Imagine you’re about to take your most exotic, luxurious dream vacation. London, Paris, Tokyo, you name it. Now, imagine for this special trip that you have somehow acquired a special suitcase. This is no ordinary suitcase. It’s big. Very big. It’s so big, in fact, that it barely fits through the front door. Not only that, but this bag has another special feature: as the plane travels, the bag shrinks.
Somehow, you manage to stuff your belongings into this behemoth, squeeze it through the door, and get to the airport on time. As you approach the ticket counter, the agent hands you a luggage tag. However, you politely turn it down, assuring the agent of your suitcase’s magical capabilities.
Would the airline allow you to carry the bag on the plane?
When it comes to quitting porn, there are some who believe that they can make their bag lighter as their journey progresses. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that gradually reducing their porn use over time is an acceptable means of quitting. This idea that you can somehow wean yourself off of porn is not only a soundly disproved recovery method, but it is a mistaken impression for several reasons.
1. Jesus commands a “cold turkey” approach to purity
“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” - Matthew 5:29-30
This command immediately follows Jesus’ teaching on lust. Let that sink in for a moment. Does this command allow for gradual removal of the hand, finger by finger, section by section, until it is eventually gone? No way! It must be an immediate and total expulsion.
In John 8, when Jesus meets the adulterous woman, He instructs her to “go… and sin no more.” This is a clear command with obvious application to our own lives as well. She is not instructed to go and try to sin less and less until she feels comfortable stopping. There is no middle ground. God has called us out of sin completely and totally, and no exceptions are provided just because you think you have extenuating circumstances.
Jesus desires the complete devotion of our whole heart. Nothing less would be acceptable, and any justification for weaning off porn is giving Christ less than what he demands. We have the responsibility and obligation to make a clean break from our sin, including porn, because it is what God expects.
2. God cannot accept your impurity
1 John 1:5 tells us that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. This light is the same one into which we have been called as Christians (1 Peter 2:9). How can we justify any conscious attempt to bring our darkness into Him who has none? How can we bring our sin into His holiness?
We can’t. Our darkness is incompatible with God’s light. The darkness of sinful deeds that we carry excludes us from His very presence. By this rationale, we can know that if we desire purity, then no room exists within our lives for the corruption of sin. Therefore, it must be expunged completely from our lives if we want true fellowship with Him.
If you are attempting to wean yourself from porn, then you are no better off than you were as an uncontrolled, heavy user. If you are trying to slowly stop your porn use, then you are essentially buying into a lie that sin can continue as you live in holiness. The two are at complete odds with each other, and only one of them will win you over in the end.
3. Your brain needs to detox before it heals
Porn is a drug in the truest sense of the word. The act of watching porn releases reward chemicals such as dopamine into the brain. The process is nearly identical to the process in which your brain reacts to hard drugs. Prolonged, heavy, repeated hits of dopamine will cause certain cells in your brain, known as neurons, to lose their elasticity, and become hardened over time.
This hardening, which is the basis for the addiction, causes a continued dependence on the dopamine to maintain the highs you seek. This is incredibly dangerous to your recovery. Your brain will need to fast from the elevated dopamine levels before it can truly begin to heal itself. This process can take up to a year.
A year! You need to be free from porn for roughly one whole year before your brain even begins to approach normal elasticity again. If you are still using porn, you are not equipping your brain with the proper tools needed for true recovery. Only when you starve your brain of these dopamine surges, will it begin to realign itself back to normal functionality.
4. It exposes you to the risk of bingeing
Let’s face it: if you have formed an addiction to pornography, then it's safe to say that you have lost your sense of self control. What makes you think that you’ll suddenly be able to master this urge now?
Some dependencies, such as caffeine, can in fact be alleviated by this method. But porn is a horse of a different color. The nature of porn addiction is to lure you into riding the high for hours at a time. You can, and will, get lost for untold hours in the haze of porn. No matter what limits you set for yourself, you are still letting the sin control you, rather than you controlling the sin. It becomes easy, then, to put yourself right back into the loop of fear, shame, and secrecy all over again.
It is impossible to change your mind (and change your actions) regarding porn, if it is still an ongoing part of your life. Setting these kinds of permissible time limits is not a proven strategy for defeating this beast. It has to be cold turkey.
Ultimately, I believe the mentality of slowly tapering off your porn use, rather than cutting it off immediately, is a frail justification to continue using. It is a flawed thought process born out of a reluctance to commit fully to the standard of purity God demands. You can’t change what flows from your heart unless you first change what flows into your eyes.
Just as there is zero chance that an airline will allow you to take this magic suitcase on the plane to Tokyo, you can’t take your sin with you on the journey to purity. If you want to continue the trip, you’ve got to leave your luggage behind. Leave your sin, anxiety, and fear with it, as you progress to a new life of righteousness, courage, and determination. You will never find the change you seek until you kick porn to the curb. If you are truly prepared to live out the change for which God calls, then start today. Leave behind the demons of your past, and choose a life with a pure future ahead.