Most people have heard of the famous five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
A form of these appear in the recovery process, which I have coined to be the Five Stages of Recovery.
Here are the five stages of grief:
Since most recovering from porn seem to go through a version of these stages, I present to you the Five Stages of Rebooting:
This phase can be instilled to a few common statements:
I don’t have a problem with porn!
My erectile dysfunction is not porn related.
Porn use is completely normal!
You are presented with the knowledge that pornography may be negatively affecting your life.
While it may even be the root cause of your problems, you dismiss the possibility.
Depending on your personality, you may immediately buy into the idea of rebooting. In that case your denial phase becomes about asking the common questions about porn addiction and rebooting.
Some resist the new reality they are faced with. Most of these return at a later time when their pain is great enough to cast their ego aside. Perhaps their brain fog becomes worse or they experience erectile dysfunction. They are ready to try almost anything and take another look into rebooting.
Yet some never get past this stage. They resist this concept until the very end, oblivious to the damage right in front of their faces.
First you acknowledge the negative effects of pornography and accept the need for rebooting in your own life.
Then you might get a teensy bit angry.
This anger can be internal and external.
Internal anger is anger towards yourself because you struggle. You beat yourself up for being unable to stop a habit that seems so simple to quit.
It’s also more likely to happen if you are not yet familiar with the science behind porn addiction. This is why educating yourself is very important.
External anger manifests as disgust against the porn industry and the pornography itself. Another common one is outrage as to why you weren’t informed of all this before now.
This phase can be summed up with the common questions:
Is (insert anything here) allowed?
Did I relapse?
Here our brave rebooter bargains for outlets for his or her pent up sexual energy.
Yet the outlet itself is beside the point. The mere fact that you are asking already signals that it’s better left untouched (no pun intended).
You will move on from this stage after relapsing enough times to learn the lesson.
There are two good rules of thumb(s) for knowing whether you relapse:
The first one is: if you have to ask whether you did or not, you did.
This is a very hardline rule and therein lies its problem as well. It may lead to unwarranted binges if you believe you relapsed from the slightest mistake.
The second rule of thumb is the “mom rule”: If you would be embarrassed if your mom saw you doing whatever it is you did, then you did relapse.
A more balanced rule that still denies you the viewing of images and videos that aren’t strictly classified as x-rated, such as Instagram photos.
This is often the hardest of the five stages and it can come hand in hand with flatlining.
Here the realization that pornography is a destructive habit has sunk in. Your anger has passed and you have understood to remove all artificial sexual material from your life once and for all.
Yet there are still weeks or months until your recovery is complete.
The worst thing is that you feel the urges will continue forever. As if you would spend the rest of your life feeling as if you are denying yourself something amazing.
However, take solace in the fact that this feeling will pass. Consider it as the last desperate stand of your old pornified brain to resist change. It’s going, but it’s not going quietly.
Another cause for those blues is that the surge of energy of the first weeks has passed, but you are still suffering from your brain chemistry being out of whack. While this too will feel eternal, you will level out eventually.
This is what the reboot is all about.
You have gone through the whole recovery process.
You have vast knowledge about the negative effects pornography has on the brain and watching it is no longer an option, but you are okay with that. More than okay, you don’t even miss it.
The part of your life that was previously consumed by your addiction you have filled with healthy and interesting alternatives. Life has colors again and every day is another adventure, just as life should be.
Furthermore, your porn induced erectile dysfunction is either gone or well on its way to recovery. You can proudly salute the new day with an upright flagpole.
Porn no longer plays any part in your life. Overall, you have changed on the identity level into a new person that does not seek destructive instant gratification at the expense of future happiness.
This is the point where you might consider taking some distance to the rebooting community. Start living without reminders of rebooting
But don’t do it before you pass on the lessons you have learned! That experience earned through your journey are worth their weight in gold to the ones currently struggling. Do this, just as the veterans before you passed their knowledge onto you. Give back to the community that so helped you.
Then go, live your life to the fullest and be happy!