I’ve written about PMO streaks in the past in What Does It Mean To Relapse and to summarise, they don’t meaningfully contribute towards our recovery.
In fact, they help cultivate self-defeating mindsets which do nothing to empower us, nor help us develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms, which is where the bulk of our focus and effort should be.
Essentially, anything which takes our focus away from the process of recovery is merely a distraction from effectively improving each day.
So what exactly is a PMO streak?
Well, a PMO streak is when you keep count of the days since you last relapsed. It’s essentially a reference to how long it’s been since you last watched porn or masturbated.
It seems to be a very common theme within the porn addiction recovery community, as an important metric in order to gauge the success of how well someone is doing with their recovery.
When really it’s nothing more than a meaningless figure.
The amount of days you’ve managed to refrain from relapsing is absolutely no indicator of your mental health, nor whether you’ve truly developed control over your mind during that period.
Especially since a lot of these streaks can be entirely circumstantial, where the only reason why you managed to reach 2 weeks was because you happened to be away on vacation or because you were sufficiently distracted for a period of time.
And yet inspite of these conveniences, people will hold these streaks as gospel, as if they’re a firm indicator of what they’re actually capable of.
As NeverFap Deluxe states, it's perfectly easy to get 30 (or even 60) days into a streak without a strategy or solely using Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms.
But to truly get 90+ days and beyond requires a solid foundation of Healthy Coping Mechanisms, something which these streaks do not convey in any way.
And when you fixate your attention on these meaningless figures, it inevitably leads to all sorts of problems.
One of the biggest problems is the perception of hopelessness people will conjure at the fact that they haven’t been able to reach their furthest streak in years, inspite of trying harder than ever.
Which makes people feel helpless and demotivated, merely hindering their recovery further.
Of course, people try to justify these streaks by claiming that they can actually achieve the opposite of this, and in fact help you and motivate you to continue forward.
Which I don’t disagree with, but on the flipside it can also demotivate you and significantly put you off course, and so why should we continue to put so much faith in a metric that not only has no connection to developing solid mental health practice.
But which equally takes away from you and makes you feel awful once you do slip up, especially when there are alternatives which simply don’t do this?
In fact, this duality is a huge contributing factor towards this awful cycle of guilt and shame which comes from consistently relapsing, which I'm sure we're all familiar with.
Oh, and that’s another thing that’s come about as a result of these streaks. People will become obsessed with this idea of relapse, which leads to all sorts of incessant rationalisations.
“Is it relapse if I edge to porn for an hour but don’t orgasm?”
“Is it relapse if I masturbate without porn?”
All questions which have precisely zero relevance to the fundamentals of developing control over our minds, and which don’t help us become more resilient and more empowered as human beings.
Questions people ask because they’re so desperately trying to justify their streaks, which they have deemed to be the sole source of truth to their recovery.
As they completely disregard any amount of effective mental health practice instead.
And this really highlights how PMO streaks have become so much than a mere figure, and signifies how they have firmly entrenched themselves as a way of thinking about recovery.
Which itself becomes a huge distraction from meaningful change.
The amount of times I’ve seen someone write “I keep relapsing after a couple of days. I can barely make it a week anymore, someone please help me!” truly indicates the extent to which these metrics have come to define us.
Because it really doesn’t matter how far you’ve managed to go without porn in the past. It’s absolutely no reflection of what you can achieve today.
At the same time, I don’t blame people.
When you don't have a solid strategy in place, it's easy to become desperate and begin relying on hope.
Hope in the past which at one point, signified a period of time where you were making progress in some way, even though it may have been entirely superficial.
So what’s the alternative?
Well, the alternative is to simply refrain from keeping track of your relapses, and instead to stick to a set of solid principles instead which help empower us simply by way of thinking.
Keeping streaks is a bit like picking your nose or saying ‘um’ after each sentence. It’s a bad habit that serves no real purpose to your life.
What can help instead is to focus your attention on what you managed to achieve for that day.
Not only does it place emphasis on your immediate actions, which are essentially the only things which matter to your recovery.
But it’s also an empowering way to think about success and achievement, which doesn’t make us feel as if we’re inadequate or incapable.
Of course, what can be most helpful is to simply remain neutral and not have an opinion on the progress of our recovery.
And to simply focus this attention on recovery itself.
This is what will help most in terms of helping us dissolve all of the feelings, judgements, worries or self-criticisms we may about ourselves or our recovery.
Ultimately however, these are all merely tools for us to utilise and appreciate.
So go out there, practice your awareness exercises and don’t forget to stick to the process.