How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps

Why quit watching porn? For some, porn might seem like a harmless past-time, a not-too-serious guilty pleasure, or perhaps an embarrassing habit.

But perhaps you’re one of the many who have realized the devastating effects that porn has on your life and relationships. Perhaps you feel trapped and unable to quit. Now you’re asking, “How can I quit watching porn?” 

If you’re wondering how to stop looking at porn, you’re not alone. Skim through the comments below and you’ll see. Quitting porn doesn’t have to be complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. 

6 Essential Steps for Quitting Porn  

If you want to stop looking at porn, it’s going to take some intentional work, and I encourage you to familiarize yourself with these six steps.  

Step 1: You need to want to quit porn. 

The first part to quitting porn is you really have to want to quit porn. You need to be sick and tired of porn and the sickness that it causes you in order to quit. If you are not committed, you will only be quitting until the next time you look. Deep inside you have to want to stop. 

Step 2: You have to be willing to try quitting porn a different way. 

You have to be willing to do things you haven’t done before. Seriously, if you keep trying to quit porn the same way, you’re likely to fail again. To stop watching porn for good, you have to give up what you’ve been doing and do what you have to do. 

Step 3: You need to be brutally honest with another person. 

You have to tell someone else about your struggle and desire to get free. This person may be a male friend, your wife, a person of clergy, a life coach, or a 12-step group person.  Somebody has to know the truth about your porn usage for you to get and stay free. 

Step 4: You need to get rid of all your porn. 

Next, you have to do what I call “clean house.” You have to get rid of the porn you have. Throw away the discs, magazines, anything you have used as pornography, and make sure to dump and clean out your computer. This is just a start; you have to clean house regularly. 

Step 5: You also need to block porn from coming in. 

The next step is you have to block entry points. This means have a porn blocker and accountability software like Covenant Eyes on your phone, computer at home, and at the office. If you have people sending you compromising emails, block them. Unsubscribe from porn websites. You may have to decide if credit cards are a problem. You know how porn is coming into your life. If you had a gun to your head you could block entry points in a minute. 

Step 6: You need a friend to help you stay on track. 

Finally, get accountable to a man on a daily basis about your porn usage. Make a call a day and a commitment to call this person before you even consider looking at porn. People who set consequences for porn relapse do better. Seriously, if you look at porn, set a consequence. Some guys run laps, give money to the political party they don’t vote for, do leg lunges for a half mile, give up some privilege or just pick up trash on the highway for a few hours. 

A porn-free life is a better life. 

You have to decide that you are worth living porn free. I decided that almost 25 years ago and just passed a polygraph verifying my freedom. I believe you’re worth it but your behavior will show you if you are. Don’t believe your words. Believe only your behaviors; otherwise, you can be in denial as to your commitment to being porn-free. 

One of the most effective tools I’ve found to quit porn is Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability™. It helps with four of these six essential steps. Not only can it block porn before it gets to you, it also provides a weekly report of your device use to a trusted friend–forcing you to be brutally honest and making it easier than ever for you to have the open and honest relationship needed to beat your porn addiction. 

Remember, you are not the only one being affected if you are married or want to be married. Your spouse is affected by your porn usage. Your children are being affected as well. They deserve your best. You decide. Do they get the porn-drunk you or the porn-free you? I recommend the porn-free you. It’s the better you. 

Note from the editors: Since Dr. Doug Weiss’s article above was published in 2012, it’s been read over one million times, and been the foundation for thousands of people who’ve decided it’s time to quit porn.

We’ve had so many follow-up questions on his content that we decided to include some additional points below to help you really understand what it’s going to take for you to finally quit porn for good.

Step 1: Do you want to quit watching porn?

Some people say they want to stop watching porn, but deep down they don’t actually want to quit. Here are a few ways you can keep the motivation to quit porn in front of you.

Find your turning point.

One common theme among men and women who have successfully quit porn is reaching a turning point. They got to a place where they truly recognize their need to change.  

Greg Bruce tells the story of his turning point. It came when he was finally caught after years of secretly viewing porn had escalated into a series of affairs: 

“The husband of the woman with whom I was currently committing adultery met Lynn in our driveway and presented her with copies of texts and emails proving that what he was telling her was true.” 

This was rock-bottom for Greg. He knew he had made a wreck of his marriage and his life. He also knew that if he wanted to restore them he would have to quit watching porn and acting out sexually. He finally wanted to quit enough to quit.  

