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If Resolutions Fade: 6 Timeless Tools to Quit Porn

Last Updated: January 27, 2021

Jen Ferguson

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy. She’s also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

This post has been updated as of January 2021.

How are your New Year’s resolutions going?

If you’re like the majority of the population (about 80-90%), you’ve given up by now, about six weeks in. All those lofty goals have gone out the window and you’re back to your old routine, your old problems, and your old habits.

What does this mean? That you’re a failure? That you’ll never be able to change? And if you’re the spouse of someone who has tried giving up porn this year, does this mean you’re destined to live with an addict forever or that you’re getting a divorce?

This is the good news: making a New Year’s resolution to quit porn isn’t the key to success. If you want to quit porn, here are six tools you can use any time of the year.

Involve Jesus.

My husband tried giving up porn numerous times. He tried steely resolve, guilting himself, and entertaining the possible threat of my leaving. None of those were enough to keep him away. It wasn’t until he realized that this process was something Jesus wanted to help him with that he started making progress.

Oftentimes, we think we need to clean up our act and then start (or continue a deeper) relationship with God. But the point of being a Savior is saving people, not requiring them to save themselves. Wherever you are on your journey to giving up porn, ask Jesus into the process. It is when we are weak and when we admit that we can’t do it all ourselves that His strength manifests in us (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT). When we try to go at anything alone, we rob ourselves of the incredibly transformative power of God.

Stop overthinking.

The Journal of Nature and Science reported their findings on why only 22% of us exercise regularly, even though we know that exercise is crucial for a healthy body and prolonged life. Part of their discovery was this: you have to make a conscious decision to go out and do it. However, this conscious processing “likely activates feelings of threat to personal freedom (‘exercise-or-else’) and the human tendency to follow ‘the law of least effort’ in occasional/non-exercisers.”

I think we can extrapolate these findings on some level to giving up porn. Chances are if you want to give up porn, it’s likely because either you or someone you love believes it is harmful to you or to your relationships. Anytime we feel forced to give something up, we often find it greatly limits our freedom of choice and that can stir in us desires to rebel. In addition, if we are using porn to self-soothe or self-medicate (much like I used to do with food), we become dependent on the quick fix from our addictive substance to bring instantaneous relief. The study reported that:

“In general, the initiation and maintenance of any complex and demanding behavior operates on a continuum of conscious-nonconscious processing such that when starting a new activity program (e.g., exercise), conscious processing dominates behavioral engagement.  But after countless repeats, the nonconscious takes over and behavior becomes habitual, thereby being sustained in the long run.”

In essence, perhaps we can think less about giving up porn and simply do the actions required to avoid it. The more we lament what we are giving up, the more we think about our loss of freedom to choose porn, the more we will engage our conscious process, and the more likely we will not move towards health.

Get rid of the shaming word “should.”

Lifestyle coach, Erin Falconer, talks about how the word “should” sounds like a decision, but in reality, it makes it seem more like a “possibility rather than reality.” There’s an air of “yes, this would be really good for me, but…”

Saying, “I should give up porn” has quite a different meaning than “I am giving up porn.” Using the word should, according to Falconer, makes the task or goal become more like a burdensome chore, something that communicates to our brain that what we’re about to undertake is arduous and negative. This isn’t to say that giving up porn is easy—it’s not. But how we frame our goals is important to the achievement of them.

Let people in on your goal.

God’s Word encourages us to live authentically in community for a reason. Paul urges us in Galatians to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2, NIV). In Hebrews, we are extolled to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25, NLT), so that we may be a continual source of encouragement to one another. We all need encouragement to continue to move towards the goals that we have set.

Ask any runner and they will tell you that having people on the course cheering them on does wonders for their spirit and their speed. But people need to know what course you’re on—what goals you’re trying to achieve. It’s much easier to give up when you know no one is going to be checking in with you. Not only will you have a network of people to call when things get hard, but every single time you speak out your problems, you’re exposing them to light, which chips away at any shame you may harbor.

Understand how grace works.

Grace doesn’t give us permission to keep on sinning (Romans 6:1-3, MSG). God’s forgiveness is unending, but the purpose of it is not to enable us to continue to practice habits that bring more separation from God. Porn is an idol, a crutch we use to help us deal with stress, rejection, boredom, fear, trauma, etc. God wants us to come to Him for help with all of these things and He wants us to know deeply His character.

