The first part of my theoretical key ingredients to recovery is motivation, and part of that is having something I read every day that keeps me focussed on why I want to quit porn. It is surprisingly easy to lose sight of these reasons, and to trick myself into thinking that watching porn won’t matter, but obviously this is the inner addict speaking and so reading my “mission statement” every day helps remind me of the impact of my addiction.
This is what I wrote to myself after I last acted out. This list has always featured in recovery in various forms, this is just the latest incarnation that best reflects where I think I need to focus each day to stay sober. The idea is to read this every morning, and possibly again later in the day, to keep myself focussed on what’s important:
The “you” is directed at myself, by the way.
Be present– Don’t linger on your phone or procrastinate on the internet. Everything you do must be for a reason. This will make your day more worthwhile and help you be a better friend/husband/father/employee. Use Forest when with your family. Don’t be bored on the internet – this always leads to acting out – always stick to a plan, routine, or schedule.
Practice acceptance – Don’t judge others just because of physical / material reasons – you know nothing about other people to make a judgement and doing so only reinforces your own insecurities.
Empathy – Do something for someone else, because it is the right thing to do not because of the gratitude you will get, and don’t seek thanks or recognition.
Journaling – Write about something you are grateful for everyday, and how you are feeling, and something positive that happened
Plan for sobriety – be aware of vulnerable times in your day and make a plan that will keep you sober, even if that means just knowing what you will spend your time doing.
Do something from the to-do list – this keeps you mind and body busy, and aids discipline and reduces procrastination
Go to bed with [your wife], without fail
Appreciate every moment of your day, good or bad. You are lucky to be alive and the ability to experience life is precious and must be savoured.
Don’t dwell on urges or negative thoughts. Accept them and put them to one side. Practice the 3 second rule and stop button. You may not be able to control your thoughts, but you can control your actions. Think about the serenity prayer.
Take some time out and ask yourself how you’re feeling, and answer honestly, and take steps to protect yourself if you’re at risk. Am you in your SHIT list?
Also remember everything wonderful. Think about your family. Remember you are loved, and why you are in recovery. Remember the harm addiction can cause and what you want your future to look like. Do you want to be a passenger in my own life?
As I’ve mentioned in my recent posts, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what recovery means to me and how I want to approach it. This is essentially combining some core, unavoidable principles of recovery with my own gut instincts of how I best operate, to build an approach that I can truly believe in and commit to.
To start with then, I took a step back from addiction and looked at my core values; the things that I consider to be most important, that I would like to live by. These are things that I want to take out into the world and practice, but I also acknowledge I need to learn to apply these to myself first. This is an important point, as I read once that “you cannot give to others what you do not have for yourself” (or something like that), and it really resonated with me – e.g. how can I offer love to others if I do not love myself?
So, here they are – my values as I see them at the current moment:
Acceptance (& unjudging)
Discipline (& being present)
Whatever recovery programme I follow this year, I feel these must form a core part of it.
First steps into 2017 – DISCIPLINE
And so now I need to start applying this. One thing I’ve learned is that to achieve success, it is often best to start simple and evolve, rather than try to solve the entire problem in one go. Therefore, I have set myself three very simple commitments for January. They relate to one of the above values – discipline, which is the first principle that I want to focus on. The lack of discipline in my life is extreme – I am a slave to a wide variety of inputs in my life and I rarely take control of even those mundane decisions (see my last post about how I’ll even actively avoid doing things I want to do). I never do anything I say I’m going to do, I’m not productive despite having a to-do list, I get out my phone at the first opportunity to just kill time reading the news etc. I’m not present. Discipline to me means doing something because I’ve decided to, without being affected by mood or other variables. I think it is a muscle that needs to be trained, and will get stronger with use. If I can apply discipline to some small tasks, that will hopefully pave the way for applying it in other areas too.
So, at risk of setting myself up for failure, here are the three very simple commitments I’ve made for January in order to learn to practice discipline:
- I will get up at 7:30am every day and meditate. Meditation is something I’ve dabbled in and have really enjoyed, and something I’ve always wanted to do more of but never bothered to. This month, I’m going to meditate every morning, to exercise both the art of discipline and and also to give meditation a proper chance.
- I will go to bed at 10:30 every night, and only take my Kindle. I already do this, more or less, but I get sloppy and need to re-instate this without fail. As a dad to a second daughter, life it pretty busy and I need my sleep, and devices are banned from the bedroom as it is a prime acting out scenario.
- I won’t look at my phone to kill time. I will only use it when I have something specific I want to look at. Too often I sit on the phone when I could be spending time with my family, and I am allowing myself to be distracted to avoid being present. That needs to stop.
And that’s it. Those are the only commitments I’m making for January. Small changes to my daily life that will hopefully build a basis for further growth. I started today and it has been great. I meditated this morning and I’ve been focussed on my day and not distracted by my phone.
I fully acknowledge that stating intent is the easy bit – it is the doing that is hard. Time will tell how this goes, but I feel positive and motivated, and I have shared this with my wife so she can help support and encourage me.
Its that time of the month again! Into a new month so time to reflect on the month before.
Here’s my updated sobriety chart:
July was basically the same as June. I had one long period of sobriety (11 days), and then after a slip the rest of the month was failing to get back to sobriety again.
My biggest failing of the month was my inability to re-commit do doing my daily routines. Mainly writing in my journal and reading my affirmation statements. These help me keep my motivational reasons for staying sober fresh in my mind, so I can recall them when triggered and use them as a weapon against the temptation to act out. If I don’t keep them up, I simply lose the strength to fight the urges when they come around.
