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PostPosted: Thu Jun 22, 2006 1:32 pm 
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I've had a tough week.

Pilar is away with a friend, and I'm really trying to see these moments as opportunities to really test myself and my recovery. Sadly, I am still having trouble at times, and this week has not been that good to me.

I find that despite my best efforts to follow my action plans, there are still times when either it doesn't work, or I trick myself out of enacting them. For example, currently I carry a copy of my list of values in my pocket at all times, and part of my plan centers on reading it when I'm confronted with urges. But since it has not always been successful in preventing me from slipping, I engage in mind games and trick myself into thinking it won't help, so then I don't do it.

Last night was really disappointing for me. I had a series of smaller slips on Monday (again with the inappropriate internet search terms opening the door to looking at inappropriate web pages), but since then, have been feeling fairly strong. Yesterday I got through some relatively minor urges early in the day, focusing on staying busy and positive. It was a good day until I sat down at the computer late last night to write my mom a quick e-mail. As soon as I signed on, I started to feel anxious. I tried to muscle my way through it, yet even as it became more apparent that this was not some little trifle of an urge, I did not pull out my values list, nor did I interrupt the action of using the internet by shutting off the computer and leaving the room. Mind games took over.

When all was said and done, I sat at the computer for about an hour looking at porn and masturbating. It's the most intense slip I've had since April when Pilar was away at a friend's wedding. Particularly disappointing is that I feel like I could have beaten it had I made the rational choice instead of the emotional one. I saw it at that moment, and despite all I've learned and possessing a fairly strong understanding of my compulsive patterns, I STILL allowed myself to believe that immediate gratification was more important than doing the right thing, delaying my gratification, and in so doing, upholding my values. While I certainly hadn't planned to act out, this instance is really damaging to my self-confidence because I feel like I saw both paths clearly, but still chose the wrong one because of the overwhelming emotional need to do so.

In talking to Pilar about this, I feel like I've drawn some significant conclusions that will hopefully help. I find that when confronting urges, I tend to approach it by weighing the emotional aspects of the decision whether to act out or not. The major problem with that is obvious to anyone who has battled this addiction. The need for IMMEDIATE emotional gratification can so easily overpower an understanding that by overcoming the urge, DELAYED emotional gratification will occur. And in those moments, it doesn't even seem to matter that the delayed gratification is so much more satisfying, fulfilling, and just plain good. The immediate anxiety will not be assuaged by delaying gratification, and only when the urge passes can one enjoy the benefits of waiting through it. So therefore, in those pivotal moments, it cannot compete because emotionally, it's more difficult to wait for comfort and gratification.

This is where one of Pilar's suggestions comes into play. She has told me (and I know RN advocates this approach, too) that instead of making these emotional decisions, I must simply take action. It cannot be something that is done only sometimes, or that is weighed each time an urge arises to judge it's potential efficacy. It must become an ingrained behavior that is used to combat urges. So I MUST read my values list, and I MUST remove myself form the situation temporarily in order to give myself a fighting chance. Then, as the emotions begin to subside, I will be able to begin experiencing the delayed gratification that comes with overcoming an urge.

So I can see where this would have helped last night, as I said, and that's why I'm disappointed that I didn't take the action that I believed could have gotten me through that urge. It must just become my new pattern, even though it's hard.

Dealing with urges at work can be more difficult, because it's not always easy for me to leave my computer and re-direct my focus. I've tried to just keep myself as busy as possible, but obviously there are times when that doesn't work. I need to come up with some alternatives.

So here I am today, feeling the very same feelings I've always felt after acting out. The "why did I do that" type of remorse, guilt, and shame. It's awful, and in these moments it's easiest to view my addiction rationally and tell myself that I just need to remember how short-lived immediate gratification is, and what soon replaces it. Despair. Self-loathing. Sadness. Disappointment. All so easy to think about when in a rational state of mind, but so much more difficult when emotionally-charged thoughts are racing in my brain.

I must keep working at this. I suppose I thought I'd be farther nearly six months from disclosure and beginning the recovery process. When I'm caught up in feeling badly after slipping, that's when it's hardest to feel like I've made any progress at all. But I'm trying to force myself to focus on changes I have made and progress I know has occurred. I'm being totally honest with Pilar, which is big. I can recognize that, despite looking at porn last night, I still didn't combine it with chatting, as I would have likely done in the past, so that's progress, too. And I'm thinking about all of this stuff a lot, gradually teaching myself skills to ingrain more healthy patters of behavior. Hopefully remembering things like this will help sustain me through hard times.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 25, 2006 6:09 am 
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I know I've hurt Pilar deeply. My past actions are a source of intense shame and guilt for me. I have been trying SO hard to change me life... To become an honest, trustworthy, and faithful person. Tonight, I told Pilar that I talked to a friend of mine about my addiction a month ago the day after she told me she never wanted to see me again. I know I should have told her sooner. I feel like a jerk and an idiot for not doing so, but honestly, there have been so many things going on in my head since then that I haven't even thought about it. Understandably, Pilar takes this as indication that I'm still not thinking about her. No matter how she chooses to express that to me, I still fell horrible, because I have been trying so hard to think of her all the time... To uphold my values, one of which is being an honest and loving partner to her.

I am so sorry, Pilar, that I haven't done the right thing in every situation. I want so badly to do everything right and make you feel loved and respected and cherished. I DO understand why you're upset, and I promise to keep working on my shortcomings. I'm sorry.

Me


Last edited by Achilles on Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:21 am 
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Hi Jon,

It's great to see you back on RN, and from what I've seen, the site looks great. Thanks so much for all the work you've done to make this such a wonderful resource.

My summer has flown by, as they have a tendency of doing. It's been mostly pretty wonderful, as a lot of positive changes have been happening for me. There are still struggles and moments when I feel I could do better, but after 8 months in recovery, I feel I've come much further than I imagined I would be able to in the beginning (even though I've been pretty optimistic from the outset). I suppose the difference now is that I have a much more realistic perception of my recovery and what it will necessitate than I previously did, and I still feel as though it will be possible for me to continue working towards health.

I have had some set-backs in the past few months, but they have been less frequent and severe as the summer has progressed, and that feels good. One very useful tool I began employing in early July is an internet log that I keep in a small notebook that goes everywhere with me. Since almost all of my acting out either focused on or was catalyzed by internet use, keeping a detailed record of search terms enterd, sites visited, and time spent there has been an INVALUABLE tool in keeping me accountable to myself, particualrly at times when I may be accountable to no one else. The dread I experience thinking about having to log an inappropriate webstie in my book causes me to really focus on my values and examine exactly WHY I feel so negatively about having to log such activity. This has been the best tool I've come up with myself to keep me focused and motivated.

