ABOUT THIS WORKBOOK (PLEASE READ THIS SECTION)
(New Introduction as of June 2019)
When I was trying to make sense of what I had done, I spent quite a bit of time writing. One of my projects was to write a workbook for healing for people who were struggling with problem sexual behavior. I’ve since come to learn that there are so many reasons why people commit sexual offenses, so there’s no way to create a one-size fits all approach. With over 900,000 people on registries in the United States, there are as many stories and reasons. We have some similarities but trying to put us all into one group and saying “this will fix you” is an impossible task.
I was recently challenged on Twitter when I mentioned that I believe that sexual addiction is a real thing, regardless of whether it is included in any DSM. I was told that science has shown that it’s not. Fair enough. That’s not a field where I have any credentials. However, I can tell you that I always relate when I hear people who have struggled with alcohol and drugs. Whatever you want to call it, following addiction-style recovery worked for me. It’s over a decade later and my mind is clearer. My brain has space for so many other things. The transformation didn’t happen overnight.
In the beginning, I struggled to find my own path. Everybody was telling me what I couldn’t do but nobody was telling me what I should be doing instead. As a result, and through trial and error, I figured it out.
I don’t know if what I have to say will help anyone who is struggling but I’m determined to use what I’ve been through to at least try to help others. My original plan was to develop a workbook that would be printed. But now that I have a website and I know a little bit about WordPress, I’ve decided to share my “workbook” online. I used a bit of a hokey gimmick—going through the alphabet with different action verbs. I have links to the items and back to the table of contents for each section. I’d love to hear feedback. If you know someone who might benefit, share it.
This guide is not meant to be read in one sitting. It’s meant to be bookmarked. It’s meant as reference material to be read, reflected upon, acted on, and reread.
To be clear: I have no academic credentials in this area. I don’t hold a PhD in psychology or problem sexual behavior. But, I do have my own experience. What I’m charging to share this information with you: $0.00. I hope you find it helpful.
If you’d like to read my original introduction, it is immediately following this section. Otherwise, scroll down to the Table of Contents and get started!
[Pre-note: I wrote this book in 2013. I’m putting forward my original thoughts with an occasional update. I’ll mark any update so it’s clear.] I searched for a self-help book dealing with sex addiction recovery. I came up empty. Oh, I did find literature debating whether sex addiction is real or not. I even read plenty of books telling the sad stories of sex addicts, never revealing the participants’ real names of course. But I never found a “how-to” guide for recovering from sex addiction. While part of the world is debating whether or not the condition is real and the rest of the world is just ignoring the issue, I will provide a practical, real solution to the problem. So, professional community: debate away. For the rest of us, here’s the book that answers the question: “I know there’s a problem, now what?”
Everybody has different reasons for reading this workbook, and I am not about to assume I know what motivated you to pick it up. Perhaps it was recommended by a friend or a therapist who suspects that you may be struggling with some of the same issues that I did. Maybe you know someone who you think is addicted to sex and you want to learn more about the topic. Or maybe, you were just intrigued by the title. My hope is that you are pleasantly surprised by the practical tools that are presented within this book and that you gain greater insight into the real world of sex addiction.
The ideas are a culmination of my own first-hand experience with dealing with these issues. I am not a psychologist nor am I a physician, but I have done a lot of reading and soul-searching. Doing so wasn’t just a hobby for me; it was critical to my survival.
I am a recovering sex addict. I protected my mental illness for a long time from discovery as it became my primary way of coping with stress and I was afraid. I would never have looked for a book like this one while my addiction was active and ruling my life. I only came upon the methods described here through forging my own way, with the help of some key individuals, after hitting bottom.
Through the passages, I will relate my own story. I could have tried to hide my past and pretend it never happened. However, a key element of my own continuing recovery is that I do not want to live a lie. Rather than live in fear of people finding out my secret past, I’d prefer to live an open life by taking responsibility for my past actions, apologizing for them, and learning from them so I can lead a healthier and more productive life. In doing so, maybe I’ll provide a path for others to follow and help them lead better, more satisfying lives. Most sex addicts that aren’t famous hide their identities for obvious reasons. I refuse to do that. I think hiding would only dilute my message.
This workbook will not address everyone’s issues. I discuss seeking additional guidance and help in the D – Diagnosis section. Your concerns may be beyond the scope of this book: for instance, if you are having suicidal thoughts or uncontrollable urges to harm others, then I implore you to contact someone who can get you the assistance you need immediately. However, I know in my heart that there are many people who will benefit from reading on.
Before I jump into the meat of the workbook, I will share a little bit about my background. I come from an upper, middle-class family in Connecticut. I graduated magna cum laude from a respected university in New England where I received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. I earned a Master of Business Administration degree from a top 10 business school. I held some very decent financial positions with Fortune 100 Companies in manufacturing and insurance. I appeared pretty good to anyone looking in from the outside.
But I had a secret. I led a double-life for many years. Although I was married, I became addicted to porn and sex. I hid my problem very well and my wife never had any idea that I had been getting online regularly to look at images, to chat with others and to meet with women on occasion. In 2008, I entered a very stressful period. My addiction was in a late-stage and I had lost control of my logical functioning. I chatted with a police decoy claiming to be a minor. The chats took place over a few months and I arranged a meeting that ended with me in handcuffs and eventually a felony conviction.
I always prided myself on being good. I had been called “Saint Jason” by some. When I first had to confront what I had done, I viewed myself as scum. For a while, I only ate the bare minimum to survive. I didn’t think I deserved anything better. The world immediately slapped new labels on me: Sex Offender and Pedophile. Even though I was evaluated by an independent mental health expert who declared I am not a pedophile, the damage to my self-respect and my reputation was already done. [Update: I recognize that the word pedophile is problematic. I’m not an expert on individuals who are attracted to minors and that’s beyond the scope of my writing. But, I do recognize that we should treat everyone humanely.]
I am convinced that if I had received the help I needed sooner, I never would have ended up committing a form of suicide by talking with a potential minor. I wasn’t looking for a child. I was looking for help but was too proud to ask for it.
Many people don’t receive the help they need because sex addiction is treated as a joke. “It’s just an excuse for bad behavior,” or “If you’re going to have an addiction, that’s the one to have,” people say. I’m here to tell you that it is no laughing matter. Since my arrest, I have been open with many people about what happened. I have heard over and over again from people telling me that they can relate to my story. I’ve talked with women whose husbands stay on the computer all night because their husbands are acting out sexually. I’ve talked with men who have lost their wives to the computer. I’ve even talked to men who say that they could have easily been in my situation because of things they’ve done. Spouses or partners who are addicts tend to view themselves with a great deal of shame.
Our focus as a society has been on punishing the addict with the most severe measures possible. Sex offender registries, prison sentences, and severe probationary restrictions are often what await a sex addict. Traditional recovery techniques are based on threats and punishment. The focus is on what the addict can’t do, not what the addict should do instead. Often, there are better ways to get the desired results but they are neglected because we, as a society, are so focused on punishing the offender. In my case, there were people posting online that “they should cut off [my] balls,” and “castrate [me].” [Update: June 2019 Alabama recently passed a law to chemical castrate men who were convicted of abusing children as a condition of parole.]
The mandatory group treatment that I participated in is a good start for getting people to lead better lives. However, the major emphasis of that group involved managing risk factors and avoiding anything that might cause a probation violation. Some people have found the group treatment to be harmful to their mental health. Not enough emphasis was placed on leading a good, values-based life or figuring out what that even means. There seemed to be no recognition that the recidivism rates (the tendency to relapse into a previous undesirable type of behavior, especially crime) for sex offenders are quite low relative to other crimes. We were so busy managing risk when we could have made more effective use of our time figuring out how to improve our lives. A comprehensive treatment program should include skills and tools for leading a better life. That’s where the emphasis needs to be.
This workbook should be the beginning of many dialogues about sex addiction and how to minimize its impact on society. Rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, we need to acknowledge it and get on with the business of healing.
Not only can this workbook be used by someone who has committed a crime and is involved with the criminal justice system, but it can also be used by people with no criminal record. By helping people recover, the workbook may also prevent future crimes. By acknowledging sex addiction and treating the underlying condition, we can minimize the number of potential victims. That is what we call a “Win, Win” situation.
When an addiction is out of control, nobody wins. The family of the addict certainly suffers. Even the addict who is acting out is really suffering. Acting out is only a way to mask shame and pain. I know I was not happy when I was acting out. I felt on edge all the time and very sad even when I put on a happy face in public. It was only after my arrest, when I came to terms with the addiction that I began to find happiness.
In capturing my thoughts, I gave careful consideration to specific actions that helped. The book is structured by letter, in alphabetical order, with each letter representing an ACTION verb. The emphasis here is on action with concrete tools that you can incorporate into how you live your life. I had found that many books on the subject of sex addiction focus on describing the problem without offering many solutions. They left me with more questions than answers. I suppose my corporate background has trained me to jump right in and solve even the most complex problems. So here, I present you with solutions. To get the most benefit, I suggest starting right at A and working through to Z. Each section has an exercise. When you complete them, you should save your work as a reference for subsequent sections. Following many of the exercises, you will find a list of skills that you should master in order to demonstrate competency and understanding. I ask you to keep an open mind and trust the process. If you do everything in this workbook, you will be well on your way to living a more satisfying life!
The ABC’s – Table of Contents
A Admit / Accept / Avoid
B Build & Repair interpersonal connections
C Create a list of your ideal values / Change / Communicate
D Diagnose (legal RX, therapy or both) / Do
E Educate / Envision
F Forgive others and yourself
G Generate goals
H Heal / Help
K Keep a journal
L Listen / Live / Learn / Laugh / Love
M Manage stress! / Minimize temptation / Maintain interpersonal relationships
P Pray / Participate in life / Play / Plan
R Read / Repent / Replace / Reduce risk
S Sleep / Share / Substitute (see Replace) / Surrender and Submit / Sympathize
T Take responsibility / Teach / Think
V Volunteer / Validate / Value
W Write / Work
X eXpel unhealthy influences
Z Zelebrate / Appreciate
Admit what you have done. Such a simple thing to do¸right? Wrong! Not only have I struggled with this concept, I’ve seen others struggle with it as well. I’ve watched many people say they committed their offenses and then in the same conversation denied them or made excuses for them. Prior to my arrest, nobody knew the extent of what I was doing online or that I had strayed from my marital vows. I protected my actions because I was afraid to live without them. With distorted thinking, I believed that if I didn’t talk about my problem, it didn’t exist. My thinking was flawed!
What are the main factors preventing you from taking responsibility? If you’re like me, the main one is fear. You may not even be able to articulate your various fears: fear of legal repercussion, fear of damage to a relationship, fear of financial impact, fear of facing that the world will no longer consider you a good person. Have you been unfaithful? Have you put your employment in jeopardy?
Whatever the reason for the fear, the end result is that you are carrying around extra baggage in your life, possibly in the form of shame and humiliation that is weighing you down.
Like with alcoholism or any addiction, the first step is to admit you have a problem and to admit that you are powerless.
I suggest returning to this section of the workbook periodically as you work through the other sections. Your strength and ability to confront your fears may increase as you learn more tools for solidifying your recovery.
Be careful of blaming others. One of the toughest points to realize is that no one else is responsible for your actions. Sure, someone else may have done things to contribute to your overall thinking. You may have been in a difficult relationship or you may have been a victim yourself. In the end though, you own your actions.
Owning the responsibility can be the most difficult task. As other people close to you learn of your negative actions, they may try to assign the blame to someone else. Resisting the urge to go along with that thinking may take more strength than you have at the beginning of your recovery.
