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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:57 pm 
Recovery Coach (Admin)

Joined: Fri Feb 04, 2005 10:32 pm
Posts: 4572
Evan, no matter how long the complacency has been in place (even though I confronted you on it again and again over the past year, knucklehead--and I say that playfully) and no matter how many stupid things you have done, it is never too late to do what you are doing now: slowing things down...sorting them out...and developing a plan for moving forward. Just make sure that whatever direction you head, you do so with sincerity and commitment. You are lucky in that you still have wonderful choices to make with your life, though make no mistake, you have at the same time permanently altered that life with the choices you have made recently. And you know what, the choices that you make today will also permanently alter your life. As will the choices that you make tomorrow.

Oh, and by the way, should you find yourself gaining confidence and comfort in the direction that you are headed...start using the friggin' weekly/monthly monitoring tool. It's yours. Use it. :wink:

Jon Marsh
Recovery Coach

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 11:54 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago

Thanks for writing back to me. It's been a while since we've had a dialogue in my healing thread...

There are moments when I panic thinking about the consequences of my poor decisions, and I know that you are right...they have permanently altered the course of my life. However, in trying to maintain motivation and optimism, I remind myself that these choices, like any others, will have unforeseen consequences, and that perhaps some of them will be positive. At least I am moving forward again, and that in itself is one such positive consequence. Of course I wish I could have made this happen without taking this path, but there is no use trying to change the past. So I will embrace each day as a chance to reinforce my values and my self-respect, because I have treated myself (and others, particularly Pilar) poorly for far too long.

Could you e-mail me the link to my monitoring page again? I can't seem to find it.

Thanks again for everything.


Last edited by Achilles on Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 11:03 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Advanced Lesson 10

A. Choose a compulsive act that you have engaged in more than once over the past year. In your own words, and without worrying about emotions, elements, etc., describe the pattern. E.g. What behaviors are involved (non-graphic). How often do you engage in it? What usually triggers it? What are the consequences?

I feel like I've used this example many times, both in my lesson responses and in my thinking, but since I still struggle with porn at times, I'll use it again here.

Most often, I think that these patterns are triggered by loneliness. There are other emotions that frequently are associated with loneliness (such as boredom, depression, and fear), but I believe that loneliness is at the center of this issue. Thinking back to my adolescence, I can see the role loneliness might have played in the development of my compulsive patterns. Though I had a number of close friends, I was never quite comfortable with myself and I think I may have felt the need to escape those feelings of inadequacy. Being overweight didn't help me feel like I fit in with others, and as I've described, the control that escaping with porn offered was very appealing. Since I was also very uncomfortable being by myself, getting online and chatting/looking at porn was a way to subvert those feelings when I had no other outlet.

Recently, my self-image has improved a lot, but I still have this deep-seated dread of being alone. Many of my slips occurred in Pilar's absence, either when she was out of town or when I was away. Knowing I struggled with this increased the anxiety I would feel preceding such a situation. Interestingly, I even saw this pattern play out this past weekend when Pilar was away for a friend's wedding. I mean, she and I aren't a couple anymore and have very little contact, but knowing she was going away on a trip we had planned together and that I would be here, alone, was distressing to me. I was surprised by how difficult that was, actually.

I am trying to learn to be more comfortable alone, and certainly Pilar's absence from my daily life has hastened my need to acquire these skills. I feel like I've made some progress and that the idea of spending time with myself doesn't terrify me quite as much as it used to, though it's still hard for me at times. I will say, though, that I have had some really fulfilling alone-time recently, particularly when I've been out riding my bike. I've started taking long rides (30-40 miles), which I have found to be very relaxing and therapeutic for me. It gives me a lot of time to think, I'm doing something healthy, and I really enjoy it.

So with loneliness, as I said, comes depression, boredom, fear, and probably even more unpleasant emotions that make me feel pretty uncomfortable. Sometimes this feeling builds gradually, as I mentioned above, and sometimes this hits suddenly and without warning. An example of this occurred for me Saturday night when I was spending time with my brother and a friend. I had been having a good time, and as soon as they left, the anxiety and discomfort set in. At this point in the pattern, I think I usually begin imagining sitting at the computer looking at porn, and the trance state begins where even the thought of engaging in that behavior provides some relief from the discomfort of my loneliness and depression. That's when anxiety builds as the conflict between my values and compulsions intensifies.

The consequences of looking at porn are mostly personal for me. When Pilar and I were together, I know it was difficult for her to hear about my slips, but she got very good at viewing my struggles objectively. For me, it was more difficult to be objective, especially as more and more time passed and I "should" have known how to work through urges more effectively. Each time I slip, and in particular after a period when I feel like I've been making good progress, it's very disheartening. To use one of your metaphors, Jon, I feel very disappointed in myself when I elect to "self-medicate" through emotional choices as opposed to values-based ones.

