There are multiple ways of keeping track of your recovery process, each with their own merits and disadvantages.
It can be difficult to find the best fit for you and your situation. Let’s take a closer look at each method so you can get the most out of them.
This is the most common one in the rebooting community. Often tracked with a daily counter (when it’s not broken) in the recovery subreddit.
Counting streaks is all about how many days have you gone since your last relapse. It’s kind of like a workplace counter “X days since the last workplace accident”.
There are a lot of great things about using a day counter. For one it keeps you accountable when one slip up zeroes your whole streak. A harsh reality that won’t let you slide.
Another thing is the momentum it builds. The larger the number in your counter, the less you want to let it drop to zero. Furthermore, a long streak really imbues you with a strong sense of “I can do this!”.
With the pros out of the way, here are a few cons:
Upon relapsing, the streak mentality can increase the damage done. Going back to zero implies that you undid all your hard work and progress. While that’s not true it is often the mentality present post-relapse.
It invokes the “fuck it” effect and leads you to binge. And while your one relapse might have been just a bit of a stumble, a binge can really do serious damage to your recovery.
Overall the streak mentality is slightly too fatalistic. Unless you jot down the length of each your streaks upon relapse it’s hard (or impossible) to see any long-term progress. Your average streak may have gone up from a few days to almost a couple of weeks, but all you can see is one failed streak after another.
This short-minded binary success/failure mode of thinking is very unhelpful.
Let’s use our main man Johnny Rebooter:
First attempt: 10 days
Second attempt: 45 days (damn!)
Third attempt 35 days (excellent!)
Because our boy Johnny uses streak lengths to consider his progress, he most likely feels pretty down in the dumps right now.
Three failed streaks in a row! And he didn’t even surpass his record on that last streak.
But what’s the reality here?
Johnny took a multiple times a day PMO habit down to an average 3 sessions in 3 months!
That’s absolutely massive and speaks volumes of his recovery progress, but Johnny isn’t wearing a party hat.
If you opt to track streaks, write down the length of each streak, no matter how small.
Also track whether or not you binged after a relapse and how much.
In the long-run this will help see the forest for the trees and understand how much positive progress you are making, even if it may not look like it in the day to day grind.
Counter vs No Counter
Using a counter
This a more of a subsection within tracking streaks: do you wish to use a counter or go without one?
As previously mentioned, a counter has its merits. It can help you get momentum in your streak and keep you from wavering.
However it can also be demoralizing with shorter streaks.
Getting started is the hardest part. Urges are rampant and the chaser effect might be giving you hell. Your mind is playing tricks on you, saying that the two-day streak doesn’t matter and you might as well relapse.
If you are regularly looking at that zero you can get stuck in a rut. Go for a few days, relapse, binge. Relapse, binge. Relapse, binge.
You can see why that is a problem.
The Waiting Game
Another thing is that a counter might inadvertently put you in a waiting mindset. Ticking off the days and waiting for your reboot to solve all your problems…
This is easily noticed in your satisfaction at the end of the day. If you did nothing productive towards your goals and dreams, yet you still feel satisfied, it might be a good time for some self-reflection!
While recovering from porn addiction will help you in many areas of your life, it mainly acts as a catalyst for change.
It removes that ball-and-chain from your leg that you can go hustle and grind without dragging ass.
In short: the responsibility for action is still on you and you must take ownership of it.
Besides paralyzing you into passiveness, the waiting mindset makes your reboot more difficult.
If you are waiting to reach 90 and/or waiting to heal your erectile dysfunction, the time is going to pass a lot slower.
It’s basically like staring at the clock for time to pass. Unbearably tortuous and impatience will kick in eventually.
If you have ED that impatience could turn into “testing” your erection quality or moving onto sex too soon, both of which can harm your reboot and cause a relapse.
Not Using a Counter
The benefits of going without a counter essentially fixes the problems of using one.
It helps not to see those small amounts of days during when starting out on recovery.
The thing is though, that you would need to be able to forget your current starting date, so you won’t be able to calculate the streak in your head.
But this is possible for most people by letting themselves forget it. For the rest, it turns into a “don’t think about a pink elephant” situation.
Another good thing about not counting the days is that it keeps you more present to the current moment.