It is much easier to be in the role of the victim than offender. As a victim, you get sympathy from others. As an offender, you suffer consequences. But only once you take responsibility for your actions can you start to heal and break the cycle of offending.
Note: there is a difference between being powerless and being a victim. Your addiction at some point took over the logical functioning of your brain. When that happened, your actions were pretty much inevitable. But, the ultimate responsibility still lies with you. This concept can be very difficult to grasp.
In the rest of this section, you will be guided through some steps toward making an admission statement. Keep in mind that YOU are the first person you need to admit your action to! Later, it would be helpful to share your admission with at least one other person. Selecting how and where to share will be covered in future sections of this workbook.
For now, focus on your admission with YOU as the audience.
Imagine that at some point you will be attached to a polygraph machine. If you have been convicted of a sex crime, at some point, you may really be attached to one. If you have not been convicted of a crime, consider yourself lucky. An addict typically needs more and more stimulation to achieve the necessary high. Eventually, without treatment, you may progress from simply crossing moral boundaries to crossing legal ones.
Now, think back over your sexual life. When you are ready, flip to the worksheet and complete it as honestly as possible.
ADMISSION WORKSHEET – 1
List anything you have done sexually that has conflicted with your own moral code of ethics:
|I have …|
List anything you have done that is illegal:
List ways in which you have lost control of your sexuality:
List who you have hurt:
|I have hurt…|
Look at the list you created. Did you omit anything? If so, why?
You may not be ready to admit everything you did. For most people, that takes times.
______I acknowledge that bad things occurred because of MY actions
______I take full responsibility for my actions
______I do not blame others for my actions
______I do not make excuses
______I do not minimize what has happened
______I am honest with myself
______I understand the steps that led to my poor decisions and have taken steps to keep me from repeating the past
Go to Table of Contents
Accept your pain. We are at risk of turning to our addictions when pain enters our lives. Food, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs can all be used to mask our feelings. So too can sex. For the non-addicts, sex can be a healthy part of their lives. The addict has learned to depend on his or her own brain chemistry to dull negative feelings. The sex addict does not even need an external stimulation to achieve the high. But the highs are never as high nor do they last as long as the addict needs.
The alternative is to feel the emotional pain. Learn to experience it. It will be painful, but it will pass. You may need a qualified therapist or psychiatrist to guide you through this phase. (See section D: Diagnose).
Once you have one success experiencing the pain without the need to escape, you can build on that achievement.
I’m not going to lie about it. The first days of my recovery were the toughest. I just cried and sat in a chair shaking. I had been used to turning to my addiction; without that crutch, I was left with a heightened level of emotions and hurt. Those days weren’t easy, but they were crucial to my recovery.
List various ways you have tried to avoid feeling your pain.
(examples: sex, drugs, work, sleep, risk-taking)
EXERCISE (skip this exercise if you think it would be beneficial to have a therapist help you)
Think about a painful memory from your past. Bring it to mind. Picture the situation. Bring to mind the location with its sights, sounds and smells. Think about what people were there. What makes the memory painful?
Let yourself get sad. It is okay to have tears in your eyes. It is okay to feel as if you have been punched in the gut. This feeling is okay. It will pass and you will feel good again.
These are the feelings that you try to mask. You don’t need to. It is okay to feel sad some of the time. We all do. Remember, the sad feeling will pass.
|Write down the memory:|
|Describe how you feel inside as you think about the memory:|
|Now put your feelings back in perspective and think about some of the positive things you have done or that you have in your life.|
______I am grounded in the real world
______I am not seeking an escape or outlet
______I believe it is okay to experience all of my emotions, even sadness, without masking them
______I do not remain stuck in the past
______I believe that tomorrow can be better than today
______I am able to feel emotions without minimizing, dwelling, avoiding or displacing feelings
Avoid other potentially harmful behaviors and substances. You’ve probably know someone who gained weight after quitting smoking. Or maybe you yourself became addicted to sex after you quit drinking. Whenever we try to adopt new behaviors and avoid our prior dangerous wants, we become more vulnerable to other harmful behaviors and substances.
For me the trade-off was always sex and food. Food can be a particularly difficult addiction to break. Food can serve multiple purposes: it can be comforting and it can cause us to gain weight, making us feel less attractive, and ultimately less sexy. Food abuse can be a way of taking oneself off the sexual market.
Prescriptions drugs, illicit drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, high-risk activities such as sky-diving¸ excessive shopping, online gaming, overeating, and on and on. The opportunities to replace one harmful behavior with another are all around us. You need to be aware of the risks and be committed to your recovery. It is possible to kill an addiction without it appearing again in another form. You just need to have a plan. Living your values and filling your life with non-harmful thoughts and activities is the answer. You may have to just go through the motions in the beginning. But eventually, your new habits will take hold.
Make the following promise to yourself:
I will not trade one bad behavior for another. I will not use my recovery as an excuse to engage in other negative behaviors.
Now, identify potentially risky substances or behaviors that might become a problem for you. Once the list is complete, identify a plan to avoid those risks.
|Potentially Risk Behavior||Plan to Avoid|
______ I can recognize behaviors that are not good for me
______ I can recognize people who influence me to make poor choices
______ I have developed detailed plans to protect myself from myself
______ I know the difference between good and bad choices
______ I make good choices
______ I think through potentially dangerous situations in advance and develop healthy responses, alternatives and escape plans
Build and repair interpersonal relationships. Think back over the time when you were pursuing your sexual high. Did any of your relationships suffer? Did you care about the impact your actions might have on other people? Did you rush people off the phone, stop calling friends, or neglect any family members?
Rather than turn toward the people who could have helped me, I slowly and systematically shut them out. I isolated myself. I let friendships fade away and I wasn’t there for family members when they needed me. I looked for opportunities to be alone so that I could escape into my fantasy world. I still remember the look in my father’s eyes when he wasn’t getting the emotional support from me that he needed when my mother was very ill.
When I was first arrested, I re-learned to place a high value on relationships. My parents were the first to be there when I was at my lowest. Over the next few months, I contacted people and started to reestablish connections. Some people wanted nothing to do with me at that point. But the few that supported me were a true lifeline. I also talk more honestly and openly about personal issues. I have found that when people hear about my past directly from me and they can see my sincerity about dealing with the issues, they are more willing to accept me. I have also found that people are more likely to share their experiences and be open with me when they know what I have dealt with. In the end, whether someone is listening to me or I am helping someone else navigate through a difficult situation, I feel better. I find that my life is more fulfilling. It is an honest life. I don’t feel like a fake or that I am living a great big lie.
I now treat relationships with a lot more care. I keep up with more friends on a regular basis. I value the time I spend with family. I don’t look to run to a private space. I don’t stay up late with a computer trying to make false connections with people I don’t know. I work to strengthen the bonds with people who are already in my life.
I also talk more honestly and openly about real issues. I have found that when I share my past experiences, many people are willing to listen. In many cases, people have shared with me issues they have faced or are currently facing. Many times, I am the first people they have told.
I find that life is a lot more rewarding when you really connect with others. Sure, it is easy to play it safe and guarded all of the time. But if you do, you miss out on so much of what life is all about. Ironically, I didn’t really learn this lesson until after I was arrested.
One way I connect with people is by attending Friday night services at my temple. At every service, there is a prayer for healing and a prayer to remember loved ones who have passed. Congregants say the names of people who are sick or who are marking the anniversary of a death. We also celebrate weddings, births, and other milestones. Life is better when you live it as a community.
For this exercise in this section, you will be repairing and strengthening interpersonal connections. As with some of the other sections, you may need a qualified therapist to help you through this stage. I would also recommend that you avoid contacting any direct victims. While this section is about repairing and strengthening the relationships that are central to your life, you do not have the right to hurt someone else any more in the process. Therefore, you should consider the emotional trauma that contact from you might generate on someone. If there would be any, then do not contact that person.
Make a list of the people who are important right now in your life.
What could you do to improve each relationship?
How are they important?
What needs do they meet?
|Name||How improve?||How important?||What needs met?|
Who has been important to you in the past but has not been around since you let the relationship lapse?
What could you do to regain that relationship?
What other things could you do to appreciate people more?
______ I make people a priority in my life
______ I let people know that I appreciate them
______ I stay in touch regularly
______ I am honest with people
______ I consider the impact that my actions have on other people
Go to Table of Contents
Create a list of your ideal values. Somewhere along the way, you may have lost a sense of what is truly important to you. Once the addiction took hold, your own sense of self may have disappeared. If you don’t know who you are anymore, then there’s no way of knowing what you hold dear. With an addiction, you live in the here and now. You need to get your next fix. You don’t think about the consequences. Over time, you try to mask the shame by turning to your addiction more and more. Once that happens, you’ve lost your values.
I value my family. I want to be loved and respected by the members of my family. I want to make a meaningful contribution to my community. I want to be a respected member of society. I believe in helping the underprivileged. I believe in following the rules that our government has established, including obeying traffic laws and paying my share of taxes. I believe that everyone should be treated with dignity. I believe in fairness and justice. I believe in holding the door for others. I believe in honesty except in cases where a white lie is necessary to protect someone else’s dignity. I value friendships. I value my health.
Now it is your turn to make a value statement about yourself. Write down your values. Identify the core values that you want to be the guide for your actions.
______I know what is truly important to me and I can list my core values
______I am honest with myself about what I value
______My actions are consistent with my stated values and I can state how they direct my life
______I would want to be friends with someone who shared my values
Change. When I was working in the corporate world, I saw two types of people: Those who resisted change and those who thrived on it. While I often found myself in the latter category, becoming a champion for change, most people preferred to do things the way they had always been done. I fell right into the non-changing category when it came to my addiction and my negative views of myself.
To see any improvement, I first had to change the way I viewed myself. With all of that shame, I had become “BAD.” I had to start believing that I could change, that I could reclaim my values and that I could be “GOOD.” It is true I couldn’t erase the bad things I had done, but I could learn from them and choose to stop them from that moment forward. Once I started believing I could be “GOOD,” my actions followed.
Any addiction needs a continuous dose of shame to survive. Those hidden bad feelings that you have about yourself are fuel for negative behaviors to continue. You can choose to stop supplying your addiction with fuel. Change the way you view yourself. Know that you can choose to be “GOOD.” Disrupt your addiction. Don’t feed it what it needs to survive.
Stop the shame – view yourself as you were before you thought of yourself as “BAD.” You can become “GOOD” again.
Write down a list of the top ten to twelve adjectives you would use to describe yourself.
Are any of you adjectives the word “Good” or a synonym for “Good?” If not, you should add that word to the list and commit to making it a permanent part of who you are.
Several years ago, there was an executive at one of the automotive companies who had his entire staff wear their watches on the other wrist than the one they normally did. Even small, meaningless changes can make us feel uncomfortable but they can also be energizing and have a big impact on our lives.
Pick something small to do slightly differently. Wear a ring on a different finger, wear a watch on the other hand, keep your cell phone in a different pocket, or drink your coffee from a cup instead of a mug. Whatever it is you choose, think about how the change affects you and use that knowledge to make other positive changes in your life to help build a foundation for your recovery.
|Complete the following sentence. I will commit to changing the following:
|After one week of living the change, write down your experiences with the change:
Was it easy?
Did it feel different?
What did you learn from this exercise?
How could you apply this lesson to your recovery?
