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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 3:38 pm 
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Lesson 1

A. It has been stated that there are three keys to establishing a successful foundation for permanent change in early recovery. These are: 1) actively committing yourself to change, 2) not allowing guilt/shame to keep you from being successful in your efforts and 3) allowing yourself time to change. Where do you feel you are in relation to each of these recovery keys? What steps can you take to get to where you need to be?

*NOTE: I wrote most of this before I found the instructions for responding to the lessons. I'm sorry it's so long, and I'm not sure if I totally addressed the topics, but I hope if I'm on the wrong track you'll give some feedback. Thanks.*

I want to start by saying how thankful I am to have found this site. The reading I've done here so far in the FAQ's and the first lesson has spoken to me in a way that nothing else I've come across yet has even begun to do. Much of what I've encountered has left me feeling more alone, more freakish, and has intensified my feelings that no one else could possibly understand what I'm going through. This may seem counterintuitive, but I suppose much of what I've read so far in other sources has given me the feeling that it really doesn't apply to me (specifically, I've felt this way reading Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes). Everything seems to be described in black and white, with no intermediate levels of explanation. So I want to say thank you for providing information that has reached through to me and offered me some hope.

I have only recently been able to face my addiction and admit that I have a problem. I've known for a while that my actions have had negative consequences (risk-taking, disruption of my relationships, alienation of those I care most about, lost time and money, shame...the list could go on), yet still I believed that what I was doing was on some levels normal. I would think to myself, "every guy looks at porn," or "it's part of being a man (instinct, if you will) to want to mate with as many people as possible," or "this is just for fun."

As a result of some of the consequences of my actions, I have made sincere commitments in the past to change, to stop looking at porn and to stop engaging in adulterous behavior behind the back of the woman I love very much. But since I have always failed, I began to feel, as the lesson indicates, that this is just the way I am. I even began to rationalize that the problem must be with my significant other for not being open-minded enough to accept that "guys just like looking at porn." At the time, she didn't know of all of my affairs (only one), so the ups and downs we experienced were due to her periodic discoveries of porn on my computer. I understand now that not all guys look at porn, looking at porn isn't going to foster healthy feelings/relationships for ANYONE, and that the problem was always with me, not her.

Particularly difficult in accepting that I have a problem is that I've always tried to be a good person. I was raised to be very expressive and open, both intellectually and emotionally, and as such pride myself on demonstrating my love for those closest to me. I care deeply about others and am almost always conscious (or I try to be) of how others feel. That is why the instances in which I've acted out over the years are really hard for me to confront: they seem so inconsistent with my morals and values and who I want to be. I care about people, yet have been able to detach so effectively from reality that I can allow myself to view them as sex objects, not other human beings. My past failures, combined with the feeling that this is just the way I am, do make recovery seem overwhelming and, at times, impossible.

Yet I have such will to succeed. I imagine "this time is different" is a frequent mantra of those recovering from addictions, but I do believe this time is different. If I didn't, then I'd lack the confidence to tackle this. Additionally, I have never been completely open with anyone about my addiction in the past (including myself) when I made commitments to end it, whereas this time I have been open with my significant other, my mother, brother, and a couple of really close friends. While the revelation has been painful for these people, especially my girlfriend who loves me deeply, I do feel a sense of relief at not having to bear the burden of this secret any longer. I am scared that I'm still experiencing the initial euphoria of this honesty, but that's why I want to get started with these lessons and learn to make positive, permanent changes for myself. But I do believe that finally coming clean about this problem to those I love is a significant step in the right direction for me, and I also believe it will help motivate me knowing I have the loving support of these people.

I think my primary motivation for wanting to end my addiction is a combination of the consequences of my addiction and a desire to change permanently. It makes sense that a recovery based solely on consequence-management is destined to fail, but I don't understand how any recovery can proceed without remorse for past actions and their consequences, and a commitment not to engage in behavior that will generate similar consequences in the future. For me, part of my sincere desire to change and finally be REALLY happy comes from evaluating the personal consequences of what I've done. This doesn't mean the loss of my romantic relationship, but rather the pain, shame, and remorse I've felt for years because of this addiction. To me, desiring a life without these feelings is congruent with desiring permanent change. And I want to be happy and "normal" and able to pursue honest, loving relationships with all those I care about. I want it so badly.

I have never considered myself a passive person, so I think my approach to recovery will follow this model of how I tend to approach life. I am concerned, however, that I will allow myself to become complacent at times because things have always come relatively easy for me. I had an easy childhood, and while I worked hard in school and did well, I never worked TOO hard. Same with my life since graduating from college 4 years ago. I do what I have to do to get by and achieve a measured amount of success, but frequently lack motivation or drive to take myself to the next level. The ironic thing about this is that I know I have the talent and ability to achieve greatness, but finding the motivation generally proves to be the most difficult part of the success equation for me. But once I find the right motivation, I am tenacious. I am unaccustomed to failure when I set goals, which I think is why it has been so disheartening that my past attempts at recovery have failed. Rationally, I know that they failed because I lacked the right kind of motivation and the tools to achieve success (primarily honesty), but it's still hard to disassociate the feelings of failure from the process in general. I hope that my very real and grounded motivation to change right NOW, along with finally employing the right tools, will give me at last a glimpse of success that I can allow to snowball into success after success.

Today marks my 30th day of "sobriety." I know that you have cautioned against this type of measured success, especially at the onset of the recovery, but for me it feels great to think about this. Obviously I am at the very beginning, and I know my girlfriend (who has been VERY supportive of me, though she will be moving out and engaging in her own, individual recovery process) has expressed concern that I have not yet formulated a plan and sought real help, but for me, it feels good to have some sort of indicator of a life without acting out. Now that I have embarked on this workshop, I feel as though I am taking my first steps towards actual recovery rather than just avoiding my urges and refraining from acting out. Perhaps I will eventually learn that measuring my success in days without relapse was a mistake in the beginning, but right now, I feel like it's giving me additional inspiration to succeed, just as the influence of my friends and family is.

