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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 10:57 am 
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Thank you, DanRecovers.

Goal setting is one of the thing that my parents didn't model for me or support me in learning. I've drifted through a lot of my life and let other people set goals for me: parents, my boyfriend, and then when I got married, my husband. I am always looking for new resources to help me develop this skill.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2020 8:52 pm 
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Lesson 22

Quote:
1. Consider a very simple ritual that you have engaged in.
2. Identify three or four elements of that ritual (e.g. physical sensory stimulation; danger; orgasm; accomplishment).
3. For each element, assign a relative number for the amount of stimulation you think you derive from this particular element. These numbers are relevant only to you and in relation to other elements that you experience.
4. For each element, consider the effects of each of the three filters on the stimulation derived from that element. Does it increase the stimulation? Decrease the stimulation? Have no effect? Have a mixed effect (as in, sometimes it increases, other times it decreases)?.


1. Ritual: looking up former acting-out partners, romantic obsession targets, online.
2. Elements:
--suspense
--delusional fantasy
--accomplishment
--sensory -- visual
3. suspense: this is a major element of stimulation. Will I find out what he's doing? will there be a picture? is he married? could I get contact info and get in touch? 3
delusional fantasy:also a major element. Does he ever think about me? (I know the answer to this question: OF COURSE HE DOESN'T) does he wish that I was still in his life (NO HE DOESN'T)... I think about what it would be like for him to realize I was "the one" and for him to seek me out so we can have sex, get married. I think about the things he said to me when we were together and all the great sex we had. I lose myself in the escape of memories and obsession. 3
accomplishment: there's a weird feeling of achievement when I discover some new nugget of information. 2
sensory: visual -- there is rarely a picture but when there is I like to see it 1.
4. Effects of filters
--time--the more time I spent on this activity in a given "session" the more the feelings of suspense and fantasy grow. But I also feel frustrated and stimulated by the knowledge that I'm wasting time -- I keep telling myself I should stop but then I tell myself that this is harmless behavior, not like looking at porn or going on the webcam or hooking up.
--habituation--eventually I become habituated, I get bored and restless, and this is where the ritual leads to something that is more stimulating.
--intensity--low-intensity at first, which deludes me into thinking "this is not that bad" but it is a way of backing into high-intensity behaviors.

I don't know how this fits into the template, but a key part of this ritual is the wallowing in shame and self-hatred. I never end up contacting anyone as a result of this. Instead I always end up telling myself that I'm fat, ugly, a whore, disgusting, no wonder no one loves me, no wonder I am such a loser, of course this guy married someone else etc. etc.

Then I feel so horrible that I will do almost anything to make that pain go away including eat an entire pint of ice cream, rip out my hair, go in a chat room, look at porn.

It's part of a pathological cycle.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 19, 2020 1:08 pm 
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LESSON 23

I know we're not supposed to post to the forum, but as I read other people's threads I'm very much struck at how hard the combination of pandemic + holidays can be, and how some are finding the process of breaking down compulsive behavior and isolating the moments of choice a helpful strategy. I wish there could be a thread about this so it's all in one place but oh well it's probably good that we don't use the forum to talk to each other.

Measuring behavior is a useful skill because it enables me to see how things that don't appear to be acting out, in fact, are gateways to acting out or the early stages of a relapse.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2020 3:34 am 
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rm959229 wrote:
LESSON 23

I know we're not supposed to post to the forum, but as I read other people's threads I'm very much struck at how hard the combination of pandemic + holidays can be, and how some are finding the process of breaking down compulsive behavior and isolating the moments of choice a helpful strategy. I wish there could be a thread about this so it's all in one place but oh well it's probably good that we don't use the forum to talk to each other.

Measuring behavior is a useful skill because it enables me to see how things that don't appear to be acting out, in fact, are gateways to acting out or the early stages of a relapse.

Hi RM,

This was a thread started in March, it is in the support forum, so you can add or make any comments you want. :w:
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=25361

_________________
“Change your thoughts, change your life.” ~Lao Tzu
Regards
T


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 2:27 pm 
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Quote:
. Create your own Wheel of Sexual Compulsion that is more closely related to your behavior. This can be done by simply listing the cumulative elements involved in your compulsive behavior. This shouldn't take you more than five minutes. List these elements (associated with no particular ritual — but more your addiction in general) in your recovery thread.

