Welcome to part 2 of our blog series which is looking at how to break the cycle of sex addiction. In part 1 I used the world of gardening as a metaphor to explain how sexual compulsive behaviour can take over our lives and looked at ways to start digging the weeds of sex addiction out of your life. This blog will continue the theme of gardening by looking at planning a new life post sex addiction.
Preparing to plant seeds
So, you have acknowledged you have a sex addiction or porn addiction. You have begun the hard work of understanding what your triggers are by talking to a trained sex addiction counsellor and you may have started to attend a 12-step group. All these things have enabled you to start pulling out the weeds of sex addiction from your garden. There is now beginning to be a bit of a space in your garden. You have room to step back and think what will replace the weeds? What things can I put in my life which will have a positive impact? What do I want to see grow in my life? Well, the first step is to have a vision.
Have a vision
Gardeners need to plan what they want to grow, be it vegetables or flowers. The same is true with your life. What do you want your recovery life to look like? Try to see this new chapter in your life as a positive one, rather than a list of things you are cannot do anymore. Being able to dream of what you want your life to look like will enable you to feel positive that something good can come out of this decision to change. Clients at the Laurel Centre are often amazed at how much more time they now have. They sit back and realise how many hours were wasted on searching the internet for the right sex worker, or chatting to people in forums, or watching people on webcams or spent checking their phone to see if that person(s) has messaged back. Then there is all the physical and mental time used hiding your behaviour. You now have time to do other things.
Here are some questions to help you decide what needs sowing into your life garden:
How is your physical health? : e.g. do you want to run 5k, walk with friends, join a gym, play with the kids in the park, walk the dog, eat and drink more healthily?
How is your mental health? : e.g. do you want to learn a new skill, read more books, listen to podcasts, what are you filling your mind with?
How is your emotional health? : e.g. will keeping a daily journal help process your feelings? Are you talking to a counsellor? How would you like to express your emotions? Do you understand your emotions?
How is your relationship health? : how would you like to improve your friendships and relationships with your partner and family members?
How is your spiritual health? : are you in touch with your spiritual self? Be it walking in nature, being part of a faith community or doing yoga. How do you ground yourself and feel part of the world around you?
How is your work health? : are you content with your work commitments (either paid or voluntary)? How is your work life balance? Are there any projects you want to plan for or work towards?
Hopefully, these questions will give you the springboard to write yourself a vision of what you want your life to look like from now on.
Preparing the ground
You have now planned what seeds you want to plant and written out your vision. Seeds are quite fussy and will not grow just by scattering them on top of the soil. The ground needs to be prepared thoroughly. The first step is breaking down the big lumps of mud into smaller pieces. This is done by using a rake. The rake also brings up any hidden stones which you can pick up and discard.
To get your vision underway, you will need to rake your life. You need to break down the big lumps of mud or clay into smaller more manageable sizes. If you had written a plan to run 10k. You probably will not be able to just go out and run 10k without preparation! You will need to ensure you have a good set of trainers and put a training plan in place to jog shorter distances to build up the stamina for the 10k. Compost also helps break up the larger lumps of clay as well as put nutrients into the soil for new seeds to use and grow. Positive affirmations can act like compost in your recovery life. People recovering from addiction will carry a lot of negative thoughts about their past behaviour and about themselves. These negative thoughts and feelings can paralyse you and prevent you from acting out your new plan. Reminding yourself of previous achievements, reading positive affirmations to yourself and daring to daydream of what your future will look like if you carry on with your plan can help reduce your feelings of shame and increase your self-worth.
Once the raking is complete and compost put into the ground, the gardener then marks out in the ground where they want to plant the seeds. The ground is then watered, and the seeds placed into the ground. The seeds are then covered up. It can take some time for the seeds to germinate, so be patient. Your new vision will take time to embed into your life. It will take time to see the first signs of growth in the form of seedlings. Trust that each day in your life of recovery is seeing small changes. Much of the work of a seed is done underground. No one sees the change until the first seedling breaks through the earth. Trust that your life will do the same. In part 3, we will look at maintaining your new life. We will continue with the gardening metaphor by talking about caring for your seedlings and ensuring they will grow into strong healthy plants.