______I have changed how I view myself
______I know that I can lead a values-based life
______I have broken my bad habits and replaced them with healthier ones
Communicate. Nobody knows what you’re thinking or feeling but you! When you’re having a bad day and you tell your spouse or therapist, “I’m okay,” you are just hurting yourself. You need to speak up. You need to realize that YOU MATTER and that you COUNT. When your addiction is active, you may put all of your other needs and values aside. But as you begin to recover, you need to start realizing what is truly important to you.
Have conversations with friends that go beyond the weather or sports. Really start to talk to your partner, your spouse, your children, your parents, and your friends. Put away the text messaging device, avoid the one-liners and really connect with people.
We’re trained from a young age to be guarded and not share our thoughts and feelings. When people ask casually, “How are you?” they typically don’t won’t an answer other than “Good, thanks, how are you?” Young boys are told not to cry. They should “man up.” We’re trained for action. We’re trained to do. But we’re not encouraged to develop the skills to really share ourselves. We’re not very good at telling others when we need help or really being there to help others.
The good news is that you can start to communicate better right away. The action in this section is easy… just do it.
Identify someone important to you whom you trust that lives locally. Ask if you can go somewhere private and talk (public places like Starbucks will work if you can have some privacy). Say it is really important and that you’d like to have a discussion without cell phones or other disruptions. When you get to the meeting, turn off your cell phones. Look at the other person and thank him (or her) for agreeing to meet with you. Share that you are going through a recovery process and you need him to be there for your support. Share your thoughts. Solicit thoughts from him. Have a real discussion.
When you’re done discussing your recovery, ask if there is anything that he would like to share with you. If so, focus on what he’s saying. Don’t make it about you. Make it about him.
When you’re both done discussing your main thoughts, ask him for feedback on your communication. Ask how you can become a better listener and friend.
|1. Write down the name of someone you trust:|
|2. Make an appointment to speak uninterrupted. Date/Time/Place:|
|3. Follow-though with meeting|
|4. Talk and Listen|
|5. Solicit feedback|
Once you’re comfortable with this exercise, you can flip it around. When you talk with your friends, ask them what’s going on in their lives. Be supportive and offer appropriate feedback. Once you do that a bunch of times, people will see that you are becoming better at communicating and will come to you more. They will also be more sympathetic when you want to share what’s going on in your life.
______I don’t keep things bottled up inside
______I have someone to turn to when I am upset
______I can express my feelings, thought and concerns
______I am not afraid to ask for help
Diagnose! Wouldn’t it be great if you could get all of the answers out of a single book? I wish life worked that way, but it doesn’t. Along with a good self-help book, if you want to be properly treated for your addiction, you need to be properly diagnosed by a professional. You need to figure out your individual needs.
After my arrest, I immediately sought a therapist. I have been seeing the same therapist on a weekly basis for over a decade. I never understood why anyone would be hesitant to see a therapist. I suppose the fear in the past was because there was a negative stigma attached to anyone who needed a psychologist. I like having a place where I can go and talk about me for an entire hour. I don’t have to be thinking about sharing talk time with someone else. And, I am discussing me with someone who is my advocate. Our shared goal is that I lead a good, healthy life. What could be bad about that?
I also talked with my primary care physician about all that happened. I had never experienced the depression I was feeling before and I needed assistance. My primary care physician treated me with medications. After a few months, I felt better, but my doctor was reluctant to take me off of the prescriptions medications. I was still facing the trial and I was also in the process of a divorce. Only once the trial and divorce were several months behind me did my doctor agreed to take me off of the medication.
Diagnostics are not something that you can do for yourself. Even a doctor may not be able to recognize all of his own symptoms. Mental health problems can come in a variety of forms. Some may be harder to treat than others. But you owe it to yourself to understand you.
It is best to seek out the assistance of a qualified psychologist and medical doctor. If you don’t know where to start to get a recommendation, try friends and family. Contact a health insurance company. Contact a hospital. Call two or three sources.
Once you find a therapist, share everything! The therapist needs to know what he or she is working with in order to help you. Remember section A: Admit What You Have Done? It would be helpful to discuss your admission with your therapist.
|Call a medical doctor and set up an appointment|
|Call a psychologist and set up an appointment|
|Keep both appointments|
|Tell them everything|
______I have seen doctor about my addiction
______I am completely open-minded with my therapist
______I view my therapist as a partner in helping me achieve my health
______I tell my therapist EVERYTHING
______I take medication that has been prescribed without abusing it
Do. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you! Enough said!
______I imagine that all of my actions are broadcast to the world at all times
______I treat others with respect
______I assume that people are doing what seems logical to them
______I give other people the right of way
Educate. After I was arrested, in addition to seeking out a therapist, I went onto the computer and started doing research. I needed to make sense of what I had done. I needed to learn as much as I could about sexual addiction and about my specific case.
My therapist shared with me a book by Dr. Patrick Carnes who has done a significant amount of research in the field of sex addiction. I was shocked by what I read. For the first time in my life, I was reading about people who had lost control in sexual ways. I was fascinated by reading about people who came from all walks of life but still ended up spiraling out of control.
I learned about brain chemistry and how it malfunctions in the body of an addict. I learned that a sex addict doesn’t need an external drug to get a high. I learned that there are many people who argue that sex addiction doesn’t exist; although I disagree with them completely. I learned about the connections between sexual abuse and addiction as well as between emotional abuse and addiction. I learned that behaviors often escalate in a repetitive cycle. I learned about something called a shame cycle. I learned about the role of shame. I learned about the role the internet has played in sexual addiction. I learned about the role of stress. I read about recovery from alcoholism and followed a modified 12-step program, using my therapist as a sponsor.
My learning is never-ending. I am always trying to learn more to put the pieces together to make sense of what I did. Without a quest for knowledge, I would be lost. I have seen other people struggle longer because they use their energy to protect their addiction rather than to understand and control it.
In this next exercise, you will need to reflect on what you have already done to learn more about our own addiction. Then you will develop a plan for learning more.
|To learn about my own addiction, I have done the following:|
|To learn more about my addiction, I will do the following:|
______I seek out books that will help me understand my addiction
______I ask a lot of questions about addiction
______I have a plan for learning more about my addiction
Envision. Begin to envision your life without the addiction. How will you spend the extra time that you have now that you aren’t wasting it pursuing meaningless, fleeting pleasure? You will be surprised by how much time you have when you put sex back into its proper perspective.
When my addiction was active, this task was nearly impossible for me. It took hitting bottom for me to be able to start to think of life without being a slave to my addiction. I protected it at all cost. I hid it from friends and family and I denied it to myself. I felt I needed it to get through the day. I didn’t have a clear vision of how to fill the void. I didn’t know how to fill my life with meaningful pursuits. What a waste!
My life is much fuller now. Part of getting to this point involved having a clear vision of the type of person I want to be.
Close your eyes and think about how you view yourself when your addiction is active. Are you happy with that vision? Are you proud of whom you are? Think about how others view you. Are you satisfied that you are living up to your potential? Now think about where you’re going. Where do you see yourself five, ten, and twenty years from now? Who is there for you? Are you alone? What has happened to all of the meaningful relationships in your life?
Now imagine a different path, one without the addiction. Answer the same questions. Are you happy with the vision? Are you proud of whom you are? Are you satisfied that you are living up to your potential? Where do you see yourself five, ten, and twenty years from now? Who is there for you? Are you alone? What has happened to the all of the meaningful relationships in your life? Have they grown?
You’re starting to see a much better life for yourself without an active addiction, aren’t you? Addicted people are not really happy. But you can choose to be happy. You can choose an addictive free life. First, you have to envision it.
Take a few minutes to envision a better path for yourself and then make a commitment statement starting with “I will….”
|Commitment Statement. I will|
______I picture myself free of my addiction
______I think positive thoughts about my recovery
______I know that I can achieve my goals
Forgive others and yourself. Are you holding a grudge? Is there someone that consumes a lot of your negative energy? If you are like most people, someone along the way has wronged you. If you are like many addicts, you may have been abused when you were younger by someone who was supposed to protect you. You may not even remember all of the things that person has done to harm you; you just get a jolt every time you think of him or her.
I know this is going to be tough, but you have to forgive them. You heard me, forgive them! Here’s the crazy part: you’re not going to forgive them for their sake; you’re going to forgive them for yours.
I’m not suggesting that you forget or that you even spend time with them. I’m just saying that you need to let go of the negative energy that is eating you alive.
When I was first arrested, my in-laws told my wife that if they were ever in the same room with me again, they would kill me. They also said that if she stayed married to me, they would cut her out of the will. Not only that, they said mean things to my daughters about me.
I realized that I couldn’t waste energy on thinking about them. I certainly gave them reason to be mad at me. I even encouraged my children to continue to have a positive relationship with them.
I asked several people from my past to write character reference letters for me in preparation for my trial. Some people were nice to me but they refused. I completely understand not wanting to get mixed up in a trial supporting a sex offender. I was disappointed, but understanding.
Sometimes it is easier to forgive others than it is to forgive yourself. When I was first arrested, I didn’t think I deserved anything anymore. In the beginning, I stopped anything that I didn’t deem essential for living. I quit coffee because I thought it was a luxury.
For a while, I thought that no one would ever want to be around me again. I was terribly ashamed by what I had done and couldn’t forgive myself. But eventually, I did.
Forgiving yourself is essential. Without forgiveness, you will see yourself as “BAD,” rather than as someone who has done some bad things. You will hear people say, “Once an addict, always an addict,” and start to believe it. You will not be able to see the “GOOD” in YOU anymore. As a result, you will be more vulnerable to making poor choices.
Alternatively, you can accept that all is not lost. As long as you are breathing, you have the opportunity to start on the right path. You can become the person who lives the values you listed in Section C-Create a List of Your Values.
You are not your addiction. There is so much more to you. You can accept this part of you and accept responsibility for managing it. You can make a behavioral commitment to follow a recovery program.
|1. Write a letter to someone with whom you are angry. In the letter, include all of the reasons why you are angry. Also, write down that you are letting it all go and forgiving the person. Don’t mail the letter. Toss it in the garbage.|
|2. Write a letter to your addiction, personifying the “addict”. Get to know how the “addict” works, thinks and feels. Express all of your hate toward your addiction. Include all of the things your addiction has made you do. Actually envision your addiction as a person. Separate your addiction from you. I know it sounds corny, but writing a letter like this one really helped me.|
______I do not focus on those who have hurt me
______I do not seek revenge
______I understand that sometimes people do things for reasons I do not understand
______I recognize that I too am human and forgive myself for what I have done
Generate Goals. So you’re not going to run around chasing meaningless, fleeting sexual pleasure. You’re going to have extra time on your hands that you’ve never had before while your addiction is active. So what are you going to do?
In Section C-Create a List of your Values, you created a list of your values. Now, you need to start setting goals to help you achieve a happy life while keeping those values in mind. Generating goals can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be one. You start by imagining that you are 110 years old, looking back on your full life filled with few regrets. What is that you did that was meaningful to you?
Then, you jump backward to five years from now. What would you like to have accomplished? List those accomplishments.
Then you jump back again to a year from now. What do you have to have done by this time next year to be on your way to achieving your five-year goals?
Then, you prioritize your items and start working on the most challenging items. Setting smaller time-limits can be helpful.
For me, what does that look like? At 110, I’m looking back at my life and I’m proud that my addictive years and subsequent arrest seem like just a blip in an otherwise honorable life. I am surrounded by people who adore me, especially my fiance (who will by then be my wife), children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. I am proud about how I turned around my life and was able to give so much back to my community. I am respected by my friends and am active in my town and in the Jewish community. I was self-sufficient financially and with my health as long as was possible. I have no regrets. I’ll be leaving the world a little better than how I found it.
