The following post contains excerpts from Week 5 of the Fortify Program. To find more useful tips to aid you in recovery, check out the full program.


As the momentum of past experiences drags a person towards using again and again and again, it’s understandable that any of us can start to feel a bit hopeless. After months and years of being pulled into the cycle, it can feel like there’s no way out. No options, no way forward.

When you’re in the middle of the currents of a strong cycle, that feels true—especially when you’re not even aware of what’s happening. It’s one thing to be stuck in a strong river current; it’s entirely different to be lost in something you didn’t even recognize as a river!

But what if you did realize you’re in a cycle that’s leading you in circles? What if someone handed you a paddle and started showing you where you were going wrong—and how exactly to escape for good?

Escape Is Possible

Like a prison that seems impossible to escape, if you watch and listen carefully, there are places to chip away and finally break out of it. These moments of possible freedom can arise at different times and in moments that will surprise you. As you take advantage of these escape routes, you will find more and more opportunities to slip out of the tight hold of the addiction prison and walk free.

Victor Frankl, a renowned therapist and Holocaust survivor, once said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response, and in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” This may sound strange at first, but read it once more—and think about what this means for you: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response, and in our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

If you’re like most people, it can be hard to find any spaces or options in our struggle.  Like being caught in a riptide, it can seem easier to just give up, and let the current take us for a ride. It’s no wonder we get discouraged!

Understanding Choice Points

Are you ready to get back on dry land? You’ll notice at least four choice points throughout the cycle that give us moment-by-moment opportunities to step out of the river’s momentum and move in another direction toward freedom. In a way, they act like branches or rocks along the river bank, giving us something to grab and stop the momentum that pulls us along.

Let’s walk through the points of the addiction cycle, and learn how you can use those choice points to escape the pull of this river.

Choice Point 1: Before You Rationalize

Imagine you’re feeling anxious, hungry, bored, tired, or sad, and you decide you want a distraction. So, you get on the Internet—not to search for porn, of course….just to browse. But then you start scanning for things that feel exciting and a thumbnail for a triggering Youtube video catches your eye.  A thought comes, Oh, it’s not a big deal, or, This doesn’t hurt anyone.

Depending on what happens in that moment, our discomfort can grow and get worse over time – or the opposite can happen. We can learn new, creative ways to work with discomfort in a way that softens and alleviates it over time.  

Will we choose to try and push away or escape from challenging feelings – trying to make ourselves feel good right now! OR, will we turn to other things that help us work through tough moments such as talking with friends, getting outside, reading something or finding some quiet time?

For the sake of this illustration, let’s pretend that the current pushes you past this first choice point, and you open that triggering Youtube video.

Choice Point 2: Before The Ritual Begins

At that moment, another choice point exists.  Of course, if you don’t see what’s going on and instead go along with it, more thoughts will pile on: You know, everyone’s into this. No one’s going to find out about this. This is going to be totally fine. This will be the last time!

But if you’re paying attention, this moment presents another possibility of freedom—another chance to step away from this all. If these thoughts and feelings were undeniable, natural urges, well then of course, there’s little sense in resisting. But what if they’re more like a programmed script that is being fed to you, a script you can notice and reject?  For now, just realize that you just discovered another moment of possible freedom – another place where you don’t have to be blindsided anymore. Another choice point: “Hmmm…that’s just a thought.  Just a feeling.  No thanks!”

Choice Point 3: Before Using

Right before using, there’s another choice point waiting for you. Many people struggling with pornography or other unwanted sexual behaviors report that in the moment right before using there is one last impulse to stop – a thought or feeling they have to push away to keep going: “Is this what I really want?”  As you begin to pay closer attention to the details of your experiences, you can pinpoint where you are in the momentum of this cycle and notice the choice points all along the way.

Watch those thoughts – as well as others that can come up too: Is this really what you want to do? Do you really have to continue? In that very moment, you can still answer:  No! This is not what I really want….

And look, even if you keep going, there are still choice-points available—possibilities of turning away sooner rather than later: “Hey, I’m better than this!”

Choice Point 4: Before The Cycle Repeats

Remember: it’s never too late to catch yourself and step away. And check it out: that includes the moment after you’ve started to use! When you fall, you might be tempted to think, There, now you’ve blown it; no use holding back anymore. You’ve done it again.

Of course, the earlier you respond in the cycle, the easier it will be to take a step back and move in another direction.

Freedom Takes Time

If and when setbacks happen, pay attention to the details of your experience and watch for lessons and insights along the way:  How do I feel after using? What else in my life keeps pushing me back into the cycle?   

While deep habits won’t likely change overnight, trust us: they can and will change over time. As you keep watching your experience carefully, learning all you can and doing your best to make strategic adjustments in your life as a whole, you can gain more and more strength over time: strength to decide you won’t be dragged around anymore, strength to insist on the life you really want, and strength to not be bullied or forced against your will.   

Are you ready to get out of the river? 


If learning about the Addiction Cycle helped your recovery, check out our Addiction Cycle Educational Print in the Fortify Store!