I've also taken up some healthy pursuits and re-connected with some old hobbies that brought me a lot of joy in the past. In July, I began a ceramics class after a nearly 6-year hiatus from working with clay. I took a couple courses in college and loved it, so it was wonderful getting back in the studio and feeling productive. The class just ended last week, but I enrolled in another which begins on September 13th, so I'm looking forward to that. I've also been doing a lot of biking. The lakefront bike path in Chicago is phenomenal, which has made this even more enjoyable. Throughout the spring, I thought about getting my bike fixed up (it needed a new tire), but I just kept putting it off. Finally I got it fixed and I can't believe I waited as long as I did! Both of these things have made me feel productive and healthy, and I feel good about finding positive sources of happiness rather than relying on artificial and detrimental ones.

In general, I've been feeling stronger and more independent as well. Pilar and I have made a lot of progress in our relationship. There are still no certainties about our future, but we are communicating more effectively every day, and I am doing my best to be a good friend to her. I feel like my relationship with myself has also been improving. I'm getting better at making myself feel better when I'm frustrated or upset, or when Pilar and I have a disagreement. I'm not perfect at this, but when I think about how incapacitated these feelings used to make me, I know I've come a long way. I feel SO much more optimistic about my life now than I ever remember feeling. It's so amazing to know that living a healthy life is possible!

I have a lot more to talk about, but I know you will have a lot of catching up to do. Pilar is heading out of town for a week tomorrow, so I plan to spend some time here taking a look at some of my old posts, reflecting on where I've been, and continuing to take steps forward. When I think about how much I've learned here and how helpful it has been, I can't even believe I've made it through fewer than half of the lessons! Imagining what I might learn from the remainder makes me excited.

Thanks again for everything, Jon. I'm really looking forward to using RN as a tool again, because I think my recovery has been going really well, and this will help me as I continue moving forward. You'll be hearing from me again soon =)

Take care.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 06, 2006 12:21 pm 
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Advanced Lesson 7

Learning to measure your own compulsive behavior is a challenging, but rewarding task. The most difficult part in mastering this skill is to not get caught up in the mechanics of it all--to not get lost in the numbers. Ideally, you will allow yourself to focus on the WHY of what you are doing, rather than the WHAT.

Why then, are you learning this? You are learning it to put a functional awareness on a previous 'black hole' that was a compulsive act. You are learning it so that, rather than answer 'I don't know' to the inevitable question, "Why did I just do that?!"; you will gain the ability of understanding not only why you did that, but why you did it in the exact manner that you did. Learning to measure your compulsive behavior allows you to mechanically objectify a uniquely subjective experience.


This lesson really slowed me down last spring when I first read it. The concept made sense, but its application seemed really arbitrary and confusing. After reading the lesson in June, I was discouraged and didn't respond to it right away, and then more and more time passed and it was just sitting there, looming in the path of my recovery =) Ok, not really, but it did seem like an obstacle. I thought about perhaps skipping this lesson so I wouldn't use it as an excuse to quit doing work here, but I'm glad I came back to it.

Today when I read it, I took notes on the procedures for quantifying the aspects of each ritualistic element and their filters, and so by the time I was done reading, I wasn't confused. It made it a lot simpler, and I would encourage anyone struggling with the complexity of the procedures in this lesson to try taking notes as they read.

I want to address a specific passage in the first part of the lesson, too, because it hit home for me.

Quote:
In addiction, the ability to achieve emotional balance through healthy means just isn't there. It can be, but the skills have not yet been mastered. And so, emotions are experienced as 'all or nothing'--the individual either feels good or they don't. And if they don't, their idea of 'balancing' their emotions, is to feel good again.


One reason I'm glad to be back here is because it helps keep a lot of the concepts in the front of my mind. This quote, for example, made me think about how, indeed, my idea of "balancing" my emotions has always been to make myself feel "good." This summer, I've been working REALLY hard to create stability for myself by engaging in healthy activities that bring me satisfaction. Additionally, I've been striving to mitigate the emotional depths to which I sink when frustrated or upset about something that happens so the result isn't as extreme. I've been accomplishing this by trying to keep an accurate and rational perspective on the issue that is making me feel negatively, as well as remaining focused on my values. For example, when Pilar and I have a falling out, I can sense that emotionally, I want her to comfort me and make it all better. Rationally, though, I know increasingly that I have the ability to regain my footing, make positive choices, and gradually pull myself up from feeling depressed and dejected by being realistic about the situation. I don't feel like I'm articulating this very well, but I can feel a change in my approach, and it doesn't just involve a pendulous swing from very negative feelings back towards feeling "good." It's a more gradual and deliberate process wherein I am concerned with that process just as much as the result.

A. Use the following form to assist you in measuring a compulsive behavior: Measuring Compulsive Behavior

I decided to combine two ritualistic chains that I often used in conjunction with each other: porn and chat. There were many times I viewed porn without chatting, but seldom did I chat without viewing porn. So I have used porn viewing as my primary ritualistic chain, with chat as the secondary chain.

Porn Chain:

Fantasy 3 - time 10, intensity 10, habit 5 = 75
Sensory (visual) 2 - time 8, intensity 10, habit 7 = 50
Suspense 2 - time 6, intensity 10, habit 6 = 44
Power 2 - time 5, intensity 6, habit 8 = 38
Accomplishment 2 - time 9, intensity 7, habit 9 = 50
Sensory (touch) 1 - time 10, intensity 7, habit 8 = 25
Orgasm 1 - time 10, intensity 10, habit 4 = 24

TOTAL = 306/7 = 43.71

Chat Chain:

Fantasy 3 - time 10, intensity 10, habit 10 = 90
Suspense 2 - time 7, intensity 10, habit 10 = 54
Danger 2 - time 6, intensity 5, habit 10 = 42
Power 2 - time 8, intensity 8, habit 6 = 44
Accomplishment 2 - time 9, intensity 6, habit 7 = 44
Past 2 - time 4, intensity 5, habit 6 = 30
Sensory (visual) 1 - time 4, intensity 8, habit 7 = 19
Sensory (touch) 1 - time 10, intensity 10, habit 8 = 28
Orgasm 1 - time 10, intensity 10, habit 6 = 26

TOTAL = 377/16 = 23.56

Looking at the way that chat added to the intensity of my ritualistic chains, it becomes easier for me to see how I was then lured to start meeting people offline as a means of intensifying the rituals even further. Each chain was added in order to intensify my "high," but porn was the first one for me, stretching back to early adolescence.

B. Share in your own words what the purpose of measuring compulsive behavior is. What benefits might there be to your learning such a skill?

I think a major benefit to measuring compulsive behavior is the cultivation of one's ability to really deconstruct his compulsive rituals to see why they began and what chains led to other, potentially more destructive and damaging ones. The totals for each compulsive chain do not really mean much on their own, but are a good way to see their relative relationship to each other. For example, when I was putting together each of these chains for this exercise, I was surprised when the total for all of the triangles in the chat chain exceeded the total for the porn chain. Given that porn was my primary means of acting out, I would have figured it would have a higher total than chatting would provide. But then when I added up each triangle's total and divided by the number of triangles, I realized the porn total WAS higher because there were fewer triangles by which to divide that total. And that was even before combining the chains and dividing the chat total by 16 elements (including the 7 elements from porn) as opposed to just the 9 elements from chat. So it appears as though this exercise correctly described the relationship of these compulsive behaviors to one another, and in comparison to one another.