Now, I’m jumping back to five years from now. I’ll have just come off probation. Despite still being on the Sex Offender Registry, I’ll no longer be on Probation. I will have completed Probation. My former Probation Officer or Officers will be advocates for me because they will have seen that I have really turned my life around. I will be maintaining my mental health because I won’t put myself in situations that will put my mental health at risk. I will be employed at a job that I enjoy, making a decent living. My children will be in school and well on their way to being self-sufficient. My relationship with them will be strong. I will be living an honest, open life that is true to my values. [2019: I’ve achieved these goals]
My goals for the next year: continue to live an honorable life. Follow all the rules of probation. Continue to see my therapist. Improve my employment situation by finding a job that is suited to my abilities. Continue to strengthen relationships with my fiance, children, parents and friends.
Now, it’s your turn:
|My life at 110:|
|My life 10 years from now:|
|My goals for next year:|
______I have set short- and long-term goals for myself
______I am working toward meeting those goals
______I recognize when distractions are preventing me from working toward my goals
______I take action to remove those distractions
______I recognize when it is time to set new goals
Go to Table of Contents
Heal. You’ve reached the eighth letter in the recovery process. Now is a good time to step back and reflect on your recovery process so far. Know that recovery does not always feel like a big change. It may come in the form of a series of little changes that eventually make your realize that you are now different.
Healing does not always happen in a straight line. Sometimes, you take two steps forward and one step back. Don’t get discouraged, just keep moving in the right overall direction.
My mother told me that it took her ten years to become a non-smoker after she quit. After ten years, the urge to smoke went away. However, oweHoHhhin those first ten years, the desire was always there. She had to actively fight her natural instincts every day.
My own experience with recovery has been a little different from my mother’s. Immediately following my arrest, I went into a depression. I had no desire for anything, let alone sex. As the initial sting wore off and I was still in a pre-conviction status, I went back online to try to understand why I had been so pulled in to porn in the first place. I could feel myself losing control again. Only this time, I had the help of a therapist who told me to just stop. I did, and that helped.
As more time has passed, I started living a much more balanced life. It didn’t happen overnight. The key point is not to give up even if you have a few slips in the beginning. It isn’t the little falls that hurt. In fact, once you learn how to quickly evaluate what you are doing and correct yourself to live more faithfully to your values, you will gain the confidence for future successes.
Success is not about never getting knocked down. Rather, it is about being able to get back up.
|Since starting recovery, I have had the following successes:|
|I will build on those success by committing to the following:|
______I am living a healthier lifestyle
______I have developed healthier substitutions for dealing with stress
______I recognize what I am doing different from before
______I reward myself in healthy ways for the progress I’ve made
______I know the difference between healthy and unhealthy coping skills
______I use the healthy coping skills
Help. Is it always about you? Do you think about the feelings of others around you? Do you care about their wants or needs? If you are an addict, then I suspect that you have been self-absorbed and that you have been putting your own need to escape above the needs of others.
By helping other people, you will be taking another step toward saving yourself. I know it seems you will be taking another step toward saving yourself. I know it seems counter-intuitive. However, when you help other people, you often get back more than you give. “Helping” is a way to improve interpersonal connections as discussed in Section B-Building Interpersonal Connections. It also provides a way to keep your own issues in perspective.
Volunteering, which will be discussed in section-V Volunteer, is one of many ways to help others. Another way to help others is to listen for opportunities. When you ask people “How’s it going,” really listen to their answers. Rather than saying nothing or the generic, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” offer real assistance. Be a part of the person’s solution.
When a co-worker was studying to take an exam to become an American citizen, most of our co-workers merely teased him and didn’t offer any real help. I quizzed him during the day as we worked and then sat proudly next to him as he was sworn in as a citizen. He will never forget the assistance and true friendship I provided, and neither will I. My life was improved by that moment and many similar moments. Helping doesn’t necessarily have to be a newsworthy charitable event. Helping is something you should be doing every day. It helps connect us to each other in a positive way.
|List the ways in which you have helped other people in the last week:|
|List the opportunities to help others that you missed:|
|Identify two people to whom you can provide additional support in the next week:|
______I pay attention to my surroundings
______I think about ways I can help other people
______I offer my assistance
Imagine. Please forgive me when I put in a non-addiction-related story here. Soon after my first daughter was born, I held her for the first time. While I sat and rocked her for the first time, a song came on the radio. That song was John Lennon’s Imagine. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing when I hear that song, I am instantly transported back to that magical moment in my life. So, when I had to choose a verb that started with the letter “I,” Imagine was a no-brainer.
And now back to our regularly-scheduled program: when my addiction was active, my imagination was very active. I was a day-dreamer. Sex was often filling a lot of my thoughts and I fantasized often. Sometimes, I even fantasized about when I would get another chance to fantasize. I looked at the world through a sexual lens.
I’d like you to consider whether you do that. Do you find yourself imagining how and where to act out? Do you waste a significant chunk of your time pre-occupied with sex and sexual thoughts?
Instead, I’d like you to consider how you might put that imagination to better use. Could you improve your financial situation? Could you help a friend? Could you help a stranger?
There’s only so much room in your brain and you get to decide what topics get your attention. Are you going to let your mind just continue what it has always been doing? Or is there a better way to match your thinking with the core values you developed in section C-Create a List of Your Ideal Values.
When your mind starts to wander, ask yourself if your thoughts are consistent with your values of if you are just letting your mind wander on automatic pilot. Whether you want to believe it or not, your thoughts ultimately influence your behavior. You have the power to influence your thinking.
Think about the amount of time in any given day that you spend escaping into fantasy. Imagine that everyone around you can read your mind and know your thoughts. What would they think? How would you feel if they knew?
|Complete the sentence: If people around me could read my thoughts, then …|
|List the benefits and costs to you of escaping into a fantasy world.|
|Thought Question: Do the costs outweigh the benefits?|
|What more can YOU do to control your thoughts and stop escaping into fantasy?|
______I appreciate what I have
______I do not get lost in fantasy
______I do not objectify others
______I think of others as complete people and not merely as objects for my sexual pleasure
Go to Table of Contents
Join a group. One way to improve your interpersonal connections is to join a group and become an active participant. When selecting a group, I would suggest finding one where at least some of the people are aware that you are a recovering sex addict. Besides feeling a sense of belonging, you will have the added benefit of true acceptance from other group members who know of your past.
By joining the group, you will also have an outlet for focusing on other issues rather than dwelling on your own constantly. The point isn’t to minimize your issues, but rather to put them into perspective.
As of this writing, I am a member of two groups. The first is mandated while the second is my choice. The first is a Sex Offender Treatment group. The second is my Temple.
Honestly, I didn’t believe I needed a Sex Offender Treatment Group. I had been in individual therapy for over two years when I started the group. From a clinical perspective, I had already worked through my issues and I was then and still remain committed to continuing my recovery. But the group has been beneficial to me. I learned that there are others out there like me who made some bad choices in their lives but who are otherwise very good, decent people. I trust some of them more than I would ever trust many of the corporate-types that have been my colleagues. I know how hard this is to believe, but many are one-time, situational offenders who have since learned more appropriate ways for dealing with life’s pressures.
I often attend Friday night services at my Temple with my parents. Prior to my arrest, I viewed services as an obligation. Now, I actually look at them as a highlight of my week. In addition to the formal praying, the Temple offers me a sense of community. As a regular attendee, I see the other “regulars” on a weekly basis. Several of them are aware of my felony conviction and are very supportive. They accept me for who I am today and they don’t judge my past. I get to mark important milestones in peoples’ lives, joining in the celebrations and offering support in the down times.
Being a part of a religious community for me is a big part of leading a values-based life. I feel connected with people who have come before and those that will follow after I’m gone. The religion gives me something bigger to think about other than my own immediate concerns. I’m happy when I’m at Temple, singing familiar songs, celebrating the start of the weekend, and seeing the Torah. I’m never sorry I’ve gone.
As you consider what group to join, I will let you know that you don’t have to mirror my groups. While a religious group may be meaningful to you, you met get more out of an athletic group, a book group, or band. Although, for the sake of recovery, whatever group you join should have a large social component so that you can get the benefit of truly connecting with others.
|Identify any groups of which you are currently a member:|
|Are they helping or hurting your recovery?|
|Identify new groups you would like to participate in that will help your recovery:|
______I actively participate in pro-social groups
______I share my skills and expertise with those groups
______I remove myself from any group for which I am not proud to be a member
Keep a journal. When the initial shock of my arrest subsided, I began keeping a daily journal. I made a point of setting aside time every day to write. I didn’t care if anything I was writing made any sense; I just wanted to get my thoughts down on paper. Having to think about what I was writing helped me focus on what was really important. The journaling helped me take the cloudy mess of thoughts that was floating around my brain and add some clarity to my life. After writing, I could verbally articulate my thoughts in ways I couldn’t before.
I also found that doing any activity that was different helped me stay away from behaviors that would feed my addiction. Journaling relieved stress because I was able to get the painful thoughts out of my head and onto a piece of paper. The whole process was very healing.
Beginning today, dedicate ten minutes or more a day to writing in a journal. Get a spiral notebook or a bound journal and put your thoughts down on paper. Make sure you are writing about what drives your feelings. Why are you sad, angry, or happy?
After a week, look back at what you’ve written. Has writing helped? When you go back and re-read what you wrote earlier in the week think about whether any of your thoughts have changed.
Whether or not you think it has been helpful initially, keep writing. In the long run, it won’t hurt and it will probably help.
______I consistently write down my thoughts and emotions
______I recognize the role that keeping a journal can play in my recovery
______I review my journal on a regular basis
______I share thoughts from my journal with my therapist
Listen. Have you ever heard about different levels of listening? You may not have ever had the benefit of taking a listening workshop or hearing about active listening, but you’ve probably been exposed to the various concepts. Everyone knows somebody who is a bad listener. There’s the non-listener who doesn’t hear a word you say. There’s the listener who just listens to argue. There’s the listener who listens only to tell his or her own story. I call that person the “can you top this?” listener.
What kind of listener are you? Do you really take the time to hear what people are saying to you? Do you give people respect and undivided attention? If you are like most people, you could use a little brushing up on your skills.
You will encounter people that will be able to help you with your recovery. In order to truly take advantage of their assistance, you need to be able to really listen to them.
Listening to others is one of the primary ways to really connect with them. And connecting with others is how we build relationships. Many people assume that having a large number of “friends” on Facebook or LinkedIn is a way to build your connections. However, nothing replaces a good old-fashioned one-on-one dialogue where both parties are listening to each other.
Commit to spending one day not talking about yourself at all. Visit or call family members and friends and just ask them what’s going on in their lives. Resist the urge to talk about yourself or to judge. Just listen and see how you can be a better friend.
______I listen as well as I talk
______I listen without having an agenda
______I listen without judging
______I listen without jumping in to tell my own story
______I provide appropriate, meaningful feedback
______I allow other people to feel comfortable talking with me
Learn. In the topic E-Educate, I discussed learning. Now again, in L-Learn, I will address learning. Learning isn’t something you do once and forget it. Learning is an on-going process. As you progress through this workbook, you should be learning more about yourself.
More than any other topic presented in this workbook, you need to become an expert on you. While the addiction was active, it may have controlled you to the point where you stopped recognizing yourself. It is time to learn what causes you to make the choices you make.