I already know, or at least I feel like I know, that the strength to change will come from within, not from any book or counselor or seminar. These are tools that improve chances of success. Sometimes I feel like I can do this without a counselor, but I know I cannot do it without counsel. That is why I'm so glad to have found this site and the related workshops. I believe, as I always have, that I make my own destiny, and that no one else will ever affect me enough to change who I am. It's up to me. I am encouraged to read that once I begin to effectively fight back, I will feel the addiction lose its grip on me, and that I will realize it's not the all-powerful force I believe it to be. I look forward to that with an eagerness I can't even begin to describe.

I want to be happy. I want those my life touches to be happy. And I do not want to continue living a life built around lies and shame and mistreating people when all of those things represent the antithesis of who I believe I really am, and who I want to be.

Thank you for giving me some hope.

B. Beyond an active commitment to change, another critical factor in determining your ultimate success is your motivation for that change. Look deep inside you and list ten to fifteen reasons why you seek to permanently change your life. Don't stop at three or four obvious ones, really examine your life and what your future means to you in recognizing your true motivations.

1. I am unhappy with who I am and how I have treated people, both those I love and those my addiction has brought me in contact with.

2. I want to be happy, and know that I cannot as long as my addiction controls me.

3. I am scared of the risks I've taken (unprotected sex with anonymous people), and want to learn to stop.

4. I believe that love is wonderful, but also that I've never experienced just how wonderful it can really be. I want to feel this.

5. I want to have control over my life and all aspects of it rather than losing control at times and engaging in behavior that ultimately makes me doubt myself as a person.

6. I've always been introspective, but have never been able to touch this part of me. I want to have a good relationship with myself and stop lying to myself about who I am and why I'm like this.

7. I don't want to live two lives anymore. MY "normal" life is full of happiness and good relationships and love, but this other part of me is full of misery and meaningless relationships and shame. I cannot reconcile the two, and I want to emerge from recovery embracing my goodness and having left behind the rest.

8. I long for the ability to have a fulfilling romantic relationship, one in which I am able to achieve openness, honesty, and joy with my partner. My girlfriend is ending our relationship, at least what we thought we had. She has indicated there is a chance that, if she is able to trust me and fall in love with me again, that we could end up together. I want this so badly. I am in love with her and feel, for the first time, like I can imagine a happy future for us now that I am being honest rather than a future full of pain and lies.

9. I want to finally be able to know what it's like to be free from this addiction. I feel it has been in place for all of my adult life, all if not most of my adolescence, with roots in my childhood. My life is valuable and I want to finally see it clearly for the wonderful gift it is. I do not want to squander it.

10. I feel I have wasted an immense amount of time and energy feeding this addiction. When I think about the countless hours I have spent cultivating it rather than meaningful relationships, I am aghast. I can never get that time back, but I can control how I spend time in the future.

11. I want to learn to cope with difficulties productively rather than taking refuge in the illusory comfort that acting out provides.

12. I want to know that there is nothing wrong with me, just my approach. I want to know I'm a good person and finally be able to believe it. I know I need to change the way I think about things to accomplish this, and I want to learn how to do that.

13. I want to learn to subvert my need for immediate gratification and come to understand that all good things in life require work. I know this, but I don't think I really KNOW it, which goes back to what I said about things coming easily for me. This is not to say I'm never overcome obstacles or challenged myself, but I have never learned to accept that life can be very gratifying, even if not immediately. This, I think, could be one of the most difficult things for me to overcome. That is, my need for things NOW. I want to believe that I can learn to control this quickly, that despite the years I've spent developing this addiction, I can shed its grasp by simply deciding to do so. I need to learn to accept that it will take time and give myself some credit for each small accomplishment I make.

14. I want to know who I am.[/i]


Last edited by Achilles on Mon May 01, 2006 12:10 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 10:05 pm 
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Overall, one of the more sincere first posts I've read in quite a while.

In terms of hope, get something through your head right now...forget about the feedback that you get from others in terms of your ability to transition away from these patterns. And I am talking about both positive and negative feedback. You don't need hope to motivate you. You really don't. What you need is determination (and a little guidance).

The clearest moment of my life was the moment I realized that I was not my addiction. That my addiction was a pattern that had developed in my life...and that, no matter how long it took...no matter what obstacles lay in my path...I would overcome them. Nothing would stop me from becoming the person that I knew I was inside. Certainly not the discouragement of others (mostly the recovery community, ironically); but just the same, I never put too much weight on the encouragement of others, either. What I had to do...I knew I had to do on my own. For my own reasons. Not that others didn't play a significant role in my recovery...they did. But it was when I connected to the reality that my future was not in doubt...that, either I was going to spend the rest of my life actively fighting to break free from the addiction...or I was going to die trying. What I experienced was about six months of decreasing rituals...followed by about two years of transition. Of relearning (or, learning for the first time)...the life skills that had been so poorly developed. What I experienced was just what I suspected: that the addiction was not a natural part of who I was; it was a pattern that, when new, healthy patterns were developed--lost its grip on my identity. Now, those same thoughts/behaviors that I once was absolutely convinced were what made me unique...are now completely foreign to me. Likewise, those patterns that have become ingrained--the same patterns that you will be learning in the months to come--feel just as natural to me now as the addiction once did.

I hope that you find yourself experiencing similar things over the coming weeks. Because if you do, you will understand what I mean. Hope is irrelevant. Encouragement is irrelevant. Discouragement is irrelevant. Irrelevant in terms of motivating you to change (or disrupting your motivation to change). Search your heart for the motivation to change...and if it is there...embrace it above all else. Don't let anyone or anything stop you from taking back your life. This applies equally to your inevitable successes and failures in the coming months.

