I read this quote by Stephen King months ago when I read his quasi-autobiography, On Writing. As a recovered alcoholic — someone who's been through the process and knows what addiction feels like — King's comparison justified my frustration with former bishops, family members and friends who have encouraged me to do any or all of the following to kill my addiction:
- Just read the scriptures more.
- Pray more.
- Try harder.
- Just stop.
Porn/sex addiction is a sickness of the brain. This isn't like me deciding whether or not to get out of bed in the morning. There are powerful emotional, psychological and physiological undercurrents at work. So when someone tells me any of these things, I shut down. Because as much as a non-addict thinks they understand what it's like, they don't. And I hope they never do.
That third one, "try harder," is a toughie, though, because it opens the door nice and wide for excuses.
Having been lukewarm for much of my recovery, though, I know there are plenty of areas where I can try harder. Here are a few, along with some excuses:
I hate reaching out. I'm introverted by nature and generally prefer to work through things on my own. I'm afraid of what others would think of me if I reach out constantly. Will they wonder if I'm actually trying if I keep having triggers? I've also had some bad experiences when reaching out to other addicts. Generally, they have a should-fest and start telling me all the things I should and shouldn't be doing. When in reality, I just want them to tell me they know how I'm feeling and maybe share what's worked for them in their experience.
That's a lot of excuses right there. And honestly, I think some of them are valid. But just because they're valid doesn't mean I should let them stand between me and recovery. Reaching out has always been scary for me, even when I'm really on my recovery game. But I know, deep down, that I need to overcome that fear if I want to do this.
In the end, reaching out isn't about checking off a box when I'm triggered. It's about connection. And as we learn in the video below my therapist shared with me, "The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; the opposite of addiction is connection."
I'm too busy to give dailies the time and attention they deserve. I mean, between getting up early to work on my side job, working my full-time job, helping out with our son and making sure I get enough time to spend with Kilee, I just don't have time to spend significant time reading my scriptures, working the 12 steps, going to group, exercising, connecting with other addicts, meditating, checking in and doing something for self-care. And when I do have time to do that stuff, I don't want to because I feel burnt out from everything else.
Again, I don't think these excuses are without merit. But excuses are excuses if I'm letting them stop me from working recovery the way I'm supposed to. It all boils down to how I view them. Are they means to an end or are they the end themselves? The point of dailies is to keep you engaged in recovery. Is my day going to come crashing down if I don't have time to do 27,000 recovery-related things every single day? No. What matters is the diligence and sincerity I put into what I do have time to do.
I once asked some guys in a support group what their dailies are to get some ideas, and one guy shared 45 things he does every day. Yeah. I immediately thought, hey this guy's doing it. And I suck. Now, I don't know if he really does those 45 things every day, and I don't know if it's working for him or if he's completely overwhelmed. But after thinking about it, I realized that recovery isn't a list of dailies. It's finding what works for you and making a priority.
Submitting to God
I feel like I've done a pretty good job of preventing future triggers. I have a Chrome extension that blocks certain websites where I've historically started down the path of acting out. So when I do come across a big trigger, I feel like I get blindsided. I don't even think to reach out or pray and ask for help. I'm already in the lust funnel and don't have the presence of mind to resist.
Ugh. Just writing that makes me feel ridiculous, and that's because I am. This excuse has no validity. Sure, it's harder to make the right decision when you're already heading down that path, but fortifying yourself spiritually and making turning to God instinctive can help with that. I know because I've done it before. As I was preparing for my mission, my mind turned to God every time temptation hit. I'd sing a hymn or say a prayer, giving it to God, and it worked. So there's really no excuse for this.
No more excuses
Writing this has been good for me. When I started, I didn't really know what to write. I just wanted to explore what's kept me from getting to where I need to go. Now that I've worked through it, I'm looking forward to finding ways to overcome it.