Once you have better insight into what drives you, you will be able to control yourself better. One of your weapons for battling your addiction is understanding as much as you can about the addiction. Do you tend to act out when you are stressed? Do you tend to act out when you are celebrating? What factors led to your acting out? Were you abused yourself? Do you know what other addicts have done to overcome their addictions? Can their successes help you?
The more knowledge you have, the better. You will understand where your boundaries exist. You will be able to devise tactics to help avoid danger.
If you haven’t already done so, now is a very good time to start learning about victims. You may not have had any direct victims while you addiction was active or you may have had several. You may also have several indirect victims who have been hurt by your actions. Take time to learn as much as you can about victims’ and their needs.
|What I have learned about my addiction:|
|My understanding of victims has changed in the following way:|
______I understand the addiction
______I know what made me vulnerable to addiction
______I know when I was most prone to act out
______I have plans in place to take different actions in those situations
______I understand who my victims were
______I understand how my actions hurt them in the past and potentially in the future
Live. Many of the topics presented in this workbook are serious in nature and require hard work. One of the easiest concepts to understand and the most difficult to master is to live. An addiction can become all consuming. Likewise, the recovery from an addiction can become all consuming. Your addiction, your pain and suffering, may be all you talk about it. If that’s the case, you’re not really living.
In order to really live, the addiction has to be put into perspective. Look back at your value statement and your goals for clues about what is important to you. Are you joining groups? Are you really embracing your recovery?
|I have taken the following steps toward living a better life:|
|I will commit to doing even more. I will commit to the following:|
______I am doing positive things with my life
______I am living up to my potential
______I am living a life consistent with my values and goals
______I have fun
______I seize opportunities
Go to Table of Contents
Laugh. Any recovery process is serious business. As discussed under L-Live, it can be all-consuming and draining. Part of learning to live is re-learning to laugh. Laughing is a major stress-reliever. When did you laugh last?
Think of a clean joke you thought was funny when you were a kid. Tell it to someone. Even if no one laughs but you, that’s okay because this is for your recovery. Laugh!
What ‘er you waiting for, start laughing! (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
(I know that was a bad dad joke, but I am a dad.)
______I understand the importance of laughter
______I seek to incorporate humor in my life
______I practice smiling and laughing
Go to Table of Contents
Love. After I wrote an initial draft of this workbook, I shared it with my therapist, Dr. C. He made two suggestions. First, he said the book would be stronger if I added the skills sections. Second¸ Dr. C told me that the book needed a section on Love. I thought about that, Love in a book about sex addiction. How would I even begin to capture the concept of Love and its impact on recovery?
I thought about it. The answer became pretty obvious. Love is major part of recovery. It is the key.
When my addiction was active, I let other things get in the way of my love for my family and myself. Love took second place to immediate gratification. I jeopardized my life and my relationships because I lost sight of love.
Now that I am in recovery and seeing the world more clearly, I have love as a protective shield. I am surrounded by people who I love and who love me.
When we’re talking about romantic love, I know the benefits of being in a loving, committed relationship. No amount of fleeting, meaningless sex can ever begin to compare to a secure, loving relationship. If I had realized that basic truth before I started down the path of addiction, my life would have been a lot easier.
Identify five ways to show five people you love that you love and appreciate them:
|Person 1:||Person 2:||Person: 3||Person 4:||Person 5:|
______There are people in my life who I love
______Those people know that I love them
______They know because of my words
______They know because of my actions
______I love myself
______I show love in a way that meets my needs AND the needs of the person I love
Manage Stress. The months preceding my hitting bottom were marked by extreme stress. I was a mid-level manager for a company that was under tremendous financial pressure. I lost my job in a restructuring, as did several other colleagues. At the same time, my mother almost died while vacationing in a foreign country, my wife had back surgery with complications, and one of my daughters broke her back cheerleading and was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies. I turned to my addiction to cope.
If you had asked me at the time how I was coping with all of the stressors, I would have said I was doing fine. I wanted to project an image of having it all under control. How else would I be able to get and keep a new job and instill confidence in my family? I didn’t have the luxury of falling apart. Well, that’s what I thought, anyway. So instead of seeking help, I self-destructed.
Later, as I compared my experience with others who have hit bottom, I realize that my experience was common. We all thought we were masters of handling stress, when in reality, we didn’t have a clue.
It is one thing to say that you need to reduce the stress in your life and another to make that happen. Sometimes, life throws obstacles that can be overwhelming. One thing is for sure, life is filled with many stressful moments. We all have them. Sometimes they’re more manageable than others. Eventually, you will be faced with a heavy burden at some point in your life.
Keeping in mind that stress will always be there, you need to do what you can to minimize it as best as you can and manage the balance. Living a value-based life and having ideals you truly believe in will be a great help in times of crisis. The roadmap for your success is already established.
As for me, three years after I hit bottom, I entered another stressful period. My mother became ill again, my daughter and ex-wife weren’t getting along, and I had some employment disappointment. In addition, I was now living with probationary restrictions. However, my reaction to the stress was completely different from three years before. I had an established support system that I could turn to for help and I had solidified my reclaimed values. Nothing was going to derail the progress I had made.
|Identify your key methods for handling stressful situations:|
|Who is in your support group?|
|What are you doing to strengthen that support group?|
______I take actions to minimize stressful situations
______I know when to walk away or take a break
______I use my support group
______I have people I can call at any time I feel I’m about to lose it
______I have healthy outlets
______I have healthy habits (sleep/diet/exercise)
Minimize Temptation. I could have titled this section, Don’t Go Looking for Trouble. The main point here is that you shouldn’t put yourself in situations that will trigger risky thoughts or behaviors. Maybe it means putting a porn blocker on your computer. Maybe it means throwing out magazine or videos. Maybe it means not going into chat rooms on computers. Maybe for you it means just not spending too much time looking at the magazines on the rack at the grocery store.
Do what you can to avoid risky situations. Understand what is risky for you and have a plan developed in advance for dealing with any risky situation that may arise. One idea is to distract yourself with other thinking when you are tempted. Make a conscious effort to notice something else that isn’t sexually enticing but is still interested. Notice something you never noticed before when you were too busy fantasizing.
List the top ten items that you do that could trigger risky thoughts or behaviors.
Develop and write down a plan for dealing with those items:
______I do not subscribe to pornography
______I do not watch X-rated movies
______I do not go into sexually explicit chat rooms
______I do not go to strip clubs
______I stay away from places (real and virtual) where I offended in the past
______I avoid sexually stimulating situations except in committed relationship
Maintain Interpersonal Relationships. Earlier in recovery, you took a look at building interpersonal connections. Building new connections is not enough. You need to maintain them. Having true connections is not about quantity, it is about quality. It is time to review your list again and see if you are doing all you can to maintain those vital connections.
Whose job is it to maintain the relationships in your life? I’ll give you a multiple choice selection. Is it yours, yours or yours? That’s right, it’s yours! Your addiction may have caused others to lose trust in you. It is now up to you to regain that trust. Part of that is to make sure that you are the one reaching out to those closest to you consistently. Fill your free time with people you really care about, not with meaningless, fleeting sexual pursuits.
I ask you: did the meaningless sexual pursuits leave you more fulfilled or less? I always felt like I had done a little damage to my soul. My positive memories are the ones that include spending time with the people who really matter to me.
Look back at your lists from Section B – Build and Repair Interpersonal Relationships
How are you doing with the goals that you set for yourself?
Is there anyone new you would add to that list?
Make a commitment statement that will help keep you focused on keeping key relationships strong.
Since this section is so similar to the earlier B-Build Interpersonal Connections section, I will just add the following:
______I continue to make people a priority in my life
______I constantly reach out to people to keep them in my life
Network. Networking is an extension of interpersonal connecting. It involves expanding other peoples’ interpersonal connections.
When I first learned about networking, it was in the context of searching for a job. I had no idea how to go about building a strong network. Part of the reason it was so difficult was because I had heard that networking was something I should do because most jobs are obtained through networking. The whole concept was intimidating because it was coming at a time of crisis and it was all about ME.
To make it even more complicated, the tools were changing to make modern day networking look like the networking of yesterday on steroids. Tools that made online social networking more extensive didn’t come with instruction booklets to make it more effective.
I have since learned that networking is more effective when it isn’t all about me. It is about everyone else. I jump at the chance to put two people together who would benefit from knowing each other, whether it is for professional or personal reasons. Does there have to be anything directly in it for me? Absolutely not. All I need is the satisfaction of doing a good deed.
It may sound ridiculous, but think about it. Do you want to be the type of person who selfishly ignores other people when you could make their lives better by making an introduction? Or would you prefer to be an active, positive participant in life?
Think about the people who you know who would benefit from having you introduce them to each other. Then act on that information.
|would benefit from meeting|
|would benefit from meeting|
|would benefit from meeting|
|would benefit from meeting|
|would benefit from meeting|
|would benefit from meeting|
|would benefit from meeting|
|would benefit from meeting|
Even if you can’t think of anyone right now to complete this exercise, that’s okay. You should incorporate this type of thinking into your everyday life.
______I do not selfishly keep my connections to myself
______I look for opportunities to bring other people together
______I recognize the value of networking properly
Offer. Offer your assistance where you can. The previous section addressed one kind of assistance that you can offer to others. There are many other ways to help people in addition to networking. Your job is to figure out what type of assistance other people need and how you can help.
Assistance can come in different forms: planned or unplanned; big or little; physical, emotional or intellectual. It may be as simple as holding a door for someone. It may be recognizing that a light is shining directly into the eyes of an elderly woman and so you offer her your seat that doesn’t have the bright light. It may be allowing the other person to go ahead of you at the supermarket checkout lane. Or it may mean visiting someone who is ill or just providing a sympathetic ear after the loss of a loved one. And it may also mean offering to plow the snow for a neighbor who needs help.
All of these acts have one thing in common: kindness. How does kindness fit in with the values you established back in section C: Create a list of Values? If kindness wasn’t on your original list in one form or another, would you like to add it now?
I’ve never looked back and regretted helping or being there for someone. On the other hand, I have regretted the times that I wasn’t there for someone.
I must add two cautions to this section of which to be cautions. First, it is possible to go too far with helping others to the point of putting everyone else’s wants above your needs. Second, you may need to prioritize your help. If you are neglecting your children, parents, or partner at home to offer assistance to acquaintances, then you are missing the point. As with anything else of importance, finding the right balance is the key.
Think about opportunities where you might have offered assistance in the last week and didn’t:
Over the next week, pay very close attention to where you can offer your assistance. Throughout the week, jot down instances when you go above and beyond:
______I do not withhold my assistance from others
______I seek out opportunities to help others
Pray. I could fill an entire book on the positive impact that my religion has had on my recovery. I know the topic is a bit of a cliché and treated with some skepticism: man gets arrested for something horrible, man finds religion. All I know is that my religion helped me survive after my arrest.
At first, it seemed that the only people other than my close family who would talk to me were Rabbis. I scheduled meetings with three different Rabbis who I had known. They were understanding and compassionate and I can never thank them enough.
Rabbi G at the time didn’t know me very well but my parents were active members of his temple. He came to visit me. We talked about repentance (which is covered R-Repentance), recovery and volunteering (which is covered under V-Volunteer). He personally pushed me to begin my healing.
Soon after, I began attending Friday night Shabbat and holiday services. In the beginning, I was nervous because my arrest was so public and I didn’t know what type of reception I would receive from those who knew. But I quickly found that those fears were unfounded. I was also uncomfortable in the beginning attending services without my wife and children.