There is a saying that always resonated with me throughout my own recovery. It was on a placemat that I had seen in a thrift store. It's funny...15 cents was never so well spent. The saying: 'Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal." Where you are headed, there is no need for hope. Merely the awareness to identify obstacles, the motivation to learn how to manage them...and the determination to keep moving in the direction that you believe to be the best for your life.

With what you have shared about not thinking that anyone could understand you...I want to invite you to read the first half of He Danced Alone. It is a book I wrote about my own addiction back in the 80's. This is not a book that was written for everyone. In fact, it was written for two groups of people specifically: the partner's of sexual addicts--to give them a look into the irrationality and the progression of sexual addiction; and those with severe addictions, who feel that they are unique in their experiences. As you read this, keep in mind that while the behaviors themselves may be different...see if you can't relate to the minset behind the patterns.

The link is here: http://www.recoverynation.com/general/he_danced.html

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Jon Marsh
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RecoveryNation.com


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 8:16 pm 
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Jon,

Thanks for your prompt response. I remember reading that you tend to make more specific comments to posts where you feel people need the most direction. Is your response to me an example of a situation in which you did not necessarily feel the need to be quite as specific? For example, I've noticed in many of your other responses that you quote specific lines from the person's post and respond directly to them, but there was none of this in your response to me. I hope that I'm not coming across as ungrateful or petulant.

Regarding feedback from others, that is not so much what I was referring to when I expressed my gratitude for the love and support I'm receiving from my friends and family. Most of them actually have had little to say, since I imagine it's difficult to know what to say when most people know nothing about this affliction. And when they have offered any kind of feedback, it's not in the way of advice, but more along the lines of expressing concern and support and love. This, I feel, empowers me and helps focus my intentions. I understand that recovery for the sake of others is bound to fail, and that's not what I'm talking about. But realizing that the love my family and friends have for me is a part of who I am helps me know that there can be something better beyond this, and gives me insight into the person I hope to be when I emerge from recovery. That is, someone capable of providing the same level of love and support to myself and others as these people have shown to me over the past few weeks.

I am looking forward to the moment when I realize that I am not my addiction. In this first month following my admission, it has been very difficult to keep positive and not allow despair to take over. There are times when I feel unworthy of anything good in this life, especially the love and support of my girlfriend who I have wounded more deeply than anyone (save perhaps myself) with this problem. It's also exceedingly difficult at this stage to imagine a life without these rituals, without these corrupted thought processes, and without the pain all of this has caused. I suppose it's still to early for me to totally separate myself from my addiction, because for so long they have been fused into my sense of self.

Conversely, I already feel confident that I will be able to overcome my obstacles. As I have said before, I know I need some guidance and the right tools to help me reform my thinking so that I can find more productive ways to mitigate the difficult emotional toll that stress, loneliness, and other hardships take on me, particularly the long-standing shame for who I feel I am, at least in terms of my addiction.

I do feel as though I have a strong sense of identity independent of my addiction, but perhaps I have allowed this to flourish as a necessary component to the denial I've constructed to suppress my guilt and shame. I do not feel worthless and know that I have affected many in a very positive way. I feel that on many levels, I can understand people and feel compassion and express myself in a very meaningful way. And I believe that many people are not able to (or are afraid to) achieve this kind of candid, emotional expression. Again, this is an example of where I feel that Achilles the "addict" is so incongruous with Achilles the "person."

I'm not sure I really understand what you mean about hope being irrelevant in the quest towards recovery. I know that hope is intangible, and that hope doesn't accomplish anything. Only a firm commitment to action, and then subsequently following though on that commitment, will ever effect any positive changes in life. However, I tend to think of myself as an optimist, and as such, hope has always played an important role in cultivating the motivation I need to take action to achieve my goals. Hope for something better. Hope, I feel, will help me find direction on this path and allow me to continue to motivate myself in a more pragmatic way. It is not a need, but a tool.

Nothing will disrupt my motivation to change. And honestly, Jon, your statement that you ironically received discouragement from the recovery community highlights my concerns about finding some kind of support group and finding the wrong counselor. I have always been very selective in who my friends are and in whom I confide, and feel that I may be exposing myself to unproductive and uninformed, and in some cases completely incorrect/unhealthy, opinions, experiences, and views were I to throw myself into the mixed bag I consider the recovery community to be. Some might think I'm a bit aloof, but I prefer to believe that I care enough about myself to be selective in who I allow to influence me. This is especially critical, I believe, at such a difficult juncture in my life.

Like your placemat, I once received a piece of advice that has always stayed with me. To paraphrase, it goes something like this: "When faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, it becomes necessary to tackle it by setting a series of small goals that will allow you to dismantle it piece by piece. The advantage being that not only can you rejoice in each small victory, but you can avoid being overwhelmed by the obstacle in its entirety." Personally, I'm not sure I believe obstacles are only visible when you take your eyes off the goal, for I've read that nothing good in life is achieved by selecting the path of least resistance. Life is full of obstacles, but I think it's how one responds to them that defines one's character. Of course, and perhaps this is where the meaning in your quote lies, one can only be overwhelmed by the obstacles when the goal becomes obscured.

Thanks again for the time you took to respond to me, Jon. I know you are busy, and I appreciate whatever feedback you might have to offer. It gives me comfort to know that there are real people out there like you who have found happiness after the misery of sexual addiction. Thank you.

Achilles


Last edited by Achilles on Mon May 01, 2006 12:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 2:20 am 
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re: "I've noticed in many of your other responses that you quote specific lines from the person's post and respond directly to them, but there was none of this in your response to me."

Not reading into anything, are ya?! :wink:

For most, my role is fairly simple in that I try to guide them through the workshop. I know that anyone who completes the workshop will have gained the insights (the pieces to the puzzle) necessary to manage their own lives...and so it then becomes a matter of learning to put all of those pieces into place in a functional way.

