The final part of this blog series of breaking the cycle of sex addiction will look at how to maintain your new life. Incorporating new healthy, positive lifestyle choices takes time. It can feel like a daily battle to mentally and physically not act out on unwanted compulsive sexual behaviours. We know it is not easy, so this final blog will look at ways to strengthen your new lifestyle choices and keep your sex addiction and/or porn addiction in the past.
If you have been following the blog series, then you will know we have been using the metaphor of gardening. Part 1 focussed on identifying the weeds of your sex addiction and how to dig the weeds up. Part 2 looked at how to prepare the weed free ground for seeds to be sown and have a plan for your garden (your new life). Part 3 will look at how to protect your seedlings from damage and pests, so they have a chance to grow into strong healthy plants.
Know your enemy
Gardeners know that their new tender plants can be easily damaged. They can be eaten by slugs, snails, insects, or birds. They can be battered by strong winds, drowned in heavy rains, or die of thirst due to a heat wave. They can also be blighted with disease! How do gardeners protect their vegetables and plants from all the things that could damage them? Well, they keep a regular check on the plants to spot any disease or pick off any insects feeding on them. They also watch the weather forecast to see if they need to store up water for a long dry spell, or put stakes in for plants to lean on when it is windy, or put up netting to keep birds away from vegetables and fruit.
Recovering from sex addiction and porn addiction requires a similar vigilance. Working out what will damage your recovery is vital. The following questions will help you increase your self-awareness of things that could sabotage your new recovery life:
Which emotions can trigger a desire to act out?
The most common emotions that cause a desire to act out are anger, anxiety, and sadness. Understanding your own emotions and why they have arisen will help you to put steps in place to manage those emotions. Emotions are there to give us clues on how we are feeling. It is okay to feel angry when you have been let down or hurt by something or someone, but it does not mean you need to act out to self soothe that emotion. How else can you manage that emotion? Can you speak to someone about it? Do you need 5 minutes on your own to breathe, calm down and think how to respond to your anger. Remind yourself that sexually acting out from this place of pain will not make you feel better, even if your brain is screaming at you that you will feel better.
Are there certain routines or events that need to be avoided?
Clients at the Laurel Centre often explain in their counselling sessions or in the recovery course that they have certain routines before they act out. Many of these routines can be unconscious. A common forgotten trigger is the act of just switching on the laptop at a certain time of the day. If you had regularly gone online at 11.00 pm when everyone in the house is asleep, your mind and body is used to darkness and quietness of the house and just these two events can trigger you into thinking it is time to act out. Spend time thinking through your actions prior to sexually acting out to help build up a picture of your routines. Once you know your routine (preparation) to act out, then you can put measures in place to reduce the risk of acting out.
Are there certain people or places which would hinder your recovery?
Thinking through your acting out behaviour you may realise that there are certain places or people that would not be good for your recovery. e.g. this could be driving or walking through a certain area of town where your acting out behaviour occurred, staying in a hotel room for a business trip or going out with specific friends or work colleagues for a drink after work. Planning of events will limit any surprises. If you know you need to travel to a hotel for a business trip, what things can you do to limit the temptation to act out while you are away?
By thinking through these questions, you will begin to build a picture of what things in your life will cause you to trip up. Gardeners expect their plants to be attacked by nature, and so they put plans in place to protect their plants. In the same way, you need to expect that you will be tempted, that you could have a slip and possibly a relapse. Knowledge, self-awareness, and planning will reduce the opportunity for a slip or relapse to occur.
This blog series covered part of Paula Hall’s CHOICE model in her book “Understanding and treating sex and pornography addiction”. If you want to read more on the CHOICE model, then please use the links below.