Over time, I stopped worrying. I started really reading the text. I listened closely to Rabbi G’s services. I started caring about the other members of the Temple. I felt connected to all of the generations who came before and all of the generations that will come after. I started to get an enlarged view of my place in the world and it added meaning to my life.
Alcoholics Anonymous talks about a Higher Power. Praying and religion help me see that there is something bigger than myself and to me, that is the higher power.
As I am writing these words, I can imagine two different types of reactions. The first is the person nodding his or her head and says “of course,” and “duh!” The person with that type of reaction is already on board. The other reaction is one of skepticism, “yeah right (said sarcastically).” The person with that type of reaction may have had a bad experience with a person who claimed to be religious, a religious institution, or may have just never been exposed to religion. To that person, I say, now is the time to really question your thoughts about religion and to see if maybe there is room for some prayer in your life. Have an open mind. Look into the different faiths; maybe you just haven’t found the one that is right for you. Seek knowledge and wisdom from those who have come before us. If you don’t belong to a religious affiliation, make a point of meeting the clergy in your community. You may just be pleasantly surprised.
For those not already affiliated with a religious organization:
List the churches, temples and/or mosques in your community. Make appointments to meet the clergy. Tell them why are you are asking to meet with them and hear what they have to say.
For those who are affiliated with a religious organization:
Make an appointment to meet with your clergy. Meet with them and let them know what you are going through. Tell them I recommended prayer and that I suggested you seek their guidance. Easy assignment, right?
______I have made prayer a priority in my life
______I view prayer as something wonderful rather than just an obligation
______I have an understanding of the basic faiths and have chosen the right one for me
______I pray for others as well as myself
Go to Table of Contents
Participate in Life. I watched a comedy recently called Yes Man! starring Jim Carey. The plot of the movie involved the main character, Jim Carey, who was saying no to any and all opportunities that were presented to him. Then, he attends a seminar following which he believes he must say “Yes” to every opportunity or bad things will happen. And that’s when really good things start to happen for him that would never have occurred if he kept saying NO.
Of course, taken too far in the hands of a recovery addict, that approach could have devastating consequences. Saying YES to everything isn’t always the answer. But the point of saying YES to new opportunities and to changing how you automatically react is a good lesson. Now that you are starting to get a handle on your addiction, you need to fill your life with positive activities that will enhance rather than detract from your life.
Ironically, I find my own ability to participate fully in life limited for two reasons: probationary restrictions and lack of funds. If I wasn’t on probation, I’d be able to participate more and say “yes” to more opportunities. Even with the restrictions, I am living this philosophy by doing what I can, when I can.
Try the YES approach for a few days related to anything that isn’t going to harm you or threaten your
______I say yes to more opportunities in my life
______I am open to new experiences
______I am not a couch potato
______I make behavioral commitments to live my life consistent with my values
______I have redefined myself in being flexible in how I define myself
Play. Take time out to play. You deserve it and you need it. Like laughing, playing is a way to reduce stress.
There are lots of ways to play including sports, board games, cards, music, or arts. Get some friends together, pick one or more and get started.
Now, I’m not talking about virtual play with technology. No screen of any kind. I’m talking about good old-fashioned jump-in-the-leaves play! Make it a social activity. Get the whole family involved. No matter how corny it might feel, just play!
Schedule an hour or two of play into your weekend. Decide what you want to do, and do it. Make scheduled “down-time” a habit.
______I know how to play
______I schedule down-time into my life on a regular basis
______I play with other people
______I have playtime without the use of technology and screens
Plan. In my career, I participated in countless corporate planning exercises. Typically, during the annual business planning cycle, we would predict what would happen to impact the business over the next few years. Then, we would develop strategies to help the company become more successful and avoid any danger. Those same planning skills were highly transferable in recovery.
While many risky situations in life are unavoidable, many can be anticipated. You will be improving the odds of success the more prepared you are for each possible scenario. If you know you have a history of acting out at a specific time, say when you’re alone, make a plan for the next time you’re alone. Consult a trusted friend or professional and strengthen the plan. Make sure you are taking every precaution and giving yourself every chance of success.
When I began Probation, I lost my computer rights. After several months, I requested that my access be restored. Allowing monitoring software to be installed on my computer was one of the conditions. As I developed a plan for using the computer, I went further than the requirement and installed blocking software also.
On Probation, I completed several Action Plans that allowed me some restored freedom and to be safe. Sex offender restrictions can be pretty harsh: no traveling out of state, no contact with minors, no staying overnight anywhere but at approved home, and no going anywhere where minors congregate (malls, churches, schools). Even though being around children is not a risky situation from a sexual standpoint, it is risky in that it could violate my probation. I have had to plan for any situation that might arise. The planning process has helped think through what could happen and to make sure that the right response becomes instinctive, rather than anxiety-provoking.
Look back at Section M-Minimize Temptation. If you did the exercise, then you have already starting preparing and planning for risky situations. When you have a risky situation to confront, make sure you write down your plans and then review them with someone you trust. They can help you identify what could go wrong. By doing so, they can make you become better prepared.
______I have plans in place to avoid the most probable risky situations
______I know when it is appropriate to develop a specific action plan
______I can think through possibilities of what negative consequences can happen
______I can develop plans to mitigate risk
______I seek help and validation from a trusted source when developing an action plan
______I always ask the following questions:
What is the risk?
What is my plan?
Am I following my plan?
How is it working?
Go to Table of Contents
Question. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. Did you ever notice that ignorant people have all the answers? If we’re open to learning, there is always something new to learn.
How does the concept of continuously learning apply to a book about the recovery from sex addiction? Think about it.
I challenge you to question everything you do. Be curious about why you respond certain ways to specific situations. If you feel you must have a drink to celebrate, find out why. If you seek out sexually explicit materials when you are stressed, find out why. If you have go to bars to drink but always wind up miserable, find out why. See where I’m going with this train of thought?
Don’t just accept things for the way they’ve always been and don’t just live your life on autopilot. Find out what motivates you. Question everything.
Ask the right questions…then go on a journey to find the answers. You may find the question in your admission statement at the beginning of the workbook. Or perhaps you’ll have to look close to ask the right question.
For me the original question was “why would I ever allow myself to chat sexually with someone claiming to be a minor?”
But the follow-on questions followed: “Am I a pedophile?” “How could I violate my own code of ethics?” “Why would I cheat on my wife of so many years?” “What was wrong with me that I couldn’t control my urges?”
I learned I wasn’t alone. I learned that I’m not a pedophile. I learned about shame cycles and addiction. I learned about my self-esteem. I learned about relationships. I learned about emotional abuse. I learned about setting boundaries. I learned about how the brain functions. I learned about depression, anxiety and dopamine receptors. I learned about other people who had gone through a similar situation. I learn more every day. It was only after I started asking the right questions, that I started really learning.
|Why do/did I do the following?:|
|How I’ll start answering the question(s):|
______I think about the negative things that I did
______I seek answers to “why” I made poor choices
______I ask “why” even in successive layers (Why would I chat with a minor? Because I was stressed. But why would stress cause me to cross over all of my natural boundaries? Because an addict’s mind starts firing off in the limbic (emotional part of the brain) system at such a high rate that the logic portion just sort of shuts down. But why would that have happened to me…and so on. And why did I even develop the sex addiction in the first place..and so on).
______I never stop seeking answers even when I think I have found the final answer
Go to Table of Contents
Read. You have finally reached my favorite section of recovery. READ! Read, read, read! Reading was one of the most beneficial tools in my recovery.
Why was reading so helpful, you may ask? That answer depends on the type of book I was reading. First, the self-help books: I used these types of books to learn as much as I could about my particular issues. For me, that meant learning about sex addiction, addiction in general, and emotionally abusive relationships. I read a number of books by Dr. Patrick Carnes, an expert in the field of sex addiction. What I found in his books blew me away. I felt less alone and more understood for the first time. I realized the extent of the problem that I was battling.
For my recovery, though, I ventured beyond the self-help books. I also read fiction. I read Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, which deals with public humiliation and a sex crime. The main character is forced to be open about her sin and wear the letter “A” for Adultery her whole life. In the end, she leads an honorable life while her partner carries his sin internally and faces a much worse fate.
I read Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde which chronicles a man’s addiction and his ultimate destruction. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde which is about a man who leads an amoral life without any repercussion which ultimate leads to his insanity. Although I was familiar with these stories, they had new meaning for me once I had started recovery.
I also read as a safer, healthier form of escape. I could be alone with my thoughts (and the author’s thoughts) and know I was doing something that wasn’t risky. In the past, when I had spent an evening in front of a computer masturbating, I felt bad about myself. Instead, I could put that time to better use by reading and feeling better about myself.
I will provide a list of the books that I read during my first years of recovery. The actual books you read should match your specific needs. A good therapist should be able to help you find books that relate to your specific issues.
Books I read:
|SELF HELP TO UNDERSTAND ADDICTION / SHAME|
|Don’t Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction||Carnes, Patrick, PhD|
|Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction||Cheever, Susan|
|The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior||Nakken, Craig|
|Healing the Shame that Binds You||Bradshaw, John|
|Understanding the Twelve Steps||Gorski|
|In the Shadows of the Net: Breaking Free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behavior||Carnes, Patrick, PhD, Delmonico,
David PhD, Griffin, Elizabeth,
|Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction||Carnes, Patrick, PhD|
|The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond||Evans, Partricia|
|Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce||Trafford, Abigail|
|High on Arrival||Phillips, Mackenzie|
|The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitative Relationships||Carnes, Patrick, PhD|
|Teacher Man||McCourt, Frank|
|Scarlet Letter||Hawthorne, Nathaniel|
|The Red Tent||Diamant, Anita|
|Pride and Prejudice||Austin, Jane|
|Sense and Sensibility||Austin, Jane|
|Mansfield Park||Austin, Jane|
|Jane Eyre||Bronte, Charlotte|
|Year of Living Biblically||Jacobs, A.J.|
|Promise Me||Coben, Harlan|
|Great Expectations||Dickens, Charles|
|Wuthering Heights||Bronte, Emily|
|Oliver Twist||Dickens, Charles|
|Little Women||Alcott, Louisa May|
|The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction 2008)||Diaz, Junot|
|Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass||Carroll, Lewis|
|The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde||Stevenson, Robert Louis|
|The Great Gatsby||Fitzgerald, F. Scott|
|Paths of Glory||Archer, Jeffrey|
|The Three Musketeers||Dumas, Alexandre|
|The Last Lecture||Paush, Randy with Zaslow, Jeffrey|
|Crime and Punishment||Dostoyevsky, Feodor|
|The Circus Fire||O’Nan, Stewart|
|Tess of the D’Uberville||Hardy, Thomas|
|War and Peace||Tolstoy, Leo|
|The Lost Symbol||Brown, Dan|
|Olive Kitteridge (Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction 2009)||Strout, Emily|
|Amy and Isabelle||Strout, Emily|
|Have a Little Faith||Albom, Mitch|
|Anna Karenina||Tolstoy, Leo|
|The Help||Stockett, Kathryn|
|Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus||Shelley, Mary|
|To Kill A Mockingbird||Lee, Harper|
|The Return of the Native||Hardy, Thomas|
|David Copperfield||Dickens, Charles|
|Gone with the Wind||Mitchell, Margaret|
|Uncle Tom’s Cabin||Beecher Stowe, Harriet|
|Sarah’s Key||De Rosnay, Tatiana|
[Note added 2019, years later: I’m reading through that list and realizing you may have some questions about my book choices. Why so many Jane Austen’s? Jane Austen was an author who was read by most women I knew, but never any men. I was looking to do things very differently and to learn new points of view. The books were all about relationships which is exactly what I needed at that point. Why the Circus Fire? I read that one because my mother had actually survived the fire when she was a child and I wanted to learn more about her experience.]