The other major benefit this exercise provides, I think, is moral support in the form of understanding. It's always scarier to approach something you don't understand or that seems really complex, but by breaking down compulsive chains in this manner, they seem much less daunting and invincible. And I have clues now for what areas I need to address in building healthy alternatives to these activities that previously made me feel "good."

I'm glad I stuck it out and finally conquered this lesson!

Achilles


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:48 am 
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I've been thinking about it, and I think for my porn chain I could switch sensory (visual) into the primary category and shift fantasy into the secondary one, and maybe this would be more accurate. It's kind of a chicken and the egg type issue, because while visual stimulation definitely led to fantasy, I also feel like my initial fantasies and compulsions spurred me to seek out visual stimulus.

Because of the values I attributed to each filter, though, the total remains the same whether I switch the two elements or not, so it doesn't really affect the degree of compulsive "satisfaction" I derived from the act, which seems interesting in itself.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 2:30 pm 
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This past week has had some up's and down's, and as I've been teaching myself, I'm really trying to focus on the positive while still being attentive to the negative.

Pilar was out of the country for the whole week, and for half of that was totally incommunicado, as she was in a place without internet and accessible phone connections. Not only was it the longest separation we've had since I began my recovery, but it was also the only time it was impossible for me to reach her. Going into it, I was cautiously optimistic, though I felt some anxiety at feeling so far away from her.

The first part of last week went pretty well, and usually it's been near the beginning of Pilar's absences when I've struggled the most with urges and slips. I made it through my week at home alone with success, busying myself with projects around the apartment, biking, going to the ceramics studio, reading and posting here, and just relaxing a little. It felt good, and as the week went on, my anxiety levels diminished noticeably.

Last Friday, I flew home to visit family and to participate in a memorial gathering for my grandmother, who passed away last winter. This made me a little nervous, because the most prolonged single instance of acting out I ever experienced surrounded the difficult emotions I encountered a few years ago when I went home for my grandfather's memorial. I found that thinking about that in relation to this trip was a big trigger for feelings of shame and guilt, so I tried hard to think about the positive progress I've made since then and how managing my emotions in a healthy way this time around would be a tremendous achievement for me.

To make matters more difficult, I haven't really spoken with my father in about a year (my parents are divorced, and the memorial was for my mother's mother) and was having really conflicting feelings about whether to contact him or not. I have two young half sisters (9 and 7) who I love very much, and missing out on a year of their lives because of problems I have with my dad has been really eating me up. All last week, I wrestled with whether to call him and tell him I would be home, and by Friday night when I arrived, I still hadn't contacted him. Saturday morning, I was feeling really...trapped, I guess is the best way to describe it. There was no good solution I could imagine. Either I'd have to deal with it and call him so I could see my sisters, or I could let the opportunity slip away.

Looking back, I think that I failed to adequately protect myself from the anxiety and stress I experienced as a result of the situation with my father because I was preoccupied with carefully managing my emotions related to my grandmother and dealing with my grief over her death. It's frustrating because I feel like I've gotten a lot better at putting difficult emotions in perspective and reacting to them more rationally and with greater stability, but I let myself get overwhelmed this past weekend and tried to take on too much at once without giving my emotional turmoil enough respect. On Saturday afternoon, I slipped and looked at porn online for about 10 minutes, but was fortunately interrupted by the arrival of my mother from work. Had she not shown up, I believe I would have looked for longer in order to escape for the unpleasant reality that I would have to face my dad in order to see my sisters.

My relationship with him is really complicated, and I don't know what to do about it. I always thought of us as close as I grew up, and even though he and my mom were divorced, they remained friends and I had as close to a "normal" family as someone from that background can, I think. I've described some of the issues I have with him, including the negative reinforcement he always provided with respect to my romantic relationships. "You're too young." "No one under 30 should get married." "She's not good enough for you." These are just some of the things I've heard him say. Additionally, there are moments when he blows up and says really hurtful things, and he has even directed this at Pilar at one point when he was under immense stress from dealing with a prostate cancer diagnosis. That doesn't excuse his behavior, though. Nothing excuses abusing the ones you love, verbally or otherwise. I feel this pit of anguish in my heart because I love him and want to have a good relationship with him, but he's made it so damn hard. When I finally went over there on Saturday, we had a reasonably nice visit despite my apprehension, but then that makes me scared that part of me wants so desperately for things to be "ok" and "normal" with him that my mind will tell me that things ARE ok and normal even if I don't really feel like they are. I don't know how to reconcile the two realities I've experienced with him. Not only is this incredibly stressful, but his actions have also been so damaging for Pilar that she never wants to see him again, and would not even want her children interacting with him. This is understandable for me given how he's treated her, but it intensifies my anguish because I want so badly to have good relationships with everyone I care about. I wish I could erase the damage he's done, but I know this is futile. I've been trying hard not to make these impossible "wishes" anymore, but since I don't actually know how to repair this situation in the real world, I am at a loss.

I don't mean to ramble on and on about this, but I guess it's been bothering me more than I realized, and it all came to a head this past weekend when I had to decided whether to call him or not. I don't regret doing so, but I'm also worried now that he will think it means everything is a-ok between us, and I don't feel like it is.

He doesn't know anything about my addiction, and I don't plan to tell him. One thing that bothers me about him is the way he tries to take control of everything, and I know unsolicited advice would flow freely from him (he is a retired minister/counselor). I just can't take that, and I don't feel like he is a good role model for me anyway. He's in his 4th marriage (which thankfully seems solid and destined to succeed), has anger issues, was abused as a child both by his father and by a Catholic priest, and believes love is about forgiveness, whereas I prefer to think it is about understanding. That's an oversimplification of my views on love, but it's just to demonstrate the difference between his views and mine.

So thinking about all of this, I'm not shocked that I was overwhelmed by the emotions that came along with seeing him. It does bother me that I didn't do a better job of predicting this, but I feel like it's largely because I was, as I said, preoccupied with dealing with my grief for my grandmother. And I guess this shows me that even though I know I've made a lot of progress, I still have a long way to go before I'll be able to manage all of life's difficulties with healthy responses. It's not enough to be able to manage one at a time, because life is often more complex than that.

I had some other significant urges this weekend, and I think they were related to both the stress from all of these emotions, and also in the aftermath of my slip. Saturday night I had a long talk with my mom about what had happened, and that helped, especially since I was unable to reach Pilar to talk to her about it. I didn't want to keep it bottled up inside and let the guilt and shame wreak havoc, but I also thought telling my mom I slipped, especially while at home visiting her, would elicit her own feelings of guilt since she feels partly responsible for my addiction (wishes she saw the "warning signs" when I was a teenager and did more to intervene). Anyway, I did manage to get past quite a few other urges over the weekend by keeping busy and reflecting on my values and trying to return to a more stable emotional condition.