Nate Larkin shares his gripping story of bondage and freedom from porn. He describes the moment when he reached the end of his rope and really decided he wanted to quit: 

“I’m told that four out of five guys who seek help for a sexually compulsive behavior only do so after receiving an ultimatum from a wife or a girlfriend. I’m one of the four…. It was the worst day and the best day when my wife caught me. It felt like the end of the world.” 

For some of us, that end-of-the-world feeling is what it takes to truly want to quit. For others, it’s simply the desire for something better than the emptiness of porn.  

Keep the benefits of quitting porn in front of you.

Your rock-bottom turning point doesn’t need to be as dramatic as Greg’s or Nate’s. You can stop watching porn before it ruins your life. 

We like to think of quitting porn like a heroic journey or quest. It can be long and difficult with a lot of challenges along the way. But there’s a reward at the end–a reason for sticking to it. Imagine your life without porn: 

  • Would your marriage be better?  
  • If you’re single, would you feel more confident to pursue a relationship?  
  • Would you find freedom from guilt and shame? 
  • Would you free up wasted time to pursue your dreams?  

Make a giant list of every possible way you will benefit from quitting porn, and then post your top 1-3 reasons somewhere you’ll see it every day. We wrote a blog post on creating a unique list of how you’ll benefit from living porn-free to help you get started.

Remember porn doesn’t deliver what it promises.

When the Bible describes Eve’s temptation to each the Forbidden Fruit, it’s careful to explain the appeal that it had for her. “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6). Eve didn’t eat the fruit because she wanted to do something bad; she ate it because it seemed nourishing, it was delightful to look at, and it apparently offered the promise of greater understanding and fulfillment.

In the same way, when we turn to porn, it’s usually not because we like the idea of porn in particular. It’s that we want what porn promises: comfort for our loneliness, pleasure for our eyes, or sexual fulfillment, etc. But porn doesn’t deliver what it promises you. Porn tries to keep you coming back by saying:  

  • “Everyone’s doing it,” as you hide it from everyone. 
  • “I know how you feel,” as it deadens your ability to feel.
  • “Help yourself,” as you hurt yourself. 
  • “I’m yours,” but nobody’s really there. 
  • “Satisfy your lust,” but by definition, lust can never be satisfied. 
  • “I’ll make it all better,” but in the end, it will leave you bitter. 

These promises are lies. Porn propels you into greater loneliness. Its pleasure lasts only a moment. Ultimately, it’s unsatisfying and destructive. 

So, do you really want to quit? And do you know why you’re quitting porn? It’s definitely worth it, but you’ve got to understand it’s a long-term commitment and keep your reasons for quitting in front of you. You’ve got to really want it so you can go on to step 2.  

Step 2: Are you willing to quit porn a different way?

If you’re really hooked and tried unsuccessfully quitting porn before, you’ve probably thought the answer was just to “try harder.” But the “try harder” or “just stop it” paths are dead ends.  

In Treating Pornography Addiction, Dr. Kevin Skinner writes,

“Far too often individuals stuck in the rut of pornography get an overwhelmed feeling that they cannot change. Fortunately, change comes when new ideas and answers are carefully considered.” (78)   

So, you need to be willing to take a different path. But the different path isn’t something you need to try at random–you can “trace the breadcrumbs” back from the times and places you’ve acted out and you’ll find that the path around porn is quite plainly revealed.    

Identify and manage your porn triggers.

Dr. Skinner describes a “reaction sequence” that begins when you’re in a vulnerable place. From that position of vulnerability, there’s a pattern of thoughts, subconscious actions, and reactions that will inevitably lead the habitual porn user to act out. He says: 

“The deactivation of a reaction sequence requires a good game plan that can be used to break negative thought patterns or behaviors. A good plan can help deactivate the reaction sequences and help create new ways of acting rather than acting out.” (53) 

In other words, to quit porn you need to quit whatever it is that triggers you to watch porn. What are your vulnerable moments? Is it a particular TV show? Is it having your laptop and mobile phone next to your bed? Perhaps it’s having a computer/device without accountability software on it.  

Like Dr. Skinner and Dr. Weiss say, you need a game plan. If your previous plans haven’t worked, you need to be willing to try something different. Try to “reverse engineer” the last few times you looked at porn. Ask the following questions (better yet, have a close friend or ally ask you): 

  • What was I doing? 
  • What was I thinking?  
  • How was I feeling?  

A helpful acronym for remembering triggers is BLAST – Bored, Lonely, Angry, Sad, Tired. Another is HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.    