At this point, with all I've learned, I find that slips (and my recent relapse) make it more difficult to believe in my ability to be a healthy person. I don't feel like there's much more I can learn about how and why slips happen. There's no great mystery, but yet I still struggle, and this is very damaging to my belief in myself. That's the worst consequence now, because I'm finally trying to make progress for myself again while contending with the reality that as of yet, a year and a half out from first confronting my addiction, I still haven't successfully ended these very basic, recognizable, and destructive patterns.

As I wrote that I started to feel as though I was being pretty self-critical (which I tend to be these days), so I'd just like to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that I have made some enormous changes to my life, many of which I would consider improvements. I really value honesty and can't imagine returning to the kind of secretive life I led before. I have developed a life that yields much more healthy value than the one I used to lead. And I'm finally starting to realize, as I wrote last week, that I can expect more from myself in terms of upholding my values. That is, it's not a given that I will engage in unhealthy behavior that makes me feel badly just because I always did before. This is where my boundaries need to be practiced and strengthened. There are many other examples I could list, but really I just want to point out to myself that I am not the same person I was a year and a half ago, and I am so thankful for that.

B. Do you feel that this behavior could be a part of a Ritualistic Chain for you? Why or why not? In other words, do you feel that this behavior is part of a larger pattern used to manage your ongoing emotions? Or is it strictly a behavior that is used to achieve a specific response to a specific trigger?

Looking at porn is something that I used to do a lot before beginning my recovery, and which, comparatively, I rarely do anymore. I would say that in the past it was most definitely part of my general life-management strategy. At the time I don't think I really understood the significance of the role it played for me in my skewed values-system. In retrospect, though, just one example of that significance was my inability to let it go despite numerous promises to myself and Pilar that I would never look at it again. It was a familiar retreat for me whenever life became unpleasant or lonely.

Now, I see it as a much more specific response to certain triggers (like the ones I mentioned above). I can go for extended periods without using porn as an escape at all, and it isn't a white-knuckle type experience. I'm really trying to focus now on incorporating healthy sources of value that I DO want in my life instead of focusing on eliminating or avoiding unhealthy sources that I don't want in my life. So during these periods when I'm not using porn, I'm not climbing the walls, unable to manage my general emotional well-being. I've found lots of other sources of value that I appreciate.

But then there are those times when I'm overwhelmed and unprepared and the urge is so strong. And while I am unwilling to accept any kind of compulsive rituals as part of my value-system, it does seem like this will be easier to tackle than if I was still a prisoner of ritualistic chains that stretched into all areas of my emotional management system. I think I need to improve upon my mechanical response to these urges when they occur, because I still find myself in a decision-making position at times when I'm confronting the urge. I set myself up for a dangerous inner conflict by allowing my emotions to battle my values instead of mechanically (every time) taking a predetermined action without allowing myself to question it. I've created many actions plans, but don't think I've role-played them enough yet to have them ingrained as a mechanical response. This is promptly being added to my list of things to do.

C. If you do not feel that this behavior is a part of a Ritualistic Chain, what behaviors do you engage in that could be considered in such a way? If no such behaviors exist, discuss how your current behavior could eventually exist within the context of a ritualistic chain. (this is so that we can assess your understanding of the concepts presented over the last several lessons).

I'll get to this part tomorrow. I'm exhausted and bed is calling...


Last edited by Achilles on Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 3:16 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of loss in one's life with respect to the losses we can control and the losses we cannot.

My addiction has caused so many losses, and in some ways, embarking upon a journey to health required me to sustain losses, too. These sacrifices have been made willingly in pursuit of a better life, though not without trepidation, uncertainty, and vulnerability. Relinquishing what has always been familiar can feel very much like the loss of a trusted life companion, and there are moments when I still feel afraid and vulnerable. This is life, though. Healthy people experience this fear and vulnerability, and often I amaze myself at how much better I've become at accepting life's difficulties and allowing myself to feel, even when it may not be pleasant to do so.

No matter how stable my life becomes, I think I will always carry remorse for the losses I caused both to myself and those whose lives I touched (Pilar, in particular). Sometimes the world feels sad to me, and I wonder if this is the slow process of growing accustomed to a life in which pain is finally experienced and accepted. At times this sadness stems from thinking about my past and all the loss I caused, and sometimes it comes from present circumstances that are beyond my control, but from which I no longer escape. Without the escape, I perceive so much more pain than I used to, and while I never ever regret the loss of my addiction, it's hard at times to know that living a REAL life can be so difficult.

And then there are the losses over which we have no control. Life intervenes to take someone from us, and we are forced to confront the reality that ultimately, we cannot control chance. There are no certainties. No matter how badly we may long for an event to be reversed, it cannot be so. I know that my foundation must be strengthened against despair, because inevitably, I will confront it when life takes from me the people I love the most.

Accepting what life takes from us is not easy, and accepting what we have taken from ourselves and those we love is in many ways much harder. We cannot blame chance or circumstance for the latter, but must bear the burden of that responsibility ourselves. But again, this is life. We cause losses; we sustain losses, and regardless must regain our footing in the aftermath so that life can go on. I believe I have learned so much from my mistakes and I try very hard every day now not to repeat them, not to fall into familiar traps. I grieve for the losses IÂ’ve caused that I could have controlled had I known how or had I been a stronger person. But there is comfort in knowing that each day, I strive to strengthen who I am and what I value so that my life and the people it touches do not have to suffer unnecessary loss as a result of my choices.


