The Spokes of the Outer Circle

This idea was given to me by a member of my home group, during a meeting. I asked him if it was OK to post about it, and he gave me permission.

The Outer Circle (OC) of SAA refers to things that positively affect your fight against addiction.  A strong Outer Circle provides relief from our addiction, and equally important, a mechanism for growth and maturity over time.

Jason pointed out that an Outer Circle needs balance as well, and that an imbalance in Outer Circle activities could lead us back to our addictive behaviors. This made me think, and I decided to take a look at the Outer Circle not just as one thing, but as a series of spokes that must be kept in balance.

The Spokes

I have attempted to make an exhaustive list of items that need to be kept in balance as part of a healthy OC. I probably have missed some, and if you can think of anything else, I’d welcome comments. Here is the list I’ve put together as of today.

  • Spiritual- Developing a growing relationship with your God or Higher Power through prayer and meditation, giving to others, and practicing gratitude are items that could fall within this category.
  • Family- Spending time and being mindful with your spouse, children, and extended family.
  • Friends-Spending time with friends who add to the quality of your life.
  • Addiction Maintenance-Reading, making calls, attending meetings.
  • Educational- Doing things that promote personal and career growth.
  • Economic-Doing things that help you to keep you out of financial pressure.
  • Physical Needs- Rest, exercise, proper nutrition, and living a healthy lifestyle.
  • Psychological Needs- Seeing a counselor and/or getting medication.
  • Joy Bringing Items- This includes hobbies that are positive, or anything that brings you joy.

It’s easy to see that these are interrelated. Spending time with my wife is a major source of joy for me, as is having a good discussion with a friend. Education can help with economic issues. It’s also easy to see that not balancing these spokes could cause problems down the line. Too much focus on any of these spokes will cause the others to atrophy, and may cause resentment to important people in your life.

Map It Out

My challenge to you is to do the following. Once a week, take a look at the items on this list. Write out how you are going to address each of the spokes, how much time you’re going to spend, and map it out on your calendar. Given the pressures of everyday life, you probably won’t ever be able to perfectly balance these spokes, but it will go a long way to making your life better and keeping your addiction at bay.

The spokes of the outer circle (2)

 

Fighting Your Addiction with the Power of Gratitude

I wrote a blog post about fear, the importance of fear to get you motivated to begin the fight against your addiction. I also focused on the transient nature of fear, and it’s reduced power once you are on the way to recovery. It’s important to find a replacement for the motivation lost when the fear subsides.

Perhaps the strongest positive emotion to keep your sobriety is gratitude. No matter how long you’ve been sober, you’re better off than you were when your addiction was active. As time passes, the benefits of sobriety grow, sometimes so subtly that they are not noticed. Only when you make an effort to look back, will you see that your sobriety has saved you money, kept you healthier, kept you out of jail, and most importantly improved the relationships in your life.

Unlike fear, gratitude is something that needs to be actively worked on to be maintained. Gratitude won’t exist if you don’t affirm it’s existence. As part of your everyday routine, I recommend that you do something to remind you of the blessings you’ve received since you decided to fight your addiction.

I heard somewhere that one way to do this is with a gratitude journal. In the journal, write about the things in your life you are grateful for, and review the journal whenever your gratitude is failing, or you are feeling weak.

For the religious, prayers of gratitude are another great way of remembering the blessings in your life.
Keep an attitude of gratitude

Got speaks to me about my addiction

God has never had a direct conversation with me, but I know that He has spoken. Most of the time, I hear God’s conversation through small things, like a friend that I was thinking about who calls out of the blue,  something heard in a sermon that is related to my thoughts, or something I read that’s pertinent to a problem I am having.

 

But it was this time time that God had conversed with me that had a major effect on my life. . It took a long time to admit that this was even a conversation from God, but as I surrendered to Him, I had to acknowledge His presence that day.

 

I was at a diner with my youngest son. I was playing around with my wedding ring, and left it on the table. After breakfast, I paid for our meals, and left. It was about 10 minutes later that I realized that I had left the ring on the table. I returned to the diner, only to find out that the waitress hadn’t seen it, and more than likely,  it had been thrown into the garbage.