II. Choose a real-life example of EVERY major sexual ritual that you engage in (these should be compulsive rituals, not healthy) and break each down into their smallest elements (based on the elements identified in your wheel of sexual compulsion).

Most people will identify two to four such Major Rituals. If you can identify with more than five such rituals, just list the most common five.

To be successful in your transition to health, you will need to master your ability to identify not only these elements, but also to recognize the role that they play in stimulating you. Don't settle for anything less than mastery here.


I think this a lesson that I will need to take in several stages.

I interpret "Create your own Wheel of Sexual Compulsion" to mean that I can customize the wheel as presented in the lesson. All of the elements in the wheel are facets of my own compulsions, except danger: that may have been part of my addiction in the past, but it has not been a element for about 5 or 6 years now.

That said, some things are more important than others. For instance, orgasm is not essential. I can act out without that. Some of my rituals have to do with romantic obsessions that don't involve sexual self-stimulation..

Part 2:

Major ritual: sexual texts: power, fantasy, accomplishment, suspense, danger. Sometimes connecting to the past is part of this with contacts from earlier in my life. Element of habituation: texts can progress to photos or phone calls or webcam (tho not always). Orgasm usually is not a factor in this ritual. What matters is feeling wanted and desired and sexually attractive. Sometimes can involve compulsive eating or alcohol abuse.

Major ritual: going on cam sites. Similar to texting but much greater intensity and stronger sensory element. Again the most important aspects are the feeling of power and accomplishment. It's a high to be told I'm attractive (even though I know it's a total lie)

Both of the above involve a sense of entitlement and grandiosity, which may be part of my own personal wheel. Entitlement: I tell myself that since I am single and alone and always will remain so, I "deserve to feel good" and "sex is healthy"... I tell myself that this is "safe" because it doesn't involve the risk of pregnancy or STDs. Grandiosity: I like being told that I'm "the best" at a certain kind of language or that my body is "the best" -- I always have to be "the best" and resent anyone who makes me feel as mediocre as I am when I am not in my fantasy life... I resent anyone who brings me back to reality by telling me that I am fat or old. Then I get sad and feel like I need even more outside affirmation or soothing (via food if not sex).

Self-objectification is a core part of every acting-out behavior. Even if I am looking at porn, I imagine other people looking at me the way the woman is being used... I want to be a porn star or a prostitute and feel wanted and needed in that way. The specific types of porn that I seek out often reinforce particular images and language about being watched or heard.

Acting out temporarily fills the emptiness of the reality of not being sexually attractive and creates a fantasy that I am attractive and this fantasy triggers so many endorphins (or whatever brain chemicals are involved) that I lose all track of time and important commitments. One interesting element of this is twenty years ago when I was somewhat less unattractive than I am now (thinner, full head of hair, no health issues) I still felt that I was super ugly because my then-husband's porn addiction influenced my self-esteem and I lacked the emotional maturity to address that problem in a healthy way. So the past casts a shadow over the present: it is many years later, I am divorced, my physical appearance and health are subpar but I am still trying to pretend that the right man is out there and I am going to find him. !D Yeah right.

It would be funny if it were not so destructive.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 3:38 pm 
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Hi rm959229

Just wanted to say well done on keeping on working through the lessons. Its easy to slacken off at such a busy time of the year, but it's probably even more necessary to keep making progress at these times.

I was struck by what you wrote a few lessons ago:

Quote:
I don't know how this fits into the template, but a key part of this ritual is the wallowing in shame and self-hatred. I never end up contacting anyone as a result of this. Instead I always end up telling myself that I'm fat, ugly, a whore, disgusting, no wonder no one loves me, no wonder I am such a loser, of course this guy married someone else etc. etc.


I can really identify with what you say about wallowing in shame and self-hatred. I only realised over the past few years how much shame had kept me locked into these compulsive behaviours. But we all know that the addictive cycle just makes it even worse. I acted out to change my feelings, but it plunged me back into an even deeper pit. What do I do to solve it? Go back to acting out yet again and every time I just go down and down into an ever darker place of despair and self-hatred and futility.

