Several years ago, a video went viral regarding pornography from an unlikely source. Comedian Russell Brand discussed his battle with porn, the negative effect it has had on him, and his desire to have it out of his life. First, he shares his belief that: “Our attitudes toward sex have become warped and perverted and have deviated from its true function as an expression of love and a means for procreating.” He goes on to personally confess, “[Porn] is something I haven’t been able to make a long-term commitment to not looking at, it’s affected my ability to relate to women”.
A study by one of the top neuroscientists, Valerie Voon, from Cambridge University may explain the reason. The June 2014 study revealed that compulsive pornography watchers experience the same reactions in the brain as addicted drug users. Can the effects of porn on the brain be reversed? Is there hope in quitting? The answer to both of those questions is Yes. Here is a game plan for how to quit pornography.
Face the Truth
You need to admit your porn watching to someone. If you are married, I highly recommend telling your spouse if they don’t know, even if it causes hurt feelings. Secrets keep us enslaved. When secrets are brought into the light of day, the ugliness is exposed. Face it and own it. This is the first step towards being free. However, before you talk to your spouse talk to a counselor, wise friend, or pastor first. You may need help in dealing with the potential aftermath. This can be like dropping a bomb for some spouses.
Breaking the Cycle
When porn is viewed, neurotransmitters called dopamine flood the brain (similar to heroin use). When the doses are too high, as is the case with habitual pornography viewing, the brain adjusts to restore balance by reducing the amount of dopamine available. This causes a decreasing amount of pleasure experienced. So we need to consume larger amounts of porn and potentially more graphic images to receive the pleasure we had before. Lower dopamine levels can make us feel depressed, causing us to go back to porn to stimulate more. It is a cycle. The good news is that when we quit watching porn, the brain readjusts and corrects its dopamine levels. It’s simply a matter of breaking the cycle by not feeding the appetite. In time, the appetite will decline by not feeding it. The most difficult days are in the beginning. It will gradually get better. There are support centers that do week long intensives that are great at beginning the process.
Group Support and Encouragement
You can’t do this alone. The great news is that you’re not alone. Find a group of like-minded people that you can meet with regularly and with whom you can be completely honest. Make sure it is a group that is high on accountability and encouragement. Find people that will be real with you and pray with you about it. Perform a search of porn addiction support groups or seek out churches with programs in your area. Another alternative or preferably done in conjunction with a support group is one-on-one counseling. They can give specific coping techniques when the urges come calling, act as another level of accountability, and uncover unseen triggers.
The Choice for More
The key to a full life is found in relationships. Pornography alienates us from one another and causes relational difficulty. It trains our brains to live in a fantasy world, rather than connect with real human beings. Selfishness is nurtured because porn is instant gratification at the expense of people getting dehumanized. That leads to guilt, loneliness, and isolation. It is a short-term exhilaration with a long-term lower quality of life. Intimacy takes effort, patience, and investment, but the reward is abundance. Relational intimacy refines selflessness and our ability to love. Quitting porn is a choice for more. Commit to that choice every morning, every hour, and every evening.