Recovery Workshop: Lesson Seventy-Three
Leaving Addiction Behind
Congratulations on completing the Recovery Workshop. The past seventy+ lessons have provided you with the foundation you will need to end the patterns of sexual and/or romantically compulsive behavior. It is not necessary that you master each and every skill presented, only that you gain an awareness of the functional aspects of addiction, recovery and health.
The following checklist should help you assess where you should be at this point in your recovery. If you find that you are lacking in certain areas, take a few days to go back and review this material. Ask questions in the Community Forum. Schedule a free coaching session if you would like. Anyone who has shown the tenacity to complete this workshop is someone that I would be honored to talk with. Just remember that having completed the workshop lessons does not translate into having completed the workshop. The 'real workshop' is found in how you manage your day-to-day life...across your life span. And so, whether it has taken you 90 days or 900 to complete the lessons, your 'workshop' will continue for the rest of your life.
The Insights/Skills that should be In place
At this point in your recovery, you should possess the following insights/skills:
- You should be experiencing a significant decline in the frequency of compulsive sexual/romantic urges. For someone with a daily pattern of sexually compulsive behavior, experiencing one or two significant urges in the course of a week should be anticipated. Experiencing one or two per month would be ideal. Experiencing no compulsive urges whatsoever is not natural.
- You should be comfortable in isolating each individual urge you experience — as it is experienced. You should not be thinking in terms of clusters or patterns anymore. You should understand why this individual urge approach is the most efficient for managing compulsive behavior.
- You should have no existing triggering material in your possession and should have no 'secret stash' of destructive links, images or other stimuli that you can gain access to.
- You should have your self-awareness enough to know whether you are being absolutely honest with yourself about whether or not a particular stimuli is destructive.
- You should possess the ability to understand the general flow of emotions in a single compulsive event. In the lessons, you worked on very specific emotional elements that make up such a flow...to move on, you only need to understand the general nature of these elements.
- You should be able to recognize the critical time in a compulsive urge where you are capable of logical and/or predetermined decision-making (e.g. engaging in a mechanical decision-making process or deferring to an existing action plan).
- You should have a clear understanding of the Urge Control process.
- You should have a clear understanding of the Decision-Making process.
- You should have a comprehensive Relapse Prevention Plan in place that addresses not only the most common behavioral patterns, trigger patterns and signs/symptoms of an unbalanced life, but that has objective, precise actions to take should the need arise.
- You should have documented Action Plans in place to all of your most likely compulsive behaviors/triggers.
Additionally, you should have at least partially developed the following:
- You should possess at a minimum, a fuzzy understanding of how the individual pieces of the workshop come together to form a cohesive addiction recovery strategy.
- You should have a mechanical awareness of the individual pieces presented in the workshop, but not necessarily a functional one. This functionality will be developed in the next phase of the recovery process.
- You should be experiencing mild to moderate anxiety/doubt about your ability to sustain long-term, healthy change.
- You should feel some apprehension in anticipating your first real test to your recovery — usually related to either complacency or the recognition that secrets/dishonesty remain a part of your life management repertoire.
- You should have started to prepare for this test, though confusion should persist as to just what this 'test' will look/feel like.
- You should be getting in the habit of engaging in multiple mental role-playing sessions (lasting a few minutes each, several times per day) with the goal of furthering your awareness and ingraining healthy skills into the compulsive process.
- You should have a list of solid, functional values that contains at least seven items. Each of these values should be capable of providing you with strength, stability and focus when called upon.
If you find yourself lacking in any of these areas, again...review the lessons, ask on the Support Forum or contact a Coach. Don't leave any excuse for not making a complete transition to health.
Where You Are Headed
These past three months (or however long it has taken you) have most likely been an emotionally chaotic, intense ride. With a significant decline in your acting out, this chaos will likely have subsided significantly and should continue to do so for as long as you choose to use values to guide your decisions over your emotions. What you can expect over the next year of your life, should you remain committed to developing a healthy life, is a long, slow, smooth transitional process that will be geared towards mastering the skills that you have begun developing. There will certainly be times of struggle, times you will be blind-sided by behavior that you 'should have' seen coming, but that you sincerely missed. Other times where you will push the limits of your actions, honesty and secrecy beyond your existing boundaries...and struggle with yourself as to why. These are normal parts of the developmental process. They are normal parts of learning how to live life as a healthy adult.
Over the next year, you will continue your transition from addiction to health by moving further and further away from the mechanical recovery skills, settling on more natural, mature life management skills. Remember that while it may be comforting, a healthy life is not lived by taking out a values sheet and reading through it. It is not lived by assigning mathematical values to your emotions. It is not lived by mapping out specific actions to all possible events that you may someday find yourself engaged in. A healthy life is lived by maintaining a foundation of values/skills to use in managing whatever may eventually come your way. Another aspect of the coming year will be your ability to further develop the base of values with which you possess. Ideally, a minimum of seven ingrained, functional values is best for providing stability, but as you know by know, just declaring a value in your life is not the same as actually developing it. This next year will require that you actually put forth the effort to develop these values. Closely related to this value expansion is the rebuilding of the areas of your life (and the lives of others, when applicable) that have been most damaged by your addiction. That you have put yourself in a position to make previous wrongs right is amazing in itself — pursue these opportunities with your head held high.
Finally, you have worked hard to put yourself in a position to do what so few have the courage to do: end their addiction. If you have taken to heart all that you have learned and have courageously applied this knowledge to your life...then you should no longer consider yourself 'an addict'. At worst, you should consider yourself to be a person striving to develop a healthy life. At best, you are and forever will be a healthy person who once struggled with the pattern of addiction in your life. But you fought back, conquered it...and earned the right to live a healthy life.
Lesson 73 Exercise:
While this may be the end of the structured part of the Recovery Workshop, note that your transition to health is an ongoing evolution. The tools that you have developed and are learning to use are ongoing. The experience that you need to develop is ongoing. In other words, your 'workshop' has not ended. Instead, it has just shifted from intellectual learning and application to a mastery of the application.
With that said, your final exercise of the recovery workshop is to celebrate. Treat yourself to one night where you celebrate the effort that you have put forth across the past seventy+ lessons. Share a special night with your partner. Buy yourself your favorite musician's CD. Take a trip. Do something healthy to reward this milestone...because you will have earned it. You can't get this far in the workshop without having made significant changes to your life. So take an evening to embrace those changes. To celebrate them.
Then get back to work. You have a life to manage.