Recovery Nation

Personal Development Forum
It is currently Mon May 25, 2020 7:20 pm

All times are UTC - 5 hours




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 62 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
Author Message
PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:50 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 12: Assessing Unhealthy Recovery Patterns

I really identified with the behaviours associated with those people who occasionally struggle with relapse – although over the past year “occasional” has actually meant on a much more regular basis than that. Over the past decade or more, I have experienced long periods of abstinence (although never actually longer than 8 months) followed by prolonged episodes of bingeing on addictive behaviour. This is usually not because I have been discovered, but is triggered by intense feelings of shame and self loathing on account of falling back into old behaviours again – especially the more destructive behaviours. Because the very worst behaviours are a long time in the past (acting out with escorts, etc), and because I set up a 12 Step group and have helped lots of other people, I can kid myself that my recovery is pretty well advanced. However, despite working my way faithfully through the 12 Steps on several occasions, my recent pattern of extended relapse and deepening shame has shown me that my recovery is only a partial one and actually still very dependent on external circumstances.

Current thinking/behaviour

• Periods of wallowing in intense shame and self-loathing (despite having deep religious beliefs that tell me the complete opposite!)
• Continually telling myself that I have failed in my attempts to recover
• Beating myself up over the amount of times that I have let my wife down and had to reveal acting out behaviour yet again
• Identifying myself as my addiction – not being able to separate out the behaviour from my identity
• Telling myself that in some way I’m not like other people. They can manage to handle their addictive behaviour but I can’t
• Telling myself that I am responsible for all the negative things that happen in my marriage
• A tendency to see life in “episodes” and to be fixated with end results rather than the ongoing process
• Measuring my health and wellbeing primarily in terms of abstinence
• A tendency to over-analyse and judge my thoughts and behaviours rather than simply accepting them and myself
• Wallowing in a sense of hopelessness that I can ever achieve permanent change
• Minimising my behaviours, i.e. I haven’t gone back to acting out with other people so my recovery is actually fine – even when I might have engaged in otherwise very risky and dangerous behaviours
• A tendency to judge my recovery negatively in the light of other peoples’ experience and to use it as a stick to beat myself with, i.e. I’ve been in the programme over 10 years and yet this newcomer has already achieved more than me


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 2:21 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 13: Healthy recovery patterns

I. I find it difficult to observe healthy recovery patterns in my life as I have experienced so many relapses over the years. I tend to focus on the unhealthy patterns, even though I have actually come a long way and experienced significant recovery from many behaviours. I am a lot more healthy in so many ways than I was in the past, but I can still view myself and my recovery in very black and white terms. While I have gained so much from the 12 Step programme, my long association with it has ingrained a sense of myself as an “addict” rather than as someone moving beyond addiction and towards a healthy future.

• I don’t have complete confidence in my ability to manage my life, but I am moving forward with my dreams and working towards my goals in a planned and rational way.
• In the past I sought to eliminate all potential “triggers” and would use exposure to them as an excuse for acting out. Most of the time now I am able to cope with triggers and make healthy choices when faced with them.
• I am developing tools and techniques to make rational value-based decisions in life and no longer live primarily by impulse.
• I am beginning to see myself in a more healthy and holistic fashion – this includes prioritising my own needs and taking part in healthy hobbies and activities.
• I have more intimate and deep friendships and relationships with people now. I am able to open up and reveal more of myself rather than remaining guarded and secret for fear of discovery.
• I am living more and more in the present rather than in the past, and recognising that my actions today and in the future are the only things I can change.
• I am gradually learning to accept myself for who I am and not compare myself and my recovery negatively alongside others.
• I have removed all objects/items associated with my addictive behaviours.

