In a recent post, I wrote about the courageous path of dropping addiction as a shock absorber and tolerating the emotions that come with experiencing life on its own terms. Last week I saw these principles put into practice in real life by my client, Don. It took my breath away and left me in awe of his courage and commitment. I hope you find his efforts inspiring as well.
Don is approaching two years sober. As addictions go, his was a bad one. His job managing an assembly line has always been four days on, four days off, and on some of his days home alone he spent 8-10 hours online surfing porn.
In the past month Don has faced:
- Hearing his 14-year-old daughter call her step-father “Dad”
- Feeling “bludgeoned” by his ex-wife because he didn’t have enough money to cover all of his daughter’s volleyball fees
- Sensing his girlfriend Pam’s frustration over all of the difficulties (including some legal battles) with his ex
- Feeling left out of all the excitement over the birth of his 21-year-old daughter’s new baby, his first grandson
- Pressure from his boss to cut costs and become more efficient because their entire company has lost their old profit margin cushion
Even much milder stressors were known to drive Don to porn in the past. I asked him what it was like to face such immense difficulties without that narcotic. His face was flush as he described the emotional pain he’d been in. “There’s a dark cloud hanging over me. I’m waiting for my ex to hit me with some new demand or court filing. I’ve never felt so uneasy. My stomach cramps up. Even Pam’s getting overwhelmed as she tries to support me through all this. I feel like a bad dad, like I’ve failed my kids, and it feels terrible most of the time.”
I asked Don how he was making it without relapsing to porn.
“It helps that I created routines during better times that help keep me away from porn. I don’t spend nearly as much time online anymore. Covenant Eyes helps—both to filter content and also because I know Pam can monitor what I’m on. And I have X3 on my phone.”
Based on the heavy feeling I had just listening to him talk about everything, I got some sense of the agony Don was in. “In the midst of this all, somehow you’re managing to stay away from porn,” I marveled.
“If I were acting out, I’d be more numb to it all. Sometimes the rationalizations kick in: ‘Why not go find some porn? Why fight the urges? You’re not being intimate with Pam anyway because of all the stress.’ That would be nice on the one hand, momentarily at least. But I don’t need the guilt on top of how bad things already are. I want my relationship with Pam to work. I don’t want to let her down. Even if we weren’t together, that life’s just not for me anymore. That’s not the person I want to be. As hard as it is sometimes, I have to remember that real life is better than that vortex I used to be in.
After my session with Don was over, I shut the door of my office and a spontaneous prayer of gratitude poured out of my heart for the privilege of being an eyewitness to raw courage. Here’s a guy who has found in his recovery an amazing level of commitment and fidelity, not only to Pam, his partner, but to life itself. Spending time with men like Don fills me with a desire to be a better, braver man myself. I offer my heartfelt thanks to you, Don, and to the rest of you who are like him. We celebrate you and the better world you’re helping create by refusing to settle for anything but your best self!