Healing Sexual BulimiaAug 24, 2020
Healing Sexual Bulimia:
How to end your binge-purge relationship with porn
By Drew Boa
Today we’re talking about sexual bulimia. This language is probably new for you, but the concept will be familiar and I'm sure you can relate. Bulimia is a pattern of disordered eating in which bingeing on food is followed by purging from food, whether that's through vomiting or excessive exercise. Bulimia can be a life-threatening condition. It's basically a binge-purge cycle that gets more intense as it repeats itself.
Sexual bulimia is a binge-purge cycle of sexual behavior. It can last for a week at a time, a month at a time, even a year at a time. Wouldn't it be awesome if you could break free from that cycle altogether? You don't have to play that game anymore. You don't have to fight that battle anymore. That's what I've experienced for the last five years. And that's what I help my clients do every day.
Two years ago, I met a guy who was locked in a horrible binge-purge cycle. Every time he binged on porn, he would take his iPad and smash it. By the time he met me, he had smashed seven iPads. After we started working together, he began to get results. This month, I'm pleased to announce he has two years of freedom. That kind of long-term success comes from not fighting the battle anymore but actually healing your sexual bulimia. How do you do that? Well, let’s talk about why we get stuck in this binge-purge cycle and how we can get unstuck.
The war within
We get stuck in sexual bulimia because we are at war with ourselves. As Jenna Riemersma, a recent guest on the show said, we have parts at war. This is exactly what we see in the Bible when we look at Romans chapter 7. Paul says, “I do the things that I don't want to do, and the things that I want to do, I don't do.”
These parts of us are locked in a battle, and that's exactly what kept me stuck in sexual bulimia for so long. Even though my binge-purge cycle was increasingly extended, there was a part of myself that I still hated. It was the porn part. I didn't know that this porn part was actually protecting me from all of the wounded parts within me — the part that felt left out, the part that felt betrayed, the part that felt powerless, the part that felt absolutely horribly trapped. This poor part was trying to protect them, and it was in a war against the many more socially acceptable parts of me — the perfectionist, the performer, the spiritualizer — who all hated that porn part. These parts of me were at war and I thought that in order to get free from porn, I had to take the side of my spiritual, controlling, managing, successful parts and give them enough ammunition to overcome the porn part. Little did I know, I was also causing them to reinforce the wounds of the parts of me that were struggling and just trying to cope with pain.
Here's the problem with most of the porn recovery movement: instead of making peace between all these different parts of ourselves, they encourage the war. They fan the flame of the fight and take the side of the more managerial, spiritual parts against the porn parts. Ultimately, this only makes that binge-purge cycle even grittier, even tougher. So you get ministries saying, you have to conquer your sin, you have to overcome, and you have to fight the battle for purity. Ultimately, without knowing it, they're actually fueling the fire of the binge-purge cycle. All of this military mindset that comes from purity culture and toxic shame is making things worse.
Process the pain
So how do you get unstuck from sexual bulimia? I believe you need to do at least two things. Number one, process the pain. Instead of taking the side of all the spiritualizers and managers and the successful performers and perfectionists who want to pulverize porn, actually get to know the part of you that feels attracted to porn a little bit better, along with the wounded experiences the porn part is trying to protect you from. You have to get close to the little boy in you who needs love, who is using porn as a way to survive, as a way to get through life. In other words, you have to process your pain.
One of the best ways to do this is through IFS — Internal Family Systems therapy. Recently, I had IFS expert Jenna Riemersma on the show. Please go back to that episode and listen to her wonderful explanation of parts at war and how to help them heal and make peace. Jenna's new book Altogether You does an incredible job of helping you take this journey. But even if you don't enjoy IFS, the point is you need to learn how to embrace and befriend all that is within you, to get close to the part of you that wants to binge on porn, to get to know it, to learn how to love it and actually value it and appreciate it. And also to befriend the part of you that wants to purge from porn and find out why does it feel the need to do that and where did it learn this kind of strategy? Once you can do that, you can access deeper healing.
Find pleasure in your body
There's one more step, which I believe is incredibly powerful for healing sexual bulimia: practicing self-care. I'm sure you're thinking “yeah, yeah, I've heard that stuff before,” but are you actually doing it? How much kindness are you bringing to your body, to your emotions, and to all that is within you? Are you constantly trying to fight? Are you in this campaign to control your sexuality and oppress it, or are you learning to express it? That's what self-care is all about — expressing our sexuality in healthy ways, through intimacy with other people and close community, where we can feel loved and known and connected. Also, we practice self-care by allowing ourselves to feel pleasure in our bodies — through sailing and hiking and running and cooking and woodworking and even knitting. Whatever it is for you, you need to find pleasure in your body that will bring peace to this war. Another great outlet is choosing creativity. Unleash yourself by writing songs or poems. For my wife, it's making an incredibly delicious dessert.
If you are sick of the binge-purge cycle and you want to heal from sexual bulimia today, I've given you a couple of practical next steps. First, process your pain, whether that means getting Husband Material group coaching or individual coaching, or getting IFS therapy, or other kinds of counseling. Processing your pain will change your life. Second, prioritize self-care. What fills you up? What gives you life? What makes you feel alive? Do that. Pursue that. When you do, you'll not only quit porn temporarily or extend your binge-purge cycle, you will outgrow that unwanted sexual behavior altogether.
If you want more training for me on this, go to outgrowporn.com. Always remember my friend, you are God's beloved son and in you, he is well pleased.