, especially in the early stages of recovery. Intimate partners are often most effective as supports when they are not relied on as the primary or sole support person, and when they feel confident about the former porn user’s commitment to healing.

Alex found his wife Alisa’s support extremely helpful in his recovery. He married her at twenty-two years old, several years after he realized he had a problem and had stopped using porn. Alisa never felt betrayed by him or competitive with his interest in porn. As a result, she felt comfort­able being a support person for him. “I told Alisa about my past porn problem before we were married. I had an inkling porn might continue to attract me from time to time, since it had been such a strong habit. Sure enough it has. When I get a craving for porn I talk with my wife and tell her I’m struggling with the thoughts. She’ll hold and comfort me until I feel better. Alisa doesn’t shame or judge me. Knowing she’s there and cares helps a lot.”

Adam, an SAA sponsor, has years of experience talking with porn addicts who call him when they are feeling vulnerable to using porn. This is his advice: “I encourage people just to be gentle with themselves. Just try and figure out what it is they feel and need. I’m always remind­ing people to become aware of what they are feeling in their bodies. So much of our pain comes from having feelings trapped in our bodies that we are unable to express. Recovery is all about increasing self-awareness and options, and having someone to help you when you need it.”