II. My second highest value is accepting myself for who I am. This is definitely not reflected in my unhealthy patterns, which often revolve around shame and self-loathing. I sense that this is the single biggest area that I need to focus on. My values also focus on a holistic approach to life whereas I tend to compartmentalise and perceive life in a much more fragmented way.
However, I have also made progress in terms of developing healthy patterns that are consistent with my prioritised values. I am developing the ability to cope well with the ups and downs of life without necessarily resorting to compulsive behaviours. I am able to be far more myself with others and to be present with them than I ever was in the past. I actually feel a healthy sense of pride in who I am and my actions a lot of the time now, whereas I could never have said that before. Despite my own struggles, I have been able to use my own experiences to help many other people over the years, which gives me a strong sense of satisfaction.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2019 2:19 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 14: Daily monitoring list

I can't believe it's been almost a fortnight since I last posted on my thread. It has been a very busy time in the run up to Christmas, but I've realised that means it is more important than ever that I keep my momentum going. I realised last time out that I was completing these exercises almost as a kind of tick box exercise - like a magic cure if I could just get to the end! I was tempted to skip over the audio file today and just do the exercise as quickly as possible, but I've spent more time trying to work out what questions will help me the most as part of my daily health monitoring plan. Here is my first attempt.

1. Did I engage in any compulsive thinking or behaviour today?
If so, did I challenge that thinking/behaviour as soon as possible?
2. What have I done today to make me feel good about myself?
3. Have I been honest with my wife today?
4. How have I made my wife feel good about herself today? Have I told her that I love her?
5. Have I engaged in a meaningful and positive way with my daughters today?
6. How have I built a sense of shared community today?
7. What has caused me to laugh or smile in a healthy way today? Or how have I caused others to laugh or smile in a healthy way?
8. Have I been emotionally present and connected with people today?
9. Have I taken the opportunity to reach out to someone else today?
10. Have I reacted to any stressful situations in a healthy and measured way?


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2020 10:39 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 15: Perceiving your addiction

I was really intrigued by the distinction between why addiction entered into my life in the first place and why it still plays such a big role today. I hadn’t really considered this before. It’s easy to see why it became a problem in the first place: growing up in a strongly religious family with the message that sex is inherently secret and “sinful”; discovering porn magazines in my dad’s study reinforced the secret and shameful aspects; masturbation and porn quickly became associated with shame and isolation.

However, today I no longer hold those same values or beliefs about sex. Now, the addictive behaviour feels as if it has become so synonymous with who I am that it is almost impossible to separate it out. It’s almost become ingrained within me, and unpicking why I still engage with it has become ever more difficult. But in effect it has become an unhealthy coping mechanism for me, primarily a means of trying to avoid or self-medicate uncomfortable feelings about myself – paradoxically by engaging in behaviour that makes me feel even worse about myself. I’m looking forward to unpicking this in more detail over the coming weeks.

Reflection

My experience of using my daily monitoring list has been a very positive one. It’s been quite difficult to maintain over a busy Christmas period, but I have used it every night and have generally been very encouraged by the exercise. It has shown me a couple of areas that I really need to focus on more actively over the coming weeks – in particular making the time to proactively engage in a meaningful and positive way with my daughters rather than simply waiting for opportunities to arise. As a result, I have planned a day out with them tomorrow which I am looking forward to. The other area I really need to consider in greater detail is my commitment to building a sense of shared community. I still sense this is an important value for me, but I have found it hard to see how this is worked out in my daily life. Again, I need to be more intentional in how I work towards this and clearly define certain areas of shared community, i.e. online, local neighbourhood, church community, wider family, twelve step, etc.

Another concrete example of change for me over the past month has been re-evaluating my use of the SAA 3 Circles tool. I have used this tool for many years, and it separates out my behaviours into inner circle (compulsive acting out behaviours), middle circle (slippery, unhelpful behaviours) and outer circle (positive, life affirming behaviours). Over many years I have been frustrated by my tendency to slide from seemingly harmless middle circle into inner circle behaviours. My Recovery Nation work has caused me to make a fundamental distinction – that if I look at anything on the internet which I would later want to delete (cover my tracks in effect), then this is not middle circle but inner circle behaviour. For years I resisted this and justified middle circle behaviour as “harmless” images, i.e. pictures of celebrities, swimwear, couples kissing, etc. None of these images were anywhere near pornographic, but I have discovered that even a seemingly harmless “fix” invariably leads on to far more compulsive behaviour. The only reason I find myself looking at anything is to self-medicate or change my emotional state. And the most toxic element for me is the barrier of secrecy that it builds up between myself and my wife. I cannot truthfully say that I have been honest with my wife if I am still looking at images that I would not be happy with her seeing also. This feels like a really positive step forward for me, and I have also deleted all the previous traces of images and GIFs that I have looked at over many years. I wasn’t hoarding them, but there were still traces in my Google history that I could kid myself were ok to look at, because it wasn’t anything “new”! Getting rid of all that stuff feels like a fresh slate and gives me a sense of complete honesty with my wife.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:01 pm 
Offline
Recovery Mentor

Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2017 5:29 am
Posts: 411
Hi Tim,

You said:
Quote:
I was really intrigued by the distinction between why addiction entered into my life in the first place and why it still plays such a big role today. I hadn’t really considered this before. It’s easy to see why it became a problem in the first place: growing up in a strongly religious family with the message that sex is inherently secret and “sinful”; discovering porn magazines in my dad’s study reinforced the secret and shameful aspects; masturbation and porn quickly became associated with shame and isolation.

However, today I no longer hold those same values or beliefs about sex. Now, the addictive behaviour feels as if it has become so synonymous with who I am that it is almost impossible to separate it out. It’s almost become ingrained within me, and unpicking why I still engage with it has become ever more difficult. But in effect it has become an unhealthy coping mechanism for me, primarily a means of trying to avoid or self-medicate uncomfortable feelings about myself – paradoxically by engaging in behaviour that makes me feel even worse about myself. I’m looking forward to unpicking this in more detail over the coming weeks

You have come to one of the most valuable realisations that you can have on RN which is that what you believed until recently to be just part of you and something you can do nothing about is actually just something you have learned at one stage and has just become engrained into how you react to a given situation. And so what has become learned can therefore also be unlearned but the first stage it to acknowledge (as you just have) that you can do something about it.

You also mention:
Quote:
None of these images were anywhere near pornographic, but I have discovered that even a seemingly harmless “fix” invariably leads on to far more compulsive behaviour.

Another valuable learning point. As addicts we convince ourselves that just a little is OK but that quickly leads to a perceived greater need and then the cycle continues. Zero tolerance of any temptation because you know where it will lead will make so much easier for yourself.

Keep up the good work!

_________________
L2R

A clean life; a clear conscience


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2020 2:07 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Thanks for the encouraging words L2R. It's really useful to get that feedback. I think I've just been so scared over the past few years to really make the final steps and go for zero tolerance, because I've convinced myself that I'll slip up and fail again. And then each time that happens it seems to drive me back deeper into thinking of myself as an "addict". I'm sick of that twisted thinking, and this workshop is definitely helping me to look at things in a very different way.

Thanks again. Tim


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:33 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 16: Understanding Addiction 1

I found this to be an interesting lesson. I can see how addiction has had a definite functional role in my life, but I struggle to see the positive aspects of it. Primarily because it has had such destructive consequences over the years. However, I understand the importance of stripping away some of the power and the “mystique” that surrounds my addictive behaviour, and coming to realise that in many ways it is much more “down to earth” than I had ever realised before. Over so many years it has become such a powerful entity, and it really helps to separate it out from my identity and reduce it to a coping mechanism that sometimes had positive aspects to it, especially in the beginning. As I go through this workshop, I’m actually finding myself thinking that my long association with the 12 Step programme has kept me from making further progress in recovery. It was incredibly helpful in the beginning and for so many years, but to some extent it has reinforced to me that my fundamental identity is that of an addict, and that it’s something I can never really manage or change in any significant way. In some ways it has caused me to be quite passive in my recovery over recent years – it’s a case of taking the “medicine” and relying on a Higher Power to change me rather than recognising that I actually have a huge responsibility and opportunity myself.

