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5 Strategies for Overcoming an Addiction to Porn and Masturbation

Before discussing five strategies that help me stay clean with regard to porn and masturbation, let me start by explaining that nothing short of the grace and mercy of God ever worked in helping me experience victory over this ongoing battle, which spanned over 40 years. Only God can ultimately free us

I’ve spent a decent amount of time viewing myself as dirt. But before you think that I’m suffering from a poor self-image, let me explain. As dirt, when a seed is planted within me, if the right conditions occur, that seed can grow and eventually become a flower, a bush, or a tree. When the seed blossoms, very few people pay any attention to the dirt. However, without the dirt, the plant would never blossom. This has been the case in my life. Therefore, it might be helpful to think of these five strategies as the things that prepare the soil so that the seed of God’s grace can take root and blossom in your life—a blossoming that can lead to freedom from an addiction to porn and masturbation.

1. Reading Daily Scripture 

Taking time for the daily Mass readings only requires five minutes. One great resource for doing this is the Laudate free app, which you can download to your phone or tablet and literally be a “click” away from the readings everyday (in fact, three of the five strategies discussed in this article can be accessed through the app). Further, reading the entire Liturgy of the Word only takes fifteen minutes. When I first learned about this on a retreat a few years back, I thought, Who couldn’t carve out 15 minutes? Especially since I had been willing to spend much more than 15 minutes viewing porn back in the day! 

I approach the readings with the expectation that they speak specifically to me to instruct, encourage, warn, or direct me that day. In fact, I often hear specific messages for me. Therefore, whether it’s five or fifteen minutes, take time every day to read what the Lord is speaking to you through Scripture, which will provide strength and grace as you set out to battle temptations to view porn and/or masturbate during the day.

2. Identifying and Avoiding Known “Danger Zones”

Through counseling and online intervention, many resources advise us to consider the times and circumstances that make us most vulnerable and therefore likely to turn toward porn and/or masturbation. The reason for this is that once we know what circumstances cause us the greatest temptations we can build structures in our lives to either lessen their effects or help us avoid them completely. 

At the height of my addiction, I would fall into masturbation many times a day. However, I learned that the most vulnerable times for me were when I was in the shower (easy access) and when I went to bed at night (location and environment associated with appropriate sexual activity). By identifying these danger zones, I could then build structures to combat them, which leads to the next strategy.

3. Reciting the Rosary Daily

Anyone who has not built a prayer life and experienced the benefits of it may be reluctant to pray the rosary. To be honest, I find reciting the rosary at times a bit boring, and therefore have difficulty praying it myself. Yet, it’s still a very good discipline, and after developing the habit of praying it daily I can see many benefits in my life.  

What really helped me develop the habit was strategically using this prayer to combat temptation when I was in a “danger zone.”  Since bedtime is an area of difficulty for me, praying the rosary as I go to sleep protects me from falling into sexual fantasies and masturbation. On the Laudate app, I pray the scriptural rosary along with a podcast. I am able to keep my mind from drifting toward boredom because each Hail Mary is connected with a short passage from Scripture. Most nights I fall asleep somewhere between the fourth or fifth decade. The key is that it keeps my mind from drifting toward inappropriate fantasies and, therefore, free from the temptation to masturbate.

4. Experiencing the Sacrament of Reconciliation

In the past, when I was falling regularly, this one was hard for me. I literally choked on the words when I would recite the Act of Contrition prayer (“I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace…”) because there were days during which, after mere hours of going to confession, I was masturbating again. 

I once told the priest I couldn’t even get through the prayer because I knew I was going to fall again. But he told me that I shower every day even though I get dirty and sweaty again. And in the same way, confession is similar to taking a shower. I don’t get angry with myself for having body odor, and so I shouldn’t beat myself up for being human and sinning. God just wants to clean me and offer me His healing grace, no matter how many times I get dirty or sin. This was a helpful way for me to look at it.

5. Attending Mass and Receiving the Eucharist

Mass offers me an incredible “mountain top” experience, and I would love to be able to attend daily (I can’t because of my work schedule). When I do go to Mass, though, I try to “drink in” each aspect of it. For example, at the beginning of Mass, during the penitential prayer (“I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters…”), I consider how we are embracing the third step of the Twelve Steps in turning our lives over to God and asking for his forgiveness, believing He can restore us to sanity.

Of course, the Mass crescendos when the bread and wine, our meager offerings, are miraculously transformed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. As the priest prays the words from the Last Supper, I try to get in touch with the suffering Jesus. He knew that I wouldn’t be able to see Him physically on this earth. Yet, He gives us this incredible sacrificial gift of His body and blood through the Eucharist. The “Bread of Life” that heals, transforms, and saves

Throughout the Mass we are invited to acknowledge our humanity and hear God say that we are His beloved children with whom He is well pleased. And at the end of this celebration, just like with the twelfth step, we are sent forth to carry His message of hope and joy to everyone we meet. 

Again, each of these five strategies prepare us to bear bountiful fruit of healing and grace. The softer we can make the soil of our hearts through these strategies, the richer the harvest will be because of God’s grace. Yet, without my own trust and experience of God’s love, mercy, and power, none of these strategies could have ultimately released me from the scourge of porn and masturbation. But by employing these strategies with an ever growing trust in God, I have found freedom from my addiction to porn and masturbation.

Jim Gorski is a 57-year-old father of four children who has been married to the same woman for 35 years. He completed his master’s degree in social work in 1984 and has directed church music groups for the past 41 years. He remains a grateful child of the most high God and strives to trust in God’s loving mercy and His ability to provide for Jim’s every need.

 

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