Now I'm trying to keep from getting too down about this slip by really analyzing it rationally instead of just viewing it emotionally as a failure. I know WHY it happened, but the difficult part to handle is that I knew WHY it was happening even as it happened, but was still unable to prevent it in that moment. The last slips I've experienced have left me feeling similarly frustrated because I know so much more now about why they are happening and what is going on as they happen, so I don't feel like it's ignorance that's preventing me from doing the right thing. And that's hard to accept, because to me it indicates a weakness in my approach to something that means so much to me. It means that even with the tools I have accumulated so far, I do not always employ them with strength and conviction, and this pisses me off!

This is another learning experience for me, and I am thankful that I can see it in this light rather than getting too bogged down in feelings of dejection and failure. I'm also looking at the fact that I feel like I managed Pilar's absence really well all week, and only was overwhelmed when contending with the additional emotions that resulted from a damaged relationship with my father and the death of my grandmother. I'm not trying to minimize, but just put things in perspective. I did successfully negotiate a week alone without acting out, and a year ago, I could not have done that. Even after my slip, I still managed some pretty stressful and painful emotions without acting out, and previously, I could not have done that.

I have made progress, and I know I will continue to make progress.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 2:12 pm 
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Advanced Lesson 8

The next few weeks will bring with it much repetition in the area of developing compulsive chains and identifying compulsive rituals. Here, we are again focusing on a single compulsive chain--and more specifically, identifying the emotional elements associated with that chain.

A. Complete the Following:

Step I Consider a compulsive sexual and/or romantic behavior that you have exhibited (use a different behavior than in the previous lesson)

Step II In your head, break this behavior down into its smaller emotional elements

Step III For each element identified, consider the emotional impact it had on the overall stimulation produced by the compulsive act. Then consider the impact on that specific compulsive act had a particular element NOT been engaged in. Would it have increased the overall stimulation experienced? Decreased it? Did engaging in a particular element (guilt, for example) make you feel temporarily worse...which in turn heightened the emotional relief ultimately experienced? Consider what purpose each element had on your overall emotional experience. Again, do this in your head, no need to document.

Step IV Also in your head, consider alternative choices that you could have made for each element that might have helped stimulate yourself in other ways. Preferably, these would be healthy, value-based choices, but that is not necessary. The idea is to ensure that you begin to understand the concept of how your actions manipulate your emotions throughout the compulsive event.

B. Why are you being asked NOT to write any of these thoughts down? Because ultimately, the skill of measuring your compulsive actions will not be conducted on paper, it will be conducted in a matter of seconds, within your own head. That is when the skill of measuring compulsive behavior is most effective. When it can be used without numbers, without math, without paper and pencil, and still have the ability to show you how you used a combination of smaller elements to manipulate and manage your emotional state in any given action.

C. This measuring skill is an effective tool for assessing compulsive behavior. What effectiveness might it have if it were used to measure healthy behavior? (no right or wrong answer)


Since doing Lesson 7 last week, I have been thinking about the practical application of measuring urges and breaking down my compulsive chains, so this lesson falls into place nicely with that.

Looking at my slip last weekend, I can easily see how my emotions manipulated my actions and vice versa, and that I didn't do a good job of breaking down that chain and dealing with the root cause of the emotions I was facing. It's all part of the emotional intensity that catches and traps me when I'm feeling anxious or stressed or am in pain. That's why taking action is so important rather than engaging in these emotional battles of will with myself, because by now, I know that trying to fight emotions with emotions doesn't work too well. Last week I DID try hard to calm myself and feel more peaceful as I marched towards my slips, but ultimately I think the battle was lost at that point. The emotions were already too intense and I didn't do a good enough job of standing back, breaking them down, and approaching the problem with rational action. This is still a big stumbling block for me. That is, trying to manage urges when I'm feeling really emotional rather than pursuing rational alternatives. Hopefully working on improving my ability to break these compulsive feelings down and evaluate them will help me here.

As I've been thinking about the first part of this lesson response (breaking down a chain in my head), I'm feeling pretty triggered. It's hard to revisit old compulsive behaviors in the detail and depth that this type of exercise requires. I'm still not able to completely detach emotionally from those behaviors, which is why simply thinking about porn for me is the most frequent trigger I encounter. These types of conscious thoughts are my biggest triggers right now, as opposed to underlying emotional angst. I find that I first have to consciously think of porn or sexual experiences before major urges hit. This makes it more frustrating for me that I'm not able to do a better job battling these emotions, because it mostly seems like it's an ingrained response to these conscious thoughts that gives me trouble instead of my inability to cope with my life's issues. I don't feel like I'm articulating this very well. But in any case, intentionally directing my thoughts towards a previous compulsive experience sets off all sort of warning alarms for me since I seem to struggle most with these conscious thoughts as triggers. I'm feeling momentary and intermittent shots of anxiety right now, and can't escape the irony of feeling this way as I try to map out my compulsive feelings and approach them rationally in developing the ability to combat them effectively.

Sooooo, I'm going to take action in fighting this anxiety right now by continuing my post rather than letting it degenerate into an emotional inner battle which I know is self-defeating. I'm tired of doing things that contradict my values, and even though I know I've come a long way in ending these types of behaviors, I can't just allow myself to fight these losing battles with myself anymore. I should know better than to make emotional arguments when I'm feeling emotional.

In terms of the benefit of applying this assessment technique to healthy behaviors, I think it will lead to the same type of enhanced understanding of how I approach my life that assessing compulsive behaviors provides. It's amazing for me to remember now about how I used to think I knew myself so well. I can definitely relate to the example in the lesson about Vicki, who initially saw her behavior very one-dimensionally. Before confronting my addiction, life appeared far less complex. Of course, I know this was all an illusion mostly sustained by feeding my addiction and the accompanying denial this required, so now that I'm not escaping in this fashion anymore, there's a lot to deal with.

I'm finally getting to know who I really am, and part of this will include evaluating the healthy choices I make and positive behavior I engage in to understand how to manage my life according to my values instead of with addiction. Breaking these good behaviors down will give me a construction set that I can use to start building healthy responses into my difficult moments, replacing compulsive patterns with values-based ones. In essence, dissecting these behaviors will allow me to gradually piece together healthy chains of behaviors by singling out which healthy elements will most effectively replace compulsive elements as each situation unfolds. It's incredible how much I can learn by really paying attention to myself, but this learning makes no difference without applying the knowledge.

I don't feel anxious anymore, but I also feel like this post was really disjointed and mostly me just kind of ranting and rambling. Writing without a clear sense of direction kind of bothers me. LOL. I just can't be pleased!

One more thing... I do think that maybe I'm too focused about how I "feel" about my recovery. For instance, I notice that right now, after last weekend's slip and the previous weekends hypersexual feelings when Pilar first departed, I am experiencing some momentary "I can't do this" type thoughts. They appear to be linked to a decrease in confidence after periods of trouble. I've gotten a lot better at analyzing these negative thoughts and behaviors and seeing them as learning experiences rather than indications of failure, but they still leaving me reeling until I "feel" better about my recovery and progress again. This worries me a little, because I don't want to be sabotaged by my emotional relationship with my recovery. Thinking about this brings me back to my community forum post last spring about finding confidence in my recovery and trust in myself. How do I really know I'm doing this right? I'm better at trusting myself, but I'm cautious about placing too much emphasis in how I feel.

