I often speak to men who have had several months of successful sobriety, and then slip back into pornography use.  They often come to me feeling like hopeless failures, that all the progress they’ve made is down the drain.  These slips are common.  My advice is not to get discouraged when this happens.  Use them as learning experiences to strengthen your recovery.  In fact, I define a “slip” as simply a Short Lapse In Progress.

One of the ways you can learn from slips and prevent them in the future is to recognize the warning signs that you may be moving toward a one.  There are ten warning signs for a slip:

  1. Overconfidence: It’s easy to come to believe that after several months of sobriety you no longer need to work your program. Because we live in a sex-saturated society, you must never become overconfident, no matter how much sobriety you have achieved. You must be committed to working your program daily.
  2. Isolation: Addiction thrives in isolation. Here is where loneliness grows, and when combined with boredom, it’s easy to fall back into pornography use.  Recovery is most successful in community.  Every day it’s important to reach out to others for support and accountability.
  3. Anger and Blaming Others: Anger is a key trigger for acting out. It becomes more dangerous when accompanied by blame.  For example, the man who claims, “I wouldn’t be so tempted to view porn if my wife were more sexual with me,” can easily feel entitled to view porn.  He is obviously angry and blames his wife for his addiction.
  4. Justifying or Rationalizing Dangerous Situations: A man may go online to lust after images of clothed women and try to justify and rationalize it by claiming “it’s not real porn because they are clothed.” Whether the women are clothed or not, he is still objectifying them and using them lustfully.  It’s then easy to go from this to viewing actual pornography.
  5. Dismissing the Feedback of Others: Often you can receive much valuable feedback and advice from others in recovery, therapists, spouses, clergy, etc. They can point out the warning signs of an imminent fall. Neglecting this feedback and advice can easily lead to a slip.
  6. Comparing Yourself to Others: It can be easy to justify dangerous behaviors when comparing yourself to others.  For example, a man might say, “Sure I view porn occasionally, but at least I’m not like Joe who goes to strip clubs and has been with prostitutes.” 
  7. Dismissing Boundaries: For healthy recovery, it’s important to adhere to clear boundaries, such as limiting the use of the Internet, avoiding certain parts of town, making daily phone calls to a sponsor, etc. Dismissing or avoiding such boundaries can easily lead back to a slip.
  8. Entitlement: Feeling that you “deserve a break” because of all your hard work, whether in recovery, your career, relationships, etc., can lead to a slip. Here is where it’s important to let go of pride and practice the virtue of humility daily.
  9. Laziness: Recovery is work! It’s easy to become lazy and neglect your program.  Choosing to sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of going to a meeting, or not making daily phone calls can easily lead to a slip.  Every day you need to renew your commitment to work your program.
  10. Neglecting your Prayer Life: Success in recovery is impossible without God. He is the ultimate source of healing, growth and change. Chastity is a gift from God that needs to be gratefully received daily.  Take time daily to pray and read and meditate on Scripture.  Attend mass on Sundays, and if possible of weekdays.  Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least monthly.  Meet with a spiritual director monthly. By working on your relationship with God, you will have the strength and grace to succeed in recovery.

By being aware of these warning signs, you can successfully avoid a slip.  However, you will be most successful in recovery by simply making the daily commitment to work your recovery program.  Sure, at first, it’s a lot of work, but in time it does become easier.  The good habits you learn in recovery are also habits for a healthy life!

  • dfwfireman

    I related to this article very well. It is my battle !