Positive aspects of my addiction

• Fantasy scenarios gave me confidence as a teenager. And to some extent as an adult too.
• My own experience of repeated “failure” has caused me to become much less judgemental and black and white in my outlook (this is probably an aspect of recovery rather than addiction).
• Acting out has been an affective means of dealing with stress for large parts of my life – and maybe prevented me from engaging in even more harmful behaviours.
• Acting out gave me a taste for adventure and a sense of buzz – a taste for pushing the boundaries that I can now apply to other areas of my life, i.e. mountain climbing.
• Looking back on my acting out now, I am able to see how my experience has detoxified my sexuality, which was very apparent as a young Christian man.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:35 am 
Offline
Recovery Mentor

Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:39 am
Posts: 195
Quote:
As I go through this workshop, I’m actually finding myself thinking that my long association with the 12 Step programme has kept me from making further progress in recovery. It was incredibly helpful in the beginning and for so many years, but to some extent it has reinforced to me that my fundamental identity is that of an addict, and that it’s something I can never really manage or change in any significant way. In some ways it has caused me to be quite passive in my recovery over recent years – it’s a case of taking the “medicine” and relying on a Higher Power to change me rather than recognising that I actually have a huge responsibility and opportunity myself.


These comments are very astute Tim, keep up the good work :g:

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


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:48 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Thanks Theseus! Almost feels a bit disrespectful to the 12 Steps to say that after the massive difference it has made to my life, but I just feel that I'm needing a different emphasis now to move forward. It's just not helpful to me to remain stuck with that image of myself as fundamentally addicted any longer.

Cheers.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2020 3:32 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 17: Understanding Addiction 2

Compulsive ritual: Internet pornography


• This might start way before I go near the internet with FANTASY. I have a huge library of images in my head, both of pornographic material that I have viewed and attractive women that I know. These images start to preoccupy me and pop into my brain more regularly, and I slowly begin to challenge them less.
• The next stage is probably SUSPENSE. Over so many years I have started by gently pushing the boundaries on the internet, looking at “harmless” images of celebrities or couples kissing. My search terms start to get increasingly more risky as I progress (more likely to show up in my accountability software) and the images more explicit – this can happen over hours or even days or weeks as my resistance gradually wears down.
• All the time, I am getting more and more stimulated and aroused as I continually push back the boundaries and get closer to my unadmitted goal – full blown porn sites. All the while my senses are being STIMULATED. This is primarily VISUAL as I feast my eyes on the images that I see and become ever more desperate to see more and more revealing pictures. I might also stimulate myself through TOUCH at this point, although this is mostly through my clothes so that I can pretend to myself that I’m not really masturbating.
• A sense of DANGER quite often adds to the suspense and the heightened stimulation. In my most recent episode, I was flicking through GIFS and photos on my phone while driving a minibus. This was incredibly dangerous and stupid behaviour, but the sense of danger merely heightened the arousal.
ORGASM is the final stage for me, when I can finally achieve my goal – initially a sense of euphoria but swiftly followed by a crushing sense of failure and powerlessness. This is far more intense when the behaviours have been more risky and dangerous and I start to contemplate the consequences of my actions back in the “real world”.

I’m aware that I haven’t posted in a few weeks. I have been very busy during that time and was away at a conference, but I’m also conscious that I’m feeling tired and potentially a bit more vulnerable. Today was the first time in ages that I was tempted to enter into the first stage of the process above – beginning to mess around with “harmless” images. I didn’t enter into the ritual, but even thinking about doing it in a very vague way was enough to awaken the familiar buzz in the back of my head. It has been useful to work this lesson and to think about this ritual in much greater detail.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:57 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 18: Understanding Addiction 3
Three Filters: Time, Intensity and Frequency


Compulsive ritual: internet pornography

TIME: My grasp of time when I slide into this ritual becomes increasingly tenuous. Crazily, it can often be worst when I have very little time available and when I’m feeling under pressure for a deadline or to get somewhere important. Sometimes, my time feeling squeezed gives me an “excuse” to go a lot quicker and to cut out some of the intermediate stages. Usually, however, if I have a lot of time on my hands then I can spend hours dipping in and out of increasingly more extreme images before finally getting to the explicit pornographic websites. The slow build up and progression over time has been a huge element of the ritual for me. Because it is slow and incremental, I can kid myself that I still have some control and that I haven’t yet acted out. In the beginning stages, I will flick backwards and forwards between work and checking out a huge range of images which get increasingly closer to porn. I’ll say to myself, “I can end this now”, and clear all my search history, then I’ll be back looking again within a few minutes. This phase can last hours or even run over several days before I finally achieve my ‘goal’. Once I have crossed over onto porn websites, I can no longer convince myself that I’m sober and I then tend to spend much more time on a desperate search for the exact video that will suit my current desire at that time, desperately clicking from site to site but never really finding exactly what I want.

INTENSITY: The sense of intensity for me is also closely related to the passing of time. As time goes by and I slide ever further away from where I want to be, the intensity gets more and more heightened. I can also see how my “tastes” have become ever more intensified and extreme over the years, in an effort to achieve the same level of arousal. For example, watching videos of women as merely sexual objects with no active participation in the act. I eventually found myself watching a video like this last year – one part of my brain was looking on with disgust even at the time, and wondering why on earth I was watching it, while the addictive part of me was relishing the sense of power and mastery over the woman and fantasising about how I could also have such power. The intensity is also reflected in where it takes place and the amount of risk that is involved. For example, buying a porn magazine and then masturbating openly in my car in a deserted country lane, or checking out GIFs on my phone even while driving.

HABITUATION: Again, this element is closely related to the element of intensity for me. Over the passing of years and years of acting out, as I have grown ever more used to internet porn, I have become desensitized to it. I have needed ever more extreme images and videos, and ever more risky situations in which to act out. The worst aspect of this for me was the tendency in my previous jobs to look at porn within the workplace using work computers. I can recall the very first episode of this, many years ago, when it was a terrifying experience and how I carefully covered all my tracks afterwards and lived in fear of discovery for ages. Over time, however, it became an increasingly ‘normal’ behaviour for me and I needed an ever greater buzz to get the same high. To the extent that I would check out porn on my computer the monitor angled slightly away while someone was sitting at the next work station. Or becoming increasingly blasé about covering up my tracks afterwards and believing that I could never be caught.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:10 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 19: Understanding Addiction 4

Ritual behaviours


• Taking my phone out and randomly checking stuff (BBC Sport, Facebook, etc) when I am bored and have a free moment.
• Clearing my throat too often, even when I don’t really need to do it. I don’t feel as if it is connected with any particular emotions (possibly anxiety?), but it really does annoy my wife when I do it too often.
• Scrolling through random images on Google just to find a vaguely attractive picture and then trying to follow a path to more explicit material. Usually when bored or feeling tired or resentful for some reason (especially towards my wife). I feel I can justify it in these circumstances.
• Picking my nose! This is a bad ritual I have got into in the car and is probably a sign of me wanting to keep my hands busy as much as anything else.
• Massaging my wife’s feet. I tend to do this whenever we sit down together to watch the TV in the evening, even when I don’t necessarily feel like doing it. As above, it’s a ritual that is probably mostly about keeping my hands busy, although I do also like to give my wife a sense of satisfaction.
• Having my coffee break along with oatcakes and banana at 11am when I am at home working! This is definitely a ritual I enjoy. It helps me to keep a sense of discipline and focus that I struggled with when I first started working at home.
• Getting myself overly soapy in the shower on occasions and using that as an opportunity to pleasure myself without bringing myself to climax. This tends to occur when I am distracted or feeling uneasy about something and I maybe feel I need to give myself a reward.
• Doing my prayers and Bible study in the morning. In the past, I would have used this ritual as an opportunity to berate myself if I didn’t do it. Now I can be more relaxed and flexible with it, and it is a ritual that brings me calm in the midst of busyness.
• Doing my daily health monitoring. This is a ritual that I have found increasingly useful and positive, and that has become ingrained fairly quickly. It helps me to process the events of the day.
• Reading a fiction book before I go to sleep. I struggle to get to sleep if my wife is already in bed and I don’t get the chance to read beforehand. I find this to be a comforting and useful way to relax my mind at the end of the day.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2020 10:03 am 
Offline
Recovery Mentor

Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:22 am
Posts: 308
Hi Tim,

You said,
Quote:
I’m also conscious that I’m feeling tired and potentially a bit more vulnerable. Today was the first time in ages that I was tempted to enter into the first stage of the process above – beginning to mess around with “harmless” images. I didn’t enter into the ritual, but even thinking about doing it in a very vague way was enough to awaken the familiar buzz in the back of my head.


