How to Stop the Sickening Cycle of Doing Exactly What You Told Yourself You Would Never Do Again

Recovery is a funny thing. We yell and scream and swear we’ll never drink, drug, masturbate, watch porn, lust, self-harm, purge again only to be found in the next moment doing exactly that. Why is it that in one moment we can be so strongly convicted one way and in the next we’re right back at it again?


This cycle of being determined to succeed and then failing shortly thereafter is sickening. Going round and round made me want to puke and then punch myself in the gut for puking.


I’ll share the simple secret to stoping this cycle in a bit. But first, what do you do when you fail?


  • Face-Palm of Death…Do you remember the monks from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? These hooded figures walked around mumbling chants and periodically hit themselves in the face with a two by four. One reaction to failure is feeling the need to be punished for bad behavior. Some people take it upon themselves to crush any and all sense of self-confidence or self-worth to ‘make up for’ what they did. It’s like they repeatedly face-palm themselves at full force and curse themselves in between whacks. “I AM SO STUPID!” Whack!


  • Hire an Executioner…Others outsource their punishment and hire someone else to do the trick. They lock themselves into the gallows after fastening someone else’s hand on the rope to release the guillotine. “This is what I deserve! I’m sorry I failed you! Please pull it!” A lot of the times, this is disguised in the recovery world by unhealthy expectations of an accountability partner. What they mean by “hold me accountable” is “punish me when I fail”. They think that if someone else can shame them well enough when they fail that they will alas repent of their wrong. It’s almost like they’re the body-builders of repentance: no pain, no forgiveness. And I need a lot of forgiveness, so make it hurt!


  • Take the Shame Crawl… Imagine crawling on all fours and doing the ugly-cry as you’re wrapped around God’s feet, “Please, please, please, forgive me for what I’ve done. Take me back! I swear I’ll be better!” The logic here is that maybe God will re-accept me if I cry hard enough. At some point, He’ll be like the older brother from Diary of a Wimpy Kid and yell, “LET GO BABY HIPPO!” because of your annoying, repentant persistence. Maybe if I just re-up my daily Hail Mary quotient, I could tip the scale and outweigh my sin.


  • Throw a Pity Party…You’re invited! Come cry with me about how bad it sucked for me to fail! I was so tempted. They were letting me have it for free. She was just too hot. It’s everywhere. I couldn’t avoid it. I couldn’t handle it. Please, understand how hard this was for me and feel bad for me that I failed! It really sucks, and I’m really sad, and I want you to join me in my sadness. I’m boiling a tea kettle of my tears right now, and I’ll gladly pour you a shot that we can chase with a squeeze of my personal woes.


I make light of each of these reactions because I’ve done all of them. If you see yourself in any of these, feel free to read it again and laugh at yourself. I’m certainly not discrediting the way you feel or telling you that you’re wrong. Instead, I’m saying that when you zoom out and look at what you’re really doing, it’s kinda silly! I know it is for me when I think of all the silly things I did when I failed.


And there’s a better way to do this that will stop the sickening cycle of setting out to never do something and then walking into it again. You must first abandon these self-destructive shame patterns and lean into the uncomfortable world of learning and war. Here’s how:


1) Failure is an event, not an attribute.

The first thing you need to know is that failure isn’t something to internalize. You don’t need to beat yourself up, have someone else do your dirty work, crawl to God on all fours, or pity yourself. You’ve nothing to be punished for, God’s already forgiven you, and it’s OK that you made a mistake. Truly. Viewing failure as an event to study, to learn from, and to help you win the next time is at the core of stopping this cycle. View it objectively. Imagine that failure is something lying on a dissection table you’re going to pick apart and understand.


2) Find the root of your failure.