 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:27 am 
Recovery Coach (Admin)

Joined: Fri Feb 04, 2005 10:32 pm
Posts: 4572
Beautiful thoughts.

re: "No matter how stable my life becomes, I think I will always carry remorse for the losses I caused both to myself and those whose lives I touched..."

I think you are right. At least, that is what I have experienced. I have forgiven myself for the losses I have created in my life; but the pain remains. Thankfully though, I have accumulated a whole lot of good to help balance the regret. I hope the next twenty years of your life is similar. Accumulating the good.

Jon Marsh
Recovery Coach

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:31 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Yesterday I received sad news from one of my closest friends. She discovered over the weekend that her boyfriend had been lying to and cheating on her for at least the past few months, and understandably she's devastated. I noticed immediately how much I empathized with her, and this is, no doubt, a result of how much I learned from Pilar and the other partners on RN about how it feels to have your world taken away from you.

Of course, this situation hits close to home for me, and in offering my thoughts to my friend, I've been recalling many of the moments early after d-day for Pilar and me, drawing on those experiences to try to give some meaningful support to her. It saddens me to remember how much pain I caused and how difficult those days were. Now, when I think back to my previous life and how I managed it with addiction, I find that you were right, Jon...a day comes when it all seems so foreign, like that couldn't possibly have been the way I lived. Sometimes I'm reminded of a particular moment or period in my darker days, and I can't even express how grateful I feel for the progress I've made in living a healthy, values-based life. It really does feel like I was a different person then, and now I feel like my life is mine.

Last spring and summer were very confusing and difficult times for me and I still wrestle with guilt for the renewed pain I caused Pilar. My relapse was obviously a significant setback in terms of moving towards a healthy life, and it took a long time for me to come to terms with this and end the torturous uncertainty it caused. Self-confidence has been a difficult thing to achieve for me throughout my recovery, and despite my desire to become healthy, I've struggled in the past with the belief that I could actually be healthy. I continue to think about this, and I've come to recognize it as a manifestation of an "all or nothing" attitude. There are times when I still notice that I'm beating up on myself for making a mistake or being imperfect, and at these times I have to consciously remind myself that I will never be perfect and that the important thing is that I'm being honest with myself and making improvements where necessary so that my choices and actions reflect my values as closely as possible. And it's getting easier for me to relate to this as a sign that I'm living a healthy life.

Achieving balance is still a work in progress for me. It seems that when I turn my attention to one area, another area suffers. But again, this is something I'm aware of and that I'm actively working to address. Now that I've identified a variety of positive sources of value for me, it's not always easy to figure out which ones to emphasize and when to emphasize them, but if this is the worst of my troubles, things aren't all that bad!

One area where I feel emotional balance is still a problem is in my tendency to become easily frustrated. For as long as I can remember, this has been an issue for me, and while it's gotten better, I still feel like I have problems managing this emotion. I don't like that I lose my cool while sitting in traffic, or in the grocery store when there are crowds, or any variety of other times when things might not go the way I would prefer. In particular, it troubles me that I tend to direct my frustration at those who happen to be close to me at the time, and to me, this seems like a form of objectification. That is, the person I'm with becomes the object of my frustration even if they have no direct hand in the situation causing it, which is often the case. Even in the past year or so I think I've made measurable progress here, but there are times when I feel that I violate my values of compassion, patience, empathy, respect, and so on, and this doesn't sit well with me. So I've begun looking for a psychologist who might be able to help me root out this issue so that I can learn to manage this emotion more maturely.

All in all, I feel very positively about where I am and where I'm heading. When I have moments of anxiety and wonder if I'm really living a healthy life, I have only to examine where I have been versus where I am now to see that I am, in fact, a changed person, and that I'm using my values to guide my choices. I'm far from perfect, but I'm only human, and I'm learning to forgive myself for that. It sure feels good to be able to like who I am.


 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:28 pm 
Recovery Coach (Admin)

Joined: Fri Feb 04, 2005 10:32 pm
Posts: 4572
I'm glad to hear that you are continuing to plug away at moving yourself forward. For some people, health hits like an avalanche and the path is straight. For others, it is more like a stream feeding into a river that feeds into an ocean. On the journey, all you are really aware of is your immediate surroundings but eventually, you look up to see that your entire world has changed (for the better). That you are indeed healthy. It sounds as if you are somewhere along the river, heading towards the ocean. :wink:

Jon Marsh
Recovery Coach

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:06 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Eight and a half years since I last posted on my recovery thread. It feels like a lifetime and a blink at the same time...

