Thursday, September 11, 2008

Two Worlds

I had 5 months of sobriety and then ¡poof! it was gone. It’s not that I didn’t gain from that. I gained a lot. One of the most important take-aways of that period was the fact that I can do it, it is possible. I also benefited from the inherent productivity and deep-seated satisfaction that comes with it. I got to experience the cumulative effects of (relatively) long-term sobriety and the sense of peace and, yes, serenity.

But now it’s gone. The sobriety, that is. I’m still not really where I was before those 5 months. There are parts of my life that seem to be gaining a cogency and sense of continuity. For that, I’m grateful. On the other hand, these last couple of months I’ve been acting out on a regular basis and, true to form, it’s gone to new depths. In a different way, I’m once again standing with my feet in two boats. One of my feet rests on the boat of mammon, the other in that of health, recovery, and spirituality. And it’s hard to make a leap.

I consider myself fortunate in that I don’t seriously want to give myself over to “the dark side,” but I’m also not foolish or oblivious enough to think that the bad habits of addiction don’t gradually gain a foothold. As the saying goes:

Sow a thought,
Reap an action.

Sow an action,
Reap a habit.

Sow a habit,
Reap a character.

Sow a character,
Reap a destiny.

Orsomethinglikethat. The point is one thing leads to another. I’ve seen it happen.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I acted out when? Last Tues/Wed. It's Monday now and my cravings or whateveryouwanttocallthem are pretty bad. Something just occured to me though. While a craving in the moment seems like a reason to act out--it's not. And here's why: Acting out would temporarily quell the feelings of desire I'm experiencing. But, in the longer term, it will only make them greater. Like pouring fuel on a fire. So acting out now, or today or tomorrow or this week would only make those desires more deeply ingrained in my consciousness. And the desires now would be that much more. Also, I would just be where I am now 5 days after whenever I acted out.

So, these feelings are a reason NOT to act out. Not the other way around.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I Want To Act Out


I don't want to write this morning. Nor do I want to meditate or chant or swim or go for a walk or read recovery literature or read anything spiritual. I want to act out. I want to get on one of my favorite websites and cruise other people's profiles and hope they "match" with me. I want to be wanted. I want the comforting feelings that come along with masturbating. I want the release of an orgasm.

These desires are a part of me. When I'm in the head of addiction, it's the only part of me that I can access. There are actions I can take to get out of that head but the irony is that I don't want to when I'm already there. That's why my choices are so important. By the time I get here, it's usually too late.

Up till I got back from my recent trip, I was enjoying a little bit of sobriety that lasted a couple of weeks. It felt good. My therapist used the word buzzkill to describe my addiction. The word struck me. My natural tendency is often to think of reality and recovery as the buzzkill. It's as if engaging in healthy behavior was ruining the excitement of my addiction. That's not entirely untrue of course, but the cost-benefit analysis just doesn't add up. When I'm sober and healthy the concomitant feelings and attitudes far outweigh the so-called comfort that masturbation or chat rooms have ever provided. I know this but unless I've got the momentum of sobriety on my side, it's so hard to choose satisfaction (the long-term enjoyment) over the pop of sexual hits.

I'm not sure how this chapter is going to end today. My girlfriend will wake up anytime and so window for acting out this morning is about to close. Kudos to me for journaling now instead of acting out. There will be an opportunity later probably but maybe I can make a phone call (or calls), get to the pool for a swim, do my yoga or use some other tool to get me out of this head and into a healthy one.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I sent a sobriety plan to my sponsor last night. So far, so good. I woke up and did my yoga. Now I’m journaling (um, obviously). The next thing on the agenda is to do my meditation. Also, my girlfriend leaves in 45 minutes. Part of my plan is to put my laptop in her car while she’s away. Since being alone with unstructured time and a computer is a risk for me, the idea is to reduce that risk. We talked about it last week, I think, but I’ve yet to actually do it.

For me, it comes down to willingness. The idea from AA that, “If you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps.” This refers to the 12 steps, but I also take it to mean in my recovery. From the green book of SAA, “we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get sexually abstinent, and to stay abstinent.”

Am I willing? Sometimes. I wish I had a more robust response. Sometimes I’m so sick of being an addict, so tired of wasting my time and impairing my life that I just want to do whatever it is I need to do to get well. And stay well. I hunger, I thirst for sobriety. I know how good life can be when I’m sober. I know how things just seem to fall into place for me when I’m sober. There are times when I crave sobriety. Unfortunately, this yearning for a healthy life is fleeting. As I recently told my sponsor, you know, I don’t feel like acting out but this too shall pass. That’s why it’s so important that I put these kinds of safeguards in place. And as important as I know these kinds of things are, I’m nevertheless often unwilling to do them.

