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Is There Really a Difference between Slip Ups and Porn Addiction Relapses?

by Steven Luff on October 12th, 2014 in The Haps

Slip-up-Or-Relapse..The-real-differenceI lead a sexual addiction recovery group in Hollywood every Tuesday night called X3LA.

The men who attend have the option of filling out a “Meeting Response Sheet” with eight questions/prompts that help them better understand the nature of their addiction and, hopefully, their recovery from it.

The first question? “State your first name and how long you have been sober.” In this instance, “sober” means how long it has been since they last used their substance of abuse. Each man in the group determines that “substance” for himself – for one man it could be pornography, for another it could be prostitutes, and for another strip clubs. 

But what really is being sober, and what’s the difference between a “slip-up” and a full-blown relapse? Perhaps the best way to tackle this question is to step back and explore why we ask the X3LA men that question in the first place.

If you’re reading this you’re probably well aware of the fact that quitting an addictive substance like pornography is really, really difficult. (Tweet This!) It takes more than surrender. It requires a full array of tools, which may or may not include recovery groups, education on the subject, individual therapy, couples therapy, journaling…the list goes on. One of the most important recovery tools is your sobriety date.

The day you stopped using your substance of abuse, and the time you have acquired since last using, is a powerful companion when you find yourself alone in a room and your sobriety in danger with a click of a button. If you have a year or more of sobriety and you know what it took for you to get to that year, you will be much less inclined to act out in your weakness than you would be if you only had a week of sobriety.

If you “slipped up” or relapsed, you should consider your sobriety date gone and the calendar reset at zero. To do so maintains the value and power of your sobriety date. For many addicts, especially those addicted to alcohol or drugs, to use, even one time, may be enough for them to completely destroy their lives. This may be the case for you with sex. How seriously you take your sobriety date determines how seriously you take your recovery.

That said, there is a big difference between “slipping up” and relapsing. (Tweet This!) It has a lot to do with physiology.

The key thing to remember about substances of abuse and physiology is that the more you do something for which you get a reward (pleasure), the more your brain will want you to do it. This goes for anything we do as human beings, but is especially true with those activities that give us a profound feeling of ecstasy. The point being: the amount of time you spent using equals the degree to which the neurons in your brain are going to get wired to want to continue to use.

With this in mind, a “slip-up” may be considered a momentary slide into using, like going to a page or two of web-based pornography and quickly masturbating or even going to a bar and making out with a woman. Relapse, on the other hand, would be a full-blown five-hour porn binge or actually having sex with that woman multiple times. The difference between “slipping up” and relapsing really comes down to intensity and duration.

A man who joined our X3LA group about two years ago decided on his own to have a new approach to his sobriety dates. I write “dates” and not “date” because this man was frequently resetting his sobriety date as he returned repeatedly to pornography. However, at the end of his first year in group this man made a significant discovery about himself and his patterns of behavior.

Because he had had substantial gaps of time between using – two weeks, a month, three months at one point – it dawned on him that unlike all of the previous years of his life since he was eleven, this was the first year where he had spent the vast majority of his days not using porn. There were times when he only “slipped up” and there were times where he fully relapsed, but looking at the year as a whole, he felt as if it was a year of “slipping up” instead of relapsing. For this man, the year was a win.

So how would you approach it?  

What do you see as the differences between a “slip-up” and a relapse, and how do you feel about resetting your sobriety dates?


x3-groups-logoYou can get REAL HELP today by joining an X3group. These online small groups offer the real support and accountability you need while breaking free from sexual addiction. Get 50% OFF your 1st month with Discount Code X3HALF

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