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Defeat Lust & Pornography 3 minute read

Sex Addiction Recovery: Avoiding Sexual Triggers

Last Updated: April 29, 2015

by Tim Davis

The Internet is the number one stumbling block for almost all the people struggling with sexual sin. It’s not prostitutes, affairs, or adult bookstores—it’s the Internet.

sexual addiction - sexual triggers

Few seem to understand the importance of an Internet filter. However, without it, you constantly open the door to temptation and self-sabotage. You don’t defeat sexual sin by opening up an adult bookstore in your home. Imagine an alcoholic who has a bar in his living room. Do you really think that’s going to work? For many of you, having access to the Internet is the exact equivalent.

How Sexual Triggers Work

Unfiltered Internet means triggers. One thing you need to understand is every time you kick-start a biochemical response by looking at porn or staring at a woman, you’ve just flooded your body and mind with arousal chemicals (like turning on a lamp floods a house with light).

In other words, you’ve just kick-started your addict brain. You’re now fighting chemical cravings, neural ruts in your brain, and your basic sinful nature. This is classic self-sabotage. You have put yourself in a no-win situation where the only likely outcome is sin.

You stop the addictive cycle by learning how to avoid kicking your addict brain (your flesh) into overdrive. You avoid addict brain overdrive by avoiding triggers.

Pavlov’s Porn: Finding Your Triggers

A trigger stimulates you to act, feel, and/or think a certain way. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? Scientists rang a bell when they gave dogs food; they soon figured out that just ringing the bell, even without food present, made the dogs salivate (the technical term is “conditioning”). The dogs had been conditioned to associate the noise of the bell with the pleasure of eating food.

We have “conditioned” ourselves to associate pornography with pleasure. The good news is that such conditioning is entirely reversible. It takes time and energy (just like it took to form the conditioning), but anyone can do it.

Triggers, then, are whatever makes you salivate. For those dealing with sexual addiction, this means porn. These pictures create a physical arousal, a chemical reaction in the brain, and a longing in the spirit. This stimulus will often lead to masturbation; the orgasm is the reward for the stimulus.

External triggers are the stimuli around you: pictures, billboards, bars, clubs, commercials, computers, Internet, other people, movies, and so on. Internal triggers are the stimuli inside of you: normally your own thoughts and emotions. Fantasy, loneliness, boredom, anger, fear, memories, hunger, past trauma, and so on, can all trigger a person towards certain behavior. You must learn what triggers you specifically and go through a methodical process of dealing with each trigger.

What Is Most Important To You?

The good news is that there are a variety of options for dealing with the Internet. Filters have improved dramatically. You can even have a list of all the websites you visit e-mailed to someone (I recommend putting your mother on the list; that will kill your Internet wandering quickly!). You can also allow only the websites you need to access.

Here’s the bottom line: it will take you some deliberate work to use the Internet and stay pure. If you cannot figure out how to stay pure with the Internet, then guess what? The Internet will have to go, plain and simple.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

Internet access is a luxury. If it causes you to sin, either get a foolproof plan or get rid of it entirely!

During the initial stages of recovery, the primary reason men I personally counsel do not achieve consistent purity is failure to remove access to porn through the Internet. Ignorance of what your triggers are will result in living life going from relapse to relapse. However, once you start to pay attention to your triggers and shut down access to them, you will find it much easier to avoid relapse.

Obviously this is only one factor to achieving consistent purity, but it is vital! The men and women who are willing to pay the price to shut down access to their triggers are the ones who achieve consistent purity. Which is more important, unfiltered Internet access or freedom from sexual sin?

Photo credit: gcfairch

Tim DavisTim Davis is the Founder and Director of Pureheart Ministries. A graduate of Wheaton College, Tim earned his Master of Divinity from Denver Seminary, worked as a pastor for 10 years, and then earned his Master of Arts in Counseling from Western Seminary. He then launched Pureheart and has since personally helped hundreds of men, women, and couples find freedom from addictions, teaching them how to walk in consistent purity, maintain maturity, and discover their destinies in Christ. Feel free to contact Pureheart either by visiting PureHeartMinistries.net or by emailing tim@pureheartministries.net

  1. Jayson

    This is a very good article.

    I agree Rodney, have done the same thing. That’s why it’s important to stay connected, and make daily phone calls, and attend meetings, read recovery material, counseling, and have an action plan.

    While I agree that internet Pornography is deff. a trigger, as well as Fantasy, loneliness, boredom, anger, fear, memories, hunger, past trauma.

    For someone who isn’t a Sex Addict, seeing a magazine with a woman on the cover, will probably not trigger them into a fantasy, or acting out. Because an addict has learned to use acting out as a coping mechanism for one of their internal triggers, that photo, or billboard, or tv show will be big trouble for us.

    I’ve noticed, that if I can recognize my triggers, being stressed out, arguments with my wife or mother, being overwhelmed, feeling a sense of not being good enough, and make a phone call, attend a meeting, read recovery material, this puts a brick wall in front of me before I start the cycle of addiction. If I don’t take steps in my action plan, it’s too late.

  2. Rodney Jenness

    Even if the internet had to go, I can find triggers at any bookstore or supermarket or shopping mall. I can even run through my old memories.

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