As you begin to find patterns in your temptation, you’ll need to create a game plan to navigate the vulnerable situations or avoid them altogether. Read the following blog to start your game plan: 

Reintroduce better hobbies to fill your time.

However, it’s not enough to cut things out. Any time you remove something, it leaves a hole that must be filled with something. This is why Covenant Eyes has produced the free ebook, Hobbies and Habits: Fighting Porn With PurposeThis book will help you fill the void left by porn with different and better things!  

Learn about porn’s impact on your brain.

Many of the people we’ve helped stop watching porn have benefited from gaining even just a rudimentary understanding of porn’s impact on the brain. When we understand the science and psychology of what’s happening, it allows us to create a better plan. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Step 3: Have you been brutally honest with someone else about quitting porn?

Porn plays on the power of secrecy and shame to trap people. We feel shame and embarrassment which make us fearful to reach out for the help we need. One of the biggest lies of porn is that you’re better off hiding your struggle than admitting to failure.  

Confess to someone else.

Maybe you’ve followed the breadcrumbs and learned to recognize some of your triggers. But you will not be free from your struggle with porn until you open up about it. Author and porn recovery expert Jessica Harris shares this about her own experience 

“Shame is a product of our secrets. Keeping my struggle a secret only made me feel isolated and, at times, inhuman. The longer I kept my secret, the more I believed I could never share it. The longer I kept silent, the darker and stronger my sin grew. The longer I kept silent, the more convinced I became that I would just have to live the rest of my life with this.”

The Bible confirms this. Psalm 32:3 describes the feeling that everyone who has secretly looked at porn knows, “When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long.” And James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”  

These articles are filled with tips on sharing your struggle with porn:

Find an ally to keep you accountable in quitting porn.

It’s not enough to just confess your struggle. You need an accountability partner, or as we like to call then, an ally, to come alongside you and help you in the fight. A good ally is someone that will affirm you, ask the hard questions, and help you achieve your goals. They won’t beat you up for your mistakes, but they won’t tell you something’s OK when it’s not either.  

A trusted friend or mentor can make a great ally. The resources below share helpful info on finding the right ally for you:  

Step 4: Have you gotten rid of all your porn?

So, you’ve made some great progress in quitting porn, but maybe you start to feel a little nostalgic for the old days. Nostalgia is no good when it comes to stop watching porn for good. It may seem obvious, but it can’t be missed: you have to get rid of your porn. Put it in a lockbox. Nuke it.   

  1. Delete any pornographic videos or images you have saved on your computer or phone. Be thorough and be sure to empty your trash bin as well to avoid the temptation of going back to look at it again.  
  2. Download and run a malware scanner and cleaning program. Porn sites are notoriously riddled with malware and adware that can stay with your computer after you delete the porn files and stop going to the websites. Depending on the type of sites you visited in the past (particularly sites that offered free downloads), you may need to take it in to a computer repair shop for a professional tune-up.  

Get rid of other triggering content too.

If you want to stop watching porn, it makes sense to get rid of your porn. But you also need to get rid of any other content or media that triggers your porn use, or just be unhelpful in your porn recovery journey.

Remember in Question 2 we talked about identifying your porn triggers. If you identified any media habits that often precede porn use, stop using that type of media–maybe it’s certain music or shows, maybe social media in general. Just get rid of it. If you want to quit porn, you need to be intentional about all the types of media you consume.

Our free ebook, Hobbies and Habits, suggests a few guidelines when it comes to media consumption. Can you answer “yes” to the following questions about your entertainment choices?

  • The overall message of this movie or show is positive or redemptive.
  • Women are treated as people, not prizes.
  • Sex scenes are implied, not explicit.
  • Violence, especially against women, is illustrative of evil, not glorified or gratuitous.
  • Song lyrics don’t glorify sex, drugs, or violence.
  • It doesn’t trigger any fetishes you have (e.g. prominently featured high heels).

You may come up with a slightly different list of questions to ask, and that’s OK. The goal of a list like this is to go through your movies, TV shows, video games, comic books, and music and decide what is triggering for you and what thought patterns you need to change. Not everyone’s struggles are exactly the same, and different content triggers different people. You need to be honest about what’s triggering for you and be sure to put it aside.

You may want to involve your ally in the process to help you make tough decisions as well as to keep you on track.

Step 5: Have you blocked porn from coming back in?

A porn blocker alone won’t be enough to quit porn. If that’s the only thing you do, it’s too easy to find ways around it. You really need some type of accountability on your devices, but we’ll cover the importance of accountability next.