Every now and then, though...someone comes along with a severe addiction that perceives things a bit differently. They intuitively understand what most others must still learn about their addiction. They may not be able to form these intuitions into words, but when they see them...they relate instantly to them. They've reached a level of addiction severity that can often benefit by a unique approach. To put it bluntly, they remind me of where my mind was at at a particular time in my own addiction/recovery--and for these individuals, I have a bit more to offer in terms of experience and insight. For these individuals, what is important is not the learning that takes place, but the attitude that is in place. You are one of these. Before you set off to 'learn about your addiction'...you will put yourself miles ahead of where you would be otherwise, if you can come to form a healthy and constructive perception of your addiction and your recovery. That is why I didn't pay too much time responding to the specifics of your post. I read it all, but am fairly confident that anything I could have shared with you...you could have shared with yourself just as easily. It is your perceptions that are the critical thing here. And if you can lay the foundation for perceiving your addiction and recovery in a way that I have come to experience it...you will potentially save yourself years of unnecessary struggle.

So, that is why. From what I read, I have the feeling that you are one who might benefit from a more extreme approach to the recovery process. Not that you still don't have to learn the same skills every mature adult must learn...but only that you don't have to stay marred in the early stages of addiction recovery for as long as you would have otherwise. Unless you want to, smile.

And, I could totally be mistaken. I mean, heck...it was only one post that you shared. My perceptions--either way; right or wrong--make you no more or less worthy than anyone else. Just potentially different in terms of the immediate path that you take to recovery. But I will follow your lead from here. If you want to go through all of the preliminaries of recovery, not a problem. But too, if you want to really kick ass in your own recovery...and return later to 'better understand your addiction'...then I think that that is a very real possibility as well. But this is your life...and just the thought of you doing something 'out of the ordinary' is enough to generate a built-in failure response. This is where the attitude comes in. Whether you want to take control of your life now...or, whether you want to go through the motions for a few months...before eventually getting there. Neither decision is a poor one...as there are many ways of transitioning to health. ;-)

But if what I'm picking up is true...and you are really ready to end these patterns for good...there is a route that can save you a lot of unnecessary pain along the way. But it is a path that must be paved with your motivation and commitment to really attack this pattern of addiction.

What is your answer? Actually, you've already made it. If you are sitting there feeling pressure and fear; then your answer is no. You are taking the more stable, long-term approach. This is a good decision. If you are instead thinking, 'This is what I want. I want to attack this...eliminate it from my life. I am at the point where nothing will stop me from developing into the man I know that I am." Then, too...you have made your choice. And it is also a good one.

See? You can't lose. :wink:

If you have about an hour or so...read He Danced Alone and see if you can relate. If you can't, then this whole thing is moot anyway, smile.

re: "that is not so much what I was referring to when I expressed my gratitude for the love and support I'm receiving from my friends and family."

We'll chalk this one up to the limitations of communication over the Internet. My comments had nothing to do with this. I was just making an observation about this site providing you with hope, versus...well, it's an internal versus external locus of control thing. Not important now. :wink:

re: "I've noticed in many of your other responses that you quote specific lines from the person's post..."

And hey, that's three specific quotes I've responded to...I want my credit, lol.

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Jon Marsh
Recovery Coach
RecoveryNation.com


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 5:06 pm 
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Jon,

Thanks for writing back. It's not that I didn't think you read what I wrote. I just wanted to make sure I knew why you said the things you said. So here's your credit! THANK YOU! =)

Re: "Every now and then, though...someone comes along with a severe addiction that perceives things a bit differently. They intuitively understand what most others must still learn about their addiction."

This confuses me. I would think someone with a severe addiction might be so far gone that they don't have as much of a capacity to step back and examine it than someone not as far along. I have certainly been cultivating my problem for many years, but from the stories I've read, it seems as though my situation hasn't progressed as far as some. That is not to say I haven't caused a lot of damage and pain, but I am still in touch with the real me inside.


Re: "For these individuals, what is important is not the learning that takes place, but the attitude that is in place. You are one of these."

What do you mean by this? You were talking about people with severe addictions, but again this statement seems counterintuitive to me. Wouldn't the learning for someone with a more severe addiction be important in addition to the attitude? I guess I'm just a little confused. It sounds like what you're saying is that spending a lot of time trying to figure out why I'm like this will do no good right now, and the important thing is to focus on the recovery itself. What lies ahead, not what lies behind. I know this goes hand in hand with letting go of the guilt/shame, and this is what I'm really trying to do. And I do feel glad and proud that I have finally been honest and turned a corner in my life towards a better place.


Re: "And if you can lay the foundation for perceiving your addiction and recovery in a way that I have come to experience it...you will potentially save yourself years of unnecessary struggle."

I am trying to maintain the healthiest view of recovery I can. It's difficult, because right now I am also grieving for the relationship I lost with the woman I love. She has been VERY supportive through this, which really amazes me. And I think there is a possibility of reconciliation (however small) down the road when she can know that I won't hurt her again. I guess it's hard for me to deal with both of these things at once. It's hard to be optimistic about myself when I feel like I not only have to come to terms with my addiction, but also with losing an absolutely amazing partner. So it's been a struggle to develop the kind of view of recovery I need to. I'm trying to look to the future positively, and I do feel positive about the fact that I will overcome my addiction, but I feel very sad about the loss I've caused for us, and I tend to oscillate from one extreme to the other. I need to find some balance.

Re: "From what I read, I have the feeling that you are one who might benefit from a more extreme approach to the recovery process."

Could you expand upon this? I don't mean chart the course for me, but what do you mean by a "more extreme approach?" When you say that I should not stay marred in the early stages of recovery, is this in reference to what you said before, about focusing on my attitude and motivation rather than delving into the "why's" of my addiction?