I wish I could say that I'm back to check in and let the RN community know that my life is on track and that I'm exercising healthy values at every turn, but unfortunately that's not the case. Recently I suffered a significant relapse--a one-month emotional affair (via text messaging) with a female friend--which my wife of 3.5 years (and partner of 9.5 years) discovered by checking my phone. I'm tempted to congratulate myself for not letting the relapse turn physical (I do believe I ingrained lasting, healthy boundaries with respect to physical infidelity during my initial recovery) and I honestly believe the affair was ending when my wife discovered it, but ultimately I know that these things don't erase the pain of what I've done. My wife is understandably crushed, I've thrown a real wrench in our close friend group, and I'm feeling a lot of toxic shame. Triple whammy. Plus I wasn't honest about my relapse--she discovered it rather than me disclosing it.

I see now that over the years, I became complacent. I never really believed the adage "once and addict, always an addict," and after all the work I did between 2006-2008, I really believed I'd made significant progress in becoming a healthy man. And to be sure, I have made progress. The "old me" would definitely have let this relapse turn physical. Still, the "new me"--the me I worked so hard to build during my first crack at recovery--would never have let any of this happen in the first place. So yeah, I know I'm not healthy right now, and I also see that no matter how much progress I make, I'll always have to remain vigilant. As my friend--a veteran who served two tours in Iraq--recently reminded me, complacency kills.

My wife is in a lot of pain, but she hasn't walked out the door yet. We've been to counseling several times (both as a couple and solo) since she discovered my texts almost two weeks ago. I am very remorseful and have proactively given her access to my phone, online accounts, etc., though I know no one wants to have to check up on their spouse. For my part, I see clearly now what I couldn't and didn't see as recently as two weeks ago: I got complacent, and when some significant stressors recently started piling up (frustrations at work, my wife and I have been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, and I desperately want to buy a home even though we're at least a couple years from being able to do it financially), I wasn't monitoring myself and taking appropriate precautions to ensure I didn't seek out unhealthy escapes. It seems so obvious now, and I feel guilty and foolish for not keeping my eyes open.

I've been thinking a lot the past couple weeks, and have concluded that while I did successfully ingrain some important healthy values--particularly surrounding the physical act of sex, which used to be the primary way I acted out--I'm still falling short with respect to maintaining emotional balance. I'm not 100% sure where to go now, but I think I'm going to start working the lessons again from the beginning. It's been 11 years since I first came to RN, and I know I missed some important lessons.

I want to be a healthy person and a reliable partner. My ex, Coach Pilar, suffered a lot of pain and trauma because of me, and lately I've been thinking about something she said to me toward the very end of our relationship: "Achilles, you should come with a warning label." My shame is intense, but not as strong as my desire to live a healthy life.

Thanks for having me back. Looking forward to learning more about myself and continuing my recovery in a positive, thoughtful way.


PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2016 4:02 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Lesson 1

A. Three keys to establishing a successful foundation for permanent change in early recovery are:
1) actively committing yourself to change
2) not allowing guilt/shame to sabotage your commitment to change
3) allowing yourself time to change.
Consider where you feel you are in relation to each of these recovery keys? Briefly share your thoughts in your Recovery Thread.

B. Beyond an active commitment to change, another important factor in determining your ultimate success is your motivation. Look deep inside 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 is important to you. Phrase these in the positive. For example: " I don't want to keep deceiving my wife" would serve you better if written like "I want to be honest and transparent with my wife". Positive statements have much more power in our mindset than negative ones. List these in your recovery thread.

C. Childhood picture reflection

Here I am again. When I first came to RN nearly 11 years ago, I’d hit rock-bottom and finally admitted my addiction to my partner at the time (who also posted and coached here extensively, Pilar). Finding RN probably saved my life. And to be sure, at the time, I thought I’d committed fully to pursuing an active recovery for all the right reasons: because I wanted to life a healthy life as a healthy man, because I wanted to learn to identify and uphold my values, because I cared about myself and being a good person who added to the lives of those close to him instead of causing pain and chaos.

For a while—about a year--all that worked out very well. I even became a volunteer recovery coach for a while, and despite the destruction I’d caused in Pilar’s life and our life together, we were taking a crack at putting our relationship back together.

Then, at about the 15-month mark (spring of ’07), I had a horrible relapse and things with Pilar finally ended.

Shortly thereafter, I met the woman (M) who would become my wife. The timing was awful. Despite having regained some balance and pulled myself out of the full-blown relapse, I was still a mess. I was honest from the start with M and despite my uncertainty, we moved forward, slowly and deliberately building a partnership together. I though I was back on track.

I wasn’t.

Despite transitioning successfully away from the worst of my acting out patterns (chat rooms, multiple affairs, unprotected anonymous sex), Internet porn continued to be a struggle for me. Then in the summer of ’09, I came close to having an affair but managed to stop myself in the knick of time. I immediately disclosed this to M, and we went through months of very difficult rebuilding to get back on track as a couple. But as an individual, I see now that I was still not fully committed to recovering. Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t believe it was possible. Re-reading lesson one today was eye-opening, Jon’s words echoing across the years: “It's scary to think of a life without the feelings that these patterns bring, and you might believe it's not even possible. You might believe that these thoughts and behaviors are a representation of who you really are.”