I don’t like restriction or control or schedules or commitments or plans or supervision. I want to be unfettered and free. The undeniable truth of the matter is that I’m not going to get free by allowing whatever indulgence my whim deems appropriate. Sadly, freedom for me will only come when I put certain boundaries in place that allow me to do what the best part of me knows is the right thing. This in Sanskrit terminology is the difference between buddhi or intelligence and manah or mind. The intelligence acts based on rationality and allegiance to higher principles. The mind hovers on the platform of desire, accepting or rejecting whatever seems to accommodate its current impulse.

I just went downstairs and told my girlfriend that I was going to let her take my computer with her when she left. It was a bit hard. There was some fear there. I think I fear taking steps toward recovery and giving up control. I also fear letting her in on the inner workings of my secrets and addictions. The more she knows, the less I’ll be able to act out. But I did it. Now I can focus on my meditation and doing something healthy.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Cycle of Addiction

A few years ago I got some good advice. After a meeting, a friend who had been in recovery for around ten years and had quite a few years of sobriety gave me some feedback about what I had shared. He said that the cycle of addiction can be stopped at any stage. He went on to elaborate that although as addicts we tend to focus on our acting out behavior, the shame that follows it is just as important in keeping us in that terrible cycle.

The cycle of addiction starts with pain. To medicate the pain, an addict acts out in his addiction. In the past that particular behavior or substance has worked to ameliorate that pain and so he turns to it again. The acting out (or using) works to ease that pain and allows him a temporary escape from it. But once he’s done acting out, whatever he was trying to escape resurfaces, usually with a greater force since by acting out the addict avoided doing anything that got at the real problem. That’s when the shame kicks in. The shame and other negative feelings produced as a result of acting out produce the desire to escape those feelings. For an addict his main coping mechanism is to again to turn to the compulsive behavior. With that, the cycle is complete. For a more elaborate explanation of the cycle click here and here.

My friend explained that if we can work on the guilt and shame that accompanies our acting out then we can stop the cycle there. That advice, along with a lot of other things I ‘ve read and heard over the years have got me to try and work on the shame aspect of my addiction. To an extent, I think I’ve made some progress. I realize that sex addiction is a disease. And while I don’t completely subscribe to the idea that, “I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it.” I do realize that the underpinnings of my addiction are rooted way back and I have to play the cards I’ve been dealt. I continue to make progress and for that I’m thankful. I’m even seeing a bit that the process of uncovering my addiction and working towards spiritual reawakening is ultimately a gift from God to get me to a level of seriousness in my spiritual life that I may never have otherwise achieved.

I thought I had made some serious advancement toward handling the shame that comes as a result of acting out. But after acting out today I had a thought. It occurred to me that after acting out, I still want to escape and isolate. That desire to isolate comes from the shame and self-loathing that I’ve been trying to work on. Maybe I haven’t made as much progress as I would’ve liked but I learned something valuable about myself. I’ll take that.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Divided Self

I know that if I would have a routine spiritual morning program I would derive a lot of satisfaction and even enjoyment from it. Like in other parts of my life lately, I lack the motivation to do it. I committed to my therapist to do a daily morning program, but I haven’t been doing. Or at least not all of it. I’ve been pretty good about the journaling part but not so good about the meditation part. Yesterday I did some yoga, which was great. I could only spend about 20 minutes on it since I had to be out of the house unusually early but it was great. It was as if my body (or maybe mind) was craving it. It had been way too long. As I flowed through the postures, I listed to one of my spiritual teachers. His voice is so reassuring. Just hearing it provides an amazing comfort, like a child who wakes in the night and is held by his mother until he again falls asleep. Ok, generally analogies of spirituality compare it to waking up—true. But this one works for me. It reminds me of my own childhood.

Sometimes it’s recommended that prayer be done in the mood of a child crying out for her mother. I wish my meditation could be more in that mood. Prayer is always helpful for me but besides my meditation I do so little of it. That’s unfortunate because I find it so helpful. Often it’s easiest for me to write down my prayers. I find it helps me focus. It’s less easy for me to get distracted. It’s also less easy for me to fall into mechanical prayer. I think I can go deeper when I’m writing.

One of the meetings I attend has a writing component to it. I find that quite helpful. Before I moved here, none of the meetings I attended had that format. I like it. Recently I wrote:

The divided self. My therapist asked me an interesting question last session: What is the relationship between my two selves (the addict & the one who seeks health, growth & recovery)? I didn’t have an immediate answer. One thought I had then was how hard it is for one to relate to the other. Neither can really understand why the other would want to be like that, to do those things, to feel those feelings. Part of my recovering self feels a need to hide the addict. He’s careful who he lets in on that secret. He’s scared to talk about that other behavior fearing judgment, perhaps even abandonment or rejection. He’s interested in projecting a certain image to his friends and to his world. A part of him realizes that the more he expands that circle of friends who know the whole story, the better. They’ll be able to help. They’ll be compassionate & sympathetic.