It is difficult to spend time and energy getting to know God when porn is consistently getting in the way of that. Hence, He commands us to have no other gods (idols) before Him (Exodus 20:3-4, NLT).

Create a replacement habit.

Getting rid of porn is awesome, but here’s the thing—once it’s gone, it leaves a void. And voids like to be filled, yes? If we don’t fill this void with something good, evil will come back (Matt. 12:43-45, NLT).

What does God want you to habitually invest your time and energy in instead of porn? Real relationships—with Him and those around you. He wants you to invest in your talents (yes, you have them) and your purpose (yes, you have one of those too). You were created to make a difference in this world and you are not disqualified because you struggle. There’s a real world waiting for you.

The common phrase, “New Year, New You!” may sound good, but when we dive into the new year and begin to see our old self emerge despite our good intentions, it’s easy to become discouraged and hopeless. The good thing is that January 1 is just a date and God’s redemption, power, and love are available at all times.

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  • Comments on: If Resolutions Fade: 6 Timeless Tools to Quit Porn
    1. Paul M on

      The 3 circles of SAA contain an Outer Circle, where recovering addicts can place replacement behaviors which are positive and fill the void that you mention.

      Reply
      • Jen Ferguson on

        That’s great information to have, Paul! Thank you!

      • Lizzie on

        Could you please tell what SSA stands for?

      • Glenn Budd on

        The Free e-book could not be processed.

      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, Glenn – the ebook is not ready yet, but getting close. Look for it in April, “Hobbies and Habits: Replacing Pornography with Purpose”

        Chris

    2. Adam Hrebeniuk on

      I often repost your articles to our orgs social media platform. Thank you!
      One thing we’ve noticed in our process of engaging and creating healing environments, is that individuals need group based conversation and accountability (Let People in Your Goal). The second thing organizations realize fairly soon is that recreating these spaces is cumbersome and unnecessary when there are so many that have already gone before. One such organization resolving porn addiction is, AVENUE. Since you have a relationship with AVENUE (Avenue.works) it could be added to the article as a hyperlink. For instance, “If you want to connect with a group that utilizes a fee basis, curriculum, and platforms like video meetings or phone conferencing, consider AVENUE.”

      Just a thought to direct resources within the article.

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hi, Adam – Avenue is a great organization. We do point people there and I appreciate the suggestion!
        Chris

    3. Lizzie on

      SAA ?

      Reply
      • Dick L on

        SAA is a 12-Step Program similar to AA, only it stands for Sex Addicts Anonymous instead of Alcoholics Anonymous. It works wonders if those who attend the meetings get a sponsor and WORK the 12 Steps. So many come and go, however, and it is so sad. You never become “cured” from any particular addiction, so it is a life-time commitment to “work your recovery” each and every day. There is also a SA group, Sexaholics Anonymous, and SALA which is Sex and Love Anonymous, and they all are based on the 12 Steps.

      • Bob Jones on

        Sex Addicts Anonymous

    4. Obasola Moses on

      Thanks a lot Jen, may the Lord bless you real good!

      Reply
    5. Patricia on

      Enjoyed your article! Do you know of any information I can give to my 15 yr. old son to educate him about porn?
      He has a cell Phone. I use to have access to the phone and he recently changed the password. We got the password from him, and found 2 porn websites in the internet history. I haven’t talked to him about it yet.

      Reply
      • Chris McKenna on

        Hello, Patricia – we have various ebooks that inform about the issue, like Porn Circuit or Your Brain on Porn. Fight the New Drug is very popular among young people and they also do a fabulous job educating about porn’s impact on people and the world.

        Chris

    6. Bobbi on

      Jen Ferguson,thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Great.

      Reply
    7. Bartosz on

      Very informative and encouraging. Thank you Jen.

      Reply
    8. Susan Mitchell Kerr on

      Someone needs to start a PAA (Porn addicts Anonymous. Some of these groups share things that are more serious and can be triggers for porn users. It would be nice if there was just a group for Porn users.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Here is the link to Sex Addicts Anonymous to find a group near you.

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