I still struggle with those feelings even now and can get very negative with myself, but its a whole lot better now that the situation isnt clouded by the compulsive behaviours any more. It allows me to take a step back and be a bit more objective. I sense that this is a major step for you in your journey towards health, and I really hope that the workshop helps you to move towards a place of healing and accepting yourself as you are. I would challenge you to try and stop undermining yourself, however subconsciously, in your posts. For instance, you wrote this in your post:

Quote:
It's a high to be told I'm attractive (even though I know it's a total lie)


I know its difficult to change this thinking, but you need to actively challenge it when the tendency to put yourself down crops up.

Keep up the good work and stay safe.

Tim


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 12:13 pm 
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Thanks for the time and insight. I definitely see how my tendency to think negatively can derail my focus on building the skills I need for recovery.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2020 12:27 pm 
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Working on lessons 24-25 and noticed this point:
Quote:
Any behavioral pattern that alters your emotional state can be isolated and assessed. And do note, while it is labeled a 'compulsive ritual' — that is only because we are learning it in the context of addiction recovery. For you to master emotional management, you must learn to apply these concepts to any behavior you engage in to help quantify the motivation and function connected to that behavior.


It's possible to create compulsive rituals that are basically motivated by, and functional around values -- I think that's what the lesson is suggesting here. I have been working on creating habits, but you could call them rituals, that are healthy. Not to think about them, but just to manage my emotions by producing positive feelings by doing things like tracking my emotional state 3x a day. Doing this ground me and alerts me to times when I might be headed off track.

1. Noticing the time
2. Realizing it's time to track my emotions.
3. Looking for my phone and finding it.
4. Opening the app. (this is the point of no return -- if I get this far I will follow through on the health behavior)
5. Checking in, with myself -- what emotion am I feeling right now?
6. Logging the emotion.
7. Entering save.
8. Putting the phone down and moving on (this one can be tricky).
9. Internally congratulating myself at doing something that helps my recovery.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2020 8:19 am 
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Quote:
1. Ritual: looking up former acting-out partners, romantic obsession targets, online.
2. Elements:
--suspense
--delusional fantasy
--accomplishment
--sensory -- visual
3. suspense: this is a major element of stimulation. Will I find out what he's doing? will there be a picture? is he married? could I get contact info and get in touch? 3
delusional fantasy:also a major element. Does he ever think about me? (I know the answer to this question: OF COURSE HE DOESN'T) does he wish that I was still in his life (NO HE DOESN'T)... I think about what it would be like for him to realize I was "the one" and for him to seek me out so we can have sex, get married. I think about the things he said to me when we were together and all the great sex we had. I lose myself in the escape of memories and obsession. 3
accomplishment: there's a weird feeling of achievement when I discover some new nugget of information. 2
sensory: visual -- there is rarely a picture but when there is I like to see it 1.
4. Effects of filters
--time--the more time I spent on this activity in a given "session" the more the feelings of suspense and fantasy grow. But I also feel frustrated and stimulated by the knowledge that I'm wasting time -- I keep telling myself I should stop but then I tell myself that this is harmless behavior, not like looking at porn or going on the webcam or hooking up.
--habituation--eventually I become habituated, I get bored and restless, and this is where the ritual leads to something that is more stimulating.
--intensity--low-intensity at first, which deludes me into thinking "this is not that bad" but it is a way of backing into high-intensity behaviors.


Lesson 27.