 

My son and I checked around the table and the floor, and I dumpster dove for a half-hour or so, until I realized that the effort was futile. My son was extremely angry with me that I gave up when I did. I returned home, and confessed the loss of my ring to my wife.

 

About an hour later, my wife received a call. It was someone from the diner, asking for me. She called me on the road, and let me know that they called. I was in the area and returned to the diner. I was told that one of the owners of the diner used a powerful industrial magnet to search the dumpster, and was able to recover the ring.

 

It shouldn’t of taken a year, but now I realize how prophetic this event at the diner was. Me playing with my ring symbolized me taking chances with my marriage. The ring being swept up in the trash of the restaurant was our marriage being lost in the sea of garbage that I was involved in, the porn and the prostitutes. The searching in the dumpster was my own futile attempt to save the marriage on my own. The anger of my son symbolized all that I had hurt with my infidelity. The magnet symbolized my Higher Power, and it finding the ring was symbolic of the fact that only my Higher Power could save my marriage.


God does speak with us, we just need sometimes to figure

Pride, Confidence, Arrogance, and Hubris and Sex Addiction

I was reading a devotional today in a an app for people who suffer from addiction. The devotional was strongly opposed to being prideful, and saw that as a slippery slope into addiction.  I find a problem with this, and thought it would be a good idea to comment on pride, and its positive and negative connotations for the sex addict.

There is a positive side to pride. Confidence and reasonable satisfaction in one’s accomplishments is a positive kind of pride, and can help with our growth through our addiction, and our spiritual growth. If you’ve realized that your irresponsible sexual activity was out of your control, and you’ve taken the often hard steps to address it, like seeking a counselor, or attending a 12-Step meeting, working the steps, picking up the phone when you need help, and working your daily program, you’re doing better than the millions of suffering sex addicts out there who are still lost. You should feel confidence and reasonable satisfaction, pride, in your recovery, while being vigilant not to tip over to the negative type of pride.

There is a negative type of pride as well. Overconfidence in one’s power over their addiction, acting as if you’re cured, and messing around with fringe, or middle circle behaviors, leads to hubris. This type of pride, the type they were referring to in the devotional, can lead to backsliding, relapsing back into active addiction, and ultimately finding a new bottom.

To avoid that transfer from confidence to hubris, it’s essential that you always retain your respect for your addiction, in the same fashion that someone respects a strong and powerful enemy. This requires always being on guard, always working your program, in good times as well as bad, watching out for signs of complacency, and having a set of tools readily available to use when times get tough.

Pride is powerful, in both it’s positive and negative manifestations. Use the positive pride you’ve deserved to fuel your sobriety, and grow that pride by doing the right things and developing a stronger relationship with your Higher Power.

Afterword:

Since I’ve written this, I’ve shared it with some of the people who are part of my program. One suggested that I’d use the term “joy” to express the “positive pride” that I spoke about. The other was more adamant, insisting that “pride” was a very selfish sin, that caused all of the bad things that they did, and that the term “self respect”, is more appropriate.  I would recommend, if you’re interested, that you’d look at the Wikipedia article on pride as a way to see the multiple meanings that this word has.

 

You’ve Suffered a Relapse – Now What?

First of all, I am very sorry if you are reading this because you have suffered from a relapse. I’m here to tell you it’s not the end, it is a serious setback, and you can recover if you take it seriously and act on your mistakes.

 

I’m not too much a fan of sports analogies, but in this case, I can’t help myself. You wouldn’t expect a sports team or an athlete to quit their career just because of one loss. A relapse is not the end of your treatment, it’s a temporary setback. Losing teams that want to win again:

  • identify what caused their loss
  • improve on that aspect of their game
  • and at the same time, they stick to fundamentals.

 

Frankly, I think there is too much of a stigma in 12 Step programs against having a relapse. A relapse should be avoided at all costs, if possible, but on the other side, having some period of sobriety is much better than not having that period at all.

 

There are two factors that need to be identified after a relapse. These are the physical factors that enabled the relapse, and the mental disposition which caused you to choose to act out.