Read a book!
______I have asked my therapist for self-help book recommendations
______I have read those books
______I have read various genres and authors
Go to Table of Contents
Repent. What does it mean to truly repent? Is it a feeling of being sorry for what you have done? Does it involve changing your behaviors? Does it mean making your peace with God? Does it mean making your peace with another person? Does it mean making your peace with yourself? I believe it involves a little bit of all of the above. On second thought, maybe it involves more than just a little bit.
To me, repentance is real change. It comes from having true empathy for others and remorse for your sins. It means that if you were placed in the exact same situation that caused you to sin, you would now choose a better path.
When my addiction was active, I tried to repent a little. I felt the shame of what I was doing, but I didn’t involve all of the elements of repentance. I certainly didn’t make peace with myself; I didn’t even admit to myself what I was doing, so how could I be at peace? I hadn’t yet done the work to understand what was driving me and my addiction. I couldn’t take the necessary steps to protect myself from acting out when faced with the next tempting situation. It was more important for me to protect my addiction than to protect everything else. I was stuck in a spiraling cycle of sinning.
When the addiction became my sole coping mechanism, I did whatever I could to protect that addiction including telling myself lies. Once I let go and truly repented, it felt as if a giant anchor had been removed from my life.
You can have that freeing feeling also. You will be free of the anchor of addiction. You will be free to truly enjoy your life and find happiness you never knew existed.
|Write down what repentance means to you:|
|Write down in what ways you have repented:|
|If you have not repented, what are the obstacles preventing you from full repentance?:|
|How will you remove those obstacles?:|
______I feel empathy for others
______I feel remorse for my prior behaviors
______I have taken actions to prevent making similarly poor choices
______I have taken a full inventory of my actions and made amends where and when possible
Go to Table of Contents
Replace. Here’s a wild thought: addictions are habit forming. When I first started down the path of recovery, I felt a sense of loss over the addictive behaviors. Now that I wasn’t wasting hours on the computer or just sitting and fantasizing, I was no longer sure what to do. I made myself go through the motions of doing and thinking other things.
The key for me was finding positive things to do and think about that would fill the void left in my life. For me the immediate replacement I found was writing. Over time, I added volunteering and reading. As I discussed in the prior post, reading was beneficial for me because it has helped me avoid acting out at night just before bed which was formerly a dangerous time for me.
When you’re looking for replacement activities, look back over your values list. What is truly important to you and how do you want to be spending your time? Maybe you have a family member you haven’t talked to in a long time. Call him or her just to check in. Check your list of priorities. Take a good look. Somewhere in those priorities, you’ll find what you should be doing. Over time, as you lead a more productive, value-filled life, your need to escape into your addiction will lessen.
|The danger time for me is:|
|Instead of acting out, I will do the following activity instead:|
______I understand when I am most vulnerable
______I have a healthier alternative to acting out
______I consistently choose that healthier alternative
Go to Table of Contents
Reduce risk. I should have called this section “Don’t be stupid!” What if I were to tell you about an alcoholic who was going to attend a keg party with his drinking buddies, but he had no intention of having a drink? How about if I told you about someone with a gambling problem taking a vacation to Las Vegas? If you were a thinking person, you’d probably say those were pretty foolish actions.
How many times have you put yourself in similarly risky situations? For an alcoholic or an addicted gambler, the situations are pretty clear to spot. As an addicted sex addict, it may take some thinking to determine the risks. Being on the computer? Being alone? Viewing pornography? Whatever your risky situations or triggers, you need to avoid them.
We started to cover risk in M-Minimize Temptation and P-Plan. Now, take it a step further. Analyze all aspects of your life and figure out what is most risky for you. For me, risks come in the forms I listed above: pornography, unrestricted computers with chat access, being alone too long, and sexually suggestive images. At this point in my recovery, I like to think that even if presented with the risks, I’d be able to handle them. But isn’t that what a recovering alcoholic says about having just one drink. I know my risks, so I keep a close watch on them.
Identify your key risks:
______I understand my key risks in acting out sexually
______ I understand my key risks in other unhealthy lifestyle choices
______I never intentionally put myself in risky situations
______I leave risky situations as soon as possible when I find myself in them
______I maintain a careful watch on my proclivity to engage in risky behavior
Go to Table of Contents
Sleep. The letter “S” is the first letter in a number of verbs that are appropriate for this book. I have included a few of those words here, but in choosing which to put first, there was no competition. Sleep is one of the most critical aspects for recovery. It certainly played a significant role in mine.
When I was acting out, I sacrificed my sleep. I stayed up late into the night on my computer looking for the next fix. The less sleep I received, the worse my judgment became. Toward the end, the only time I felt anything even close to being “alive” was when I was chasing the high. During the day, I was often daydreaming and fantasizing as I went through the motions of my life. And I was tired and incapable of making good choices.
In order to truly recovery, I had to make sleep a priority. I value my sleep and I now protect it the way I used to protect my addiction. Sure there are times when I stay up late for a special occasion. But now, routine sleep deprivation is a thing of the past for me.
Think about how your sleep patterns affect your own behaviors. You’re not at your best when you are overly tired. If you’re like most people, you think you’re just fine even when you don’t get enough sleep. But your decision-making IS impaired when you get too little sleep.
Make sleep a priority. For a week, log when you go to sleep and when you wake up. Get eight hours or more of sleep each night if possible. At the end of the week, fill in the questionnaire.
|Start||Wake-Up||Total Sleep before Naps||+Nap?||Total Daily Sleep|
After Day 7, answer the following questions:
- Did you get more sleep this week than you usually get?
- If you slept more than usual, answer the following questions:
- Did sleeping more have an impact on your mood?
- Did sleeping more have an impact on your concentration?
- Will you commit to getting more sleep on a regular basis?
______I am aware of the impact that lack of sleep has on my moods, behaviors and choices
______I strive for a full, quality night of sleep
______I maintain a regular bed-time
______I make sleep a priority
Go to Table of Contents
Share your story. It is time to revisit the earlier section “A – Admit your guilt.” You have read through the sections leading up to this point and your recovery should be starting to take hold. Now, take a look back at the earlier section. Are there items you left out? Are you starting to see the world a little differently now?
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but here’s the deal: You can’t really recover until you come clean with what you have done. If you keep it in, the shame and embarrassment will eat away at you. The cover-up becomes worse than the original behaviors. You feel like you’re living a lie.
Worse still is the feeling of being discovered. Who knows? Who doesn’t know?
If you tell your own story, you can control the place and the timing. You have some sense of control over your own destiny.
I did what I was accused of doing. I regret it. I’m sorry for all of the pain and suffering I’ve caused. If I had the chance to do it again, I wouldn’t. But it is as much a part of my past as all of the good things I’ve done. I have learned and I have grown. Some people can accept that and others can’t. I’d rather surround myself with those who accept the total me.
In our society, we’re encouraged to hide the truth. There have been people who knew what I did, accepted me anyway, yet told me to keep my past hidden.
But I wonder: how many people just like me are out there? How many can I help by sharing my story? What if my words and support can stop just one person from going through the pain and suffering that my family and I have gone through? I can’t stay silent. I must speak out. Some good must come from the nightmare I’ve endured.
You can’t erase what you’ve done by pretending it doesn’t exist. Be an adult and own up to it. Like the process of withdrawal with an addiction, the beginning is the hardest part. With the passage of time, it becomes easier. I promise you.
Identify one or more people with whom you’d like to tell your story:
Write down your story (use additional paper as necessary)
______I have practiced telling my story to others
______I am not ashamed of my recovery
______I recognize that I can only stop the cycle of my addiction by dealing with the shame of my actions
______I feel comfortable telling my story to others because it doesn’t describe who I am now, but rather, it describes the struggles I have endured and the strength that I have harnessed to overcome the addiction
Go to Table of Contents
Substitute. Find more ways to fill your life with positive alternatives to the risky behaviors that you relied on previously. Substitute with healthy activities. (see Replace)
Surrender and submit. Surrender and submit to the fact that you cannot change the past. You can only influence the future. It is easy to get stuck in regret. The IF ONLY way of life means you spend your time with thoughts like this one: “if only I had done things differently.” Well, you didn’t. Grieve for a little bit, suck it up and move on. The past is behind you.
There are many consequences to all of your actions. It doesn’t do any good to spend an inordinate amount of time being angry about those consequences. They are what they are. You need to accept them and move on.
The changes in my life were drastic. Before my arrest and the discovery of my addiction, I was living with my wife and two daughters. I had a great career for which I was highly compensated. I took nice vacations. I had no restrictions on my life.
As I write this section, I am currently residing with my parents. I see my children once or twice a week. I am fortunate to be employed, but my current job pays a fraction of my former job. I’m doing more manual labor and menial tasks than I’ve ever done in my life. My life is filled with restrictions: I can’t go to my daughters’ school, I can’t go to the mall or the library (two places I miss) or bars (one I really don’t), I have to ask permission to leave the state, I need to sleep at my parents’ house every night, my computer activity is restricted and monitored, and I can’t go to the Temple without a chaperone. I’ve lost the respect and friendship of many. I’ve made the lives of my daughters and ex-wife more difficult. Those are some of the consequences that I face because of my actions. I know that no one is in any danger around me, yet I still have to deal with these changes in my life. Do you want to know how I do it? I just accept the fact that there are things I cannot change. I live the best life I can. I rarely think about what could have been. Instead, I focus on what could still be.
List some things you cannot change:
List some things you do have the power to change:
______I know that I can not change the past
______I do not dwell on what could have been
______I accept where I am and build on my core strengths
______I work with, not against, the system to make my life better
Go to Table of Contents
Sympathize. Early on in your recovery, it’s all about you. You need to discover why you made the choices you did, to figure out what you wish you had done instead and to put plans in place to make better choices in the future. With that groundwork done, you can begin to expand your view to others. I think of it as putting on my own mask in an airplane that has lost pressure before I can help someone else. Once that mask is safely in place, you need to open your eyes to see the needs of others around you.
I have a slight confession. I have been a judgmental person. I never liked that quality about myself but I was arrogant. However, I have found that by experiencing my arrest and conviction and really learning about addictions, I am a much more compassionate and understanding person.
I have been amazed at the number of people who have opened up to me about their personal situations after I share what I have been through. I have tried to listen and to provide moral support for people in need. In doing so, I have grown more as a person than I ever would have grown otherwise.
In my case, there was no direct victim. However, in the mandatory group that I participated in, there were men who did have victims. Only when those men truly started to sympathize and feel empathy for their victims, did they start to recover. I’m not sure I can articulate how powerful it is to watch someone finally realize that he was responsible for causing someone else harm. They start to see the world through unselfish eyes and realize that there is more than their own suffering involved.
- Make a list of all of your victims. List everyone you have hurt directly or indirectly because of your addiction. If you really think about it, your list is probably longer than you first think.
- Look over the list. Put yourself in the place of each of your victims. Try to really imagine what that person must have gone through. Did you ever blame the victims to relieve yourself of some guilt? They didn’t cause you to act out. They were the victims. How would you feel about you if you had to change places with each victim?
