The Catholic Letter

Pornography Addiction and How It's Damaging Catholic Society

Should I Have A Sober/Purity Counter?

Porn Addiction & Recovery Questions

Should I Have A Sober Counter?

Most recovering addicts can tell you almost exactly how long they've been sober (call it sober, pure, chaste, whatever you want--what we're talking about is the number of days they've been clean from their addicted behavior).   And yet, many recovering addicts practically discourage the use of a 'counter'.

So why do we use them?

I'll start with an answer that's generally true of men more than women.  And since we're talking about porn addiction, that would probably cover most of the people reading this.  Men, when they speak of accomplishments, almost always prefer to have something measurable.  As a matter of fact, you can often tell that a man is not proud of his accomplishments when he uses generalities.  For example, "I've been doing good," can often translate to, "I've had some (although few) slipups."  Whereas, "I've been clean for two weeks," means, "I've been clean for two weeks."

Counters also give you a goal to shoot for.  "Last time, you went sixteen days without looking at porn.  Let's try for twenty this time."  On the flip side, it can give you false sense of accomplishment.  Remember that the ultimate goal is to never look at pornography again.  Breaking your old record might tempt you to relax.  To let down your guard.  Even to ‘celebrate' with a little sinfulness.

The reason a lot of people discourage the use of counters is because it's too easy to get wrapped up in numbers... when what you should be focusing on is a general change of lifestyle.  As I write this, I can boast of over seven months of purity.  But at this point, I can see that x number of days without pornography has nothing to do with actual purity.  It is the way I've stopped (or begun to stop) objectifying women that I am more proud of.  It is the relationships I've gained and improved.  It is the growth of my marriage.  And of course, it is my personal relationship with God.

These things didn't happen because of a counter.  Yet if someone asks me how I'm doing, I still give them my counter number--because that's the measurable success.

In the end, counters are just a matter of preference.  Either you benefit from one or you don't.  Just remember this: God isn't counting for or against you at this point.  He's looking for true repentance and true conversion.  And it's just not possible to measure that with numbers.