Re: "But too, if you want to really kick ass in your own recovery...and return later to 'better understand your addiction'...then I think that that is a very real possibility as well. But this is your life...and just the thought of you doing something 'out of the ordinary' is enough to generate a built-in failure response. This is where the attitude comes in. Whether you want to take control of your life now...or, whether you want to go through the motions for a few months...before eventually getting there."

I do want to kick ass in my recovery, and I don't want to become mired in the preliminaries. I feel that I've already begun to take control and I feel good about that. It's hard to know the pain I've caused my partner, but I also know that this is part of what I have to let go of to move forward. I can't dwell on the past since I'm powerless to change it. I can handle doing something out of the ordinary. I am not interested in going through the motions. That's why I've already made it where I am, I think. It's been one month and two days since I last acted out (porn). I think I've had a couple minor setbacks when I was tempted, or caught myself thinking about things I've done in the past, but I think I'll have to confront these thoughts from time to time, and it's how I respond that will define me going forward.

Re: "But if what I'm picking up is true...and you are really ready to end these patterns for good...there is a route that can save you a lot of unnecessary pain along the way. But it is a path that must be paved with your motivation and commitment to really attack this pattern of addiction."

I am ready to end these patterns for good, and I feel really good about that. I feel like for the first time in my life, I can imagine myself in a happy relationship, not only with someone else, but also with myself. I know that I don't have to feel ashamed anymore and live behind my secrets and deception. Having this burden lifted feels great, but I do feel as though I've traded it for the burden of my remorse for the pain I've caused my girlfriend. It will be hard to let go of this. It's not so much that I feel guilty, because I think of guilt as being associated with my covert behaviors of the past. It's that I feel sincerely sad that I have caused her this pain. She never deserved it. I do hope that there is a time when she can believe in my recovery like I do, but that will take time, if it ever even happens. But I am extremely motivated and committed, and will continue to be. When I set my mind to something and have the resources necessary, I know I can accomplish anything.


Re: "If you are sitting there feeling pressure and fear; then your answer is no. You are taking the more stable, long-term approach. This is a good decision. If you are instead thinking, 'This is what I want. I want to attack this...eliminate it from my life. I am at the point where nothing will stop me from developing into the man I know that I am." Then, too...you have made your choice. And it is also a good one."

I don't feel pressure and fear, but I just don't know if I'm going about this the right way, so I'm nervous I might be making mistakes without realizing it. I know that the hopes I have for a future with my girlfriend are helping motivate my desire to change, and I guess I am a little worried about that after completing the first lesson. But I am not doing this FOR her, so maybe that's the difference. Thinking about her is helping to motivate me, but ultimately I know this is something I have to do, and that I want to do. So I hope that I'm not leaning on that too much. I am not worried that I won't be able to beat this and be happy, but I just want to do it right. In the past, when I tried to do it for the sake of my relationship, I never understood why it was important for my OWN well-being to be successful, and so always failed. I understand now that my life can either be happy and fulfilling and love-filled, or it can be miserable and secretive and shameful. The choice is clear, and I am doing this.



I will read "He Danced Alone." I want to gain as much insight as I can into this and strategies I might use to battle it. Thanks again for all you've said, and for taking the time to care about what I'm doing.

Achilles


Last edited by Achilles on Mon May 01, 2006 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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re: "I would think someone with a severe addiction might be so far gone that they don't have as much of a capacity to step back and examine it than someone not as far along."

You would think that this would be the case...but from experience, this isn't what happens. Think of it from the point of someone with high blood pressure...and from someone with heart disease who has had survived their first major heart attack. Most people with addiction would be considered in the 'high blood pressure' group. The current patterns they exhibit are significant and place their lives in danger. But inside, the reality of losing their lives isn't really 'real'. They haven't emotionally connected to how real and devastating the consequences of this high blood pressure can be. And so, they only 'sort of' commit to becoming healthier. They eat better for awhile...exercise more regularly for awhile...but when push comes to shove, these are often the first values to be reprioritized. It's easier to pick up a cheeseburger on the way home from work than it is to cook a healthy meal when you get home. It is easier to watch their favorite show than to take a walk around the block. Dealing with their high blood pressure is done out of convenience, not committment.

Now, for some...those who have had major heart attacks or severe heart disease...the reality of losing their lives is much clearer. These are the ones who often display the greatest aptitude for making rapid, permanent change to their lives. These are the ones who no longer get lost in the fog of what degree of heart disease they may have...or, what may have caused it...or, whatever. All they care about is the immediacy of reversing the heart disease. And the patterns that they put into place are not ones of convenience, they are ones that shift the foundation of how they perceive their lives.

Severe addiction has these same properties. For some, because their addiction is so severe...they no longer have to take the time to understand all of the preliminary things associated with addiction and recovery. Instead, they can jump right into changing their life. There is no confusion between what they want and what is healthy. They have come to the point in their life where there only option is to do whatever it takes to regain that health. And being at that point helps so much with clarity and commitment. Similar to the person who has suffered the heart attack being able to connect to each bite of food they take and its direct impact on either feeding into the heart disease...or fighting against it; those with severe addictions can see each action they take in that same light.

And yes, those with milder addictions have this same option, but historically, they don't take advantage of it.

Does that make sense?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 6:19 pm 
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Jon,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. And yes, this analogy does make sense, in a particularly relevant way for me.

I have battled my weight for most of my life, and have had some success. About 6 years ago, I lost 60 pounds by modifying my lifestyle (not by a fad diet). I kept the weight off for about two years until I moved to Europe for a semester abroad and threw my whole routine off. Since then, I've gained almost all the weight back, but in the last three months, with my long-term health in mind, I have resolved to become healthier. I have lost 25 pounds already and am eating very well.

Another reason I bring this up is because my motivations and commitment to my health, both when I lost that weight before, and with my new lifestyle changes, employ a long-term approach. This is atypical considering my need for instant gratification. I feel that if I'm able to transpose this approach from my physical health to my mental and emotional health, I will have a strong starting point. I'm going to try to keep this in mind.