Nailed it.

And now I’m back again, dealing with another major relapse that I should have seen coming and didn’t, primarily because I’ve drifted so far away from the skills I learned during my initial time here at RN, because I grew so complacent, that I didn’t even identify the warning signs that were right in front of me, that honestly have been in front of me—or should have been—since I first strayed from recovering in ’07.

Ok, so lesson 1. I have to admit part of me feels like a phony being back here again, starting the lessons anew. Not because I don’t want to be here and finally make a permanent transition to a healthy life, but because I feel like I should know better, that I should already be past this. Clearly I’m not, though, so here we go.

Actively committing myself to change… I really see the importance of this. During my initial recovery, I did actively commit to change and worked very hard to ingrain these lessons and practice what I learned in my daily life. That commitment waned at some point, and when I stopped actively engaging in the process, that’s when things really started running of the rails for me. Going through the motions, as Jon writes, looks good and even feels good for a while, but it’s not possible to sustain a healthy life on the appearance of health. I know this. Unfortunately I’ve learned it the hard way. So this is me, committing here and now to myself that I will embrace an active recovery, that I will not allow complacency and inertia to pull me back into the gutter ever again.

On not allowing guilt and shame to derail me… I had an interesting conversation with my counselor earlier this week about shame. I was explaining to her that I was trying hard not to let my shame bury me, and she stopped me and reminded me that shame is a natural—and healthy—reaction to violating one’s values. It’s a survival instinct, just like pain caused by touching a hot burner. It reminds you that doing what you just did is not good for you. So I’m trying to sit with my shame, to recognize it for what it is and accept it without letting it overwhelm me. I’m glad my counselor and I had that conversation. I think my biggest obstacle now will be getting past my feelings of guilt and shame about relapsing when I should have known better—when I did know better. I’ve really let myself down, and in so doing, have once again brought pain and chaos to those I love. That’s going to be the hardest thing for me this time, I think. But I this won’t sabotage my desire. If anything, it will strengthen it. These patterns need to change. I need to change them.

Allowing myself time to change… Having been here before, starting down this same path, I’m well aware there are no quick fixes and that real change won’t happen overnight. But I also know that real change can start right now, and that’s encouraging. I don’t expect a significant challenge with accepting that transitioning to a healthy life takes time. I know it does and I’m a lot more patient than I was when I first arrived here 11 years ago. I’ve grown a lot during the intervening decade, and even though I clearly still have a lot of work to do, I know I’m in this for the long haul. My life is too valuable to continue on this (un)merry-go-round of recovery/relapse.

Reasons I’m seeing permanent change (and I’m not looking at the reasons I listed 11 years ago as I write this, though will be interested to compare after the fact):

1. I want to build a stable foundation beneath myself to manage my life from a place of health and strength rather than fear and chaos.
2. I want to be able to trust myself.
3. I want to be a trustworthy husband, friend, son, brother, uncle, cousin.
4. I want to add value to the lives of those I love instead of creating instability and uncertainty.
5. I want to see other people for who they are, not for what they might add to my own life.
6. I want my first instinct to be to view women as people, not sex objects.
7. I want to learn to manage my own emotions without seeking external validation.
8. I want to learn to view sex in a healthy, balanced context rather than attaching ultimate importance to it as an indicator of a “good” marriage.
9. I want to appreciate all the ways M expresses her love for me rather than fixating on our sex life as the most important litmus test.
10. I want to learn to accept emotional stability, even if it’s dull sometimes, as healthy and normal rather than seeking emotional extremes to keep life “interesting.”
11. I want to learn to commit to my choices rather than, in the back of my mind, keeping my options open. This means some doors will close, but it also means I can more fully embrace the choices I’ve made. Jon wrote a great post on this:
12. I want to be able to love all of who I am. I want to love the sum, but also the parts that go into that sum.
13. I want to look in the mirror and know the man I see looking back is not only capable of being healthy, but is healthy. Not just on the façade, but to the core.

I just spent some time looking at a photo that was taken in the summer of ’82 when I was three and a half. It’s with my oldest friend (who I’m still friends with), and it’s amazing. I’ve always loved the way photos open a doorway through time, and looking at this picture, it’s hard to believe it was really me sitting there all those years ago. The smile, the light in my eyes, the obvious joie de vivre…that was really me. It’s still me, just with a hell of a lot more mileage. Some of those miles are pretty rough, but after all these years, I’m still running, still trying to move forward without careening too far off-road. I’ve taken some detours and have definitely made more than a few wrong turns, but the important thing is that I’m back still moving forward. The destination is important, but so’s the journey, and I want the journey to be a grand adventure. I want to love my life and love myself, despite my shortcomings and faults. Today is the first day of the rest of my life.