But a porn blocker does play an important role in your porn recovery journey–especially for those early in recovery or those deeply enmeshed in porn.

Covenant Eyes comes with a free, optional porn blocker that blocks porn sites by default. It also allows you to build a custom block list where you can block other triggering content–such as social media or streaming sites.  But this step is about more than software.

Do you need to physically remove your devices to avoid temptation? Maybe switch to a dumbphone?

Some people will ask someone to hold on to a tempting smartphone or computer for a time until their porn habit is better under control or other protections are in place. As with Step 4, the key here is being honest with yourself and your allies about where porn is coming into your life, and then doing whatever it takes to remove access to it.

Too extreme? Remember Steps 1 and 2–how badly do you want to quit and how willing are you to try something new to keep making progress on the journey?  

Step 6: Do you have a friend to hold you accountable?

On a difficult journey, the difference between success and failure is often the people you have alongside you. In the Bible, Moses had Aaron and Hur to hold up his arms when he was tired. Timothy had the Apostle Paul to write him letters of encouragement when ministry got hard. Even in pop-culture, Batman has Robin. Frodo has Sam.

Heroes need allies to come alongside them and help them stay the course. It’s no different on your journey to quit porn.

In fact, if you look back over the previous five steps, you can see that you really need accountability for each one to make it stick. Accountability is the glue to any plan for quitting porn.  

Remember Step 1? Often, you need accountability to remind you of your reasons for quitting porn in the first place. Step 2 is about trying something different and accountability can show you where you’re falling back into the same old patterns that have kept you trapped in porn for so long. Admitting your failures to someone is step 3, which is a critical part of accountability.

If you attempt steps 4 and 5 on your own (get rid of all porn and block new porn from coming in), it’s easy to leave yourself loopholes. When you ask someone to keep you accountable, you’re asking them to help you lock down the loopholes that have always allowed you to slip back into porn.

Since most people access porn on their computers and smartphones, it’s essential to have an accountability app. Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability monitors your devices for porn, and sends your partner a report of what you’re looking at on your devices.

What accountability looks like in quitting porn

Having Covenant Eyes removes a lot of the ambiguity in your accountability relationship. When you have it on your devices, it removes the secrecy and helps you live honestly and openly with the people you trust the most. This is vital because secrecy and shame are powerful forces that can drive you back to porn again and again. 

It’s not enough to download an app. You need to connect regularly with your ally. Accountability often fails when people only meet sporadically. Dr. Weiss and many others advise daily check-ins, and this is especially important in the early stages of quitting porn. (Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability reports go out daily by default). Connecting with your ally could be as simple as replying to a Covenant Eyes report or following up with a text message. You’ll need to decide together how often is enough, but it’s important to have regular communication.  

Remember the questions we asked to find your triggers? I recommend asking your ally to ask you the same range of questions:  

  • What are you thinking?  
  • What are you feeling? 
  • What are you doing?  

There are lots of other questions, but this is a great place to start, and will help you stay on the path, and quickly correct your course if you notice you’ve started to veer off.  

Other Things to Remember as You Quit Porn

A relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Many people quit watching porn for a time only to fall back into it later on. This relapse can be discouraging–especially if you feel like you’ve really kicked the habit.  

But a relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Porn recovery expert Joe Dallas has some wise advice on porn relapses. He encourages people to remember that “relapse is always possible, but never inevitable.”

If you do relapse, follow these simple steps:

  1. Notify your ally as quickly as possible. 
  2. Identify what triggers preceded your relapse.
  3. Move it and don’t wallow in grief over the setback.

You may experience some porn withdrawal symptoms.

When you stop watching porn, you’re body and brain may experience some withdrawal symptoms for a period. Mood swings. Anxiety. Temporary loss of libido.

Get familiar with what the most common symptoms of porn addiction withdrawal, and make a plan to manage them when they come.

We believe you can quit porn for good—and we’re here to help!

At Covenant Eyes, we’re committed to helping people quit porn. Over the last 20 years, we’ve helped over a million people. In addition to the Covenant Eyes software, we’ve also created many free resources to equip you for your journey:

Additionally, our member care team is available through phone (989.720.8000), email, and chat support. Let us know how we can serve you!

We know you can do it because we’ve seen men and women just like you quit porn for good. Read their stories of victory over porn whenever you get discouraged.

It’s true. Believe it. Speak it. Remind yourself daily: I can quit porn.