Have Porn Addiction, Will Travel

We have a closet that perpetually needs to be cleaned out and organized. It seems to attract junk on a daily basis. It’s also the holding spot for all things craft, which means it receives regular visits from our youngest. And while she normally creates something of beauty, she leaves behind quite a mess after her undertaking is complete.

The other day, I was brave enough to enter the closet, with my mind set to throw away, give away, and complete and all-around purge of the shelves and floor. As I was tossing things into the recycling pile, I noticed a sheet of paper, wide-ruled and folded in half, flutter to the floor.

I picked it up and opened it, smoothing the crease out of its middle. As I read the words scrawled out in my own handwriting, I was emotionally transported back to the day I sat down to write it. No, I cannot recall the exact date—not even the year—but the circumstances and all the emotions surrounding them, I can replay like a tape in my mind.

A Threat of Relapse

My husband, Craig, was deep in his recovery work from his porn addiction. Things were going well. He was connecting with Jesus in a way he never had been able to prior to this season. We were talking on deep levels — exploring the why behind his addiction, discussing childhood wounds, and prioritizing our relationship like we hadn’t done previously. We were learning to appreciate each other and our marriage. We were finally in a good place.

And then, he had to take a work trip. And stay in a hotel. For multiple nights in a row.

I was terrified of him backsliding into old habits. I was afraid that he would forget his progress. I feared that him being a thousand miles away would equate to “out of sight, out of mind,” and that all the goodness we were experiencing in our relationship would pale in comparison to the shiny glitz of porn on a hotel television screen.

He was scared, too. Sure, there had been times he had engaged with porn when I was sleeping right next to him in our bed. It wasn’t my mere presence that stopped him from looking at it. And yet, in this season, because our relationship was getting better, my presence was a reminder of what is real and what true intimacy and connection entails.

Additionally, this time of travel was during the days when the major hotel chains essentially flaunted their access to porn. Combine easy access and isolation of the hotel room, and you have a recipe for using.

I knew that I had a history of trying to control Craig (in my mind, it was keeping him “safe” from porn) that automatically sent him into shutdown/withdrawal mode. But, I wanted to somehow capture the progress of our relationship and let him know that I was for him while he was away—that I believed in him. I ended up writing him a note and tucked it into his Bible. Here’s what I wrote:

You are strong when you depend on the Lord.

This is not about willpower, but about leaning into God’s power.

He loves you and can bring you real joy and freedom.

And then, knowing how thoughts can spiral out of control when temptation enters the scene, I simply wrote out these strategies we had come up with as a team that he found helped him when he felt the urge to use.

1. Pray first. Ask for God’s presence to surround you and fill you.

James 4:7 says, “So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure.”

Porn is inherently selfish. You’re using an outside stimulus to make yourself feel temporarily better, to escape the realities of life, and to take care of your own sexual needs, independent from your spouse. Satan will try to tell you a myriad of lies about why porn is okay, why it’s fine to do it just this once, and how no one will know. Eliminate this source of the lies and you stand a much better chance of resisting the temptation.

But remember, you’re not fighting alone. When you pray and submit your life, your desires, and your needs to God, you invite His power into the moment. Jesus says, as recorded in John 10:10, “The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance.”

Joy! Abundance! This is what God brings when we call upon Him. To access it, we need to lay down our own ways of trying to meet our needs and trust that He will provide in a way that is good for our relationship with Him and with our spouse.

2. Call or text your spouse.

God didn’t create us to have a relationship with only Him. In fact, in Genesis, God created everything, including man, and He deemed it all good. And yet, in Genesis 2, God sees that Adam needed someone else alongside him. It wasn’t good for him to be alone. And so, out of Adam’s rib came Eve.

Here’s the deal: not every spouse makes for a suitable accountability partner, but s/he can be helpful—this is part of a spouse’s role in life! This means that when you’re away from her, you can ask her to pray. You can set aside time to make video calls. You can ask him to check in on you.

We know that addictions thrive in isolated environment. Thus, it’s helpful for you to continue to build connection even when you’re not physically in the same space.

3. Call or text an accountability partner.

With Covenant Eyes’ Screen Accountability software, your devices are monitored wherever you are. Your ally will be notified of your device activity and can hold you accountable, even while you are out of town.

Even if your accountability partner is your spouse, it’s really helpful to have someone who will not be hurt by your confessions. Craig’s friend, Dan, was his accountability partner at the time of his work trip. Dan knew that Craig was traveling and would check in on him.

Craig knew that when things got hard and temptation came on strong, he could let Dan know exactly what he was thinking and feeling, and Dan would respond with encouragement and without judgement. He was an advocate for healing and a supportive prayer resource.

Related: 3 Important Characteristics of True Accountability 

4. Go outside.

There is something about being in nature that has a centering aspect to it. In Psalm 23, David speaks of how God makes him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters in order to restore his soul. In Psalm 121, David lifts his eyes up to the hills, seeking help from God. In Psalm 89, Ethan the Ezrahite praises God for ruling over the sea, for when the waves mount up, God stills them.

Being in nature reminds us that God is vast, God is big, God is a creator, and He is in control of it all. As such, He is trustworthy and good, an ever present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Getting our mind, heart, and eyes on God and His creation restores our perspective, strengthens us, and allows for Him to bring true beauty into our moments of life.

5. Pray with thanksgiving.

Think of what God has given you. So often, we can let our struggles, our shortcomings, and our laziness darken our hearts and minds. But, the truth is that God is a good Father who gives us good gifts. Spend some time thanking Him for what He has done in your life thus far.

6. Exercise.

We know there are chemical releases of hormones when we watch porn. We also know that there are chemical releases of hormones when we exercise. One activity leads to unhealthy brain activity and patterns of destruction. The other leads to a healthy body and buoyed self-esteem.

Related: 10 Tips for Staying Porn-Free While Traveling

7. Think about our adult-only vacation!

Soon after Craig returned home from his trip, we had an adults-only, mini-vacation planned to one of our favorite hotels. We both wanted our sex to be special and our time together unmarred by another round of confession and forgiveness.

Traveling with a porn addiction can be an invitation for relapse or an opportunity for victory. We’d love for you to share in the comments your own tips that you’ve used to help your sobriety when you’re traveling.