Dear 100 Hour Board,
I'm looking for a little bit of help as I try to stop using pornography. I wouldn't say I'm addicted to it or anything (that word is overused) but it definitely is a habit by now. I've used it on and off in the past, but I had the motivation of guilt and the commandments that generally helped give me the energy and focus to leave it behind. But lately, that particularly motivation is not as strong anymore. I'm still a member of the church and I love the Savior, but I've also noticed the many flaws in the church as an organization which has me wondering more and more what is actually doctrine and what is just cultural. And I also have come to realize-or at least believe-that pornography is not inherently evil, which has decreased the feelings of guilt.
But that being said, I still think it's something that I want to stop doing. I do want to "save myself" for marriage, I want sex to be a special experience without it being tainted by unrealistic expectations or guilt, and I want to have the self-discipline to step away from something that I know I don't "need"... but it's proving to be very difficult. And more often than not, I feel like it's loneliness that brings me to view pornography, and while I have great friends and a good support group... it's not always helpful in the moment. I just deeply want to be in a relationship, and I know that pornography is a very poor substitute, but it lets me forget for a few moments.
So I guess my question is, could you share some things that might help me with the motivation to quit this habit? In fact, any advice at all would be appreciated. Thank you!
It's easy to develop a habit of viewing pornography because it looks good and makes you feel good. Although I disagree with your assessment that pornography is not inherently evil, I fully believe that people who view pornography are not inherently evil or even bad. I think it's cool that you are willing to reach out about ways to help stop your habit, so kudos to you!
First, you should know that I've struggled with this exact thing, so hopefully I can be of some help. Now, find someone that will hold you accountable but won't shame you when you view pornography. If you feel ashamed talking to them, chances are you'll just stop telling them when you have viewed it and that's not helpful. I think you could potentially kick the habit by yourself, but it is so much easier and efficient with an accountability partner. Next, make sure you are getting enough sleep and rest. I've found that when I'm tired or exhausted, my willpower is decreased and its so much harder to stay away from it. Likewise, find other ways to deal with stress other than viewing pornography. This could be yoga, reading a book, going on a walk or doing other exercise, going to dinner, meeting up with a friend, playing a game, really anything that you can turn to instead of pornography. Remember that you can be in a relationship and still be struggling with pornography. Don't feel like you have to be perfect before you start creating romantic relationships or other relationships for that matter. But recognize that being in a relationship or even being married won't instantly take away the habit of viewing pornography, it will take more than that if you really want to curb your habit.
I think the other writers have some good advice below, so be sure to check out their answers as well.
I hope this helps!
-Sunday Night Banter
I loved what SNB said and I echo what he said.
When I was interning at the Family History Library, I was in a meeting where we talked about the power of doing family history. It's been quite a few years so I don't remember all the details. But the underlying message is that family history is the PERFECT replacement for pornography. They're both using the internet, therefore replacing one internet activity with another.
Elder Bednar's message was porn is Satan's tool to lead us away from Christ, but family history is what anyone can do to combat the temptation of looking at it. The Church published success stories of those who were able to overcome their desires and drawer closer to God. One of the links mentions a video of a man who lost his membership due to drugs, alcohol, and pornography. He started indexing and you'll just have to watch the rest of the video to see what happens to him! Overall, the meeting was compelling, as the spirit testified to me that through family history we can conquer looking at porn. I even told this to my Dad when he was a member of the bishopric and he started to implement this teaching in his ward.
Best of luck!
I would suggest finding deep relationships outside of romantic ones. I think especially with romantic relationships, it can be difficult to find someone who fits you, so start with finding people who you feel connected to and loved by so that you can have support that you may be able to lean on in the moment. I'd also like to echo SNB's suggestion to find a replacement for pornography in your life. For me, I've found that I spend too much time on my phone, especially watching Youtube. And, while I usually go there instinctively wanting a break, I usually am left feeling stressed out or anxious because I either spend too much time or don't actually feel relieved afterward.
I'm still trying to find activities that I can do that I both enjoy and that relieve stress, but things like listening to music and sometimes singing along really helps me because I can ground myself in the moment and be able to work through the stress or just relax, rather than trying to distract myself and get a dopamine rush. The therapist I'm working with now has called it "fake dopamine", because I get the same rush as if I were doing something fulfilling or important when I'm doing a task that isn't important at all. Finding new activities that I can do has been a helpful process, though, and I think it will continue to help me.
I also think it might help to see if meeting with a therapist would help you, just so that you can work through some of the more difficult emotional parts of giving up a habit, and so that you can work through it in an emotionally healthy way. Having someone there to work through emotional challenges can be really helpful, and a lot of times, they will be able to find solutions that you might not think of or that solve underlying issues. If you're interested, you could even just look at cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you recognize the thoughts that lead to unwanted emotions and the thoughts and emotions that lead to unwanted actions. For that, you wouldn't have to meet with a therapist, but it might help.
Thanks for reaching out, though. I know it can be hard to know where to go for resources, but I wish you the best of luck. Feel free to reach out again if there's anything related we can help with.
I was listening to an old episode of a podcast earlier today (The Happiness Lab) that I think it relevant to this situation. It went into how our surroundings provide cues for habits. For any habit you either want to develop or break, you don't want to be relying on your force of will. Instead, you want to make your surroundings do the work for you. So for you, I'd start with identifying what makes you turn to pornography (which by your question it sounds like you're already doing). But in addition to an emotion (loneliness), is there a certain place you tend to view pornography in? Or is it seeing an app on your phone? Is it spurred by any other emotions like boredom? After you've identified triggers, find ways to adjust your surroundings accordingly so you have different cues in your environment. Maybe change the background of your phone, or establish a routine/ritual for what to do when you're lonely.