 

Physical factors can include such things as:

  • Too much free time
  • Too much money
  • Access to locations where you act out.
  • Hidden, unmonitored Internet access
  • Contributory substances/other addictions.
  • Old phone numbers, sms, or other ways that sex partners can reach you.
  • People who work against your addiction, enablers, conspirators, etc.

 

The mental factors involved a relapse can include things like

  • Unresolved resentments and anger.
  • Stress- work or money related issues
  • Psychological disorders
    • Depression
    • Bipolar Disorder
  • Hubris/Laziness- Getting away from the program because you feel that you’re cured.

 

Once you’ve identified the physical and mental factors that caused this relapse, it’s time to strengthen your sobriety by addressing these issues. Consider the following solutions for dealing with the physical factors.

Contributing Factor Actions to address it.
Too much free time
  • Plan your day with activities
  • Have a list of things to do when you have free time
  • Have a list of positive alternatives to acting out.
Too much money
  • Limit your amounts of cash
  • Limit your access to an ATM card
  • Have your credit company block charges for services you’ve used to act out in the past.
  • Do not have secret accounts or credit/debit cards.
Access to locations where you used to act out
  • Plan alternative routes when near these types of locations.
  • Put GPS tracking on your phone or car, and have your accountability partner monitor your movements.
  • If you have to travel to or through those locations, arrange to speak with your accountability partner before, during, and/or right after your trip.
Nonrestrictive Internet Access
  • Put blocking/monitoring software on your computer or router
  • Have an accountability partner view your logs.
  • Only use the Internet when other people are around, in a public area, when you need it.
Contributory substances/other addictions
  • Limit the use of these substances, ideally at all times, especially when other factors exist.
  • If necessary, get treatment for the other addiction
Ways for sex partners to reach you.
  • Change your phone number
  • Block their number
  • Turn off SMS, Skype and social media on your phone or computer.
People who contribute to your addiction
  • Use some of the methods above to reduce contact if possible.
  • If it’s someone you need to deal with, like a co-worker, attempt to not be with them alone.
  • Arrange to limit your time with them.

 

The good news about applying physical methods to deal with physical relapse issues is that they may work effectively for a short time. The bad new is that addicts almost always find a way to work around all of these barriers. Even when partially effective, physical barriers may buy you some time to use other methods to address a relapse before it happens.

 

In addition to addressing the physical factors that caused the relapse, it’s probably more important to address the mental states that lead you to act out. Again, some suggestions:

 

Contributing Factor Ways to address it.
Resentment Triggers
  • Work with a therapist or your sponsor on your resentments. (The 4th step is a great place to start)
  • If your resentments are related to a spouse/partner, it may make sense to dialog with them, or get into a counseling situation.
Stress Triggers
  • Practice stress management techniques, like meditation/exercise
  • Learn to say no to work that isn’t yours.
Psychological Disorders
  • Seek help from a qualified mental health professional
Hubris/Laziness
  • Hopefully you’ll learn from your relapse that you aren’t cured.
  • Go back to working the program.

 

I think a separate note about money problems is prudent.I’ve been unemployed in the past, for a long period, and I know that it is very difficult to deal with that kind of stress.  It would be very cavalier of me to tell you how to solve your money problems with a couple of bullet points. I am aware as well that lack of money and insurance makes getting good mental health treatment difficult.

 

All the tools above fall into the category of maintenance and reduction. It’s also prudent to have in your toolkit a set of tools to use when you are in a crisis situation. A core group of people that you can reach in a crisis is the best tool I’ve found when relapse seems imminent. I’ve been pulled off the ledge and out of the abyss more than once by my sponsor, my therapist, and others in my group. Others have found help with visualization methods, such as imagining the real outcomes that could be caused by acting out, have worked for them. Others turn to prayer as a source of strength.

 

Who needs to know about your relapse?  It’s hard to divulge a relapse, even in a 12 Step Group.  As I stated before, there is a negative stigma to relapsing in 12 Step Groups, but with sex addiction, I think that stigma isn’t as strong. I know very few sex addicts who haven’t relapsed in some way. You’ll find people in your group who have been there, who won’t judge you, and who will help with your continued fight. If you have a therapist or counselor, it wouldn’t make sense not to tell them. You’re paying them to help you with your problem, and they can’t help you if they don’t know you’re still struggling.