Hoping you’ll take a moment to celebrate what you did here:
You were aware that fatigue may have lowered your threshold.
You were aware that a ritual/routine could occur.
You used this awareness to make a choice: manage my life/fatigue by following the call of the familiar buzz, or pursue a new pattern.

Great job there. Stay the course and be well.

Anon


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2020 2:05 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Thanks for the feedback Anon. I appreciate you pointing out the need to celebrate what seem like small wins rather than simply glossing over them. I can be far too quick to beat myself up over the aspects of my behaviour that still cause problems, and then far too slow to recognise and celebrate where I am changing. I am consciously going to celebrate that progress this evening.

Thanks again.

Tim


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Mon Feb 17, 2020 2:50 pm 
Offline

Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
Lesson 20: Mastering your addiction

The past

[b]Birth to University: addiction gave me comfort and a sense of security and control in a world where I had very little at that time. It also ingrained a sense of deep shame and secrecy.[/b]

We moved around a lot when we were kids, and lived in 4 different towns before I moved away to University. Our circumstances at first were good. My dad was a Baptist Minister and we had a great big manse plus loads of space to roam around in. Over the years, our circumstances grew worse as my dad lost his job (due to addictive behaviours and subsequent mental health problems) and ended up taxi driving for a living. At one stage we lived in a tiny flat where my parents’ “bedroom” was simply a bed behind a cupboard in the living room, and me and my 3 brothers shared a room that was only accessible through my sister’s bedroom. I think all of this laid the foundations for later addictive behaviour – inability to form longer term bonds with people as we moved around and a sense of insecurity and anxiety which the addictive behaviour would be used to comfort and to give me a sense of control. There was also a lot of conflict at home and blazing rows between my mum and my dad.
I was a bit of a loner at secondary school and feeling quite left out a lot of the time, just wandering around school at lunchtimes feeling sorry for myself. It was during my time at secondary school that I first discovered the guilty pleasure of masturbation. I began to resort to masturbation on a regular basis, and used all sorts of techniques to maximise the opportunities. I can remember cutting holes in my pockets so that I could play with myself on the walk to school and back. I would even go into alleyways on the way back so that I could masturbate behind a bush, in plain daylight. I would play with myself at school, watching the ‘unobtainable’ girls from a distance. I can vividly remember being in class one day, getting my penis out under the desk and masturbating during the lesson. The danger of getting caught just seemed to add to the thrill of the act, and it was only when I came all over my trousers that I realised how stupid I was being. On so many occasions I had to rush away or engage in diverting behaviour to hide the bulge or the spreading stain in my trousers. I discovered topless Page 3 girls in the papers, and then started to phone a sex story line on a number of occasions.
I also experienced my first pornographic magazine during my later school years, which was being passed around the male members of my class. I eventually got my turn, and can remember the vivid feelings of guilt but also a thrilling sense of excitement and wonder. I only kept it for the one day, and then got so scared and consumed by feelings of shame that I threw it away that night. This has been the pattern for me ever since – I have never tended to hoard pornographic materials, but use them once or twice and then throw them away in a fit of disgust.

University to marriage: addictive behaviours fulfilled a desire for risk and enabled me to push my boundaries. They also gave me solace when I felt alone and different, but at the same time they pushed me away from other people and reinforced the sense of being different and ‘wrong’.

My addiction was a constant thread through my university years. I didn’t have much access to pornography, although I would get occasional magazines when I was at home. The masturbation just seemed to be always there with me, and that nagging, depressing sense of inevitability and shame. I can remember resorting to more intense experiences to get the same rush. On one occasion I was walking out in the woods, and stripped naked to masturbate. I only realised afterwards how dangerous this was, and how easily I could have been spotted from the path.
After University I moved on to several short term jobs, with the addiction running all through this time in the background. I still had the same feelings of guilt and shame, balanced with an extraordinary sensation of heightened lust and sensuality. I often felt very sexual and almost ‘animal’ like urges to act, and made some poor decisions in terms of acting out with the people around me. This was not full blown sex, but getting involved on a physical level for no other reason than to satisfy my own urges and desires. These actions created various problems not only for me but also for others. I can remember during this period going to my first ever sex shop and sex cinema. Again, I cant recall very many details, just an overwhelming sense of euphoria at the time followed by a huge and enveloping guilt.