I see what you mean now that for some, the severity of their condition can promote a rapid transition to recovery and will serve as real, long-term motivation to be healthy. It's a bit discouraging, using my comparison, that I regained the weight I lost originally, but I know what I need to do now, and am much more conscientious of both my physical and mental/emotional health. I believe that I have received a stark wakeup call, and that I know my life as I was leading it was bound for disaster. I mean, it's already had disastrous consequences, but I'm glad I'm confronting this now rather than having waited one single day more.

It's time, and I KNOW I can do this.

Thanks for clarifying. I appreciate what you've said.

Achilles


Last edited by Achilles on Mon May 01, 2006 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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re: "It's a bit discouraging, using my comparison, that I regained the weight I lost originally..."

It should be anything but. If you look at the situation that surrounded your regaining the weight...it should reinforce your confidence that your future has nothing to do with 'can you or can't you' end your addiction. It has instead to do with whether or not you will make it a priority to. Also, that is the reason to establish an effective health monitoring program to maintain the changes that you are making. To ensure that, when complacency does set in...that the patterns themselves never have the ability to re-ingrain.

That is what I mean by 'permanently ending your addiction'. It's not to suggest that addiction patterns won't redevelop. With complacency, it is possible that they will. But too, with confidence and experience...and just a titch of ongoing awareness...your ability to stave off any relapse patterns is not difficult. It's only when you abandon your awareness (of your values, your priorities, the consequences of your actions, the responsibility for your life) altogether when you are at risk.

re: "Thanks for getting back to me so quickly."
Yeah, I wouldn't expect that too often, smile.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 1:23 pm 
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Jon,

What you have said, again, makes a lot of sense.

Re: "It has instead to do with whether or not you will make it a priority to."

I have made both my physical and mental/emotional health a priority. I know I cannot continue on the crash-course I was on before and still be happy. All I've ever wanted from my life, since I tend to be somewhat of an idealist, is happiness. Everyone, I think, wants to be happy. But for me, I believe that my happiness will induce everything else to fall into place, while I think a lot of other people see it the other way around....that they have to have everything in place before they can be happy. This is a priority for me.

Re: "Also, that is the reason to establish an effective health monitoring program to maintain the changes that you are making. To ensure that, when complacency does set in...that the patterns themselves never have the ability to re-ingrain."

I can see this. As I said in my initial posting, I think I've always been in danger of complacency since I'm used to things coming easy for me. That, coupled with my need, in most cases, for immediate gratification, has allowed me to avoid doing what is important for myself for too long. I haven't really looked at "My Recovery Manager" yet, but after reading your post, I think I'll take a look and see if I can put that to use to help monitor myself. But I think I have already been doing a pretty good job of looking after myself and being responsible and committed to what I'm doing. I have fended off a couple of urges (surprising to me how infrequent they are so soon after my admission) and have identified, as I said, some moments I'd consider to be setbacks where my thoughts wandered to past actions. But in identifying them, I have realized that I have the power to stop them, and this feels really good.

Re: "...with confidence and experience...and just a titch of ongoing awareness...your ability to stave off any relapse patterns is not difficult. It's only when you abandon your awareness (of your values, your priorities, the consequences of your actions, the responsibility for your ife) altogether when you are at risk."

I will keep this in mind, and I feel I have allowed my thoughts to trick me for a long time. Instead of being the person I know I am, I have been someone content to perpetuate a pattern of bad decisions. I am stronger than that, and I know it. I think it took this realization, and my honesty FINALLY, to help me see this. As long as I don't marginalize this new awareness (which I will not), I will be in good shape.

I feel encouraged and strong. Thanks Jon.

Now, on to lesson two...

Achilles


Last edited by Achilles on Mon May 01, 2006 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2006 12:57 am 
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It's been ten days since I last posted. I was away on business last week in Seattle, which had its up's and down's. Unfortunately, I was not able to spend much time online, and thus was unable to proceed with the lessons here. I lament this fact, because I feel a bit off track and somewhat lost again.

Last Thursday was very difficult. My ex-girlfriend, who posts here in the partner's forum, was supposed to come to Seattle on Thursday night after my last day of training so we could spend the weekend together. Since I don't remember how much I've already said about her, she is amazing and has been very supportive since I admitted my addiction about 7 weeks ago. Her love for me is vast and unwavering, which only serves to reinforce my grief at what this addiction has caused us to lose. But it also fills me with hope that one day, once we have both healed, she will be able to fall in love with me again. She is going to move out after nearly 5 years of living together, but I know she needs to do this for herself, and that I need to focus on myself.

But anyway, we are still best friends and still have a lot of love for one another. So she was going to come to Seattle to spend the weekend with me so we could forge some good new memories in a place not filled with unhappy places and associations. She missed her flight on Thursday night (the last of the evening), and called me in my hotel telling me she wouldn't be able to make it until Friday around noon. I was devastated. I know it doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but I had been looking forward to this visit since we planned it (as had she), and all week while I was there alone I was eagerly anticipating her arrival Thursday night. It wasn't hard to avoid acting out all week, but after she and I got off the phone and I was faced with the frustration and depression that what I wanted most (to see her) would be postponed, the urge to act out was overwhelming.

I wanted to tell my fingers no as they typed in the web addresses, but I couldn't stop myself. It had been 40 days. I was angry at myself even as I began looking at porn online. It was scary to feel the rush of adrenaline or endorphins or whatever chemical my brain was releasing shoot through my body. I've never injected drugs, but I imagine that's what it feels like. An instant, full body experience that numbs you and consumes everything so that you can escape the present. I stopped for a while and felt horrible. I told myself that was it. I had my one slip and that was it. But later I was compelled again, and reasoning that the damage was already done, convinced myself to look again, this time for a bit longer.

