Recognizing Triggers and Traps in Overcoming Porn Addiction, Part 1

By Biz Gainey

I struggled with porn addiction for years before I realized that certain moments, thoughts, people, or places were triggers that ignited my desire and drove my decision-making process.  I know them now, and I have to be ready for them. 

A couple of trigger and traps are:

1.       Seasons of life that are particularly demanding and/or taxing.

2.       Transitions in life such as a new place of work or a new move.

3.       Moments or days after I have expended a large amount of emotional energy on a task or project.

Any of the moments described above are potential triggers and traps that can trick me into believing porn is a necessary escape.

I am not sure what your triggers and traps are, but I know you have them.  So, I am going present four areas of potential triggers and traps in the hope that reading them will awaken you to and keep you aware of your own.  In my own journey, awareness of these triggers and traps has provided firm footing on which to stand and has enabled me to live a robust and wonderfully healthy post-porn addiction life!

Triggers and Traps

1.       The Trying Season.  The American Psychological Association reports that nearly 70% of us believe stress has an impact on our physical well-being.[i]  I wonder if we realize the impact of stress on our mental and emotional health?  While stress is the norm for many, highly stressful seasons of life are the experience of every one of us. 

Consider two dominant areas of life experience:

a.       Relational.  This is life with friends or family, pending life stage and development.

b.      Work/Education.  This is the area of life that likely occupies most of your time.  For those in a career, it means a job.  For those who are students it means school work, life and all the activities that come with being a student in your typical academic setting.

In both areas, relationships and work, formation and deformation are happening all the time.  For example: when you work hard and receive a promotion or pay raise, you experience formation.  Your energies are rewarded and recognized by your colleagues, which gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.  The experience of pride and accomplishment help form our sense of personhood, plac’dness, and purpose in our world.    In moments like these, ones of value, esteem and recognition, something sacred is at work.  It’s as if places in us – often places we aren’t even aware exist – are being shaped and formed. 

In such moments, we experience joy and fulfillment.  While this is a beautiful moment that brings hope, it is also accompanied by subtle but certain stressors.  Intuitively, we begin to entertain thoughts like these:

Wow, what is this going to do for my career in the long run?  More success, more money, more stuff, more hours at work?

What’s my spouse going to think about this?  Does this mean I have to put in that pool he has been nagging me to put in these past two years?

How will this impact my relationship with my colleagues?

Yes.  Even in moments of joy and celebration, stress begins to build.  Most of the stress is, of course, self-inflicted, but that’s not the point.  The point is that stress begins to build during moments we would not expect it to build.  If we don’t awaken to this reality, it will grow over time and become the dominate narrative from which we live.  Soon, we are in the midst of a Trying Season and we aren’t quite sure how we even got there.

As stress builds anxiety increases.

As anxiety increases, frustration takes hold.

As frustration takes hold, conflict – both internal and external – grows.

As conflict grows, stress becomes the norm.

When stress becomes the norm, we sense a growing need to escape reality and relieve all the tension.  The Trying Season then falls prey to porn’s opportunistic pull and we act out.

We click that web page that offers total satisfaction with very little investment.

We hunt Backpage in the hopes of finding that caring companion who will, for just a small amount of our hard-earned money, ease away the pain, if only for a while.

We stroll into that massage parlor that everyone knows offers more than back rubs and seek to receive a solace our stressed out lives fail to provide.

You get the picture.  Porn’s power is weaponized in the midst of Trying Seasons and stressful realities.

For any who have struggled with porn, we know that such behavior actually leads us to shame and guilt, only adding to the stress we were trying to relieve.  In the space of such self-created tension, we begin to lash out at those we love and they who love us.  First we lash out ourselves, then take it out on our spouse, then we randomly and carelessly yell and scream at the kids.  Finally, we retreat into an isolated island of Self-loath and despair, wondering if we will ever be free.  Hoping, really, that we would one day be able to at least put up a fight.  Indeed, if we are not careful the Trying Season will lead to moments of self-induced, relationship-crushing pain.

Take hope.  This need not be the case.  There are health-creating steps we can take before running to porn and compounding our stress:

1.       Awaken to and become aware of internal stressors.  The way I do this is by pausing a few times a day and then at least once or twice a week and reflecting on how I feel.  It’s helpful for me to identify the emotions stirring within my soul.  Am I angry?  Am I sad? Am I nervous?  Am I concerned, etc.?

2.       Accept responsibility for my emotions.  It’s easy for me to blame others for my feelings.  This rarely helps.  If I can accept responsibility for my emotions, then I can take positive steps to empower myself and direct my emotions back toward health.

3.       Ask a friend for help and/or counsel.  The journey out of addiction is not a journey you can take alone.  Reach out to a trusted friend, spouse, brother, sister, counselor, pastor, mentor, coach.

4.       Alter the trajectory of your thought life.  This is crucial.  You simply have to ‘get out of your head.’  That ongoing conversation of how everyone is against you is as unhelpful as it is untrue.  Once you nurture and cultivate a toxic thought-life, you are setting yourself up for addictive behavior.  Begin to speak truth and spend time with those who will speak truth to and with you!

We experience life-giving and life-taking moments throughout all of our lives. That’s why being aware of and awake to the trying and stressful seasons is critical if you are going to break free from porn’s pull.

 If you are a porn addict or significantly struggle to stay away from porn’s pull, then this season is one of which you need to be aware.

The steps I have offered may or may not work for you.  In fact, you may have some of your own.  If so, please let us know what they are so we can provide them for others who are on this journey as well.  If you need help, check out our resources and partner link on this web site.  You can also contact us via email.

I will, in following posts, reflect on three other realities porn seeks to exploit and ways I have learned to live porn-free in their midst.  They are:

1.       The Teasing Sensation.

2.       The Tempting Situations.

3.       The Trap Day.

Stay with us!

Biz Gainey

Men Against Porn

 

[i] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2012/impact.aspx