The addict in me is a nefarious counterpart. He seeks gratification wherever he can get it. He gives very little consideration, including perhaps mostly, to the other part of me. But it’s not just me. His acts have real, negative consequences for others and whatever limitations he puts on himself often get pushed to aside to accommodate a new low. His integrity and honesty are slim to none.

In sharing at that meeting I had the realization that the more those two selves can integrate, the more I can see myself not as one perfect person and one horrible person but as one human being, flawed and imperfect, struggling to make progress, the more I begin to heal.

Friday, May 18, 2007

My Mornings

I was a monk for several years. During that time in my life mornings were rejuvenative and precious. I would consistently wake up very early and spend hours in meditation, reading spiritual subject matter, and spending time with others for the sole purpose of glorifying God. This was hours of my life—everyday. Whatever else happened on a particular day, at least I had a productive morning. I had those intense hours of deep spiritual nourishment as a foundation that I could build on.

I bring this up as a contrast to my present life. There are certainly days when I have spiritually productive mornings. I sometimes even go for stretches of weeks or more where I get into a groove and consistently, day after day, get up and start on the right track. I spend time meditating, worshiping, and journaling. Sometimes yoga is part of those mornings too. When I have, whether it’s for a single day or for weeks at a time, I never regret that time spent. I can’t remember a time looking back thinking, “I sure wish I wouldn’t have done my meditation this morning.” Quite the opposite. I’m always glad I’ve put in the time to be reflective, contemplative, and done my best to connect spiritually.

But alas and alack, I’m struggling these days. For years now I have used mornings to act out. Not all the time, certainly, but enough so that mornings are high-risk time for me, a trigger. It’s a time when a craving hits, when my mind is used to getting a fix and it wants another. Rationality goes out the window here. It’s not about intelligence or a lack thereof. It’s not that I don’t understand that acting out isn’t good for me. It’s not that I don’t get it, that if I start down that road I’ll easily spend hours consumed, enveloped in the bubble of addiction, wrapped up in sexual fantasy. All that, I can comprehend. If you asked me to explain the negative consequences of acting out, even on a morning when I was determined to do so, I could make quite a comprehensive list for you. No problem. But by the time I’ve gotten to that point, the point where it’s in my head that I want to act out, I need to act out—it’s just really too late.

Are there measures in my life I can take to stop from acting out? Are there choices I can make that are healthy and that will go a long way to protect me from acting out? Can I fashion my life so that I largely reduce the possibility or desire to act out? Yes, yes, and yes. But if I’ve failed to make good choices, if I’ve failed to put the proper safeguards in place, if I haven’t been conscious of how I control my environment, at some point it all becomes too little, too late.

It’s like this: I’m taking a trip in a few weeks. I could really go wherever I want. I’ve got the time and the means (well, to a degree). But the closer I get to actually making the trip the harder it is to back out and change my plans. At a certain point it is in fact nearly impossible to change those plans.

While I’m researching and thinking about the trip, it’s easy to go this place or that. I just have to make up my mind. But then, I make some hotel reservations and buy a plane ticket. The hotel reservations are usually no big deal, easy to cancel as long as you meet whatever window they’ve set up. The plane tickets, however, not quite as easy usually. Right?, at a minimum you usually can only use the fare as credit toward another destination and there’s often a change fee that accompanies that. Even just to change your flight by a few hours can often set you back 50 or 100 bucks. Somewhat difficult, but still possible. Until you get on the plane. Once you’re there, in your seat, you’re gonna have a hard time convincing the friendly airline folks that you need to get off the flight. Still, they might let you off and hurriedly remove your luggage from the cargo bay (carefully inspecting it, no doubt). But once they shut that door, you’re on your way to your destination.

I could on explaining how say, if you have a layover, you could still buy a new ticket and go somewhere else or decide to stay in the city of your layover (again with a panicky air crew removing your luggage) but it would be expensive and you’d have to go through the trouble of new hotel and car rental reservations (we didn’t talk about car rental before…hmm). But I think you get the point. It’s like that with addiction too. Once an addict has made certain choices, he gets to a point of no return. That’s why his choices are so important.

I know for me I’m often unwilling to make those choices. I don’t want to be restricted. I want to be in control of everything I do, everything in my world. The great irony is, of course, that I can’t control much of anything least of which, my addiction. If I surrender a little bit of control at the outset I get a great bit of freedom in return—freedom from a destructive behavior that controls my life. If I refuse to give up that bit of control and freedom at the outset, I lose any of it and cave to that negative force surrendering to its control.