I realize now why this happened, but it's still hard to accept. Finding out she wasn't coming Thursday night was a big disappointment for me. I wanted her there right then. Not the next day. Since my need for immediate gratification would not be met by her arrival that night, I desperately needed something to fill the void and distract me/make me feel better. So I turned to porn, the old standby. I need to learn healthier responses.

I went to sleep that night feeling dejected, lost, and utterly horrible. I felt like I failed, like the previous 40 days had been meaningless.

When she arrived in Seattle the next morning, I knew I had to tell her, but I was terrified because I didn't want to ruin the trip. I mean, she had just flown nearly 2000 miles so that we could spend a weekend together in a place not marred by bad memories, and I needed to tell her I had slipped the night before. I wrestled with whether to tell her immediately or wait, but finally decided to tell her. She actually took it better than I expected, which helped ease some of my guilt. She was supportive and loving, and explained that this was a perfect illustration of why she can only be my friend right now and had to sever romantic ties with me. The pain of such a slip if she was romantically involved with me would be too great. Of course she's sad for me, but took note of one positive development: that I now really believe that I cannot do this alone. That I need some real help. I think before I thought my will alone could carry me through this. And while my will is strong and I am so motivated to beat this, I know now that it will take more than that. I have a lot to learn.

The weekend ended up being really nice. We did a lot of talking, and I did a lot of crying. Sometimes I'm afraid that she's too focused on supporting me and not focused enough on her own pain and grief, but I hope that she will find a way to express this and heal from it. She is so much stronger than I think she even knows, but it will be difficult for her to let this pain out, I think. I want all the best for her.

So I'm still reeling from this slip, wondering what it means and whether it's indicative of a larger failure on my part. It's hard not to get even more down on myself than I was before since I really believed I could just decide to stop this now that I had been honest. I still feel the strength and motivation to continue, but my confidence is shaken.

I read lesson 2 just now and intended to respond, but I'm exhausted and need to get to bed. I'll respond tomorrow. I just needed to get this out because it's been really hard for me to think about this slip. I need to press on, but there are moments it all just seems so overwhelming. Like it will be impossible to let go of the shame and guilt. But I know I must. That first step can be the hardest.

Achilles


Last edited by Achilles on Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2006 7:14 pm 
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I have read your thread and I can relate to what you are experiencing. In my experience, the addiction can be overwhelming at times. You have great honesty with what you see in yourself with the addiction, and that is important. I have read JonÂ’s book, and do read it, as well as other ones, and especially the material here in the workshop and they all work really well. I printed out the material for each of the lessons in the workshop and high lighted the important aspects that related to me.

Re:Ââ€Â


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2006 12:59 pm 
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Thanks for your reply Angus.

I do feel good about my decision to tell my xGF about my slip, even though it was really hard. It showed me that I don't have to be bound by secrecy any longer, and hopefully being open with her about everything will help show her that she may be able to trust me again one day. It does make me feel stronger that I was able to share this, but the fact that the slip occurred in the first place is discouraging.

My issues with immediate gratification are deeply ingrained, and will probably be the most difficult thing to change relating to my addiction. I have gotten a lot better in the past few years at dealing with my frustration when things don't go my way, but there are times when it still really tears me up inside. I have really tried to change the way I outwardly express my frustration, because I know it has grave effects on the people around me, but I think now I need to work on the inward expression of that frustration. Generally, I have managed by rationalizing my way through difficult moments when immediate gratification is impossible. But this doesn't always work when it's particularly severe, or when I get past a certain point (and I'm not just talking about acting out...I'm talking about general frustrations in life).

There are times when I can feel overwhelmed by even the most trivial tasks when I feel ineffective and impotent. For example, last week in Seattle we had a difficult time deciding what to do for dinner Saturday night, and as it got later and later, I found myself increasingly down and frustrated with myself for not being able to just snap out of my funk and make a decision. It's like a snowball effect for me when I start to get frustrated when immediate gratification isn't possible. This is why I know I need to work on my inward response to difficulties that arise which prevent me form having what I want exactly when I want it.

I think this is the biggest trigger area for me. You mentioned that it's still hard for you to be in the house alone, and I've heard others say that signing on to the internet, for example, can trigger strong urges. This is not the case for me. However, I think my acting out has pretty much always been caused by a need for immediate gratification. Any time I wanted it, I could sign online and look at porn, or chat with people, etc. It was always there, day or night, and so it became a trusted source of happiness for me. It fulfilled my need for immediate gratification for this reason. I don't even think that I usually acted out as a direct response to other frustrations/stresses, but rather as a cumulative coping strategy for managing my life. It was one of the few things I could ALWAYS count on as a constant in my life, and that was comforting. Then I would get myself trapped in the addictive cycle, in which shame and guilt over acting out spurred the need for greater comfort, and since no one knew about what I was doing, I would take comfort in what was familiar, what was always there for me, and what would never judge/abandon me.

Right now, it's scary to try to imagine my life without ever seeking solace in this comfort again...but that's the emotional response. Rationally, however, I understand that what Jon has said is true, that when the commitment to change is enacted and positive results start happening, the addiction loses its grip and you can begin to envision happiness without this crutch. Ironically, this crutch is what cripples me in the first place. And I know as I progress, this rational view will begin to pervade my emotional response to all of this, and instead of just knowing I will be happy, I will actually become happy.

I'm really looking forward to that.


Last edited by Achilles on Mon May 01, 2006 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 1:21 am 
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re: "Right now, it's scary to try to imagine my life without ever seeking solace in this comfort again" and "And I know as I progress, this rational view will begin to pervade my emotional response to all of this, and instead of just knowing I will be happy, I will actually become happy."

I want to be careful here to point out an important aspect of 'life beyond addiction'. You may have read about it previously, and you are sure to come across it in the future...

