Module 16: Relapse Prevention

How might a relapse happen?

Look at the steps to relapse described below.  Maybe you recognise them from the past.  It’s very likely you might experience them – or some of them – in the future.  Being prepared and understanding what’s going on and what could happen is your best defence against offending again.

1) Abstinence

At this stage you’re not doing anything illegal on the internet.  If you’re lucky, this might come easily but, for some people or at some times, this might need quite a bit of self-control.  But it’s OK – you’re coping and you know you’re doing the right thing.

2) Small decisions

Maybe you’re just on the web reading about a celebrity, there are some photos too…  There’s nothing wrong with this but you’re a bit closer to the possibility of doing something illegal.  Maybe a part of you feels a bit uneasy or even a bit excited.

3) Danger

Now let’s look at the situation and your state of mind. 

  • Where are you? Perhaps you’re on your own with time on your hands. 
  • How are you feeling? Are you feeling down?  You might be more tempted to do something wrong. 

Maybe you’re just surfing the net – nothing illegal.  Even so, you can sense the danger here.  But understanding that and staying determined to do the right thing can be enough to help you stop right there.

4) Lapse

A lapse is something that brings you very close to offending.  For some people, looking at adult pornography might be a lapse; it can certainly be a slippery slope.  Or a lapse could be putting certain words into a search engine, knowing it will bring up illegal sites.  Or it could be a fantasy about looking at illegal images of children.

You will know what a lapse for you.  You can use that knowledge.  You can stop right there.

5) Giving up

The danger by this stage is that you believe you’ve failed already.  You tell yourself nothing’s changed – you’re as bad as ever, you still have the same feelings…

When you feel that way, it’s really easy to think ‘I might as well just do it’.  Remember though, you still have a choice and you can still choose to do the right thing – right for you and right for others.  

6) Offending

You didn’t stop yourself this time; you’ve accessed illegal images.  Don’t make excuses for yourself – you know you chose to do something wrong. 

You’re here, reading this, so it’s something you really don’t want to do and something you feel bad about.  So, USE those feelings and LEARN from what went wrong.   Next time – if there is a next time – you’re going to do the right thing.


No going back!  The next sections look at how to avoid a relapse.

No going back

The last section might have seemed a bit depressing but it’s important to be realistic – those risks and temptations do exist.  But you still have the power and the will to stop yourself offending again. 

Firstly, we’ll review the practical things you can do which will make it much less likely you’ll relapse.


1. Don’t use the internet.

OK, that might seem a tall order nowadays but, remember, there are alternatives.  You can get information or entertainment from all kinds of other sources – shops, newspapers, libraries, TV, even just talking to people.   And none of these is illegal or risky to you.

2. Don’t use the internet at home.

  • Remember you can use the computers in a library or internet café.  
  • Or you could take your laptop to somewhere public which has free wi-fi. 

If you sometimes feel lonely, this is also a way of getting out and about and maybe meeting people.  It can be healthier than feeling stuck at home.

3. Protect yourself when you’re using the internet

There are lots of ways to lessen the temptation or opportunity to use the internet illegally.

  • Keep the computer in a shared space so you know other people can see what you’re doing. 
  • Limit the time you spend on the internet.    Set yourself a time limit or just use it for some specific task.  Remember the earlier module on how you used the internet?  You know how easy it is to get sucked in.  Make sure you control the internet and it doesn’t control you.
  • Restrict your access to risky sites using internet filters such as Netnanny ( or install internet monitoring software such as Covenant Eyes ( so that your internet use is monitored to help you manage any temptation.

4. Talk to people!

  • Is there anyone you feel close to who you might confide in?   Sometimes just talking can make it feel like a huge burden has been lifted.  They might even be willing to be a support person for you – someone you can ring when things seem particularly difficult.
  • If you don’t feel there’s anyone you can confide in, remember you can talk to the Stop It Now! Helpline or the Samaritans. They will always be there and always willing to listen.  And they’re completely confidential.


Finally, it’s really important to understand that giving up offending isn’t just all about things you can’t do or shouldn’t do. You’re here because you want to feel better and live better. The last section will give you some ideas how to do that. 


I’ve done a lot of right things since the offending. I kept away from the internet obviously, that's the main thing...The days I did have off...I kept myself occupied, I planned out my day so I didn't waste it.


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