 

Unfortunately, this is hard, but if you’ve possibly jeopardized the health of your partner by performing risky sexual activities, you have an obligation to disclose to them as well. If you’re acting out has caused financial difficulties, it may be prudent to disclose as well. You may want to have a competent third party available to offer his or her support during and after your disclosure.

The best option, of course, is not to have a relapse. It’s important to have a program in place to manage your sexual addiction (routine things like sponsor check ins, attending meetings, counseling, taking your meds, and exercise), and have tools in place to react in times of crisis, such as having a direct line to people in your group, and a list of items to counter an oncoming relapse.

 

I’d love to improve this document, and can do so only with your feedback. Please send me, paulm@3circles.info  any ideas for improvement. Good luck.

 

#3 Things I Wish I Knew Earlier: Regaining trust is incremental, losing trust is dynamic.

When I entered the program, I knew that I was serious about doing whatever it took to win the struggle over this addiction. The trouble is, I was serious about stopping when I got caught before. I bet if you put me up to a lie detector, I would have passed with flying colors.
This time was different though, because instead of doing it on my own, I found a group of people who were suffering the same way that I did, and I had a plan for success, other than adding filters and white knuckling it.
It was hard, and not without failure, but I grew stronger in recovery. Turning my addiction over to a Higher Power, having the help of many in my groups and having a great spiritual counselor have helped me to gain control over something which was formerly beyond my control.
I was confident, but my partner remained skeptical. I was resentful to the fact that with all the work I did in the program, that she could not see that I had made progress to the extent that I did.
Looking at this from her perspective, I can see how, after being lied to befor and greatly hurt, she deserved to be cautious of my recovery this time.
Over time, I saw things take a turn for the better, incrementally, as I was consistently able to prove myself, not in big things, but in little things, making dinner, being where I should be, and being honest.
On the other had, I learned that the level lost for a small failure is much more dynamic then the level of trust gained for a small success. Failing to live up to small things resulted in a much greater loss of trust.
I did find that this dynamism lessened over time, and I could have failures without losing all the trust I gained over months.
Keep the course, trust does grow over time.

Things I Wish I Knew Earlier: #2 Pain is not a good long term motivator.

Most fatal motorcycle accidents happen between 6 months to a year after the purchase of a motorcycle. Why? Because the healthy fear of the motorcycle’s power is gone, and the ability to handle the bike becomes greatly exaggerated. As a result, chances are taken, and lives are lost.

It’s the same with sex addiction. When many of us entered into a 12 step group, we entered when we had hit bottom, and the SAA was the only thing standing between us and the loss of our relationships, jobs, marriages, children, freedom, and yes, lives.

That pain that brought us in these rooms was so severe that we honestly told ourselves, the people around us, and our Higher Power, that we would never do anything again to return to our previous state. We had nothing to lose.
Unbelievably. (at least for us), working the program worked for many of us, and things started to get better.
As things got better, the pain went away, and our confidence grew. We began to feel normal, and the desperation that we felt when we entered the program was gone as well.
The seriousness in which we took working the program went away, and we started to feel like we could negotiate with our sobriety, maybe “sticking our toe in the water” of some of our bad habits. It was then that we relapsed.
It is important to understand that yes, pain is a great motivator to break down the mental doors it takes to deal with your addiction. But just as important is to know that the pain will go away if you work the program, and you’ll start hearing the lies that got you into trouble in the first place. If you want to succeed long term, you need to find motivators other than the pain that brought you to the dance.

 

 

Things I Wish I Knew Earlier – My mistakes, so you can avoid them. #1 You are not an addict. YOU ARE a person with an addiction.

I have been in the SAA program for over 3 1/2 years, and thanks to SAA, My Higher Power, and good counseling and hard work, have been able to keep my marriage, family and children. I am not perfect, but I am better, and I have been blessed with the opportunity to help others with this program

I’ve made a number of mistakes along the way. Some serious enough to really delay my recovery. It is with these things in mind that I write this series of blog posts. I hope that some of you will be able to have a faster change in your life, and understand recovery better,by reading about my mistakes, and avoiding learning them yourself.