Last edited by Achilles on Sun Jan 08, 2017 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:17 pm 
Recovery Coach

Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:07 pm
Posts: 3856
Location: UK
Hello Achilles
you should copy and paste your re start post in the recovery forum
welcome back and good luck

Remember recovery is more than abstinence
Every transition begins with an ending
Do not confuse happiness with seeking pleasure
stay healthy keep safe
Coach Kenzo

PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2016 1:51 am 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Hey Kenzo. I sent a message to the mods through the "contact us" function asking to have my recovery thread moved back to the Recovery Forum. I'd like to keep my threads--past and present--together as one, and copying and pasting each individual post (there are quite a few) seems a bit daunting. Hoping the mods can move the entire thread back. Not sure how it ended up here, anyway.

Thanks. :)

PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:03 am 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
I've been doing a lot of thinking today, and a couple of things occurred to me:

1) I am afraid that this is just who I am, that real change isn't possible for me. That I am my addiction. This quote from the lesson really speaks to that fear:
Choosing an active recovery means more than simply controlling your compulsive thoughts and behaviors; it means making the choice to eliminate addictive patterns from your life forever. It's a scary proposition. On the one hand, these patterns have no doubt caused you significant emotional pain, for example, by way of guilt and shame; yet, they also bring great emotional comfort. It's scary to think of a life without the feelings that these patterns bring, and you might believe it's not even possible. You might believe that these thoughts and behaviors are a representation of who you really are. That you are somehow defective.

This is a misconception I'm going to have to attack head on because this other quote sums up where I've been so far:
Continue to engage in a pattern of relapse/recovery and the change will be a reinforcement of your inability to manage your life without addiction.

2) I feed on attention from women. I'm not sure where this tendency comes from, but I can't remember a time in my life when it wasn't true, even back to childhood when I used to pester my mother incessantly for attention. In social settings, I gravitate to women. I like making them laugh. I like feeling like they see me. I like being liked by them. It's part of this hole inside me that I'm always trying to fill with external validation, and speaking of reasons I want to change my life, I want to patch up this hole and learn to create validation for myself.


PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2017 2:52 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Lesson 2 Exercises:
Take at least twenty minutes to be alone. If you have a family, ask them to respect this time that you are taking. Make sure that you leave your cell phone off. That the dog is fed. That there will be no distractions. Take a walk by yourself. Sit alone on the beach. Find somewhere secluded and then, think. Think about who you are, the life that you have led, and the life that you want to lead from this point forward. Think about your legacy. Create a vision that you would feel comfortable committing yourself to pursuing. One that, as you someday look back upon your life, will allow you to feel proud of the person that you developed into. Of the life that you led. Write out your vision. Use any format you would like. As a general rule, the more personal, the better. Post this vision in your Recovery Thread. There is no right or wrong to this vision...though it should be comprehensive enough for a stranger (such as a coach or mentor) to read it and have a pretty good idea as to what you value and the life that you want to live.

I’ve spent nearly a week thinking about my response to this lesson. Amazing coincidence (fate?) that I actually shared a link to Jon’s original post that became the meat of lesson 2 in my previous lesson reply. It obviously made an impact on me and was important enough to become lesson 2.

The first part of establishing my vision has been a gut-check of my current vision. Admittedly, I hold myself (and others) to impossibly high standards, which means that more often than not, no one—not even me—can live up to my expectations. This, in turn, breeds within me a constant feeling of anxiety, dissatisfaction, and frustration, and I’m confident that this is one of the cornerstones of my compulsive behavior, of my “need” to escape reality by acting out.

For example, six years ago I began writing fiction, which very quickly became an obsession. I got up early to write before work, I wrote during my commute on the train, during my lunch break at the office, and most evenings. I became fixated on the idea of “making it” as a writer, of quitting my day job and living the (self-idealized) life of an artist, of taking control of my own professional destiny, and most importantly, making a difference in the lives of others.

Within a year, I’d finished most of my first novel, but was more miserable than ever. I wasn’t “making it” the way I thought I should be as a writer, and my day job felt increasingly like a prison sentence. Things hadn’t turned out the way I expected they would.

The important part of this isn’t whether I sold my first novel or not, but that two significant revelations arose from my efforts to make it as a writer:

    1) It became even more obvious to me than ever that when reality doesn’t align with my expectations, I suffer a lot of negative emotions: frustration, self-loathing, anger, disappointment, etc. Then I submerge myself in these emotions and let myself marinate in them rather than swimming my way to shore, drying off, and getting on with the business of executing my vision in a healthy, positive way.
    2) In my desire to make a difference to strangers who might one day read my writing, I totally lost sight of the very real and significant difference I am able to make to those closest to me and in my community.

Take-away? I create frustration and misery by setting goals (for myself and others) that are not necessarily achievable, then I wallow in the negative emotions that arise from our inevitable failures to achieve these goals.

I identified another big personal pitfall a few months ago during a conversation with my wife about choices and commitment. I was telling her about all the “if I knew then what I know now” instances I could identify in my own life—i.e., regrets—then asked her to share some of hers with me. She startled me by revealing that she really couldn’t think of any examples, that she was, by and large, happy with the choices she’d made. They were her choices, she said, and sure, maybe things could’ve turned out differently had she made different choices, but she wasn’t tortured by those "what if’s" the way I seemed to torture myself with them. I was indignant that this could be the case and pressed her on the matter—it turned into a heated conversation. Only later, after thinking about it, did I realize (and acknowledge to myself and her) I was the one who had the faulty outlook, that she was living the kind of life I wanted to live, and that it clearly is possible to be content with one’s choices.