Just some thoughts. I could probably ramble on some more, but I need to collect myself now and see if I can put some of this together.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 12:26 am 
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Advanced Lesson 9

Terms Clarification:

Compulsive Chain--a series of emotionally-stimulating elements that make up a single compulsive action or event

Ritualistic Chain--a pattern of using compulsive chains for ongoing life management (especially emotional management)

Functional Awareness--the recovery skill of examining your compulsive behavior through mechanical, measurable means

A. While even a single compulsive act can devastate a person's life, it is the individual who has developed a pattern of using ritualistic chains that would be considered a true addict. In your Personal Recovery Thread, discuss why you are or are not addicted. There are no right or wrong answers.


I was addicted, and still am battling my compulsive tendencies. Reading this lesson really made me think about my own compulsive and ritualistic chains, and I feel like I'm becoming more aware of them as I have been working the past few lessons. The following quote from the lesson helped me realize just how hypersexualized my world was, and how even though I did not always consciously find myself "acting out" one of my compulsive chains, I was almost always immersed within some aspect of a more complex ritualistic chain:

Quote:
A person engaging in ritualistic chain use might combine affairs, porn, gambling, workaholism, fanatical sports playing/viewing and music to create an atmosphere of almost constant emotional intensity. And when they aren't engaged in such behavior, something just "doesn't feel right".


Not all of the examples listed in that quote applied to me, but that doesn't matter. I can use my own examples: masturbation, porn, affairs, fantasy, objectification. I even see elements of these chains in my almost-constant desire to be around friends. I needed constant emotional stimulation. If I wasn't getting it from the people around me, I found it in sexual actions. Looking at it now, my need for companionship definitely appears to have been an extension of this need for emotional stimulation, and that emotional stimulation was a way of coping with my life. Not engaging is those behaviors DID lead me to conclude that something "didn't feel right," that I was not feeling "normal." Only now can I see that what I perceived as "normal" was actually a deeply embedded set of ritualistic chains that I kept in place out of necessity. I didn't know any other way.

That's where this quote comes in:

Quote:
But when the behavior being evaluated involves compulsive action, it means that somewhere along the way, you have lost conscious control over your ability to choose your response to that particular stimuli. Specifically, it means that you have lost the ability to engage in a healthy, rational decision-making when in the face of this stimuli.


The responses I used in the face of any number of stimuli were ingrained very deeply, and as I have explained in prior posts, I believed that my life and the decisions that created it...I believed it was just the way I was. There was honestly NO other way that I could imagine living. There was no choice, until finally, when the emotional burden of carrying on outweighed the consequences of stopping, I had to step back, overcome the denial, and look within. That's when I began looking at my life rationally instead of purely emotionally.

These two quotes help illustrate exactly why that emotional approach had such a strong hold upon me:

Quote:
For many possible reasons, the boundaries surrounding these behaviors--e.g. the rules that ensure the healthy execution of these behaviors--became distorted and/or lost. Without these firm, rational set of rules, you were forced to govern your behavior with nothing more than your emotions as a guide.


AND

Quote:
You don't just start out with a natural compulsion to engage in such behavior. Instead, such behavior starts out with choice and/or spontaneous exposure, and--when such an exposure repeatedly ends with your experiencing intense positive emotional stimulation--it develops into a compulsive need. When this happens, the additional element of experiencing intense negative emotional stimulation develops should you NOT engage in the behavior.


In the past, I taught myself to live emotionally. It was easy because it was my "natural" progression. Now I am teaching myself to live rationally, and it is much more difficult because in additional to trying to learn a new approach, I am trying to undo everything that I thought was real before. I do know it's possible.

B. If you do not feel that you are addicted, why do you continue to engage in sporadic compulsive acts? What roles do they play in your life that keep you engaging in them? Giving what you've learned in your life to this date, how do you foresee breaking this pattern?

N/A

C. If you feel that you are addicted, are you beginning to envision what is required from you to break that pattern? What do you envision?

In pondering this, I immediately thought back to my first lesson response, in which I wrote:

Quote:
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.


That confidence is paramount for me. I need to believe that this is possible, and I do. Is this an emotional requirement? Do I need to feel confident in my ability to recover? I'm starting to see that my (positive) actions will foster confidence, but confidence alone will not yield the actions I expect of myself. I've made this mistake and been over-confident several times in my recovery. It's caused complacency, so I recognize the danger of using this confidence as a recovery tool. I need to be confident in my ability to recovery, not in my recovery itself.

Another crucial factor in ending my addiction is continuing to cultivate my capacity to make rational decisions. Educating myself is really helping with this, and I feel like I've had some important revelations because of the past few lessons. Interesting that I was so dismissive of the benefit of quantifying and micro-analyzing each little element of my compulsive chains. I guess at first the concepts seemed too complicated and impractical, but now I disagree with my initial assessment. I've been thinking a lot about my recent slip and have been mentally dissecting it, applying the recent lessons to it, and seeing how simple and non-threatening it all appears when viewed this way. Now I need to work on creating an action plan that will include taking similar analytical steps next time I'm confronted with an urge.

Replacing the unhealthy patterns with healthy ones is something I'm already working to accomplish. Keeping in mind that there were generally two emotional extremes in my previous life, I know that I have to keep a watchful eye on my need to feel "good" as a (misguided) means of feeling balanced. I am honestly trying to deal with difficult moments without needing to feel good immediately. Instead, I'm trying to just let myself experience those emotions, whatever they may be, while reassuring myself that it is a natural part of life...that I do not have to escape them. It's frustrating at times and it can lead to feelings of anxiety if I allow myself to become overwhelmed with those emotions.

That's why I've been practicing this mostly in the context of my relationship with Pilar, because that feels safer for me right now than working on this completely solo. In the past, when we've disagreed, it's been absolutely awful for me (I know it has been for her, too, but I'm discussing this strictly from my perspective right now to try to elucidate a point). I got angry, frustrated, and experienced intense feelings of helplessness. I was completely incapable of coping with these feelings, and either had a break down and directed all of it at her, or else I expected her to make me feel better. Now I'm trying to be much more independent in dealing with my own feelings while treating her respectfully and empathetically. This is progress, and I can see how I can apply these efforts to other areas where I need to create balance for myself.

Of course I know that in addition to the requirements I've listed, it will be necessary for me to maintain an ongoing commitment to my recovery based on honest motivation and an active application of what I'm learning. This much I've known from the beginning, and it's likely that my ideas of what it will take to end my addiction will continue evolving as I continue learning and progressing. And I will keep working on my functional awareness so that I do not miss an opportunity to incorporate another useful tool and motivation into my arsenal.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 9:44 am 
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As I was lying in bed last night trying to fall asleep, another indication that I was addicted came to mind.