1. Feelings of boredom or loneliness while I am at the computer.
2. I try to manage these with comparatively harmless distractions, e.g. twitter or reading the news. Or I get up and get something to eat and read while I eat.
3. Go back to try to concentrate on task at hand.
4. Sometimes after this I can resume appropriate behavior. But sometimes the feelings persist.
5. I try to manage the feelings by breathing deeply and telling myself I need to concentrate. I start to feel even worse as I berate myself for laziness and immaturity. I read some SAA literature or read some threads on RN. Sometimes this works. sometimes it doesnt.
6. I type the name of an old acting-out partner into google. (this is the point of no return)
7. I try different search term combinations and feel clever at finding whatever I find.
8. I engage in delusional fantasy about our past together.
9. I try to figure out if he's still married or has gotten married.
10. I compare myself to his wife. I think about how much thinner, prettier, etc. she is. I think about my own marriage and relive moments when I was rejected, think about other men who didn't stay with me. I dwell and ruminate on my shortcomings and failures.
11. I wonder if any of my old acting out partners have tried to get in touch.
12. I go on Skype or into my email account. [another point of decision] Sometimes there is some message and I answer. Sometimes I send a message.
13. We send flirtatious, nostalgic, or sexual messages. Feelings of suspense, risk.
14. I feel gratified because I am getting some attention and am less lonely. I become excited (not necessarily sexual response in genitals, but pulse accelerates, breathing is shallower)
15. But I also feel guilty for wasting time this way, and end up picking some kind of fight with the guy OR we masturbate together OR he tries to get me to send pictures and I either send them OR make some excuse and bail out on the interaction. The rituals branch out in multiple ways here.
16. I delete all the emails or messages, photographs, etc. Vague feelings of accomplishment as I watch everything disappear.
17. I clear the browser history, cache, etc. [the cleanup operation is part of the ritual as I think about how shameful it is to have to "cover my tracks" even though I live alone and no one is going to see any of this but me. it's like I'm trying to purify myself.]
18. I feel worse than ever.
19. I go and eat something OR go onto a webcam site. Anything to numb the pain. Either one of these choices leads into yet another compulsive chain.
20. This is another place where the chain can be broken. Sometimes I go and take a shower or take a walk. Getting away from phone and computer is important at this point. In the interests of harm reduction even eating something is preferable--at least I'm not doing anything immoral-- although it's not truly dealing with the root problem of low self-esteem and trauma reaction.

Fantasy is a big part of all of this: fantasies about how perfect these men are and how perfect their wives are but also how loathsome I am. I'm totally out of touch with reality for long stretches of time. Completely lost in my own mind.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 30, 2020 3:09 pm 
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Quote:
1. Develop a compulsive chain of your most recent acting out behavior.

2. Upon completion of this chain, review it to ensure that you can recognize the way that each element affected your emotional state.

3. Thinking as an addict, look for areas within this chain where you could add additional destructive elements that would have (most likely) increased the overall stimulation of the event. The actual events that you add should be realistic, and related to the chain itself. For instance, someone viewing porn might add the element of setting up a Power Point slide show of the images. Someone engaging in escort services might add the element of videotaping the encounters. Share these in your recovery thread.


Areas where I could include addition destructive behaviors to increase the overall stimulation.

--I could try to email or call one of the people I'm looking for on the internet
--I could download pictures I find and keep them on my computer so that I can think more about how inferior I am to the women that these men ultimately chose, by looking at the pictures without searching for them
--I could seek out other old acting out partners and set up phone calls or visits

Reflections: there is always something more that can be added. This is how the elements become more ritualized and how the rituals become long chains, until days can go by, where nothing except compulsive chains are experienced.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2021 8:46 am 
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Reflecting on where my recovery is going right now: I struggle with intense feelings of isolation, partly because the pandemic makes it hard to spend much time with anybody except via the internet. I need to start making online 12 step meetings a more frequent part of my routine. I attend only sporadically. Getting back into therapy will help as well. I gave myself a few months to sort that out, but it is an important goal, and I visualize myself completing it.

As I work through this process the more I realize that I have very few healthy relationships in my life. Perhaps none at all. I'm emotionally stunted in every way. Repairing this will be a lifelong process if it even happens at all. What RN has taught me is that these emotions (of loneliness and self-hatred) should not be acted upon; my actions and decision-making should be based on values and eventually more positive emotions will follow, but even if they don't and I stay miserable, at least I have learned the mature skill necessary to be a moral person.

It's okay to be unhappy and lonely. It's not okay to act out to make myself feel better about being unhappy and lonely.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 9:42 am 
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The loneliness of recovery is almost unbearable, and I'm only getting through it by gritting my teeth and drawing on sheer willpower. I keep up with my health monitoring plan. I read my values list. Everything feels stale and joyless. I think the pandemic and chaos is getting to me. It's harder to keep busy with distractions and work when you can't see anyone or go anywhere and every zoom conversation and phone centers on (1) pandemic and (2) collapse of American democracy. I am trying to think one day at a time because the knowledge that I'm not going to be touched in a sexual way ever again feels like death. I keep telling myself that this is just self-pity, and I need to focus on values and being a mature adult.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2021 8:47 pm 
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Quote:
A. Describe the emotions that you experienced and the thoughts that triggered them.

