Mike was never crazy about watching porn. Sure, he’d watch it once or twice a week, but his life was fine without it.
Or so he thought. When he tried to stop, he realized he couldn’t. His urges were too strong to avoid them by himself.
In search of support, he found the subreddit r/NoFap. It’s a community of men hellbent on the idea that abstaining from porn and masturbation will lead to a better life. Some even think it’ll give them superpowers.
Still, even with Reddit’s anti-masturbation army on his side, Mike struggled. He spent three years trying — and failing — to curb his habit. He was studying abroad, and he felt alone. His frustration with himself grew. He felt emotional and out of control.
And so Mike told his mom about his masturbation habit.
He figured telling her would help lift the burden. He felt he’d have an easier time fighting those urges if someone close to him knew what he was going through.
He was terrified of her reaction, though. It’s what held him back from telling her years before, when he started his NoFap journey.
He shouldn’t have been. She was kind, warm and helpful. In fact, she was surprised Mike hadn’t told her earlier. Still, she was a little confused. She assured him masturbation was normal, and so was porn, “so long as I didn’t stay in that phase for a long time,” he tells MEL. She didn’t want him to ruin his future sex life — especially if he wanted to settle down with a woman someday.
“Then she told me to pray a lot,” he says.
Mike is now 26. He believes that telling his mother about jerking off was the step it took for him to break free. “I’m on a 40-day streak and might reach the 90-day max I had before. Telling her definitely helped. I haven’t had an urge since then.”
So, for Mother’s Day, I talked to the young men on r/NoFap about their biggest allies in their war against self-abuse: their moms.
Some say no way, but they’re awestruck at the sheer bravery it takes to tell your mom about how much you masturbate. Others say it’s the best decision they’ve ever made.
Paul, 24, South Carolina
Telling my parents was one of the most freeing moments for me, and it was critical in my recovery. My parents are about as hardcore Catholic as they come. And they were happy to see I was doing something about the problem.
My parents found out I was looking at porn at a young age, probably somewhere between 10 and 12. They were dumbfounded and had no idea porn was even something that crossed my mind. They raised me to be a good, pure Catholic boy, but they found out I was anything but. I was homeschooled K–8 and went to an all-boys high school. That certainly didn’t help with the lack of female contact and sexual desire.
My mom was well aware of my porn addiction basically from the beginning. Being homeschooled, we didn’t have a lot of social interaction, and I remember from a young age I always wanted a girlfriend. When I realized that was probably not an option due to my extreme lack of social interaction, I turned to porn instead. I also introduced porn to my brother, which is something I still have trouble forgiving myself for.
All through college, I watched porn and masturbated probably an average of one or two times a day. That’s for four years straight. I graduated college at 22, entered the professional world and continued my porn habits.
Then I started dating a girl. She told me she wasn’t okay with me watching porn, so I told her I’d stop for her. I did stop — for a little bit. But then I continued my addiction but didn’t tell my girlfriend.
The porn consumption gradually made its way up to probably around two to five times a week, on average. I had good weeks of nothing, but then I’d have some really bad weeks.
Eventually, one day, I confessed everything. She nearly left me, but in the end, she decided to stay. My dad visited me 12 days after the confession, and my girlfriend and I agreed it was the right thing to tell him — so I did.
I asked that he keep it from my mom, and he did. But I believe it was maybe two months later — around the time of my next relapse — that I told her.
It was over the phone. She was on the boat with my dad. I was at home. I told her I needed to tell her something serious about my relationship. I told her there was a good chance it was over, and the reason was because of a reason she warned me about so many times, so many years ago: porn.
She told me she was proud of me for admitting this to her. She told me she was proud of me for taking steps to conquer the addiction once and for all.
She, being a very religious person, asked if she could send me CDs with talks about how damaging porn is and books about it as well because she had come across many in her time. I told her anything would help.
She told me to stay strong and even if my girlfriend wanted to break up with me that I should keep fighting the addiction because it’s not worth it to plague your life.
It’s been a little more than a year. I am in a 12-step recovery group for porn addiction, and I plan on attempting to make amends with my brother for introducing him to porn when I get to that step. Mom has been nothing but supportive since I told her.
The meetings I go to are for Christians with any addiction. I go to the sexual addiction group. It usually has anywhere between four and 10 guys in it on any given Friday. It’s a place where we just share how our weeks went in relation to our addictions, or just life in general.
I’m nearly six months clean of any porn and masturbation, and my girlfriend is now my fiancée. We’re getting married in 11 months.
L.J., 15, Memphis
I told her, “Do you know what Reddit is?”
She didn’t. I told her it’s an app, basically a community, where people do a lot of sharing and collaborating.
