Getting pornography out of your immediate environment is, of course, a very practical step toward recovery. Obviously if you want to quit porn, you will need to get it out of your house, your office, and any other loca­tions where you have typically used it. Just as a smoker who wants to quit needs to completely dispose of his cigarettes and an alcoholic has to pour out his booze, a recovering porn user needs to get rid of his porn. When your environment is porn-free, it is not as easy to fall mindlessly back into using it. You get both the physical and psychological distance needed to help you break free. Without porn in your environment, you are more motivated to develop new healthy pursuits that bring you pleasure.

Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, porn is not just a product that sits on a store shelf waiting to be purchased. It is easily accessible all the time, for little or no money, in a variety of forms, through a multitude of sources. You can’t keep it out of your life simply by ridding your personal spaces of it and staying away from the places that sell it. It takes a serious ongo­ing effort to separate from porn. You have to be willing to actively push it away any time it tries to come back into your life.

When it comes to creating a porn-free environment, the options can be summed up simply: Clear it out. Keep it out. Turn away from it. Let’s see how to accomplish each one.

Clear it out. Locate and completely get rid of any type of porn you have been keeping in your home, at work, in your car, and anywhere else in your personal environment that you have come in contact with it. Get rid of magazines, books, videos, DVDs, computer files, and cable porn channels. Think of this as a toxic substance removal effort—porn has been poisoning your life, and the only way to improve your health and the health of your environment is by getting rid of it entirely.

While throwing things out is straightforward enough, the act of clear­ing out porn can be emotionally upsetting and challenging. It is not un­common for feelings of sadness, fear, and anger to emerge. It can feel just like the end of a relationship, a relationship that provided pleasurable sexual experiences. Some porn users have spent years cultivating porn collections that cater specifically to their individual interests and tastes, and they may have a strong emotional attachment to their stashes. In addition, some people feel they may need some porn as a safety net in case this “recovery stuff” ultimately doesn’t work out. Clearing out porn makes quitting porn real. It’s a very concrete physical act of separation.

Former porn users liken getting rid of their porn to “saying good-bye to an old friend,” and some say it was “terrifying,” and “the hardest thing I ever did.” The intensity of their feelings often reflects the strength of the emotional and sexual attachment they had with porn. Anyone whose porn habit is casual will clearly have an easier time clearing out porn than someone who used it regularly and for an extended period of time. For those who find throwing out porn to be emotionally challenging, it can be helpful to discuss with a counselor or members of a recovery support group how to best do it and handle the feelings that come up. Once the porn is gone and they have adjusted to it being gone, many former porn users say they feel an overwhelming sense of relief, as well as pride at being able to detach from it. There is comfort in knowing it would take an intentional, concerted effort to get that involved with it again. “It gets easier to stay away from porn when it’s not always there before you,” Marie said.

Keep it out. Once your environment is clear of porn, the job becomes one of keeping it out. Porn and porn-like images can pop up unan­nounced on the Internet, on television, in movies, in print media, and in dozens of other places we may frequent. Advertising and entertain­ment industries rely heavily on using sexually provocative images. Many corporations are deeply invested in maximizing their customer base for products with “adult content,” whether through pay-per-view television, magazines, satellite and cable TV, and a multitude of high-tech electronic devices. Many Web sites that have nothing to do with porn will use sexu­ally charged pop-ups to keep users on their sites.

Staying away from porn requires diligence and effort. We’ve found that the best strategy for keeping porn out of your life is to construct bar­riers. When you keep in mind the fact that porn use thrives on anonym­ity, low-cost availability, and easy access, anything you do to reduce these factors will help you keep porn out of your life. Consider the following options and identify the ones you think will help you create and maintain a porn free environment: