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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2020 2:17 pm 
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Lesson 20: Future transitions

Moving away from our home of 15 years

This is the most immediate transition, which will happen later this year when I take up a new job. I am really looking forward to moving to a new area and starting a new life, but I also have real fear that I will be moving away from my SAA support group where I have been a regular member for the past 13 years or so. I feel that I really need to get a solid grip on addiction now rather than waiting any longer. I’m also worried about moving away from other more general sources of support and positive engagement with life: friends, family, volleyball club, church, etc. If I don’t get the right habits in place, then I could easily start sliding back into using addictive behaviours as a way to cope with all the change and uncertainty. Depending on where we end up, there are other meetings that I could attend (including online and phone meetings), and I could also start up a new meeting if necessary. I can also make a conscious effort to maintain ongoing contact with the members of my SAA home group and travel back maybe once a month (depending on distance).

Death of my parents

This is probably the next big transition that will come up over the next few years. I actually feel pretty able to cope with this, maybe because my job involves regular contact with people experiencing death. I’ve also had open conversations with my parents about what will happen and their choices, etc. I know it will hit me hard, and I could potentially use addiction as a kind of comfort blanket, but I feel fairly confident that this won’t happen, especially as they have lived long and happy lives.

Death of immediate family member

If my wife or children were ever to die, that would be a hugely different situation. I struggle to see how I would cope with that scenario at the present time, and I would be very concerned that addiction would rush back in to fill the void that would be created. I pray to God that it does never happen, and I need to work to find comfort in my faith and in my wider value system should the worst ever take place.

Empty-nest syndrome

I’ve already experienced half of this with our eldest daughter going away to University. I did find it difficult at first, but in some ways its actually been less of a challenge than I had thought it might be. Maybe this is because our youngest daughter still lives at home. I do have a fear that I will have far too much time on my hands when both my children have left home, and that addictive behaviours might creep back in purely because of boredom and opportunity. Again, I need to hold my values to the forefront and keep recalling the consequences of falling back into that place again.

Retirement

I know this will be a hard transition from talking to other people, but its still around 20 years in the future just now. I feel that I have plenty of value in my life from lots of different things, and that I don’t place all my sense of self worth and value in the job that I do. I actually feel fairly confident about this, and in my ability to be able to take pride in the things that I have accomplished in my working life. I need to ensure that I retain a full and varied life so that all my eggs don’t end up in one basket.

What would it look like for addiction to come back into my life?

There are lots of different ways this could look like. The very worst thing would be for me to return to the most destructive behaviours, which is having sex with people other than my wife. I’ve been sober from these behaviours for over 14 years now. That kind of relapse would turn my life totally upside down and I’m pretty certain that it would rip my marriage apart. There are plenty of other behaviours that could return and also get me into huge trouble – like exposing myself in public or being found out for accessing internet porn at work. Should I fall into those patterns again, I could very easily lose my job and my career that I have spent the past 5 years working towards, and completely lose my reputation. It would have a huge impact on my relationship with my daughters, and it would severely damage the faith of many people. It would also potentially mean me sliding back into long term debt and financial insecurity.

I need to remain vigilant for signs of complacency, and keep doing the things that I have been doing to keep me sober and clean. It has been working, and there is no reason whatsoever that it needs to stop working. I need to have confidence that I am moving in a different direction now and living according to my values and goals.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2020 2:29 pm 
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I'm conscious of feeling a bit 'detached' from my recovery. I slipped into looking at some 'harmless' images online earlier while I was searching for a work presentation. It wasn't a huge amount of time - maybe only 20 minutes in total. And they weren't pornographic images in any way, but I could feel the adrenaline start to rush in and the temptation to start following the familiar pattern of clicking on an image and following the inexorable chain towards a place where I know I have gone too far yet again. It almost leaves a sense of hangover and the potential for me to tell myself - "fuck it, you might as well just give in and go the whole way". That's utter bollocks and is the kind of black and white thinking that has kept me trapped in addiction for so long. I can accept my mistake, look at where it came from (a sense of feeling tired and rundown just now) and make a renewed effort to recommit myself to this recovery process. Instead of beating myself up for coming close to a relapse, I can be thankful instead that I was able to remove myself from the situation and step back to look at the bigger picture. Instead of retreating behind a wall of secrecy and denial, I can go to my wife and tell her about what has happened, which will keep it real for me.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 2:06 pm 
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I can't believe how long it is since I last posted on here. I've been guilty of allowing my recovery to slide down my list of priorities in life, and as a result I ended up relapsing just last week. That came as quite a large surprise to me after 3 months of really solid sobriety, but looking back I can see how there were plenty of warning signs. Not least the fact that I've lost a sense of momentum with this workshop and that I've allowed myself to become very impatient and irritable over the past few weeks. Some of that is down to the ongoing situation with coronavirus. I'm feeling increasingly powerless and impotent in the face of such rapid and momentous change, and I have found serenity much harder to come by recently. I've also allowed myself to lose belief in my ability to change and to start telling myself the old lie that I will always remain an addict and that somehow I'm destined to forever remain lurching from relapse to relapse.

Rather than give in to this twisted thinking, I can give myself credit that I was honest with my wife about my slip, and that I also burst the bubble of secrecy with some other trusted people too. I didn't allow the voice of shame to crush my spirit and cause me to wallow in the pit, which has been the case so often over the years. I haven't acted out again for the last week, and I have no wish to turn this into a relapse rather than a temporary slip. But I do need to prioritise my recovery again, and especially I recognise that I need to be much more deliberate and proactive in confronting my actual thought processes when I start to consider sliding into addictive behaviour, and measuring those thoughts against my core values and beliefs. I tend to try and 'muddle through' rather than dedicating time and space to putting in the work when it is most needed. Anyway, I'm making a renewed commitment to the RN workshop again, especially as I'm currently forced to work from home and have far greater time available than usual.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 2:47 pm 
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Lesson 21
Recovery Goals


A) Large goals I have attempted in my life and failed.
• Giving up addictive behaviours. This is the number one goal in life that I beat myself up over falling short of. Looking at it, it’s too general and it has no timescale. But I’m also scared of putting a timescale on it because I fear that it can’t really be accomplished. By keeping it general, I can allow myself to wriggle out of it to some extent.
• Learning to play the piano. Again, this is way too general and I ran out of motivation to keep going. I did teach myself to play one complex piece pretty fluently, but then I got bored and it gradually petered out.
• Becoming a primary school teacher. I kind of drifted into this profession rather than having a genuine passion and vocation for it. I ended up only teaching for 2 terms and then had a near mental breakdown because I couldn’t cope. It just wasn’t the right path for me, especially at that time.

B) Large goals I have attempted in my life and succeeded.
• Running 2 marathons. On both occasions (over 15 years apart), I wasn’t really running regularly beforehand. The focused, dedicated goal gave me a detailed training plan that I had to keep to. I work better with a structure and an end goal that is very specific. I just missed the 4 hour mark the first time, but I really wanted to break it the second time and I managed it by being very focussed on that goal and pushing myself to the limit in training.
• Organising several large team fundraising events. This included pulling a team together to complete the 3 Peaks challenge in 2018 in honour of my late brother-in-law. There were huge logistical challenges, but we ended up raising £10,000 and got 14 out of 15 people to complete the challenge. Again, having a clear end target helped me to focus and to pull everyone together. I also had the motivation of doing it for my deceased relative and his family.
• Training for church ministry. Back in 2015 I was in a totally different job, and since then I have gone back to University and retrained for a different profession. Later this year I will achieve my main goal for the past 5 years. I have been able to achieve this because I held onto a sense of vision (even when things were tough) and faith and because of a wider network of support and encouragement.
• Giving up the most destructive addictive behaviours. This is a very general goal, but I haven’t had sex with anyone other than my spouse for well over 10 years now. I’m not sure how this relates to keeping goals specific and measurable. I think the most important element in the success of this goal has been adjusting my unrealistic expectations of my wife and bringing the potential consequences into much sharper focus.
• Setting up a 12 Step recovery group. Looking back, this has been hugely successful and has been a massively positive influence on so many other people. It has been a success because I needed it primarily for myself/my own recovery, and because I remained dedicated to it over so many years, even when other people weren’t coming.

C) Recovery goal
I will complete this workshop by the end of August 2020, when I will be moving on to a new job.
• There are 52 lessons remaining. I will need to complete at least 2 lessons each week.
• Rather than just ticking off the lessons, I will also review the previous lessons and fully engage with the learning.
• I will get my wife more engaged in the process and hold me to account for my progress.
• I will print off a chart for each week to measure my progress. I know from personal experience how helpful this is for me (marathon training).


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2020 2:44 pm 
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Lesson 22: Measuring Compulsive Behaviour

Ritual measured: Viewing pornographic images.

Primary elements involved:
Fantasy, sensory, Danger, Orgasm, Suspense, Accomplishment, Novelty

Values assigned:
Fantasy (3), Sensory (3), Danger (1), Orgasm (2), Suspense (2), Novelty (2)

Filters applied:
Fantasy: (3)
Time. The element of fantasy precedes the act of looking and drives an ever increasingly frenzied search for the “ultimate” video, GIF or photo. This would be a 9 at the peak. (9 x 3 = 27)
Intensity. I find it difficult to conceptualise this. The fantasy element comes and goes depending on what I am watching. 6 (6 x 3 = 18)
Habituation. I’ve fantasised about mostly the same stuff over the years and tend to go back to the same old searches. 5 (5 x 3 = 15)
TOTAL = 60 / 6 elements = 10

Sensory: (3)
Time. Initially my visual senses are overloaded with the graphic nature of the images, but it’s probably more about the fantasy than the actual images themselves. 7 (7 x 3 = 21)
Intensity. When I find just the “right” images or increasingly GIFS these days, it produces an almost insane urge to keep on clicking on and on and on in order to feast my eyes. 9 (9 x 3 = 27)
Habituation. I’ve recently moved on to looking at GIFs first rather than full blown porn (very fine line!), so this has increased. 8 (8 x 3 = 24)
TOTAL = 72 / 6 elements = 12

Danger: (1)
Time. Not really an aspect. I tend to want the danger aspect to be over sooner so I can focus on just looking at porn rather than worrying about being caught. 3 (3 x 1)
Intensity. When an element of danger is linked with looking at porn, the intensity increases dramatically. For example, looking at GIFs while driving. 10 (10 x 1)
Habituation. This kind of behaviour is very rare. 9 (9 x 1)
TOTAL = 22 / 6 elements = 3.6

Orgasm: (2)
Time. I get closer and closer to orgasm and then desperately try to stop myself ejaculating so I can prolong the ritual. 9 (9 x 2 = 18)
Intensity. This is always the most intense aspect of the ritual. 8 (8 x 2 = 16)
Habituation. Very familiar behaviour. 2 (2 x 2 = 4)
TOTAL = 38 / 6 elements = 6.3

Suspense: (2)
Time. I build up a sense of suspense massively over time. 8 (8 x 2 = 16)
Intensity. While the ritual is suspended for some reason, I can feel it gnawing away at the back of my mind. 8 (8 x 2 = 16)
Habituation. This element has probably become more noticeable over recent years. 6 (6 x 2 = 12)
TOTAL = 44 / 6 elements = 7.3

Novelty: (2)
Time. The more I can find new and novel things to look at, the more I can spin out the time. 8 (8 x 2 = 16)
Intensity. Within reason, novelty makes the experience more intense. However, I tend to return to the old, familiar images for the final orgasm. 5 (5 x 2 = 10)
Habituation. 4 (4 x 2 = 8)
TOTAL = 34 / 6 elements = 5.6

OVERALL STIMULATION RATING = 44.8 (main elements are fantasy & sensory)


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:50 am 
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Lesson 23: Practical Uses for Measuring

I didn’t struggle with this lesson as much as the previous one, and in fact it made me go back and have a look at the last one and refine what I had written. I definitely needed to try and understand WHY this is an important skill. It can be too easy to just try and rush through these lessons to tick them off rather than to fully engage with them and integrate the learning.

This did help me to see the practical uses for measuring my behaviours, although I still find it to be quite an uncomfortable thing to do. Maybe that’s also because there is a level of defensiveness in my behaviour that wants to protect itself. In reality, that’s probably me just talking about it in a way that distances the behaviour from me rather than accepting my ultimate responsibility for the choices that I take!

I can really see the value in breaking down the behaviour into smaller and more manageable parts, and deconstructing the mystery of it. Over so many years, I have allowed myself to argue that it’s way bigger than me and way more powerful than me. That’s the 12 Step message, and I still agree with it to a large extent. But at the same time, I think that perception has become so deeply ingrained that to think in this new way is fundamentally different and challenging for me. Allowing myself to see it as a single act is really a way of me avoiding responsibility for breaking it down and fully trying to work out what is happening. And I think the more that I can do that, the less inevitable my behaviours will come to appear. It’s a process of demystifying the behaviour, and realising at the end of the day that it can be mapped out in a much clearer and more comprehensible way than I ever thought possible.

Hopefully as I continue with these skills, I will learn to step back when I experience that seemingly uncontrollable urge and actually work out exactly what is going on and why. And then realise that I do have choices that I can make which will lead me in a totally different direction which is congruent with my values and beliefs.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 5:05 am 
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Lesson 24: Identifying your compulsive elements

A specific example: Having sex with my wife

• I felt entitled to ask my wife for sex since it was my birthday!
• I also felt a sense of conflict as I had only acted out a few days before and I still felt ashamed and distant (even though I had told my wife).
• I felt a bit like Oliver Twist asking for sex – “please can I have some more gruel”!
• My wife grudgingly agreed, seeing as it was my birthday and I should get what I asked for.
• I felt an immediate twinge of resentment that she was so grudging and that it wouldn’t be a more mutual experience.
• I felt another deeper twinge of resentment when she said that she didn’t want to have penetrative sex because of her period.
• My wife ended up masturbating me while kissing (this is a fantasy scenario I usually end up searching for on the internet).
• I experienced a powerful orgasm.
• I felt a sense of accomplishment and gratitude but still some emotional distance from my wife due to our different expectations of sex.

My major rituals

I have had way more than these rituals in the past, but these tend to be the only ones that are problematic for me at this stage.

Looking at internet porn

1. There is some emotional disturbance that I am not being honest about – “poor me”.
2. I fail to resolve or deal with the emotional disturbance.
3. I fail to put in place sufficient safeguards when I am in a risky situation at home.
4. I am on the laptop at home going about my tasks for work but cannot focus.
5. I start to mess around with looking at random images (flirting with the addiction).
6. I begin to feel a sense of arousal and heightened expectation.
7. I start to feel an increasing sense of hopelessness and powerlessness.
8. I gradually break down more and more barriers as I move closer to full blown porn.
9. I get to a certain stage where I can no longer kid myself that I have not acted out.
10. I move into the “fuck it” stage (recklessness) and begin to engage full on with the addiction.
11. The potential consequences no longer seem important.
12. I start to stroke and manipulate myself, usually through my clothes.
13. I download a browser that enables me to bypass my accountability software.
14. I engage in an often frenzied search for the ideal image or video, getting more aroused over time.
15. Eventually I find the right stimulation and end up bringing myself to orgasm.
16. I feel a deep sense of shame and condemnation.
17. I engage in a desperate attempt to cover my tracks and wipe all traces.
18. I often end up back in the same ritual just an hour or so later, filled with even deeper shame.

Walking around with my zip open

1. There is some emotional disturbance that I am not being honest about – “poor me”.
2. I fail to resolve or deal with the emotional disturbance.
3. I have usually started to engage with some of the behaviours above by this time to ‘self soothe’.
4. I am away somewhere else on a conference or work trip and create time and space. I feel a lack of accountability.
5. I walk or drive around in a frenzy trying to find some source of stimulation, seeing as I don’t have my laptop with me. For example, even driving by a lap dancing club or sauna gives me a sense of excitement with no intention of going in.
6. I buy some kind of stimulation – a porn magazine or Sunday Sport.
7. I gradually retreat more and more into a bubble of isolation, with one overwhelming goal – to get the maximum stimulation from this experience. I have moved into the “fuck it” stage.
8. I start to stroke myself through my trouser pockets and experience powerful stimulation.
9. Eventually I find a quiet place and unzip my trousers then walk or drive around with my zip open.
10. I feel a powerful sense of excitement heightened by the danger of being found out or looking at porn in a public space rather than the privacy of my own home.
11. Eventually it becomes too much and I find a public toilet to orgasm or end up doing it in my trousers.
12. I feel an immense sense of shame and regret and hopelessness.
13. I desperately try to clean myself up and get rid of the materials I have accumulated.
14. I feel a sense of utter exhaustion and despair.

My Wheel of Sexual Compulsion

Sensory – visual
Sensory – touch
(Sensory – smell)
Fantasy
Danger/risk
Intimacy/isolation
Orgasm
Suspense
Futility/hopelessness/shame – not sure about this but it is key driver
Frenzy


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2020 11:02 am 
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Lesson 25: Identifying Compulsive Rituals

This was a very interesting lesson. In some ways, this is the lesson so far in the workshop that is most fundamentally opposed to a 12 Step philosophy. I was really struck by the following sentence: “Because when all is said and done, there is no such thing as compulsive behaviour. At least, compulsive to the point where you have no control over your actions”. When I’ve been an active member of a 12 Step group for around 15 years now and worked the 12 Steps several times, it’s actually very difficult to get my head around this new approach. It’s been ingrained into me over all those years that I am absolutely powerless over my addiction and that I need some kind of external help. To some extent, that has stopped me from every really fully engaging with the nuts and bolts of my compulsive behaviour, i.e. stripping each ritual down to its component elements and viewing it in the cold light of day. I’m still finding it difficult to full change my mindset, but I’m hoping that will come over time.

Compulsive ritual: Exhibitionism

#1 I was in an emotionally vulnerable state – shame at recent acting out episode
#2 I was out of my normal routine – away at a conference
#3 I didn’t know anyone else and felt awkward and uncomfortable
#4 My mind started to wander during the boring morning presentation
#5 I felt increasingly ‘out of place’ at lunchtime. Everyone else seemed to know someone
#6 I felt an ever increasing pressure to engage in compulsive behaviour to make me feel ‘better’
#7 I decided to walk past a nearby lap dancing club ‘just to look’
#8 I started to feel more and more aroused and developed tunnel vision – decided to abandon the conference
#9 I walked around the city at high speed for an hour or so just looking for more clubs, etc
#10 I bought a soft porn newspaper to stimulate my fantasy
#11 I found a quiet street and looked at the pictures
#12 I went past a massage parlour several times and even phoned them
#13 I went into the massage parlour. No-one was on reception so I left
#14 I felt more and more pressured to act out and trapped by not wanting to go back to old behaviour, i.e. having sex with someone else
#15 I ‘rationalised’ that partially exposing myself was a safer option and would still give me the same intense rush that I needed
#16 I started to masturbate myself through my trouser pockets (a behaviour that goes all the way back to school days)
#17 I unzipped my trousers and walked round the city centre with my flies slightly open and my boxers down
#18 I went into several shops to look at and feel the women’s lingerie (sensory stimulation)
#19 I considered buying some and putting it on to get even more stimulation
#20 The pressure became too much to handle any longer
#21 I found a public toilet and locked myself in a cubicle
#22 I masturbated over the soft porn newspaper
#23 I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and failure and utter exhaustion
#24 I cleaned myself up and walked round in a daze feeling trapped and hopeless for returning to such dangerous behaviours

This was a really interesting exercise. I realised that exposing myself and masturbating myself in public through my trousers is a ritual that goes all the way back to my teenage years. What really struck me is that I used to resort to it when I felt so out of place and so lonely in those years, and this ritual became a means of comforting myself - especially linked with fantasy about the unnatainable girls at school. This ritual last kicked in when I felt out of place and a loner again, feeling that I was the odd one out and everyone else was with friends and in a happy place. It was the exact same feelings and I reverted to the same old behaviours to try and comfort myself and make myself feel better.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2020 1:11 pm 
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Lesson 26: Mapping compulsive rituals

I’m struggling to see much difference between this exercise and the previous one, but I’ll give it a bash!

Compulsive ritual: last time acting out with porn, Thursday 12th March

1. I felt overwhelmed with work and struggling to cope
2. I experienced an urge to start looking at sexy images online
3. I felt a huge sense of tension between wanting to look and wanting to stay sober
4. I started to search random terms and experienced a huge rush of adrenaline
5. I kept on backing off and trying to work but going back to searching again several minutes later
6. I started to bargain with myself that I could just take a wee look and it wouldn’t harm me
7. I argued with myself that the images were all on Google so it wasn’t really porn
8. I began to push the boundaries further, clicking on more and more images
9. I almost ejaculated in my trousers several times but stopped at the last minute
10. I was able to convince myself that I was still sober because I hadn’t ejaculated (even though by this point I was watching soft porn GIFs)
11. I eventually found just the right GIF and wasn’t able to stop myself ejaculating in time
12. I cleaned myself up and cleared my tracks
13. I experienced overwhelming sense of shame and failure


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:32 pm 
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Lesson 27: Identifying Compulsive Chains

Compulsive chain #1

This would be adding more and more extreme behaviours together to get the same level of excitement and stimulation that I require. Not just looking at pornographic images, but looking at them while driving in my car or on the top deck of the bus. Or buying a porn magazine and finding a quiet country road to flick through it – all the while with a heightened sense of danger in case anyone walks by. In the past, this would also have included accessing porn at work on work computers – an extremely dangerous activity that would also give me an extreme high. Not just touching myself, but stimulating myself while I’m driving, even to the extent of exposing myself at times while driving at high speed on the motorway. In the most extreme of acting out behaviours in the past, I would also have accessed sexual encounter websites and be exchanging messages with someone else while at work and in the middle of running a training session. This added danger all just increased the thrill of the behaviours.

Compulsive chain #2

Having a free day and getting stressed and annoyed with myself because I feel I ‘should’ be doing something useful.
Coming up with a huge To Do list in my head to keep me busy rather than allowing myself to sit and relax.
Rushing from task to task and getting more and more stressed and anxious.
Finish the day feeling inadequate or completely exhausted.
Feel the stress and the tension rising within me.
Start to engage in negative self-talk – telling myself that I’m a failure.
Suddenly start thinking about acting out as a way of relieving the tension and making myself feel ‘better’.
Start engaging in sexually compulsive ritual.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2020 1:16 pm 
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LESSON 28: Developing compulsive chains

I wrote out my compulsive ritual for my last acting out for a previous lesson. I’m not sure how much this really differs to be honest.

Compulsive chains: last time acting out with porn, Thursday 12th March

I felt overwhelmed with work and struggling to cope
I felt unappreciated by my wife and dissatisfied sexually
I started to feel low level resentment and entitlement
I was working at home one morning using online search engines to find some information
I experienced an urge to start looking at sexy images online
I felt a huge sense of tension between wanting to look and wanting to stay sober
I started to feel my ability to think and reflect rationally was being compromised
I started to search random images and experienced a huge rush of adrenaline
I kept on backing off and trying to work but going back to searching again several minutes later
I started to bargain with myself that I could just take a wee look and it wouldn’t harm me
I argued with myself that the images were all on Google so it wasn’t really porn
I began to push the boundaries further, clicking on more and more images
Eventually I found my way to soft porn images and GIFs and felt incredible stimulation
I almost ejaculated in my trousers several times but stopped at the last minute
I was able to convince myself that I was still sober because I hadn’t ejaculated (even though by this point I was watching soft porn GIFs)
I eventually found just the right GIF and wasn’t able to stop myself ejaculating in time
I cleaned myself up and cleared my tracks
I experienced an overwhelming sense of shame and failure

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.

Accessing the images in a more public place – somewhere like a library or the top deck of a bus (or previously work)
Accessing the images on a large screen or projector to magnify them and overwhelm my senses
Putting on lacy or satin womens underwear to add an element of sensory touch
Being able to interact with someone online while watching the porn, i.e. webcam
Accessing the images while driving


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 9:00 am 
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Lesson 29: The role of emotions

A) I found it hard to experience the emotions without judging them in some way. I think this has always been an issue for me – accepting my emotional state as it is without sitting in judgement on it and saying to myself that I shouldn’t be feeling this way.

The main emotions I could identify were primarily negative in nature: guilt, a sense of failure and condemnation, emotional exhaustion, fear, resentment, irritation, anxiety, disappointment, regret, anger, shame. These were the emotions that I found it easier to get in touch with.

I found it far harder to get in touch with and really experience the positive emotions, but they were definitely there if I waited for them and made an effort to get in touch with them. Especially if I related them to a particular memory or situation, i.e. my wedding day, snorkelling in the Indian ocean, etc. These positive emotions included: a sense of wholeness and happiness, contentment, carefree, peaceful, serene, love, hope, completeness, joy, expectation, fulfilment, success.

B) I found this exercise quite difficult, especially as I experienced a significant urge to act out within the last hour. I could very easily follow the chain of events in my head that would lead me to the same old compulsive behaviours again. It was incredibly easy to visualise the activities that I would take and the sudden buzz and sense of release in my brain. I could almost feel the rush of endorphins as I anticipated heading down that road and the sense of no longer feeling tired and defeated. It was like I could flick a switch in my head labelled FUCK IT that would instantly provide a boost to me without having to worry about the negative consequences of my decision. Visualising saying no brought an immediate sense of disappointment in my current state and a realisation that I would simply have to sit with the feelings and work much harder to try and process them. The immediate physical and emotional gratification would quite simply not be there if I decided not to act out, whereas the immediate physical and emotional gratification if I choose to engage in the behaviours is almost tangibly there in front of me. It takes a lot more work to visualise the longer term emotional consequences of both deciding to engage or not engage.

The least anxious state I have experienced – probably my wedding day. I can remember an immense and seemingly bottomless sense of wellbeing and wholeness.

The most anxious state I have experienced – the very first time I acted out with an escort, just months after my wedding day. Feeling utterly trapped and hopeless and not having a clue where to go or what to do. Feeling that I had made an absolute mess of my marriage already.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2020 1:35 pm 
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Posts: 53
Lesson 31 Exercise:

A. Make a list of all identifiable stressors that have affected your emotional health over the past week. For each, document whether it is a mild, moderate, severe or extreme stressor. Example: 1) Facing Possible Divorce: extreme; 2) Lost respect among friends and family: moderate

1) COVID-19 lockdown (severe)
2) Negative self-talk (severe)
3) Relationship with daughters (mild)
4) Difficulties with boss (moderate)
5) IT problems (moderate)
6) Acting out behaviours (severe)
7) Relationship to God (moderate)
8) Online Zoom meetings (mild)
9) Delivering food parcels/lunches (mild)
10) Getting to grips with video editing software (mild)

B. Return to your values list created earlier in the workshop. In a healthy life, the majority of energy being drained (e.g. stress) should be related to the pursuit of your highest prioritized values (top fifteen or so). Do you see this pattern in your life? If not, what do you think this means in terms of the way that you are expending your energy?

I can see that all of my stressors are linked closely to my top 15 values. Certainly the most extreme stressors (1,2,6) are very closely linked and appear quite a few times in the list below. At least this shows that I am expending energy on the issues that are most important to me.

Overcoming addictive behaviour on a permanent basis (6)
Accepting myself for who I am (2)
Honouring my wedding vows and living as a faithful spouse (6)
Building up my wife’s self esteem (6)
Being the best dad that I can be (3)
Commitment to God and to developing a deeper inner life (7)
Sexual intimacy with my wife (6)
Being committed to building a sense of shared community (1 & 9)
Developing the ability to cope well with the ups and downs of life (2,5,10)
A commitment to live life to the full (1 & 2)
Maintaining a sense of humour (2)
Being present with other people (8)
Developing deeper friendships (4)
Being a person who inspires belief in others (2)
Being able to use my experience to help others (9)

C. Likewise, in a healthy life, the majority of meaning and stimulation that you gain should also be related to your highest values. Do you see this pattern in your life? If not, what do you think this means in terms of the quality of life you are living?

In terms of the meaning and stimulation I have gained over the past week, the times I have gained most stimulation would be the following. These are all very closely linked with my top values and show that I am gaining meaning from the areas that are most important to me.

Having present and intimate sex with my wife
Spending time listening and talking to my daughters
Delivering food parcels and lunches to needy families
Putting together a good video presentation and getting good feedback from people
Spending time with family on a virtual quiz
Spending time cooking tea with my wife


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 19, 2020 2:11 pm 
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Posts: 53
Lesson 32. Evolving your practical goals

To be honest, I haven’t been working towards these goals specifically in any proactive way. I have changed a lot of things in my life and approached these goals tangentially, but I’m conscious that I need to print off this list after the lesson and really focus on putting the actions to work in a much more intentional and planned way.

Having said that, now I have worked through the goals I can see that I have achieved a fair amount in most of them. I need to give myself more credit that I am committed to these goals and actively working towards them.

A commitment to live life to the full

COVID-19 has kind of put a big dent in this one! I haven’t been able to get out walking in the mountains or camping because of lockdown restrictions (although I could go camping in the back garden!). I have learnt new skills in lockdown though and have taken part in online quizzes, etc. I’m still committing to exercising and have restricted my alcohol intake.

• Put aside at least one day per month to head out into the mountains
• Put aside at least one night every 6 months to go wild camping
• Take up a new hobby within the coming year (sea kayaking, choir, etc?)
• Be more proactive in looking for music, comedy and theatre shows that I enjoy
• Get out for a jog at least once per week
• Commit to having alcohol a maximum of 3 nights per week (except on holiday!)

Being committed to building a sense of shared community

This has actually been pretty consistent, even with the restrictions. The community is primarily online or through phone calls, although I did also put a leaflet through my neighbours doors at the start of the lockdown to offer support. I feel that this is an area that I am still very committed to.

• Prioritise a list of 5 or 6 people who I will visit pastorally at least once per month
• Make sure I eat with other people at least once or twice per week
• Seek out opportunities to engage more with my neighbours, especially at Christmas
• Engage with people on a deeper level through social media

Maintaining and developing my own sense of humour

This has been a bit up and down, especially as I have struggled with some feelings of depression recently. I have made a deliberate effort to start reading my joke books and writing down jokes that appeal to me. I still need to be more proactive in looking for comedy shows, etc.

• Read through some of my “dad joke” books each day!
• Recognise occasions when the use of humour is inappropriate and deflecting
• Give myself credit for times when I make people laugh and bring joy to people
• Be more proactive in seeking out TV shows that are genuinely funny

Overcoming addictive behaviour on a permanent basis

I feel this has been very up and down too as I have slipped again in the past week. However, I am still working through the lessons and have also set up a regular zoom meeting for my local SAA group. I have started to develop a clear relapse prevention plan but I didn’t follow it through last time so I need to put some more work into this.

• Commit to complete Recovery Nation workshop
• Continue to attend SAA group on a regular basis
• Address my mentality, that I am somehow unable to fully recover
• Keep my vision central to my daily recovery
• Establish much clearer and more manageable relapse prevention plans

Accepting myself for who I am

I sense this is the biggest area that I need to work on. My last slip was as a direct result of feeling negative about myself and not accepting myself for who I am. I’ve also been comparing myself negatively to others during lockdown and comparing what I have ‘accomplished’ to what other people are (seemingly) accomplishing with their time. But I have also accepted praise from people and not sought to deflect it at times, especially around producing video services for my home church which have been well received.

• Address and challenge negative self-talk. Replace with positive affirmations and celebrate my attributes
• Accept and integrate praise and positive comments from others
• Recognise and challenge those times when I compare myself negatively to others, especially on social media
• Do things that bring me life not death

Honouring my wedding vows and living as a faithful spouse

I do give thanks and pray for my wife every day. However, I haven’t worked my wedding vows into my daily meditations and this is an area I still need to work on more intentionally.

• Work my wedding vows into my daily meditations – make them intentional
• Don’t dwell on past failures but visualise future success – what does it look like
• Consciously give thanks and pray for my wife on a daily basis

Building up my wife’s self esteem

I haven’t always been fully present with my wife – this does annoy her and I need to focus on listening to her as fully as I possibly can. However, we have spent time on dates (before lockdown) and our communication these days is far, far better than it was in the past. We spent time last week making fresh pasta together. This was a lovely experience, as in the past I would have just done it myself and then ended up getting really stressed and frustrated with my lack of competence. I have also been complementing her on certain things recently. In particular her singing which she is doing for our online services.

• Long term full sobriety and commitment is the only way this will happen
• Encourage her to take up fresh interests and hobbies. Do them with her, e.g. hillwalking
• Spend time properly listening to her and being present with her
• Seek opportunities to compliment her
• Buy her flowers on a monthly basis

Being the best dad that I can be

I am still struggling with this and it causes me a great deal of guilt that they seem to want to spend so little time with me and my wife. However, I have been making the time and space to go into their bedrooms on most days to sit and actually talk to them on their ‘territory’. This has been a really encouraging experience. I need to work more on appropriate boundaries for my youngest daughter during lockdown, i.e. getting up at a reasonable time.

• Give time and space to my children and seek to be fully present with them
• Encourage them and build them up in their own self esteem
• Take responsibility for setting appropriate boundaries where necessary

Commitment to God and to developing a deeper inner life

This is an area that I have recently changed. I am trying to be much more intentional in doing things, i.e. concentrating on what I am eating rather than just shovelling food into my face in the quickest time possible. I have also been keeping my journal, reading books and have adapted my Bible reading plan. Unfortunately my planned retreat was cancelled due to COVID-19.

• Spend time on a daily basis praying and reading the Bible
• Practice tuning myself into the presence of God in the midst of daily life
• Commit myself to reading spiritual literature
• Commit myself to keeping a spiritual, reflective journal
• Take regular time out for spiritual retreats every few months

Sexual intimacy with my wife

This has been up and down too, but is partly as a result of my renewed guilt and shame around acting out. I find it hard to seek mutual intimacy when I am down in that place. However, I have been better at recognising that it’s not just about being sexual and that intimacy can be developed in many different ways.

• True intimacy is dependent on long term complete commitment to sobriety
• Create more opportunity for intimate romance – date nights, etc
• Actively put aside time and space to develop mutual intimacy
• Continue to focus on my wife’s other physical needs not just sexual, i.e. foot massages, etc

Developing the ability to cope well with the ups and downs of life

I feel that I have generally coped well with the COVID-19 restrictions. I’m still working from home and have stayed focussed on the things that I need to do. I had a setback last week when I was really struggling emotionally and that resulted in acting out on one day. However, I was able to recognise the exceptional circumstances and get back on track since that time. I have probably been too busy in this period, and I need to work out how to avoid that in the weeks to come.

• Continue to work Recovery Nation and my SAA programme
• Pay attention to my holistic wellbeing and spiritual condition – stay centred
• Practice alternative ways of coping with stress rather than acting out
• Don’t take on too much work at once – practice saying “no”

Being present with other people

I have recently taken up counselling again (as a trained counsellor) and have been counselling someone online over the past few weeks. This is forcing me to really attend to what they are saying and to be as present as possible with them. I still need to be far more intentional in actually listening to what people are telling me.

• Make an effort to listen properly and remember when I ask questions of other people, i.e. “do you want tea or coffee?”
• Long term sobriety will give me peace of mind to be more fully present and myself
• Focus on genuinely valuing the other person and their contribution

Developing deeper friendships

I have found opportunity recently to value some of my friendships more fully during the restrictions. This crisis seems to have awoken people to the need to invest in relationships more fully and I am enjoying that.

• Be open to sharing with others from a place of vulnerability
• Make greater efforts to give invites to people I want to develop deeper friendship with
• Celebrate and nurture the existing friendships I have in the SAA fellowship/church

Being a person who inspires belief in others

I have used my experience to set up a weekly zoom meeting for my SAA group and I feel that has been very much appreciated. I have also taken on a new sponsee who has a very similar story to my own. I feel that I have taken lots of opportunities to lead from the front recently and take on new responsibilities.

