After two decades addicted, Chad's been sober for just over a year now. When I asked him what has helped most, he identified some key fundamental changes:
- He has deepened his connection with his values, goals, and sense of purpose in life. When temptations hit he has a distinct sense: "That's not me to get involved in that stuff anymore. That's not where my life is going." When he feels the draw of temptation, he turns his attention back to what he's trying to accomplish in life.
- He no longer spends time roaming the internet. He uses it for a specific purpose and then gets off again.
- He has worked to develop a some helpful ways to manage his stress. When he's not able to wind down at night, he will use one of the relaxation videos he found on YouTube. When he's confused or weighed down with burdens, he writes in a journal. When he gets anxious and sick to his stomach, he practices a mindfulness meditation technique.
- He has made a real effort to stop objectifying women. He looks them in the eye. He considers who they are as individual human beings with thoughts and feelings of their own.
Despite how much the above changes have helped, he claims that one final, key change has made the biggest difference of all:
One year ago Chad opened up in total honesty and got his wife, Samantha, involved in his recovery.
Here's an example of how it goes for them these days:
"At work I took a quick lunch with a buddy. As we chatted in the break room, on the TV screen behind him there was a scene of a woman taking her shirt off. Combined with all the long hours I've been working, that made for a rough day. I noticed a heightened susceptibility. It felt like my mind was weaker and I was less able to hold my focus on work tasks.
"I called Samantha and put it out on the table. It helps to talk to her about those kind of things. She was understanding. She appreciates it. It helps her to feel included.
"In the beginning I really had to face down my shame in order to bring up something like that. It's become routine for us now though. The moment I talked her about it, things shifted. It was like the temptation was neutralized in some way. The wildfire was stopped in its tracks and it didn't spread anymore.
"It was so hard to start letting my wife into my thoughts. I was accustomed to hiding not only my actions, but my temptations and cravings. But communicating about it has definitely had a positive influence on our relationship. We're more connected. I'm no longer keeping those walls up. We're in it together, I'm not grappling with this alone anymore. It's an 'us' thing now."
Even now that Samantha knows everything about him, she still loves and supports him. In fact, they're closer than ever. His transparency has elicited her support, and her understanding makes it easier for him to open up.
I can see the difference this has made in Chad. He carries himself with more dignity. Instead of hanging his head, feeling like a terrible person with a shameful habit, he seems to see himself more as a respectable guy who's dealing with a fairly common struggle. His sexual issues no longer define and isolate him. They're something he's learned to manage--with the help and support of a loving wife.