Checking in for 2016

Its high time I wrote an update, so here goes.

December was a rollercoaster, and it triggered a revisiting of my approach to recovery (including temporarily giving up on recovery altogether).

To give some context then, a quick look back at 2015…

Here’s my complete recovery chart for 2015, which shows the %age days ‘clean’ each month:

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 22.11.13

As you can see, it isn’t exactly trending in the right direction. Actually generating this graph just now to insert here was saddening as it was the first time I’ve really looked back at the year, and I didn’t realise who clearly the trend is going in the wrong direction. This actually reinforces my latest approach perhaps, which I’ll come on to.

Recovery approach in 2015

So how did I approach recovery in 2015?

Jan and Feb were 100% clean. This was the height of my recovery, where I was excited by it, engaged, learning new things, and perhaps riding on the novelty of it all. I also had a pretty comprehensive set of routines I followed, including:

  • Seeing therapist and attending SAA meetings weekly (but not doing 12 steps).
  • Included a lot of psychological work on my childhood, reasons for addiction etc.
  • Active on Twitter/Blog/Reddit in recovery groups
  • Experimented with meditation
  • Increased my cycling (20 miles a day commute 3 days a week)
  • Worked on self-awareness and productivity
  • Wrote in my journal every day

At the end of February, my daughter was born. This was an incredible time, but unfortunately it completely de-railed my recovery. Overnight I lost the ability to attend SAA or therapy as I had to rush home to look after the family. I then stopped doing my other recovery techniques – I was tired, and lost focus as I was 100% focussed on fatherhood.

So then I started slipping up; acting out to porn. At first I hoped it was a one off, but then it clearly became routine. I actually sort of gave myself permission to do this, due to the pressures of fatherhood (“I don’t have time or energy to dedicate myself to both, so recovery will have to wait”).

Slowly I re-introduced therapy at a reduced frequency and started trying to get sober again, but I guess it wasn’t enough as the sobriety didn’t really improve, and so eventually, around September, I admitted I needed to re-commit to recovery.

I returned to SAA in September, with a renewed commitment to change. I even accepted that I’ll give the 12 steps a go, something I had always been reluctant to do in the past. I got a sponsor and started Step 1. Unfortunately, nothing changed. In fact, things got worse. Part of the recovery required I re-implement the ‘blocks’ on my various devices, and for reasons I’ve covered at length on this blog, I really struggle with these. This is basically because due to my technical prowess and love of problem-solving, there isn’t really a block in the world that I can’t find a workaround to, and so the blocks actually heighten the excitement of acting out, as they extend the ‘hunt’. However, in good faith, I persevered and kept refining the blocks, closing the loopholes as I found them.

Crunch time

Something wasn’t right though. My sobriety wasn’t improving and I quickly lost motivation towards doing the step work, and that’s when it all came crashing down. In early December my sponsor directly challenged my commitment to recovery, essentially asking me if I actually wanted to quit. He implied that I needed to make some hard decisions and he may not be the right person to be my sponsor any more.

It hit me really hard, harder than I expected. It made me question everything. Initially it was that feeling of rejection. I had struggled with the concept of ‘someone being there for me no matter what’ for ages, probably as a result of the usual lack of self-esteem that is typical in addicts. Just as I was coming to accept that someone was willing to be that person in my life, that very person says actually they might not be. It wasn’t great news.

He was right to say it though. The thing is, my acting out had reached a point that could easily be considered ‘normal’ – once every week or two, with little to no tangible negative consequences. I wasn’t displaying any of the truly destructive tendencies from when I was in the depths of the addiction – I no longer take it out on my wife etc. But, I’m still addicted. When I do act out, it is from a compulsion to do so that I cannot control. It takes me over physically, and requires a lot of being sneaky and manipulation to get myself into a position where I can act out at home. These are not things I can accept and therefore need to stop.

As a result of this conversation with my sponsor, I took a break from SAA and recovery altogether. I was fed up with it, tired that nothing I did was working, despite feeling that I was putting in loads of effort. I was also moving house which was giving me enough to think about. Then I got ill with a sinus infection over Christmas for 3 weeks. I found more loopholes on my devices while I was bed-ridden, and acted out loads. Hence the big dip in December on the chart.

So, what now, for 2016?

Anyway, now, I am recovered from the illness and ready to get back to the game of recovery. Again…!

I’m constructing what approach I think I will take now, and the main difference right now is that it will almost certainly not involve the 12 steps, and possibly not even SAA. That topic is probably a whole post in itself, but deep down I have felt unable to mentally connect with the SAA approach, and I just don’t think it is for me. This is not for lack of trying!

So I’m heading back towards an approach that stems, funnily enough, from what inspired me to start recovery in the very first place in 2014, and that is to blend an understanding of the specific physiological nuances of porn addiction with leading a healthier, more positive and productive daily life. While the delving into my childhood has been really interesting, I think there’s an element of just needing to be present and get on with things, rather than over-thinking how my actions are influenced by my past. I also intend to tailor my approach specifically to the challenges of porn addiction, rather than the more general ‘sex addiction’, which I have found to be one of the things that distanced me from SAA.

Starting simply then, I’ve started re-implementing some of the original activities:

  • Reading my ‘pillars of recovery’ daily
  • Write in my journal daily (including one thing each day I am grateful for)
  • Reading porn addiction-specific books (e.g. currently Your Brain On Porn)
  • I will probably contact a new therapist in my new town
  • Reduce my gaming to max 1 hour a night
  • Start learning the piano
  • Ensure I remain present each evening, including doing at least one productive thing that contributes to my home/family life
  • Write a post here twice a month
  • Return to and engage with Twitter and Reddit porn addiction communities

In honesty, these are feel a bit loose and not that structured yet, but that might actually be a good thing;I want to find a natural way that I believe in. Also, the blocks will stay on my phone and tablet as they are actually pretty solid now, but my laptop is fully unblocked and always will be due to the inherent insecurity of computers that I can workaround.

In Conclusion

I’m disappointed that despite putting in what I thought was a lot of hard work, I didn’t really make any progress in 2015. I’m still doing brilliantly compared to 2014, where I experienced my ‘rock bottom’ moment of being kicked out of the house, but I’ve failed to break through to the next level of sobriety.

I’m also disappointed that SAA hasn’t worked out. I have been aware of a disconnect I’ve felt with it since the beginning, and I think that just grew until I couldn’t ignore it. I will write more about this probably in my next post.

It would be a stretch to say I’m feeling optimistic, and in fact I’m quite nervous that I may be doing this all wrong and I just need to do SAA, or something else similarly rigid, whether I like it or not.

The thing is, a few times in my life when faced with a decision or challenge, I’ve felt something in my gut, and I’m slowly learning to listen it. I remember times when I consciously didn’t and I regretted it, and right now my gut is telling me that SAA isn’t right for me. I think I fit into a different box, and I’m going to give that a go.

If you got this far, thanks for reading! Sorry it was so long; brevity is not my strong point. I hope you all have a fantastic 2016!

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