By Floyd Godfrey, LPC, CSAT candidate
A very common question in my office involves the role of abstinence when you’re addicted to pornography. Sometimes the term abstinence can be interchanged with sobriety. It basically means your ability to NOT act out sexually (whether with pornography or some other sexual behavior).
Research indicates that when addicts can stay sober for 90 days “the brain changes dramatically enough to gain significant traction in the recovery process.”[1} In other words, as sobriety increases the brain prunes itself and rewires the way it processes the world. Additionally, abstinence over time allows for your body to stabilize and normalize the biochemistry that has changed during the addiction.
When you understand the role of abstinence in your recovery, it will be helpful to teach your support network. These would involve people like pastors, family members, or your wife. But be careful that your support people don’t use abstinence as a way of measuring your progress. A man can go long periods of time without sexually acting out, but that doesn’t mean he is doing recovery work. An addict’s termination of behavior doesn’t necessarily mean that he has made any internal changes. Abstinence is an external change necessary for creating a platform for deeper recovery changes.
Early in the development of AA there was excessive focus on abstinence from alcohol without a complete understanding of necessary inner changes. “Some of those in AA later moved into other addictions like gambling, smoking, eating or sex. They simply shifted addictions.”[2} In other words, try to look at abstinence as a sign of good motivation and hard work, but not as a measure of lasting recovery work.
When you need a measure of your progress, look at the long-term changes you have made. For example, are you learning to be more transparent? Do you have support people that you have regularly checked in with for periods of time? Do you consistently read recovery material? Do you regularly attend group meetings? Do you communicate more authentically with your wife? Have you learned to become more honest with those around you? These would be examples of more lasting indicators of good recovery work.
If you would like to get into a formatted and structured program for developing abstinence in your recovery, consider coming to our LifeSTAR program in Mesa Arizona. This is a pornography addiction program in Mesa Arizona. We can also provide a free 15-minute consultation with you over the phone: (480) 668-8301.
 Thomas Tullos, LPC, CSAT-S, presentation at CSAT module 2 training, January 17, 2015, Phoenix, Arizona.
 Jon Bradshaw, CBS presentation, “Shame and Addiction.”