• Long term sobriety and spiritual growth will inspire belief in others
• Take hold of opportunities to lead from the front and don’t hide away
• Be open to sharing my story with people – not just addiction but in other areas too

Being able to use my experience to help others

I could be more proactive in reaching out to other addicts on a daily basis, but in general I am using my experience in a positive way to help others.

• Continue to attend my SAA group and to post on RN
• Reach out to other addicts on a daily basis, especially new group members
• Pray for other group members on a daily basis


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2020 11:13 am 
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Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2019 3:29 pm
Posts: 53
I have struggled over the past week with compulsive behaviours. I slipped last Monday viewing internet porn and spent the day trying to get it out of my system by wallowing in it. Then I had a good week of getting back on track before slipping again yesterday when I work up in the night and couldn't get back to sleep. This was a result of worrying about a task that was still several days away. I use the word 'slip' but in reality I have wallowed in the behaviour on both days. When I act out, there is a little voice that tells me I might as well make the most of it while I am down there, and that also tells me to keep on doing it because it is the only way I will start to feel better about myself again. I have felt overwhelmed by the addiction again and struggled to see how this is making a difference. However, I need to remind myself that I had 3 months of sobriety until March, and have only acted out on 3 days this year. I cant afford to fall back into black and white/all or nothing thinking because it just keeps me stuck in the same old behaviours.

Lesson 33: Developing emotional maturity

Day one

• Woke up with a very leaden, depressed feeling in the pit of my stomach. This was a strong physical sense of guilt and shame over my recent acting out and the potential consequences. There was a powerful sense of futility – of feeling powerless and overwhelmed by the addictive behaviours and that there is nothing I can do to stop it.
• Strong feelings of anxiety in advance of a funeral service that I was taking later that morning, especially around the COVID-19 restrictions. Questioning my ability to do a good job in the circumstances and whether I am even the right person to be a minister when I’m currently struggling with these behaviours. A lack of confidence in myself.
• A feeling of relief after finishing the funeral but also a sense of gratitude that I had been able to use my skills to do a good job even in difficult circumstances. Thankfulness for the positive feedback received from the family.
• A positive feeling of fulfilment after completing an online counselling session with a client in the afternoon. A sense of happiness that I had been able to help someone and to make a real difference to their situation.
• Powerful feelings of anxiety about having to produce a video service for the coming weekend, even though I have already done several over the previous weeks. Especially anxiety over gathering in and bringing together all of the different elements, and how I will be able to present my own talk in the circumstances.

Today I observe that my emotional state has gradually improved over the course of the day. I felt really low and hopeless first thing this morning, but the events of the day and my responses to them have changed how I am feeling now. The negative feelings are still there but more as a background hum now rather than centre stage.

Day two

• Similar to yesterday, I woke up feeling down and ashamed, especially around my wife. I find it difficult to be ‘normal’ around her after acting out as everything seems to be filtered through the lens of addiction. I found myself comparing myself negatively to other people even first thing in the morning, i.e. people out jogging or cycling. It didn’t matter that I was out walking the dog. I judged myself negatively in comparison to the effort they were putting in.
• Feelings of anxiety around having to go out and do the weekly food shopping this morning given the current restrictions. Also a strong sense of having to rush around so I could get back and get on with my work preparing the online service. I felt very impatient as if there was a big clock ticking away in the background.
• Strong feelings of frustration and even rage when I encountered IT problems that slowed me down. Again a sense of impatience and powerlessness.
• Some sense of peace and tranquillity when sat outside in the warm sun this afternoon, tempered by thoughts of what I still have to do lurking in the background.
• A feeling of unease around attending my 12 step group. Again, comparing myself negatively to the success that other people are currently experiencing in recovery.

My observation today is that my default state at the moment is a tendency towards feeling negative and ashamed about myself, especially in comparison to others. I tend to automatically revert to these emotions if I experience any negative feelings or situations, and I need to make a special effort to break that cycle just now.

Day three

• Again, intense feelings of shame upon waking up. These subsided during the day. Again much more noticeable around my wife.
• A very strong feeling of stress as I rushed to get lots of elements together for video editing later in the day. I had to rush to go out to deliver lunches and felt incredibly irritated by demands upon my time, i.e. when another group member phoned for help.
• A feeling of being intimidated and anxious about the scale of the video editing task awaiting me in the afternoon. As usual, it wasn’t nearly as much work as I had built up in my head.
• An intense feeling of relief at finishing the work and a sense of a job well done, being able to pat myself on the back.
• A strong sense of looking forward to a special lockdown evening meal with my family, once all the work is out of the way, and then having a day off tomorrow and being able to put work to one side.

My simple observation today is that I am lacking a great deal of peace and serenity at the moment, and juggling a lot of intense negative emotions. Its far easier for me to recognise these feelings than any positive emotions just now.

End of the week

I feel that I could have put more intentional effort into this task, but I have been more aware of the extremities of my emotional state and of my need to challenge emotions rather than to just accept them as the 'truth'. I've found it difficult to balance working this lesson with the later ones and also my 12 step recovery programme. That can feel a little overwhelming and I need to work out how to 'streamline' it all a bit more, and work out exactly what is most helpful to me at this point in time.


Last edited by Tim_Recovery on Fri May 01, 2020 11:44 am, edited 3 times in total.

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