A characteristic of my addiction was that I gradually increased the number, frequency, and intensity of my compulsive chains into increasingly complex ritualistic chains. Habituation was most certainly at work, and as previously satisfying actions lost their ability to make me feel good, I had to adapt and introduce new behaviors or modify existing ones to experience that novelty again. I took more risks, my behavior became more dangerous, I needed constant emotional stimulation... These are a few examples of how my compulsive rituals evolved to continue providing me the relief I needed.

I was totally incapable of managing my life with my values, and equally incapable of making rational decisions. It was all about feeling good in that moment, and not much else mattered, even if I tried to convince myself otherwise.

I was definitely an addict.

Achilles


Last edited by Achilles on Mon Sep 18, 2006 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 11:35 am 
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Another thing...

After posting about my slip while home a couple weeks ago, I realized I omitted another major trigger situation for me that I was confronting that week. In addition to the stress I was under because of dealing with my grandmother's memorial and doubts about seeing my father, I had written a long letter to my friend (the one in whose apartment I acted out a couple years ago) and told her that I need time away from our friendship.

There are a couple main reasons for this, but the one that's important here is the obvious emotional fallout that has created intense feelings of shame and guilt in me. I have seen her only a few times since telling her in June, and it's been difficult. Even though our discussions about the incident went well and both she and her husband understood that my actions were a product of my addiction, I am still uncomfortable. A tendency of mine in the past was to minimize pain through denial, and as a result, I was always able to "have fun" with my friends regardless of whatever was wrong. This seems like another clear example that my need for companionship was an extension of my compulsions. It was an escape. But I don't want to escape anymore, and I don't want to pretend like I feel ok around her when I do not.

This is producing intense feelings of inner conflict for me, because I am sad at having to cut loose this friendship. I've known her and her husband since college, and we've had a lot of good times together. But I also know that being around them is not good for me right now. It's so frustrating.

So I can see now that I was in a really vulnerable emotional state that week. I can't believe I didn't see the danger, but I am going to try to be more vigilant about taking on too many emotional burdens at once in the future. This was not an example of life throwing a bunch of unexpected obstacles at me all at once. Rather, it's indicative of poor planning on my part and perhaps a bit of overconfidence, as well, though I don't think I really intended to overwhelm myself as a test. It was accidental, but that's why I need to pay more attention.

Just thought I'd add that.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 11:10 pm 
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It has been a LONG time since I've posted in my healing thread, and I have some mixed feelings about that.

First off, things have been going exceedingly well in my recovery. There have been no slips, no near slips, and I'm feeling much more capable of managing urges and difficult situations, which seem to arise much less frequently now. I've been trying to just live my life and feel normal. How novel! As a result, I think I've felt less inclined to come here so frequently because I haven't felt the need to as much and also because I've wanted to experiment with taking things on my own for a while.

The flip side of this, however, is a persistent concern that I'm not doing enough to further my recovery because I've reached a point where I'm starting to feel good. To clarify, I feel that I actively work my recovery every day. I apply the things I've already learned and try to be constantly aware of new lessons I can teach myself every day. And I know that I do not need to measure the "health" of my recovery by the frequency of my visits or posts here, but somewhere along the line I think I started equating the two, so now I feel some doubt and guilt since I haven't been here lately.

I do believe that there are still valuable lessons for me to learn here, especially considering I've really only made it through half of the exercises. But I also know that I'm doing a good job of teaching myself the skills I need to really live my values, so there's a balance I want to achieve between taking the information I need from RN and building my very own foundation based on my own experiences.

I feel guilty partly because I feel as though Pilar has concerns about my absence from RN (we've talked about working towards the Partner's workshop), but also because I do worry sometimes that I'm selling myself short by not pursuing the lessons here more vigorously in the short term. I do intend to continue working them, but I cannot say how long it will take me. I will do them as the time feels right and try to remember that the guilt I'm feeling is not necessary so long as I'm remaining true to my values and goals.

Maybe this guilt is an indication that I'm tricking myself and rationalizing the time away I've taken. I don't think so, but I'm not positive yet. So I know I need more practice living by my values and knowing what actions fall within them and what actions violate them. It's gotten a lot easier to observe this relative to my addiction, but now I'm facing the challenge of filtering ALL of my actions and decisions, no matter how insignificant or minute, through these newly formed and recognized values. It's daunting, but my perception is that this is what a healthy life is.

Some things to think about... I have much more to say (surprise, surprise), but I'm exhausted and want to go to bed. I'll be back soon, though.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:22 am 
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re: "The flip side of this, however, is a persistent concern that I'm not doing enough to further my recovery because I've reached a point where I'm starting to feel good."

If you have the following in place (and it is what we are developing in the live coaching--in case you haven't figured it out yet, smile):

*Maintaining a constant awareness of your emotions and when those emotions sway outside of your 'comfort zone', warning signs automatically go off in your head to 'proceed with caution'

*When those emotions cross into the 'urge' category...you immediately engage in your predetermined, values-based action plan (even if that action plan is "I have experienced an urge that I am not prepared for: I will immediately call Pilar...or Jon...or 'whatever' to process this situation before taking any further action"

*Know what action plans are, why they should be developed in anticipation of an urge, and not during or post urge.

*Have confidence in understanding the mechanics of decision-making...and look for opportunities throughout the week to engage in healthy, value-based decision-making; as opposed to emotional, spontaneous decision-making

*Know what a Health Monitoring Plan is...have one developed...and have an established routine for assessing your health and stability no less than once each month

If you are comfortable with these areas and have a functional awareness of the roles they play in your life...then the more you focus on health and values...the better. Don't fear letting go of the past addiction...of admitting to yourself that it is no longer a part of who you are. But, this only works with the tools above in place. You will very likely experience urges in your future. You will definitely come across triggering stimuli. But, with the foundation above in place, these urges are easily identified and managed...and, the triggers themselves are perceived differently. They are no longer feared as triggers for acting out; they are seen as triggers for strengthening your foundation even more. As opportunities to continue your maturation process.

And, this is also why the only real threats to your 'long term health' have nothing to do with the addiction itself. The two greatest threats that you face will be complacency (in not maintaining that emotional awareness, in not maintaining realistic, personal action plans, and in not monitoring your health on an ongoing basis); and the other will be major trauma. Death, divorce, childbirth (not that this is a devastating trauma, but it is a major disruption to one's balance). And that is how you should be thinking of things from now on. In terms of emotional balance and health. When things are going smoothly, then push yourself to excel in other areas of your life. When things aren't, then rally the troops, buckle down...and regain that stability before pushing forward again.

These are just words...this is what will happen...well, for you...is happening...and when the transition is complete...you will never again need to fear relapse or addiction. It will be extracted from your core identity and your only job becomes maintaining the walls that keep it from coming back in. A fairly easy thing to do (with the exception of those two potential obstacles listed above)...now that you are no longer ignorant to the patterns themselves.

