Saturday, December 24, 2011
Despite the very personal nature of your response, it can be valuable to talk to and hear from others who are having parallel experiences. Healing as an individual and moving on as a couple often requires a massive reorientation in the most intimate realms of life. Checking in with fellow travelers on this journey can help reassure you you're not going crazy, illuminate ways of handling things you hadn't considered before, and instill hope that others have made it through what you're experiencing--in one piece!
In that spirit, let me recommend a video that was recently produced by KSL TV. My colleagues Jeff Ford, LMFT and Geoff Steurer, LMFT arranged the interviews and helped put the content together. Geoff coauthored Love You, Hate the Porn with me and the founding director of LifeSTAR of St. George Utah. Hope you find it helpful.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
|image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Hannah, since your husband's been actively working to conquer his addiction for 6+ years, and yet still failing regularly, I worry that he may leaving out key elements necessary for building a solid long-term recovery. As helpful as it may be to address one's addiction more openly--to be accountable, as you put it--there's also much more that can--and typically must--be done.
Here's my suggestion to those who struggle: When you falter, in addition to telling someone, take the time to analyze your lapse. Identify a factor or two that played a role and try to come up with a corresponding solution. Keep tinkering, experimenting, until you find an approach that works for you.
Doug had successfully avoided viewing porn for over a year. Then he got a new 4G phone. Waiting to pick up his daughter her karate class, he wandered around the web. Before he knew it, he had crossed the line back into the realm of porn. The rush was back, and so was the guilt. When he got home, it was hard to tell his wife, Shelly. They'd come so far, things between them seemed almost back to normal, and he dreaded what this might do to her confidence in him. He told her anyway.
Shelly swore at Doug and then cried. Then she thanked him for telling her. They brainstormed together. At first Shelly wanted him to ditch the new phone. They discussed what had helped Doug avoid problems on the computer. One key was the monitoring software they'd installed a year and a half ago. "Whenever I'm online I feel like I'm in a fishbowl. I know you'll be getting the report on where I go online. It's not even a temptation to go to adult sites anymore."
"Too bad they don't have monitoring software for phones," Shelly lamented. After a moment they looked up at each other and then both reached for their phones. Within moments they were exploring the pros and cons of different Phone Monitoring Software programs. Since installing FlexiSpy on his phone, Doug has felt as protected with it as he does when he's online at home.
Initially Shelly thought that availability was the primary factor leading to Doug's lapse; hence she wanted to get rid of the phone altogether. Talking together they realized that even if porn is available, it's not a draw unless Doug feels like he can view it in complete secrecy. This allowed them to come up with a fitting solution that wasn't overly restrictive.
Kevin is another individual who built a more solid recovery by taking the time to learn from his failures. He said, “I used to lapse on the road, so whenever I travel my mind reminded me it was time to look at porn.” The human nervous system is designed to take whatever we do regularly and generate an autopilot program for carrying out that sequence independent of conscious choice. Once we’re programmed, an initial domino in the sequence is all it takes to tip over the whole row.
Kevin's solution was to invest some time practicing other mental responses and making them habitual. He integrated the practices describe in my posts The Path from Craving to Freedom and Mentally Practice Your Way Out of Craving. On his next business trip, he deliberately practiced an entirely different line of thinking as soon as he walked into his hotel room. Before he even unpacked his luggage, he took out nine tattered index cards and read them, pausing a few seconds to let each idea sink in:
- "Don't choose guilt and depression over contentment."
- "As I get free of this problem Olivia and I feel closer and closer."
- "Sex is for connecting, not distraction."
- "That path separates and isolates me."
- "I have much more power when I turn away."
- "Think of how hard it is to face Olivia after messing up."
- "Remember who I am and what I stand for."
- "That path diminishes love and disconnects us."
- "Loneliness is hard but I can make it."
Once each day for a week prior to leaving on the trip, he had imagined himself in this very situation and then read the cards to practice. The repetition had helped lay down a new path for his brain to take, an alternative to the old pattern that had become habitual because of past repetition. He has continued this practice whenever he travels, breaking out the cue cards again a week prior to leaving. Despite being on the road extensively this past fall, he only lapsed once, which was a drastic improvement for Kevin.
Don't endlessly beat yourself up over a lapse. But don't merely dismiss it, either, as an inevitable part of the process of recovery from addiction. Instead, do as Doug and Kevin did. Take the time to do an autopsy. Adopt the mentality of a curious, scientifically-minded coroner. It may be a complex interaction of factors that makes us vulnerable to lapse. Thus, coming up with a solution can be a challenge. But it can also be quite an inspired, creative endeavor. (I'll stop short of calling it fun.)
Analyze away. Experiment away. And then please share with us what you discover and the ways you develop and grow along the way. I will be as excited to hear your story as I was to share Doug and Shelly's and Kevin and Olivia's!