So there it is: the number one key to the vision I want to build for myself is fully adopting Jon’s lesson—and my wife’s approach—on committing to my choices without fixating on the would’ve, could’ve, should’ves, without leaving the doors behind me cracked so I can beat a hasty retreat if the going gets tough. I see this tendency in my own life almost everywhere I look, and I realize now how exhausting and self-defeating it is. I realize how it prevents me from embracing the life I’ve built for myself, of the opportunities I’ve created, and of the path I’ve chosen. I have, in essence, built an escape hatch in my current vision, and this has stopped me from being truly present in my life. I’m going to start bricking it over and living in the present rather than obsessing over the past.

Second, and in close conjunction with number one, I want to set realistic goals and work towards them in a measured, deliberate way. This means getting these goals out of my head and onto paper, creating timelines and milestones, and celebrating successes as I work towards them. That way I can’t change the rules mid-game, sabotaging my feelings of accomplishment because I’ve “failed” under the ever-changing demands I place upon myself. Living in the present is goal number 1, but looking ahead to the future I'm building needs to be part of the equation, too.

Third, I want to become a more positive presence in the lives of those closest to me. This means identifying where I’ve heaped unfair expectations upon my loved ones and relieving them of those burdens; it means doing the same for myself so that my emotional foundation isn’t built on frustration and angst; it means identifying and acting on opportunities—even small ones—to help those close to me and in my community experience joy and fulfillment; it means honestly and openly sharing myself without fear, judgment, and doubt. It means many things, but most important to me right now, it means being mindful about the way I interact with the world around me, about learning to view challenge and adversity not as enemies, but as opportunities to grow and become a better person.

Fourth—and on a very specific level—I want to eliminate porn from my life once and for all. Despite leaving behind most of my truly egregious past behaviors, porn continues to be part of my life (albeit at significantly diminished levels). I want to start identifying it for what it is: an interloper in my life and in my marriage. It’s an affair partner that undermines intimacy and trust, and it’s time to go no contact.

These ideas will evolve as I progress, I’m sure, but this is where I want to start. This is the new foundation for my life moving forward, and it already feels a hell of a lot more stable then where I’ve been.

Thanks and Happy New Year!


PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2017 2:48 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Lesson 3 Exercises:
A. Note: In the previous lesson, you were asked to write out your vision for the life that you want to live. If you have not yet completed this task, do so now, before beginning this exercise.
B. On your computer, extract the values from the vision you have created and list them. Your goal for this lesson is to create a single, comprehensive list that involves all of the primary ways that you derive stimulation from your life. Or, those areas that you want to derive stimulation from. Most lists will contain between 50-100 items. When you are done, post this list in your recovery thread.
If you feel you need some guidance as to what you are looking for, or for examples of how to list each item, see this example values list.
C. When you have extracted every possible value that you can think of from your vision, do the following:
1) Review this example values list for any additional values that you may want to add to your own list. List them.
2) Consider the 'dark side' of your decision-making. The compulsive behavior. The sexual behavior. Take some time to extract the values that went into those behaviors, and list them as well.

Healthy values

    1) Being trustworthy
    2) Integrity
    3) Compassion
    4) Empathy
    5) Humility
    6) Believing in myself
    7) Having self-respect
    8) Respecting others
    9) Viewing people as people, not objects
    10) Keeping my word to others and myself
    11) Being dependable and reliable
    12) Aligning my actions with my intentions
    13) Being a good husband
    14) Becoming a father
    15) Being a good father
    16) Making my wife feel safe and secure
    17) Developing healthy sexual intimacy with my wife
    18) Being a good son
    19) Being a good brother
    20) Being a good role model to my younger siblings
    21) Being a good friend
    22) Setting a good example/leading by example
    23) Entertaining (friends/family)
    24) Being physically and emotionally healthy
    25) Being comfortable in my own skin, both physically and emotionally
    26) Eating well
    27) Cooking
    28) Exercising: rowing, running, yoga
    29) Being self-aware and knowing when I’m becoming complacent
    30) Having a good career
    31) Being respected in my professional life
    32) Advancing my professional expertise/capabilities
    33) Balancing work/home obligations
    34) Being financially stable
    35) Saving money
    36) Being (consumer) debt free
    37) Owning a home
    38) Being less critical of myself and others
    39) Loving myself and others
    40) Learning to manage negative emotions
    41) Patience
    42) Joy
    43) Acceptance
    44) Playfulness
    45) Humor
    46) Mindfulness
    47) Creativity
    48) Writing
    49) Reading
    50) Music
    51) Art
    52) Theater
    53) Continuing to learn and grow
    54) Curiosity
    55) Communication
    56) Letting those I love know that I love them
    57) Maintaining contact with family and friends who live elsewhere
    58) Being active in my community
    59) Helping others
    60) Traveling
    61) Adventures, large and small
    62) Camping
    63) Being outdoors
    64) Learning to find fulfillment in solitude
    65) Setting and sticking to goals
    66) Living in the moment (while adhering to my values)
    67) Taking (healthy) risks
    68) Opening myself to change
    69) Accepting that I can’t always control the outcome
    70) Accepting that life isn’t always a barrel of monkeys…and knowing that that’s ok
    71) Being adaptable
    72) Rolling with the punches
    73) Being validated
    74) Being respected
    75) Being appreciated
    76) Appreciating others
    77) Feeling needed/desired/loved by others
    78) Feeling happy/content/fulfilled