The most important question you need to ask yourself is this: what lie did I believe as the truth? Think about it. A few days ago, you were so determined to succeed that you screamed and shouted and swore. Your mind was set. What happened? Your mind changed. Why? Because you believed a lie was true, and then your actions followed suit. Then when you snapped back to, you spun into the sickening cycle of frustration, shame, and self-hate. The problem was that you believed a lie that changed your mind. What is that lie? Was it that you believed that this would give you pleasure and that it was worth it? Was it that you needed it? Was it that you deserved it? Was it that you needed a release? Was it that you couldn’t keep fighting the temptation? Wrestle with this. If you pray, ask God and listen. Spend serious time considering what derailed your mind because this is why you failed.


3) Anticipate, and fight with the truth.

Overcoming these lies is much like war. Your enemy has certain tactics they employ to take you out. Now that you know what they used last time, prepare your defenses, prepare your counter-attack, and execute in battle. The next time you’re about to get on your computer and you feel those lies creep up, tell yourself the truth out loud. “No! This isn’t worth it. I won’t stand for that. I stand for purity.” Prepare a statement that adequately vanquishes these lies by understanding what your enemy uses and countering it with the truth. Anticipate when you’ll be hit with those lies, and fight back by declaring the truth out loud until you win.


The truth is: you absolutely can win. Study your failures. Discover the lies. Equip yourself with the truth. Anticipate your enemy. Outsmart them and win. Stop the cycle.


What did you used to do when you failed? What lies are you believing? What truth are you going to claim moving forward?

Showing 6 comments
  • justakid

    Good Lord! Thank you! This literally just described everything I’ve been struggling with and gave me the answers to fight it. Gosh, this has helped me more than you will ever understand. Thank you so much!

    • Nate Hilpert

      Dude! That’s so good to hear!

      Hey man, before I say anything else…I just wanted to recognize how active you’ve been on our forum. You’ve been such an uplifting, encouraging force for so many people there. You’ve poured your heart out and spent so much time crafting thoughtful replies. You’ve checked back in with people when they didn’t respond. You’ve truly been support for others who need it. I’m so thankful to have you as a part of this community because you are making a difference on the front lines–a soldier for the freedom of others. Your determination and individual care MATTER, and we need you to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Thank you, again.

      Now…tell me how this helped you! I would love to understand 🙂

      • justakid

        Sorry I’m just now replying to this. I didn’t see it until this moment.

        Ummm…Wow. I don’t even know what to say, man. I had know idea that the things I wrote helped people so much and made an impact like that. Gosh. This is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me, and I almost cried while reading it. haha I didn’t think anyone noticed me or really cared what I said. Thank you for telling me. It means SO SO SO much! You have no idea. I actually haven’t posted in a while, but this has given my the motivation and the joy to keep going and try my best to help people out! Wow, I still can’t believe all the things you wrote!

        I’ll tell you how this has helped me, but its really super embarrassing. I’ve never told anyone about it, not even on this site. I struggle with masturbation. I literally did everything you described in the article. The face palm of death, the shame crawl, and the pity party. But I like how you said to view failure as a study. I’ve been trying to do that and really go deep inside to try and understand myself and why I do the things I do. And its been helping. I haven’t done “it” in a really long time, and I also don’t feel urges to do it anymore. Not like I used to. Things are really getting better.

        Also, I read that “What’s the point of God” article you wrote recently, and it was really good. I love the story about jumping into the creek. It’s kind of weird, because my grandma has a creek by her house, and yesterday I sat on a log and just stared at it for hours thinking about all God has created and the beauty of it. I didn’t jump in the creek, but I really related to you story a lot. Thank you for that.

        • Nate Hilpert

          Sorry I’M just replying to this, haha. We’re even 🙂

          Seriously…thank you again SO MUCH. I am so happy that you’re here and so honored that you’re a part of this community. Please email me, [email protected] 🙂

          Thank you for your bravery in sharing. I love that about this community that no matter what you’re going through you’re not alone and you won’t be judged. I see you, and I accept you just as you are, friend. Thank you for being here.

          I challenge you to jump in if that’s ever what you felt led to do 😉 Worth it

  • Nathan Mendyk

    I gotta take notes on this

  • Dena Milstead

    This is exactly what I needed to read right now. Thank you!

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