Marriage to moving to Scotland: my addiction totally took off in this period. It became a massively destructive aspect of my life and resulted in huge loss of money, time and self esteem. It almost broke my marriage and my family apart.

Eventually I moved to Cambridge where I met my wife. We dated for a few years, and then got married in 1999. Everything seemed to be going fine, but just a few months after getting married, I was on a stag weekend up in the Lake District. I was coming home in my car when I felt an overwhelming urge to have sex with a stranger. In the end I went to a massage parlour in the centre, and had a blow job from a prostitute. I can remember that there was a huge sense of excitement in being able to pick which girl I wanted from the line-up. It was a huge relief at the time, which seemed to only last a few minutes, but was followed by a crushing sense of guilt and shame – “what have I done?”. The journey home was an absolute nightmare, alone with my thoughts of betrayal and devastation. I didn’t know what to do, whether to tell my wife or to try and cover it up and pretend that nothing had happened. In the end I couldn’t keep it from her, and told her when I arrived home. We had a really bad few months, but in the end things got better and I was able to convince myself that it was just a one-off and that I could put it behind me.
We moved to York and I began to work for a local church as a youthworker. This was definitely the wrong job for me, as I had very little direct supervision and could fill my days as I saw fit. I also had unrestricted access to the internet and phone in a private office. I felt very isolated and alone, and in a very short space of time I was regularly surfing the net and using the phone to contact sex chat lines. This was incredibly dangerous because the office was in the midst of a school, but it only seemed to add to the sensation of danger and living on the edge. I can recall that the office was right next to the 5th form common room. At lunchtime, all of the 5th formers would come down and mill around in the area outside my room. I would be cowering in the office, terrified that someone would discover my secret life and take some kind of action. I felt so dirty and isolated from what was going on around me.
Some months after moving to York I went to see a prostitute for the second time. Over the next few years, it seemed as if I had just opened the floodgates and couldn’t stop what happened after that. I went to see so many prostitutes on so many different occasions that I began to lose count. I was living with a constant sense of guilt and shame. The first time it happened I reasoned with myself that it was a ‘one off’ again, and that I would spare my wife the pain. We had just had our first child, and I convinced myself that it would be too much for me to tell her at that time. After that, it just seemed like I was in my own secret world, the bubble, and that I just couldn’t tell her how deep I was going and how lost I felt. I made so many excuses to her about money, about my time and my whereabouts. All the time I was building up layers upon layers of secrecy and feeling ever more trapped.
In the end, I decided that I had to prick the bubble and put an end to the secrecy once and for all. I told my wife that I had been having sex with prostitutes, I think this was in March 2004. This put a massive strain on our relationship, and we spent weeks living in frosty silence, barely communicating with each other. She felt incredibly betrayed, especially the fact that I had been with so many other women when we had been trying to conceive a baby. She even hated the baby at times, because she seemed to embody my betrayal at a time when we had seemed to be getting on so well. My wife had been convinced that things were really good between us, and had no sense at all of what was going on behind the scenes. This point was the last time that we had sex with each other for several years.
After telling my wife, things were fine for a while in terms of the addiction. I felt that I was getting a bit of a handle on things, and kept away from prostitutes for a long time. I think in total it was about 9 months before I ‘suddenly’ caved in one day and went to see someone again. My behaviours during that time became more extreme in a bid to retain the same high. I experimented with voyeurism, paying to see a heterosexual couple have sex with each other and also a lesbian couple. In the Spring of 2005, I can recall that the addiction really took off. I would be going around York constantly, looking for new women and a new high. I went back to see the same prostitute several times and began to do it almost deliberately as a reward for myself, rather than with any sense of struggle and desperation.
In the end, my wife discovered a local paper in my bag, open at the page with all of the local escorts on it. Again, I was not fully honest with her, but had to tell her that I was still going through the same behaviours. My wife was utterly devastated, and we crashed right back into the same world of guilt and shame all over again. She insisted that I had to tell my family, because she just couldn’t cope with it on her own, and it all came out with the elders at church. As a result of this time, I ended up finding out about sex addiction, and thinking of myself for the very first time as an addict. I attended my first ever SA meeting in Manchester, which was a powerful experience to meet people in the same boat as me. However, on the way back I can recall feeling very tempted to act out in Manchester, despite the fact that my wife had only discovered the paper a few weeks before.