“Dark” values

    1) Power
    2) Control
    3) Competence
    4) Strength
    5) Unbridled passion
    6) Feeling wanted
    7) Feeling appreciated
    8) Acceptance
    9) Feeling like I’m not alone…that there are others like me
    10) Meeting new people
    11) Reveling in carnal connection
    12) Feeling like I could be anyone I wanted
    13) No responsibilities
    14) Feeling unbound by expectations
    15) Feeling like I’m channeling my “true” self
    16) Euphoria
    17) Fantasy
    18) Secrecy
    19) Intensity
    20) Danger
    21) Risk
    22) Excitement
    23) Novelty
    24) Adventure
    25) Pleasure
    26) Sensuality
    27) Lust
    28) Desire
    29) Fulfillment
    30) Immediate gratification
    31) Escape
    32) Fun
    33) Relaxation
    34) Release

I found that listing the values I extracted from acting out was pretty triggering. Definitely looking forward to getting these feelings in check.


PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 4:11 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2006 1:28 pm
Posts: 229
Location: Chicago
Lesson 4 Exercises:
A. In the previous exercise, you identified a list of the majority of your practical and universal values. Now, prioritize this list. This should take you about fifteen minutes at the most. If it is taking you longer than that, you are thinking too deeply. The deep thought was in constructing your vision and extracting the values...this is the 'easy part'. Simply identify an initial order of prioritization that 'feels right' to you.
Take a snapshot of where these values lay in terms of helping you to achieve your vision. DO NOT worry if a particular value is a few items above or below another (for instance, don't worry about choosing between 'Strengthening My Role as a Father to My Son' and 'Strengthening My Role as a Father to My Daughter'). You should be looking for a general sense of prioritization — not an exact representation. Remember that values change. Priorities change. And so, to try to imagine all possible situations for which prioritization may apply would paralyze you. So don't. Think only in the current moment — and in relation to what you believe would be the most direct path to building that vision in your day-to-day life.

    1) Feeling happy/content/fulfilled
    2) Being trustworthy
    3) Being dependable and reliable
    4) Being physically and emotionally healthy
    5) Being a good husband
    6) Making my wife feel safe and secure
    7) Being a good friend
    8) Aligning my actions with my intentions
    9) Setting and sticking to goals
    10) Integrity
    11) Keeping my word to others and myself
    12) Communication
    13) Empathy
    14) Humility
    15) Patience
    16) Mindfulness
    17) Being self-aware and knowing when I’m becoming complacent
    18) Being comfortable in my own skin, both physically and emotionally
    19) Being less critical of myself and others
    20) Learning to manage negative emotions
    21) Being adaptable
    22) Accepting that I can’t always control the outcome
    23) Accepting that life isn’t always a barrel of monkeys…and knowing that that’s ok
    24) Developing healthy sexual intimacy with my wife
    25) Having self-respect
    26) Believing in myself
    27) Respecting others
    28) Setting a good example/leading by example
    29) Being a good brother
    30) Being a good role model to my younger siblings
    31) Being a good son
    32) Loving myself and others
    33) Letting those I love know that I love them
    34) Compassion
    35) Appreciating others
    36) Maintaining contact with family and friends who live elsewhere
    37) Feeling needed/desired/loved by others
    38) Being validated
    39) Being respected
    40) Being appreciated
    41) Playfulness
    42) Humor
    43) Joy
    44) Continuing to learn and grow
    45) Viewing people as people, not objects
    46) Exercising: rowing, running, yoga
    47) Eating well
    48) Becoming a father
    49) Being a good father
    50) Balancing work/home obligations
    51) Taking (healthy) risks
    52) Curiosity
    53) Learning to find fulfillment in solitude
    54) Adventures, large and small
    55) Living in the moment (while adhering to my values)
    56) Traveling
    57) Owning a home
    58) Being financially stable
    59) Saving money
    60) Being (consumer) debt free
    61) Having a good career
    62) Being respected in my professional life
    63) Advancing my professional expertise/capabilities
    64) Entertaining (friends/family)
    65) Music
    66) Acceptance
    67) Creativity
    68) Writing
    69) Reading
    70) Cooking
    71) Art
    72) Helping others
    73) Theater
    74) Being active in my community
    75) Camping
    76) Being outdoors

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