Mistake #1: Hi My Name is Paul and I am NOT a sex addict. I AM a person with a sexual addiction, and I’m in recovery.

I have all the admiration for 12 step programs in the world, after all, I have been brought back from the brink with the help of one. But I have one major criticism of the program, and not realizing this issue hurt my recovery for quite some time.

One of the important things about 12 Step Programs is that  they arei a fellowship. You are in a room with people who are in different stages of fighting the same demons that you fight. With that in mind, the beginning of the meetings begin with each person saying their same, and they acknowledging that they are an addict. “Hi, my name is Paul, and I am a sex addict”

The Buddha said “You are what you think”, and for my first two years of the program, I thought about, and was, a sex addict. A sex addict to me was a person who should be ashamed and depressed, and who should not feel good about themselves. This negative perception of myself caused a great deal of stagnation with my recovery.

Contrary to what SAA or any 12 step program has you say, I’m here to tell you that.
YOU ARE NOT AN ADDICT. YOU ARE A PERSON, A GOOD PERSON, WHO HAS AN ADDICTION… and you, unlike many other people, are working to control this addiction. Do not be shamed about your addiction, be proud that you are dealing with your addiction.

I do not introduce myself as a sex addict at meetings. Instead I introduce myself as a recovering sex addict. It may not make a difference to you, but it makes all the difference in the world  to me.

I think Bill W,,  when he started AA, wanted everyone in the rooms to greet each other this way to show us that we all come to these rooms with the same problems, and that we are all fighting and struggling with it.  It was obviously with good intention.

But if you step into a 12 step program, you are already different than those outside of the rooms, because:

  • You know you have a problem
  • You are beginning the process of fighting it.

You are not the person who has not recognized or decided it wasn’t worth the effort to fight their addiction. You are someone who has stood up, and said “I am better than my addiction. I am asking my Higher Power to help me.”

The second part of that quote from Buddha, “You are what you think” is “and with your thoughts, you make the world”. Addicts don’t make the world, they destroy it. Recovering addicts try to repair their destruction, and help those around them conquer their demons.

Coming next “Pain is not a good long term motivator”

Getting Recovery Done- GTD, Recovery, and Relapse Prevention

Hi, my name is Paul, and I’m a recovering Sex Addict. I’m also a Getting Things Done fanatic. For those that don’t know, Getting Things Done is a methodology for improved productivity and time management, developed by a fellow named David Allen.

I’m not going to waste the bits to talk about the GTD methodology. If you google GTD, you’ll find tons of information, or grab a copy of the book Getting Things Done. It’s probably at your library, as it’s been around a while.

There are several computer programs that use GTD for just about any platform out there. I ended up choosing a program called DOIIT.IM, because for me, it worked on the platforms I needed, and wasn’t too expensive at $20 bucks a year. (BTW, they do offer both a free Web-only version, and a 30 day trial of the full version, if you want to check it out.)

I do want to focus on addiction and GTD. How can implementing a program like GTD help the addict stay in recovery.

In Chapter 12 of the book Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame, authors George Collins and Andrew Adelman discuss the concept of “First Thought Wrong”. Unlike the spontaneous thinkers in Gladwell’s Blink, the intuition of the addict is flawed. By default, they will, without thinking, gravitate towards their addiction. The goal of a good recovery program should be to put space in between the flawed intuitive reaction, so that the addict can stop, think, and pursue alternatives.

With a GTD system in place, the addict can always turn to a list of alternatives to acting out, things that will be positive and move him towards a planned project or goal.  Instead of wasting time acting out, the addict is given a choice to use time effectively.

GTD is also positive for the addict because it helps her reduce the stress with trying to juggle too many things in the head, and the resultant crash. Finally, GTD can assist with the planning of time to work on recovery as a goal.

I stumbled upon this by accident, and I felt that it would be good to share with others moving from shame to grace. If you’d like any help with GTD or recovery, please feel free to reach out to me.