It’s no longer the New Year. It’s just The Current Year. The sparkle of December thirty first has worn off and many people have started new life adventures. Inevitably, a sea of people are also moping around feeling guilty for failing their New Year resolution already.
For women struggling with pornography and other sexual behaviours, the calendar changeover signifies an opportunity for a fresh start. As the fireworks erupt and glow sticks shine, women decide firmly and defiantly ‘this will be the year I break free!’
I can’t count how many times I claimed the same thing, and failed within mere weeks. By mid-January, the entire year felt doomed, and twelve more months went by where I felt totally out of my depth in pornography.
If this sounds familiar to you, here are five pieces of advice to start fresh and make this year count:
1.Recovery is a marathon, keep moving forward
Imagine you’re one of those Lycra-clad fitness junkies who do long distance cycling for fun. In the middle of a race, you hit a rock and take a tumble off your bike. Brushing the dust off your knees, you pick up your bike and walk it all the way back to the starting line. The officials wave their arms at you and stare, dumbfounded. ‘What is she doing?!’ they ask each other. It doesn’t make sense.
Of course, the sane thing to do would be to get back on your bike and peddle onward. A little stumble doesn’t send you straight back to the beginning.
Likewise, recovering from pornography is a journey. When you take a tumble, you don’t get sent back to the starting line, you get back up again and continue forward.
When I was in the early stages of recovery, I used an app which tracked my ‘sobriety streak’. I would watch the numbers go up, and up and up…until one mistake would set the counter back to zero. In some ways this was an encouraging system. It certainly put the pressure on me to keep pursuing freedom. However, I found it compounded my guilt and heightened my sense of helplessness. Even if I achieved one hundred days without pornography, one reset would devastate me. This not only erased evidence of my victories but fueled the cycle of addiction, which often began with shame.
To solve this issue, I found it much more helpful to record my victories and failures on a calendar, instead of simply counting days. This system allowed for accountability and didn’t downplay the severity of acting out, but also encouraged positivity. This not only eased the shame cycle, but helped me and my accountability partner to identify both positive and negative patterns.
Don’t let a tumble send you back to the beginning and doom you to a year of shame and porn use. It’s a marathon, when you make a mistake you get back up and keep moving forward.
2.Tell your accountability partner, and use this as a reminder to improve
Don’t face failure on your own. Make sure you share your struggle with an accountability partner or group. Be honest about what happened and why. Together, reflect on what you can do to prevent this happening again. Use it as a reminder to strengthen your support and accountability. Identify areas you need to be more self-aware in or may need further support. Mistakes are an opportunity to grow and improve, they are not an indicator of your worth (or lack-thereof).
3.Ensure you’re dealing with core issues and not just symptoms
Use a slip up as a reminder not only to be honest with your accountability partner, but to re-evaluate your recovery process. Are you dealing with core issues and inner wounds, or are you just ‘White-Knuckling’? Simply restricting the behaviour will work for a time, but it won’t heal you long term.
Picture yourself as an apple tree. The fruit is the behaviour you exhibit. If you pluck the fruit, it will disappear for a season. However, the life-force is in the roots. The fruit will return. In order to truly deal with that fruit, you need to examine and heal the roots. These roots will look different for every woman. Some may have very small ones, whilst others have been growing deep for many years. Often trauma, abuse and intimacy disorders are at the core of women’s struggles.
Sex in its many forms has become medication for pain. It is a symptom of woundedness, not the wound itself.
If you find yourself unsuccessful with your New Year resolution to break free from pornography, ask yourself if you need to go deeper than just restricting behaviours.
4.Don’t let one slip up be an excuse for the whole year
We’ve all done it, haven’t we? We overdo it on the sugary cookies and chocolate on Friday and then decide we’ll start dieting ‘properly’ on ‘Monday’. You eat half the cake, and figure you may as well finish it now you’ve started. This all or nothing attitude trips women up in many areas of life, especially pornography. It is far too easy to fall into the mindset that since you’ve already done it, you may as well give into it even more.
I have heard many women use the excuse that since they’ve already sinned, broken their resolution and are ‘bad people’, they may as well just embrace it. What’s one more time? ‘This week is a write-off anyway’ they claim. This attitude only compounds guilt and excuses excessive use.
Don’t let one slip up turn into an excuse to avoid recovery for that day, week, month or year. Start fresh immediately after a mistake, you don’t have to wait for a new week or year.
5.You don’t scare God
No matter the depth of darkness, God loves you. He is the only one who knows absolutely everything you’ve seen, done and thought. And He’s the only one to love you truly and completely. It can be incredibly difficult to comprehend this all-knowing love, especially as a woman who has known relational pain. Your experience may say that mistakes equal rejection. But remember, God is not like the men and women you’ve had relationships with. He is not like your hurtful family or partners. No matter your search history, you are precious to Him and He longs to carry you through your pain like a good Father.
If your New Year resolution already feels like a failure, be encouraged to change the way you perceive it, and turn it into something positive. You can still make this year count. Keep moving forward.