What Is Your Reason for Quitting Porn?

Jim had the best intentions. He wanted to quit porn, fix his marriage, and stay clean. But after two months of sobriety, he relapsed. Derek has a similar story. After an arrest for viewing child porn scared him, his therapist directed him to a 12-Step Group, where he quickly found a sponsor, began working the Steps, and eventually collected the coveted one-year chip. A month later, he relapsed. Today, he’s in jail.

And then there is Todd. His porn addiction cost him his ministry. After losing his pastorate, marriage, and reputation, he hit rock bottom. The conviction of his heart led to sleepless nights and crippling shame. Todd threw himself into a popular Christian recovery program and found sobriety. But it didn’t last. Today, he is spending hundreds of dollars every month to feed his porn habit.

Jim, Derek, and Todd all have two things in common: they want to be well, but their motivations are lacking.

Good Intentions + Wrong Motivation = Failure

Let me explain. Ending your porn habit may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. You will be going up against spiritual darkness, ingrained habits, and years of neuropathway dysfunction. You can overcome the addiction, but it will only happen if you can answer this question correctly:

What’s your why?

Your motivation must be as good as your intention. There are a lot of good reasons to quit porn, but many of them aren’t good enough. If you quit porn for the wrong reason, it won’t stick. Until you get the “why” right, your “what” will fall short.

4 Wrong Reasons to Quit Porn

1. You just want to save your marriage.

I hear this one a lot. “My wife will leave me if I don’t quit porn, and I don’t want to lose my marriage.” This sounds really good. But there is one fundamental flaw with this reasoning.

Write this on your forehead: Sobriety for the sake of someone else will not last.

Yes, saving your marriage may serve as a good short-term motivator. But you will only stay sober if you do it for yourself—not someone else. Fixing your marriage won’t lead to sobriety. The opposite is true: finding sobriety will help you fix your marriage.

2. You want to please God.

Nothing you have done has made God love you more, and nothing you will ever do will make him love you less. Because “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ” (Romans 8:1), we must quit thinking that our behavior impresses God. That’s not to say spiritual motivation is bad, but it must be the right kind of spiritual motivation. If your motivation for staying sober—or living out any other commendable behaviors—is to get God off your back, you will find yourself consistently coming up short.

Good works impress man, not God.

3. You are committed to sobriety.

Commit to recovery, not sobriety. This is an important nuance. In simple terms, sobriety is about what you stop: pornography, masturbation, etc. On the other hand, recovery is about what you start.

You can “white-knuckle it” and remain sober by not committing any of your inner circle behaviors. But to become well, you must embark on a journey than embraces habits such as attending recovery meetings, working the 12 Steps, completing therapy, and pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

4. You got caught.

This leads to what I call “slingshot sobriety.” Being caught propels us into immediate action. The moment our spouse (or employer) catches us in our porn habit, we swear we will never view porn again. And we mean it. We go all in: 12-Step meetings, therapy, and perhaps a full clinical disclosure.

But the fundamentals have not changed. Outside influences may shape our behaviors, but until there is a change of heart, sobriety will eventually pass. Getting caught may be the impetus for seeking sobriety, but it won’t get you across the finish line.

So, why quit porn?

4 Right Reasons to Quit Porn

1. Stay spiritually connected.

This is not the same thing as trying to please God. The porn addict recognizes that his habit has ruined his prayer life, sapped his spiritual strength, and built a wall between him and his God. That wall must come down. So the addict starts down the long, winding road to recovery with God as his compass. He may feel lonely, but he’s never alone.

The words of St. Augustine become his words: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee.”

The addict whose reason for sobriety is to honor God, walk with God, and experience God has a great chance for recovery.

2. Write a redemption story.

Seven years ago when I first entered recovery, I memorized the words that are often attributed to Carl Bard, Zig Ziglar, and others: “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start now and make a brand new ending.”

I tell my clients, “The best time to enter recovery was five years ago. The next best time is today.” Everyone loves a good redemption story. God majors on those.

Write out your goals for the next six months, one year, and beyond. I have my clients write out two stories of what their lives will be like in five years (1) apart from sobriety, and (2) if fully recovered from porn. Identify your goals and write your story—before it happens.

3. Walk in freedom and peace.

A survey by Forbes found that happiness tops the list of “The Top 8 Things People Desperately Desire But Can’t Seem to Attain.”

A porn addict longs for a peace and freedom that his habit has stripped him. This search for inner sanity is a great driving force for recovery. It is when we shift our focus from what sobriety will do for us to what it will do in us that we have discovered a worthy motivation.

4. Enjoy the one person with whom you’ll spend the rest of your life.

Successful recovery is motivated by self-care. If you quit porn for anyone other than yourself, you will inevitably be disappointed. In walking sponsees through Step 9, I tell them to make their first amends to themselves. The truth is that others’ opinions of you are none of your business. You can’t control what others think or do. If your motivation for staying clean is to take care of anyone other than yourself, you have set the bar too low. There is no better motivation for recovery than taking care of the one person with whom you will spend the rest of your life.

It’s Time to Settle Your Why

You must settle the “why” before your “what” will work. Until you know why you are quitting porn, it won’t stick. You obviously want to quit, or you wouldn’t be reading this. But until you settle the “why” question, your recovery will limp along, with frequent slips and relapses. Remember, Good Intentions + Wrong Motivation = Failure.

So what’s your why?