Moving to Scotland to entering active recovery: the beginning of a long journey in recovery.

A short while afterwards we moved up to Scotland, and I began to attend an SA meeting in Dunblane. I was beginning to have some real hope that things might have changed for me. I experienced a couple of periods of fairly long term sobriety for me, mostly ranging around 30 days but one that was possibly up to 50 days. I began to work in Dundee in September 2005, and it wasn’t long before I was back to finding out about prostitutes again. I used the Sunday Sport, which became my new ritual. After several close shaves, I eventually had sex with a prostitute again. I couldn’t believe it, that I had come so far and was suddenly right back to the beginning again. I felt utterly devastated, but instead of telling Fi, I reasoned that it was a one-off (again) and that I couldn’t put her through all the pain again.
Over the next few months, I went to see several different prostitutes. Again, there were plenty of occasions where I worked the steps and pulled out, but by that time I was utterly knackered and felt pretty much defeated anyway. My addiction took on a new turn, as I began to buy womens lingerie and wear it under my clothes. It made me feel even more turned on and more likely to go through with an encounter with a prostitute. I also attended a lap dancing club for the first time. I even began to experiment a little bit with exhibitionism, walking around Dundee with my zip undone and getting my penis out on occasions and playing with myself in broad daylight. This gave me a huge buzz but only happened a few times as I was very aware of the real danger that it posed.
In the summer of 2006, probably June, I ended up having sex with a street girl, for the first time in my life. This took place in a swimming pool changing room. I had built it up in my mind to be an amazing encounter, but the reality was over in about 2 minutes, and she was obviously a drug addict and desperate to take the money and run. The last time that I went to see a prostitute was probably in July 06. Just after that, my wife found out again about my acting out. She was out for the evening, and I was going to watch the England match. Instead of doing that, I ended up phoning a sex chat line and calling some really dodgy numbers. I was terrified that I had run up a phone bill of hundreds of pounds, and my wife suspected something from my behaviour and found out. She was disgusted that I had done something like that, and was really cold with me and disdainful for many weeks afterwards. I started seeing an addiction counsellor in Aberdeen, and from that point onwards I have never had sex with an escort again – that’s almost 14 years now.

Active recovery to present day: plenty of growth in self awareness and partial recovery, accompanied by a seemingly never-ending series of relapses.

From 2006 onwards, I have experienced various stages in my recovery with a lot of setbacks along the way. I have had plenty of longer term periods of total abstinence, but at the same time have struggled at different periods with various behaviours. I set up an SAA group in my local city and have been attending that ever since, but have never managed to get more than 8 or 9 months of total sobriety. Gradually over time, my addictive behaviours have taken more of a back seat, but there has still been plenty of ‘dangerous’ behaviour on occasions. This has included struggling with accessing porn at work for many years, masturbating while driving and still finding the need to engage in more ‘extreme’ activities on occasion such as waking around with my flies open.
I have chosen throughout this time to call myself “a recovering sex addict”, but at the same time I have still been engaging in risky and destructive behaviours. There have been so many occasions where I have had to confess to my wife over and over again that I have relapsed, usually with internet porn. This probably reached the lowest point last year, where I couldn’t seem to break free for more than a month at a time and was consumed by feelings of shame and low self esteem. I really struggled to see any progress and to see a way out of the trap that I was in. I even came close to going to see an escort again – that would have really taken me back to where I was 13 years previously. I felt totally trapped by the behaviours, especially the same old patterns of internet porn that I just couldn’t seem to break. This led to me accessing counselling and deciding to try a different approach in Recovery Nation towards the end of 2019. Since starting RN, I have had one relapse into internet pornography after the first 2 months, and have then been sober since that point – almost 3 months later.

This has been a pretty intense exercise. I'll post about future transition points in a separate post.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 62 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next

All times are UTC - 5 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group