B. In assessing your own anxiety, describe the extremes of your personal experiences with anxiety. What has been the least anxious state you have experienced and the most extreme anxious state you have experienced?


A. I thought about my body and how much I hate it. I felt sad that I judge it so harshly when it's trying the best that it can to get me around through my day. I thought about D and how wrong I turned out to be about that whole mess. I thought about the emptiness inside me that can't ever be filled. I thought about something Jon once said to me about needing more than work to sustain me in my life. I asked myself why I am so hooked on immediate gratification. Overall I felt sad and lost. I thought about acting out and it didn't seem appealing at all. I know it only creates more problems and I felt this huge weariness, this "oh no not this foolishness again"

B. I am generally an intensely anxious person, but sometimes when I am in nature I am able to hold it at bay for a while. The past year has been much more anxious than usual because of the pandemic and current events. I manage my anxiety with acting out, but it always ends up creating more anxiety in a cycle. Trying to get D to notice me only made me incredibly anxious.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2021 7:16 am 
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rm959229 wrote:
The loneliness of recovery is almost unbearable, and I'm only getting through it by gritting my teeth and drawing on sheer willpower. I keep up with my health monitoring plan. I read my values list. Everything feels stale and joyless. I think the pandemic and chaos is getting to me. It's harder to keep busy with distractions and work when you can't see anyone or go anywhere and every zoom conversation and phone centers on (1) pandemic and (2) collapse of American democracy. I am trying to think one day at a time because the knowledge that I'm not going to be touched in a sexual way ever again feels like death. I keep telling myself that this is just self-pity, and I need to focus on values and being a mature adult.


Hi rm959229

Well done on keeping on working through the lessons during what is obviously a really tough time for you. I've experienced some of the same feelings and anxieties because of the pandemic, and I'm sure most people have felt some of that too. Sometimes it does feel "unbearable" as you write above, but I would challenge your assertion that this is "the loneliness of recovery". You are part of a community of people who are dedicated to living real lives and working towards healthy expressions of our sexuality - whether through SAA or through RN. It can feel very lonely and isolating sometimes writing on this forum when there is little response, but people do read it and it is helpful to others and ultimately to yourself too.

Please stick in there and keep on working through the lessons. One of my favourite 12 Step phrases is "this too shall pass", and I guess that is all we have to hold on to just now, living one day at a time.

Stay safe.

Tim


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:05 pm 
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Thank you to the coaches for their support and positive feedback.

Quote:
Lesson 30 Exercise:
For the rest of today and all of tomorrow, focus on one specific developmental skill: deepening your awareness of the connection between your emotions and your values. Like a student studying for a midterm, concentrate on how your emotions influence your actions; how your values influence your decisions; how your emotions influence your values, etc. Don't do this from memory...anyone can do that. Take tomorrow to assess your emotions/values as if you were in a laboratory. There is no need to write down your observations anywhere. Simply do it.


No need to write down my observations, but there's nothing to say I can't :-)

I understand the relationship between values and emotions intellectually, but I can't seem to internalize it. It seems mechanical to me.

Value ---> decision ---> knowledge that values are reinforced ---> This part should create a positive feeling me but it doesn't. Often I feel inadequate, like my values and decisions still are not good enough. The negative self-talk continues: "So you went to bed on schedule at 9 pm without looking at porn? Big deal! what do you want, a medal for doing the bare minimum that normal mature adults do?"

I can prevent my emotions from influencing the choice to act out by an act of will and by maintaining boundaries like internet blocks on my computer, not having any dating apps on my phone, avoiding male co-workers (so that I don't fantasize about them). I'm not getting anything from the choice not to act out -- it's an absence not a presence.

When I look at the vision for my life, it's missing some things that I'd like but that, realistically, are not within my grasp. I have scaled my values to what is possible for me. The result is that I don't get much emotional stimulation from them, but on the other hand -- I can see clearly how much more stable and responsible my life is, how I am more competent at fulfilling others' expectations and meeting their needs. I also can see how these values guide my decisions in ways that enable me to achieve certain goals and maintain what I have earned (for instance via sound stewardship of my financial resources).

I don't think this is sustainable over the long haul. I need to find a healthy way to feeling safe, connected, loved -- all the things that acting out promises but doesn't deliver. It's not wrong to want to feel safe and loved. It's a basic human need.

Covid has made the situation much worse.


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