Being present to the NOW (as Eckhart Tolle would say) allows you to focus on the relevant actions and mindsets that help you get through today.
You won’t get paralyzed by amount of time your recovery will take.
There is nothing you can do about tomorrow, but stack enough successful todays in a row and you will reach the finish line.
As a welcome side effect, time will pass on faster and you will avoid the dangers of impatience.
The Downside of No Counter
The one problem with not using any counter is that you won’t be able to accurately tell when you have crossed that finish line. But because your mileage may vary and the 90 days is just a commonly agreed upon amount of time to reboot, it provides a hidden benefit:
Not being able to say exactly when you have gone through the 90 days will force you to focus straightaway on sober living.
The three month recovery process is like an army boot camp and what comes afterwards is your regular old life, just free of porn.
You can’t go back to porn or you will soon be where you started.
What remains is taking control of your life and living it to the fullest.
If you have already taken action towards this outcome during your reboot, it will not come as such a shocking change.
You must fill the void left in your life by porn with positive and empowering things that bring you real happiness and fulfillment.
Furthermore, those raw wounds uncovered by ripping the bandage of porn away now need to be addressed. The cat is out of the bag and sure as hell ain’t going back in.
Having taken action towards both these during your reboot goes a long way to keep your life clean of porn addiction after successfully recovering from it.
A golden middle-way
A golden middle-way with this might be to set up a counter that you will not see on a regular basis. Perhaps set it on a Reddit account you do not actively use.
This allows you later use of it as motivational fuel to get to the full 90, but it won’t eat away at you during the early days of a streak.
The problem with this is that you will still need to go reset the counter every time you relapse, which can lead to binging, so see what works for you.
I already hinted at this in the counter discussion. It is important to be able to see how much less you have begun to relapse and whether or not your binge amounts have reduced over time.
Rebooting is like a stubborn rusted nail stuck in wood. It’s not coming out easy and you’ve got to scuffle it one way and the other for a long time before it’s freed. You might be bustling with it for a long time, but each time the nail comes the tiniest bit more out of that wood.
Long-term porn use has made strong patterns in our brain. Nerves that fire together, wire together, and most of us have been wiring those nerves together for a long time. It’s produced “grooves” in our brain that make us crave going the “porn route”.
Yet every time you forgo porn, every streak, those grooves get a little shallower and a little shallower.
That’s why rebooting isn’t a one and done deal for most, it takes a lot of filling our grooves before we are able to completely dislocate ourselves from our old patterns.
And that’s what relapse reduction focuses on.
With it you not only mark your relapses, but how many times you relapsed during that day.
Later this gives much more information of your progress and shows it where it might otherwise be lost.
Let’s use our poor Johnny boy again as an example:
During the spring, Johnny binges upon relapse as much as ever. Not good. The positive news is that the average streak length has increased by four days! Good man!
During the summer Johnny’s average streaks remain same as ever, but he has managed to stop binging! Well done mate!
Both of these examples show progress that a streak counter would not have revealed. Johnny still has some work ahead of him, but the last six months certainly weren’t for nothing.
The main benefit of this is that it keeps you accountable for your binges. It’s not free-for-all once the day is lost from one relapse, you will have to face the shame of marking all those bad boys onto the board. Lacks the same appeal as it used to, doesn’t it?
Journaling is a more time consuming and best used as an addition to one of the other more statistical tracking methods.
Where journaling shines is with inner work.
It allows you to externalize your thoughts and feelings onto paper. Writing them down in itself makes them seem less daunting or all-consuming and more approachable with a critical eye.
While having a bad day you write down the thought: “I’ll never be able to reboot”.
You can now take a step back from it and consider it from an objective standpoint.
Thoughts often appear as absolute truths when bouncing around in your head. When put on paper, you can immediately go “wait, that’s just not true! I’m just having an off day.”
You can also go back and look at what you’ve written some weeks or months ago. It makes for an interesting read and reveals the slow progression of your thought patterns to healthy ones.
I gives broad sense of where you stand now and helps identify any blind spots that you may have, either in your personality or the approach to rebooting you are currently taking.
- Identify what tracking system(s) best work for your life situation and personality
- Start using those methods or trying out a new one
- After two weeks, reflect on how well you have applied the tracking, and how well it is working for you