Life beyond addiction, by itself, will not lead to happiness. Or satisfaction. Or serenity. Or peace. Of fulfillment. In some cases, it will be harder for you (at first) because you are there standing alone with only courage and commitment to help you manage your life (as opposed to escape and delusion). Of course you'd be scared. It's those who aren't scared that make me worry that they fully don't understand the processes they are engaged in. Those are the ones who hold on to the belief/hope (based on immediate gratification) that a particular magical insight or recovery approach will allow them to replace their addictions with happiness and fulfillment. That just isn't going to happen.

All that you are doing by ending your addiction is putting yourself in a position to build a healthy life. You still have to do the building. All of the skills that were either taught to you poorly or, that you were never exposed to or, that you learned dyfunctionally....those are all skills that are sitting out there to be relearned. With you acting as the parent...and the child. There is no mystery here. To be happy, you have to take the reigns of your own life and learn how to live a happy life. It's not hard and the workshop will lay the foundation for that. But don't fall into the trap of thinking that ending your addiction will make you happy. It won't. Not by itself. The happiness will come from the steps that you take once you are free from the chains of deception, secrecy, isolation, shame, conflict, regret, anxiety and all of the other obstacles that come to dominate an addicted lifestyle.

I know that it is hard to take that leap of faith. And I certainly don't want to say anything that convinces you to do so. When you jump, it must come from a time when you look at your identity and just know. Now is the time. I'm ready. I'm scared, but I'm ready...and nothing is going to stop me from succeeding in transitioning my life from active addiction/active recovery to one where I am building and managing a healthy life.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 10:50 am 
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Hi Jon,

Thanks for your reply.

Once again, I think we'll have to chalk this one up to the limitations of e-communication. From your response, I think perhaps I wasn't clear enough, or maybe you just misinterpreted what I meant.

About being scared, I know this must be normal for someone in my position. I've found myself at the precipice of major life changes before, and it's never easy. But as I've alluded before, I believe that it is one's response to such adversity that truly defines his character. It's unfortunate that so many bits of wisdom become cliche, but I really believe that the easiest path is never the best. I can even honestly reflect on my own life, when I have chosen a relatively easy path, and acknowledge that perhaps I would have been better served by challenging myself more.

I once read a quote that I think of when I read some of the things you've said about how, in some senses, you're glad that you experienced your addiction because it's made you appreciate your healthy life that much more. I can't remember who said this, or if I'm quoting perfectly, but it goes something like "There is more to be learned from one day of hardship than a lifetime of apparent happiness and success." This has significant meaning for me. While I have been complacent at times, I can also look at moments in my life where I faced great challenges, and by really meeting these head-on rather than ignoring them or avoiding them, I became a stronger person.

I know there will be no magical cure; no easy path. This has become especially obvious to me after last week's slip.

I also understand that recovery and health are not a destination, but rather an ongoing process of reassessing and reprioritizing my values and teaching myself how to be the person I want to be. When I say I "will become happy," I do not mean that one day I will wake up and all of this will be over. Rather, I mean I will find the same type of happiness you describe in your Thanksgiving post. I read it last night, and for me Jon, it's the most poignant piece of your writing I've yet come across.

Yesterday was a good day for me. I did a lot of thinking, and believe I am beginning to really think actively about my recovery. There are times during my day when I think about my past, or when an urge hits, and at those moments I start applying what I have already learned in both the lessons and from bits of wisdom other people, including you, have shared in these forums.

I wrote this in my post on Feb. 3:

"All I've ever wanted from my life, since I tend to be somewhat of an idealist, is happiness. Everyone, I think, wants to be happy. But for me, I believe that my happiness will induce everything else to fall into place, while I think a lot of other people see it the other way around....that they have to have everything in place before they can be happy. This is a priority for me."

I remind you of this philosophy of mine in response to your statement:

"Life beyond addiction, by itself, will not lead to happiness..."

This is why I firmly believe in emphasizing the small successes and finding happiness in what I'm doing. Feeling proud, despite my shame and guilt, that I am finally addressing this problem. It goes back to what I said about breaking down huge challenges into more manageable pieces so that why I tackle one part, I can revel in the success.

I don't believe that my recovery will bring me happiness. Rather, I believe my happiness will help me work through recovery towards health. And then I will find myself caught up in a cycle of success rather than one of failure and shame. A cycle in which my happiness motivates me to embrace my recovery, and my success in recovery brings me more happiness.

Thanks for your thoughts, as always, Jon.

Achilles


Last edited by Achilles on Mon May 01, 2006 12:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 6:10 pm 
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re: "Once again, I think we'll have to chalk this one up to the limitations of e-communication."

Actually, I'm going to take more responsibility than that. One distinct flaw in my responses is that in almost all cases, I read what is shared...post by post...line by line. This is done more out of necessity than preference. To try to keep everyone's posts in line with the context of their recovery would be impossible. For me, at least. And so, two common things occur: one is that I consistently forget individual processes (like, "I will add some additional thoughts tomorrow." and when tomorrow comes around, I totally forget who I said that about!). This is the other: I focus on individual thoughts, without putting them into the context of that unique person's recovery. Again, believe me, this isn't by preference...but rather, it is due to my own limitations in being able to process so many people over such a relatively short time. There are some positives to this though. Namely, it allows me to be objective as I often just respond to thoughts shared, not the people who share them. I certainly cannot be influenced by the person posting (e.g. whether I like them or not...whether they are manipulating me or not) if I'm not really that aware of who is posting. It's twisted logic, but it works!

This is what happened here. Took one or two lines and isolated them from the context of what I know about your recovery. I'm glad (I really am) that you continue to call me on this...and not just accept whatever I have to say. And, I will make you this promise. Since you care enough to clarify your points (when it was I who missed the initial point to begin with); I will consciously keep your name in mind when I respond to your thread to reduce this error in the future. Though I reserve the right to continue to screw up on everyone else threads, smile...

Now watch, I'll get a hundred messages from others telling me I 'missed the point'. :wink:

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