_________________
Jon Marsh
Recovery Coach
RecoveryNation.com


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2006 1:03 am 
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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything of my own here, and I’ve barely been online at all. Reflecting on my absence, I have mixed feelings that are complicated by an inability to fully comprehend a sense of guilt I feel over having not been here. This guilt comes from different places, such as feeling like I’m neglecting my responsibilities as a coach and imagining that I’m letting Pilar down as a partner. Those feelings are pretty obvious. What eludes me, however, is whether I feel as though I’m selling myself short by not participating here as actively as I once did. I do believe I’ve been trying to separate my recovery from Recovery Nation so that I can feel as though I’m actually making progress in my real life – to prove that I can successfully apply what I’ve learned and manage my life without relying so heavily on RN. But then I wonder if I’m just telling myself that because I got burned out thinking about all of this every minute of every day. I have not in any way abandoned my recovery. I still apply my learnings and strive to live by my values every day, and I know I’ve made immense progress. More, even, than I probably imagined I would in the beginning. I have faced struggles this fall, though, and I have faltered at moments, and I am left feeling as though I am still missing some key components to the process of living a healthy life. This, in turn, brings me back to wondering if I’m selling myself short by failing to be here more often. Do I just need more practice applying the skills I’ve already picked up, or am I missing something crucial? Probably a combination of the two…

One area IÂ’ve been struggling with is being fully (and promptly) honest with myself and Pilar about difficulties IÂ’ve encountered. IÂ’ve realized that IÂ’ve been engaging in some minimalization of the details and/or significance of some of these instances, and that is of great concern to me. During a conversation with Pilar the other day about a slip I had, it occurred to me that after nearly a year in recovery, I have put enormous pressure on myself to do everything right. In my mind, I should not be having issues with slips or the emotional intensity the leads to them anymore. I should be beyond that. Some of the things that are tripping me up seem so ridiculous to me that itÂ’s tough sometimes to admit that IÂ’m still having trouble. So because IÂ’ve placed this burden to do everything right all the time upon myself, IÂ’ve become more focused on the absence of acting out as a sign of my recoveryÂ’s success rather than measuring it by ending my compulsive patterns through absolute honesty. This is in direct contradiction to what I have written in othersÂ’ posts, and what I believe, about trying not to focus on abstinence as an indication of health. IÂ’m glad that I realized that this has been happening to me, and Pilar and I have discussed some means of reversing that trend. Minimalizing is a big step towards full-blown lying, and I am NOT going down that path again.

I mentioned that I feel as though some of the things IÂ’m struggling with are ridiculous. Maybe this isnÂ’t fair to myself, since anything thatÂ’s causing me difficulty deserves my attention and respect. I guess itÂ’s just frustrating to still have problems even when I understand so well the emotional process that is leading me to acting out. At least before I began my recovery, I didnÂ’t really know what was going on or why. Not that thatÂ’s an excuse, but now I canÂ’t hide behind ignorance. In any case, IÂ’ve talked with Pilar on several occasions about my need to do more role-playing to identify potential trouble situations. Thusfar, IÂ’ve failed to put any of this in writing, and I think thatÂ’s a mistake. I feel as though IÂ’ve been able to identify some specific trigger situations/places/people/etc. in my mind, but I donÂ’t believe IÂ’ve fully explored any single one of them since I havenÂ’t taken the time to write them out. Maybe doing so will help me discover some keys to more effectively managing those triggers, and that is a goal I have this week. I want to begin working through some scenarios on paper to help ensure IÂ’m better prepared for what life may throw at me.

The past several months arenÂ’t all bad news, by any means. For one thing, I really feel like Pilar and I are making some good progress in communicating, especially in the past 3 or 4 weeks. For a while, we were having a pretty rough go of it, but that was mostly due to my withdrawal from an open dialogue about my recovery. IÂ’m trying to be more open again, and with my recent reconnection with the concept of absolute honesty as the best measure of a healthy recovery, I think this will continue improving. IÂ’ve also started working out again, and have some pretty specific (and realistic) goals for myself. As IÂ’ve previously written, there are many parallels between recovering from addiction by pursuing mental and emotional health and endeavoring to achieve and maintain physical health and well-being. Neither happens overnight when done correctly with a permanent transition in mind. It takes a long time to change ingrained patterns, and I know this.

So, some things I need (and want) to do:

1) As I said, begin an intensive process of writing and role-playing through potential situations to better prepare for triggers I might encounter out in the world.
2) Focus on absolute honesty (with myself and Pilar) as the most important aspect of my transition to health right now. Perfection is not an achievable state, so I need to continue cultivating the ability to rationally and effectively analyze my imperfections, even if itÂ’s painful to do so.
3) In conjunction with #2, work to keep improving the level and quality of communication between Pilar and me. WeÂ’ve come so far, and it really inspires me to think how much better I imagine it will still get.
4) Make more frequent visits to RN, not only as a coach, but also as a person who can still benefit greatly from what this amazing resource has to offer. If nothing else, the community here serves as another listener to the honesty IÂ’m working hard to communicate.

I will, no doubt, think of additional goals I want to add, but this is where I am right now. It helps to remember that living a healthy life is a process that will never end, and instead of being “at the beginningÂâ€Â


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:37 pm 
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I posted this in the community forum, but wanted to keep it with my healing thread, too.

It's been a long time since I've posted. Why am I posting now? I suppose there is an aspect of validation I'm looking for, which bothers me to say. I've gotten a lot of support from this community, and it's nice to feel like you're a part of something larger than yourself. Mostly I just want to check in and say hi and tell a little about where I've been and what I'm doing.

The past few months, really beginning in October, I've been very disconnected from the progress I made early in my recovery. For a while, I became overconfident and thought I had it all figured out, but really I was just feeling comfortable "enough" with daily life so that I diverted my attention away from the hard work of recovery. This has been a tendency of mine for a long time, and I recognized early in this process that it could possibly de-rail me. That is, my pattern of achieving a measured amount of success with my pursuits and being content with that rather than really excelling.

Early in November, I adopted a rigorous workout regimen that I'm still sticking to, and this became a major source of emotional fulfillment for me. Instead of working to develop multiple sources of value in my life as part of a sturdy and broad foundation, I latched onto this one disproportionately and ran with it. I was spending 2-3 hours a day, 5 days a week working out pretty much to the exclusion of all recovery efforts and many other sources of value, such as spending time with Pilar, fostering open communication with her, etc. It was easy to believe what I was doing was healthy because, after all, working out is healthy, right? But what I failed to see at the time was that the level of emotional intensity I was deriving from it was very unhealthy, and that I was using it as a replacement for the emotional fulfillment that I had initially been deriving from my recovery efforts.

This highlights perfectly the danger that deriving emotional intensity from external stimuli can pose for the addict or for someone working to end the patterns of addiction in their life. When one stimuli loses its ability to provide that intensity, moving on to the next can reinvigorate and renew this intensity. But this tends to be destructive, which is why it becomes important to lay that foundation upon which many sources of fulfillment and value can be constructed. Too much fulfillment from ANY one area, even if on its own, that source of fulfillment seems healthy, can be risky. Moderation and balance is key, here.