I’m pleased to report that I’ve now finally got back on to the routines. I’ve started journalling again (3 new things I’m grateful for each day, and 1 detailed account of something positive that happened to me), and have started writing a new personal affirmation statement. I think this may become something I eventually record, and turn into a video, with photos and other snippets to be a short but concise hit of positivity and motivation. I’ll write more on that separately once it has progressed a bit.
So let’s see how I do in August. I hope that the routines will help me maintain my positivity. I’m still dealing with some stress around my dad getting re-married, which is actually less about his marriage and more about my relationship with him (or lack thereof), and the marriage is forcing me to be involved with him in ways I’d rather not be. Work stress continues but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Either way, stress is normal and I should accept it; it doesn’t mean I get to act out, which won’t really help the stress go away in any meaningful sense anyway.
I hope everyone else is doing well and keeping up the good fight!
…I’ve come to deal with you again.
Its amazing how quickly I can go from being positive, connected and energised to acting out, and then dealing with the resulting bout of being tired, disconnected and unmotivated. I mean really, it can happen in the space of a few seconds. I can genuinely be feeling great, then be in a position where I can act out, I let me guard down, and then I’ve gone past the point of no return and I’ve ruined sobriety, and ruined the next few days while I climb back out of the post-acting out funk.
It really emphasises the importance of the tools of recovery. Simply being fantastically motivated isn’t enough, as forces outside of my control can overwhelm me at a moment’s notice. The tough thing is accepting this, as when I’m feeling good, I feel like I’m in control and I can do it. I have to accept that no matter how well I am doing, I’m never completely safe, and I need to always be following the routines I have set myself.
It is also probably not a coincidence that each of these times I act out coincide with periods where I’ve let the routines slip. Its the same old story for me – I have to maintain the consistency of the routines, but I’m really bad at it. Why? Because there are few big consequences to me acting out. I can act out and essentially ‘get away with it’, so there’s less incentive for me to maintain arduous routines every day. But I know they are worthwhile and needed, and I just need to keep focussing on them.
Meanwhile, I’m generally dealing with a lot of stress that makes it a bit harder. At work I’m dealing with a change in role that is exposing my areas of weakness, which in turn plays on my self-doubt and anxiety. My dad is also getting married, a few years after my mum died, which is a bit hard to get my head around, and my relationship with him is something I really struggle with, and I don’t think I’m dealing with it very healthily.
Anyway, I think I just need to relax a bit and allow myself to get back on track. Firstly I need to get some sleep, as this has not been happening (my daughter is ill and waking up early). If I can do that, then get back to doing the routines, hopefully the positivity will come.
Today is the last day of May, so time to reflect on the month.
In terms of sobriety, I improved a little, but not much. In April I acted out 10 days and in May 9 days (although bear in mind there is 1 extra day in May). The % chart looks like this:
In terms of how I’m feeling, I am pretty conflicted. One one hand, I am loving life. I’m settling down in a new town (my old home town), I get to look after my 15 month old daughter 2 days a week which is an incredible experience, we’re expecting another(!) and I have a pretty decent job (although not one without its own set of stresses, but nothing out of the ordinary). I’m even starting to feel comfortable with my friendship status (i.e. I don’t really have many), and slowly building the few friendships I still have and appreciating them for what they are.
On the other hand, I continue to act out regularly. I really thought that improving my quality of life in so many ways would naturally reduce my desires to act out, but this has not happened.
The theme of May for me is clearly motivation. I simply haven’t found the drive within myself to not act out. I have acted out only hours after having a great time with friends or family, or when I’m bored, or when I’m horny. All the old culprits of temptation are still there and I give in to them almost without hesitation. Somehow I have lost touch with the mental strength and techniques I learnt to resist, and it saddens me to admit this.
At a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting I went to 2 weeks ago, one guy admitted he “just didn’t want to quit enough”, and I totally relate to that. One aspect of porn addiction that makes it especially troublesome is that the repercussions of acting out are less obvious – they are more long-term rather than immediate. It becomes very easy to just accept acting out, because the moment I do, nothing tangible has changed. I don’t have to admit to my wife I cheated on her, I don’t have a big hole in my wallet, I don’t have the risk of an STD, I don’t have some strange explaining to do anyone. I can watch porn and get away with it every time. I find this means that the motivation to not act out has to be really strong otherwise the urges win.
Obviously the truth is that I am harming myself and others, just in a less obvious, and longer-term way. I am avoiding handling my emotions maturely. I am reducing the chances of intimacy with my wife. I am setting myself up to be a dad with a secret. I am not getting enough sleep. I am not working as efficiently as I could be. I am not a master of my mind or body and therefore I am a slave to impulsion. What sort of man does that make me?
So what next? Well, I need a plan for June. So far, this is:
- I have reached out to my old therapist to see if she will do Skype calls with me.
- I am going to investigate SAA/SLAA meetings in my town and pick one to go to weekly.
- I need to find a way to stick to a few basic daily routines. I think this should be two things: reading an affirmation statement in the morning – reminding myself why I’m doing this, what to watch out for during my day, and how to live my day – and then writing my journal in the evening, writing things that I am grateful for and things that I did that day that would have been worse or not done if I had acted out.
And the theme for June? Empathy. This is a really key part of recovery, and one that I found really interesting, so I’m going to focus on that topic in June, and try and re-integrate a sense of empathy into my daily life. I will do this by including it in my morning affirmation reading, and in my evening journal entry.
It has been nearly 2 years since I started recovery, and although I do feel I have a lot to show for it, sobriety isn’t one of those things. I really hope I find the strength and motivation to get on top of the acting out, as no further mental or emotional progress will take place until that happens.