“Okay,” she said. “What about it?”
“Well, it’s this thing I’m doing. Do you know what NoFap is?”
She didn’t. I told her it’s when you stop watching porn and stop masturbating. She seemed cool about it, not mad or anything, and just nodded in agreement and understanding, as if I was a teacher and she was a student.
I explained the basics of NoFap and what fapping does to you mentally. I told her it was why I was feeling sad and depressed all the time. I actually used to have fun and be somewhat social before masturbation hit me, and everything wasn’t so dead and pointless like it feels now.
I told her how long I’d tried to stop and how hard it had been to overcome it. I would fight myself mentally to not masturbate.
“Cool,” she said at the end. “I learned something new today.”
I thought it would strengthen our bond. It did, ’cause she was happy I told her. But then I relapsed [into masturbation], and I went to tell her.
“Mom,” I said, “I accidentally relapsed.” She gave me a disappointed look, asking how. I don’t know, I said. She just walked off. I went back into my room in hopes of starting another [NoFap] streak.
Since then, I’ve kept it to myself until I’m on a super-long streak so she won’t get so mad at me again. Fortunately for me, I think she’s forgotten about it, and I won’t bring it back up again ’cause I feel she is too uptight with it. She won’t truly understand how it works. We grew up differently from our parents.
Daniel Ples Powers Jr., 33, Ohio
I just blurted it out because that’s what I do. We were working in the yard removing honeysuckle trees, and I was thinking about it and wanted to talk to them about it, so I did.
It was basically like:
“I think I’m addicted to porn.”
“Dan please change the subject.”
So it didn’t work out well, obviously. And that’s what happens anytime I’ve mentioned it since, so I don’t say anything about it anymore. I thought my parents would understand and be able to help me or coach me or guide me through recovery.
With my mom, I honestly don’t know. I think she feels the same way as my father — they just don’t want anything to do with it.
So my parents did nothing to help me. So much for them saying they would always help me. They don’t help me, they only provide for me, and I don’t know how to do so myself.
I used to hate them very much because I feel like they never truly wanted to help me with my other issues. I have tried to put it out of mind and just not be spiteful, even though deep down I still hate them, and it doesn’t have anything to do with PMO addiction.
I can be more open with my younger brother about it. And I have a friend who is sometimes there for me if I have questions, but he doesn’t like the subject — he was hardcore addicted for about two years before stopping.
Ben, 17, U.K.
I found out about NoFap from my older brother in December 2017. “Dude,” he said, “there’s this group of people called nofappers where they quit fapping to have a better life ’n’ stuff.” I’m like, “Man, that’s just bs, this is completely healthy.”
A few weeks passed, I gave it a try myself. I felt great, no looking back.
Well, one day, my mom, who I love a lot, saw an article on the news about men not getting laid. At this point I was seven months into NoFap. I sat down and explained, using my own knowledge and “self-experience,” how there’s this huge epidemic of porn sweeping the globe and polluting young boys’ minds.
I told her fapping is like the new smoking of our generation. It’s all fun and games until it causes a few problems. In this case, it’s male obsolescence.
At the end of the conversation, she said, “Well, I agree with you,” but sadly I don’t think she fully comprehends the issue.
She has said, “If you think this is that much of a problem, why don’t you go see a doctor?” She’s advised I go for a walk somewhere to take my mind of it. But I don’t talk to her as much about it [now] — even though I know she hasn’t forgotten.
Jeremy, 19, Texas
I didn’t consider it an addiction until about the start of 2018. That’s when I realized, Oh my gosh, why am I doing this? I have a beautiful girlfriend and am not starved for sexual attention, so why?
I decided I would start trying to quit, going as long as I could and slowly building my self-control. One day, a few months in, my mom and I were having a discussion about her alcoholism, how she was sorry and how she wanted to quit so bad. She wasn’t always an alcoholic, but some life events in the last few years really messed with her. She told me that she was trying to quit and that it’s hard.
She told me I wouldn’t know how hard it is to quit because I haven’t had an addiction like that. At that moment, I told her. I wasn’t planning on telling her; it just kinda flowed smoothly into the conversation. Nobody had ever encouraged me to tell my mom before that point. In fact, she was the first person I did tell.
After I told her I started openly accepting my addiction. She told me she was proud of me for opening up and she told me that if I could do it, she could do it too. It really has helped my PMO [porn/masturbation/orgasm] addiction, considering now I am 130-some days clean.
I am still ashamed of what I have done in the past, the things I have seen, the things I have said or searched — but every day I get more comfortable telling new people about my addiction if they ask. It makes me feel free not being afraid to speak out about it.
Whatever anyone is going through, I feel that as soon as they open up to the people close to them, the easier it gets.