I struggled with the one-year anniversary of revealing my addiction at the end of December and my confidence was shaky, at best. Persistent questions like "why am I not healthy yet?" and "why am I still struggling so much after a year?" plagued me. I was really hard on myself, and a new cycle similar to the compulsive cycle was taking shape in my life. My inaction and frustration led to despair and depression, which led to further inaction and frustration, and so on. By mid- to late-January, I felt more depressed and helpless than I've ever felt in my life. It was terrible.

At the end of January, I began taking some steps to turn my recovery around and reconnect with the commitment and motivation I felt last spring and summer. The concept of the action plan was clarified and I realized that I never really grasped it in the beginning with the process of taking out my values list when confronted with an urge. I used to think it was just about reading over those values to connect with them so that I would be compelled not to act out. And so frequently, I just told myself "Oh, I already know what that piece of paper says," and so I wouldn't physically take it out and read it. I missed the point that the action plan is simply about creating that break in the compulsive ritual so that you can begin rewiring your brain to respond differently to urges.

So I started writing up some action plans, and then started working with Jon again on a monitoring plan after really wasting a lot of his and my time last fall with these efforts when I wasn't really all that motivated. I still don't feel like I'm in as healthy a recovery as I was last year at this time, but I'm working at it, and I care about it, and I realize that almost is not good enough when it comes to my health. That cycle of inaction/frustration leading to despair/depression is subsiding, which is a welcome relief.

Another mental block I've struggled with has to do with my damaged self-confidence as a result of the cycle I mentioned. My ability to believe that recovery is 100% possible so long as I maintain motivation and commitment has been rattled, though I am beginning to re-connect with that, too. It's scary enough to imagine having to change your life from the foundation up, but to contend with my pattern of leaving things just short of excellence adds another level of difficulty for me. I need to really make sure I don't accept mediocrity from myself on this, because it's too important. I believe that health is achievable for me, but that it will require even more vigilance from me to maintain that since it's easy for me to sit back and get complacent.

Some of you who have been using RN for a while may have known me for a time as "coach achilles." In January, after having not posted in quite some time, I asked Jon to remove my coaching status because I did not feel like I was in a good position to help anyone else. I was struggling simply with helping myself. On top of all the other frustrations I was experiencing at my inaction, I felt very guilty about being a coach but failing to make any significant contribution to the community here. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and it was making me feel really lousy, so I made the decision I felt was healthiest for myself by asking to step down as a coach. Perhaps as I regain my footing and start making positive progress for myself, I'll be in a position to give back to this community again.

So, that's my story, for those who are interested. It's been a very difficult time for me, but I am regaining my optimism, which just happens to be one of my values.

I want to wish everyone well, and thank all those who have offered me their support over the past year. I have continued to follow some of your stories, and it's really encouraging to see how well some of you are doing. Sorry I have been unable to contribute more, but I trust you will all understand. Sometimes we just need to step back and reassess things, change course, and get back on track.

Achilles


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:22 pm 
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Ok, deep breath....

I'm working really hard to pull myself out of the relapse patterns into which I've been descending for longer than I even realized (or was able to admit to myself). Beginning last fall, I became increasingly complacent and started to lose touch with myself and my personal motivation for transitioning to health. Depression, accompanied by frustration and feelings of being very overwhelmed, set in after the holidays. All this while, the pressure of being a good partner to Pilar built and built because I knew I was NOT achieving that goal. By February, I was escaping in my mind with fantasies of an "easier" relationship, and I see now that I began to shift blame for my inaction from myself to the challenges of mending my relationship with Pilar.

What terrible feelings I've been abiding since last fall. I've doubted myself, my ability to be normal and healthy, and even the very possibility of loving a life not based upon emotional intensity. These doubts completely crushed me and propelled me into a full relapse in which I compromised many of my core values for immediate gratification and emotional intensity. One of the saddest consequences is that I left my relationship with Pilar in pursuit of this emotional intensity, and at the time I didn't even see what I was doing.

Out of these disastrous steps backwards, I am attempting to redirect my recovery and construct a much stronger foundation than I had begun before. I have already taken significant steps away from my relapse and the associated emotional intensity. I am on my own now. It's scary and lonely at times, but I feel like this will be a time of positive growth for me. There is no longer any excuse for not moving forward, because this affects only me now. I cannot blame my stress on my relationship with Pilar, and now I see just how important this is to me. Wishing to change the past is futile, I know, but I do wish I had been more successful at connecting with these things while she and I were still together.

The past week has been really good for me. I've done a lot of value-building activities. None of them have been monumental or singularly life-changing, but that's not really the point, anyway. Together, each decision or action that brings value to my life creates a general sense of well-being and self-confidence, which has been so conspicuously absent from my life for some time now.

Last night, I realized something that sounds so basic, but which I feel like I finally understand. That is, I don't have to do things that make me feel badly, as though I'm devaluing myself, or that create a values conflict (between healthy and unhealthy values). Grasping this helps me see the role boundaries play in a healthy life, which is important because thus far, I have been reluctant to set and enforce them. I've dismissed them as an inconvenience. Only someone who is dealing with unhealthy patterns in their life could interpret personal boundaries as an inconvenience...

There are some concrete steps I'm trying to take to move forward:

1) Working to set goals based on my values.

2) Compiling a list of significant points that I can reference to keep them fresh in my mind. After a year and a half, there's so much to remember, and I know I've forgotten some important things.

3) Keeping track of my decisions and making sure that they are values-based. I think my approach to this will be much more favorable after realizing that I do not have to do those things that make me feel badly...that I DO have a choice.

4) Remembering that transitioning to health is about creating healthy patterns, not avoiding unhealthy ones. This helps a LOT when anxiety hits, because I realize that I have a choice (a vote, as Coach Dan characterized it), and that my vote will be cast FOR positive behavior instead of AGAINST unhealthy behavior.

There are more things, but these are some main ones. I have also decided that I think it will benefit me to continue working through the lessons in the Advanced Workshop since there are many topics that relate directly to the issues I've been dealing with in the past months. I've already begun reviewing my healing thread to date. There's so much here, and as I said, I've forgotten some important realizations I've had because I didn't take the time to really ingrain them.

Pilar and I have been communicating via e-mail, and I have expressed to her that I regret my choice to leave her. But I have been trying really hard not to be too emotional. She has become such a strong person in the past year and a half, and I respect her so much. She is going to continue on with her life, working to make it the best she can, and that's what I am going to do, too. There will be a time when I am better able to commit to depth instead of passion in my life, and I hope that she is still in my life when that day comes.

I feel optimistic for the first time in a long time. I remember back in the beginning you told me, Jon, that transitioning to health is not about hope or confidence or optimism, but rather about taking action to change the way you manage your life. I know this is true, but it is such a relief to finally be dragging myself out from the feelings of desperation and hopelessness I experienced for so long. And I see that the reason for this is that I am finally beginning to take productive action again.

This experience has taught me so much, and I am going to continue working to ingrain those lessons so that I never have to go through such a painful time again.

Evan


Last edited by Achilles on Thu Jun 28, 2007 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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