- Write a letter to your victim(s). Don’t share it with your victims –this letter is for you! Follow this format:
- Take responsibility for your actions
- Express remorse for what the victim must have experienced
- Explain how you’ve changed
- Explain what you’re doing to make the changes permanent
- Ask for forgiveness
- Apologize again
______I know who I hurt
______I know how I hurt them
______I have taken actions to never hurt them again
______I have taken actions to ensure I never hurt anyone else in the same way again
Go to Table of Contents
Take Responsibility. I know I’ve included this concept earlier but it is so important that it merits its own section. In order to heal, you need to own up to what you’ve done. Taking responsibility is not optional. This section is not one you can just skip over. If you spend energy on minimizing or denying what you’ve done, then you won’t heal. You won’t have the strength or the knowledge to establish safeguards to prevent relapse.
I didn’t take responsibility right away. I couldn’t face what I had done. If I took responsibility, I had to admit my actions were real. I could be blamed for hurting others. Taking that on in the initial phase of recovery was just too much.
I’ve seen others in the same position. They deny or they minimize. The place the blame on others with statements like the following: “it’s my wife’s fault that I cheated. If she had only….” or “It was her fault that I forced her, she was saying no, but she really meant, yes.” These statements are a protective mechanism. They keep us from facing what we’ve done and understanding what we’re capable of doing.
As you progress through your recovery, you should be more willing to accept what you’ve done and take responsibility for your actions. However, if you’ve initially denied or minimized, you may cast doubt on your remaining credibility. “I only cheated that one time…” may turn into “I only cheated four times,” which may turn into “I’ve been cheating from the beginning.” How you handle yourself in this manner will greatly influence your recovery.
Explain why you initially denied or minimized. Explain that you are now ready to take responsibility, that you regret what you did and that you feel true remorse. Demonstrate that you will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent a reoccurrence. Even when you achieve a new level of honesty, you still will need to re-earn trust. How will anyone know that you are finally being completely truthful? This stuff isn’t easy. However, it is critical if you want to ever start leading an honorable life that is true to your values again.
Taking responsibility can be very liberating. The hold that the addiction has on you will start to fade away. If you are open and honest with others, you can accept it and move on. Accept it as history, not as the future. You can create a better future. You can start to let go of the feelings of shame.
It is time to take another look at taking responsibility. Take a look at section A-Admit Your Guilt.
|What can you admit to now that you couldn’t admit to previously? (remember, the more you can admit to, the healthier you will become)|
______I have a much more solid understanding of my behaviors and who I harmed
______I freely admit responsibility for what I did and the damage I caused to others and myself
______I am demonstrating through my actions that I have taken responsibility and changed my ways
Teach. If you really want your recovery to last, you should teach others about what you’ve learned. Teaching helps in two ways. First, it gets you to think about what you know and deepens your understanding by making you articulate your knowledge. Second, it allows you another way to help other people.
We see the impact of Sex Addiction all around us all of the time: in the news and with friends and family. Are you doing all you can to help? Are you perpetuating the myth that Sex Addiction is just an excuse for bad behavior?
What more can you commit to doing to teach others about Sex Addiction in way that will benefit your community?
______I openly discuss my experience with addiction and recovery in a way that will not harm others
______I am not perpetuating the myth that sex addiction is not real or that it is a joke
______I am sharing my experiences in an effort to help others
Go to Table of Contents
Think! Years ago, I worked for IBM. Their motto at the time was Think! That is very good advice for a sex addict. It is very easy to stop thinking and to act impulsively.
When I was at my worst, I didn’t have any regard for consequences. Basically, I stopped thinking. My logical thinking was suspended as my emotions took control. Only an addict can understand that fuzzy feeling, almost like a haze, that feels as if you’re under a magical spell. Only the consequences of ever allowing yourself to get to that mental state can be devastating.
To reclaim your life from your addiction, you need to be able to think clearly…all of the time. Refuse to submit to your whims and impulses. Keep telling yourself to Think! Think of who you would hurt by your actions. Think of your values. Think of how far you’ve come. Think of consequences. Most of all, just Think!
Remember: THINKING IS THE ENEMY OF ADDICTION! AND Values-based thinking is your most powerful weapon against your addiction!
Think about the ways your own thinking can contribute to your continued recovery. Make a commitment statement to yourself about your thinking:
______I refuse to act impulsively
______I continue to tell myself to THINK
______I now consider all of the people I would hurt by my actions
______I stay grounded in this world, not in a fantasy world
Go to Table of Contents
Understand. By this phase of your recovery, you should have a fairly solid future ahead of you. You should understand all of the factors that influenced the bad choices you made. If you have not already done so, you should be taking actions that will allow you to always make better choices.
Life is full of surprises. People can disappoint you. Loved ones can become sick or die. Employment stability and financial status can change in a moment. You need to understand what you can do to be prepared to make the best possible choices no matter what life throws your way. The idea seems simple, but the reality can be a challenge.
Complete the following:
|I made bad choices in the past because|
|If I find myself in the same situation, I will make better choices this time because|
|I am stronger, more knowledgeable and better prepared. Here is how I know:|
______I can explain why I made poor choices in the past
______I can explain why I will make better choices in the present and future
______I can explain why I am a stronger person now than I was before
______I recognize how my values, goals and behaviors are all connected
Volunteer. Earlier in the workbook, I mentioned that my rabbi had encouraged me to volunteer during the beginning phase of my recovery. I spent a weekend picking squash for FoodShare, I coordinated the initial phase of an employment job bank sponsored by the Jewish community, and I co-led an effort to collect linens for a local shelter.
My volunteer efforts reminded me that I can still give something back to the community. In return, I received benefit in the form of positive feelings about myself. At a time that I was feeling about as low as someone can feel, I was doing something right. I knew it and I felt good about that. Volunteering helped tilt the balance of my mood.
There are an infinite number of ways to volunteer and help in your community. If you don’t know where to start, go visit a local member of the clergy and ask if there is anything that you could do. Do a Google search on volunteering in your area. Call the local hospital, food bank or homeless shelter. Look through the newspaper and see if you can identify a need. Ask friends what they have done.
Once you start looking for a project, it might be easy to get overwhelmed by the number of opportunities. You don’t have to do it all. Find something that fits your life and that you can get passionate about.
If you have kids and you think you have no time, find a volunteer opportunity that involves them.
Just do it!
Jot down some potential volunteer organizations to call. Commit to calling them within the next week.
Set a goal of volunteering somewhere within the next two weeks.
______I have researched volunteer opportunities
______I am actively volunteering
______I am proud of my volunteer efforts
______I value my time as a volunteer
Go to Table of Contents
Validate. It is time to validate that you are on the right path. Take another look at your values. Are the actions you take on a daily basis keeping you closer to living your values or are they making that task more difficult? If the answer is that you are doing things that are contrary to your values, take a look at any obstacles for change and start making responsible choices.
Are you on a path to meet your long-term goals? Make any necessary changes.
Have you taken steps to become an active participant in your own life or are you just along for the ride?
Review how you spend a typical day. Is the day filled with the right kind of activities to keep you on a good path?
Think about how far you’ve come. Think about where you’ll be five or ten years from now. Tomorrow can be better than today. You deserve it to be.
Look back at the exercises in each preceding section of this workbook. Re-check your values and goals. Look at your commitments. Are you falling short on any? What do you need to do to get re-energized in any of the sections? Remember, the goal of this workbook is not only about getting to “Z.” It is about living a better, values-based life.
______I have re-checked my progress
______I have made any changes to keep me on a solid path
______I am leading a values-based life
______I am working toward meeting healthy goals
______I am proud of my progress
______I am no longer ashamed of who I am
Go to Table of Contents
Value. In section “C – Create a List of Your Ideal Values”, you identified the values by which you want to live your life. If you’ve followed all of my suggestions, you should be living a life that has value to you. After a while, your renewed lifestyle will become easier. The pull of the addiction will become less and less as you replace unhealthy behaviors with healthier ones.
In the prior section, you validated that you are on the right path. Now take a moment to appreciate where you are. In everyone’s life, there are so many things to appreciate. While it is easy to focus on what we can’t do, what we can’t afford or what we don’t have, there are so many wonderful things to appreciate.
I’m reminded of Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life!” when he realizes that his life is worth living. It gets to me every time when he’s hanging over the bridge crying, “I want to live again….I want to live again!” At that moment in the movie, he realizes what’s really important to him.
I’ll let you in a little secret. I want to live. I appreciate the people that I have in my life. Despite all that I have been through with my arrest, conviction, probation and a whole host of other stressors, I have a wonderful life!
Pretend it is Thanksgiving. What do YOU have to be thankful for?
______I appreciate the people in my life
______I appreciate the talents that I’ve been given
______I appreciate the chances I’ve been given
______I appreciate that people still support me despite my shameful past
______I can articulate many of the things I am thankful for
Write. In K-Keep a Journal, I introduced the concept of writing as a recovery tool. Writing is actually one of the first steps I took in my own recovery. Writing is very therapeutic. Maybe some expert of the brain can tell you how it works, I can’t. All I know is that writing enabled me to get my thoughts from a tangled mess in my head into a coherent string of thoughts. Writing enabled me to share my thoughts with others around me, particularly my therapist.
In the first year following my arrest, I wrote a minimum of one typed page a day. I wrote about whatever popped into my head. Often times, I brought what I wrote to my therapist. Many times, the writing was just for me. I could write letters to people that I would never send. I could vent my frustration with others without hurting them. I could generate new ideas and determine my next steps.
I encourage anyone who is trying to conquer an addiction to write every single day. Don’t worry if you’re using proper grammar. Don’t worry if it is off topic. Just make sure that you are writing your concerns. Write whatever is troubling.
Have you been writing at least since section K-Keep a Journal? If not, then start doing it! If you have been, then keep doing it.
Read your journal from beginning to end.
Write some more.
______I continue to keep a journal
______I continue to review my journal
______I continue to share thoughts from my journal with key people such as my therapist
Work. Employment is an important part of recovery. Having steady employment accomplishes many objectives to living a values-based life. For starters, it helps provide the necessary funding to accomplish other objectives such as staying healthy, providing shelter, food and clothing, and also having fun. Working provides a regular place to go every day and familiar people. It can provide a sense of purpose. Staying focused on work can help minimize the chance of slipping into addictive behaviors.
If your addiction and bad choices have led you to commit a felony, then you already know the difficulty of finding and keeping a job. You may have to accept that you won’t have as many choices as before. Whatever your specific case, just get out there and find work. Don’t shut down and assume nobody will hire you. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and show the world your recovered best!
If you don’t have a job: Get a job!
If you do have a job, evaluate your career goals. Is there more you can do to better yourself?
______I am contributing to society
______I am working to my fullest potential
______I seek to better myself professionally
eXpel unhealthy influences from your life. Okay, so expel begins with an E, not an X. Forgive me. You should have seen how eXcited I became when I realized I could use this little trick of picking out the first consonant, rather than the first letter. And yes, I know I’m a bit of a geek.
The idea here is to take a look at all of the key people in your life. Are any of them inhibiting your progress? Are you hanging around with a bunch of people who are making bad choices? Are those same people encouraging you to make good choices?
Overall, I have been lucky in my recovery with this area. After my arrest, I moved in with my parents who are honest, decent people. They always modeled good, wholesome values. Although I had strayed from those values, it was easy for me to find my way back to them because I was surrounded by positive influences.
Besides making bad choices, other people can be unhealthy influences if they make you feel worse about yourself. During my marriage, my wife often insulted me. Over the years, I internalized the put-downs and I developed low self-esteem. It was only after I moved out and did a lot of analysis with the help of a therapist that I started to see the impact that my marriage had on my mental state. I don’t blame my wife for what I did. Plenty of husbands who have wives that are insulting don’t go out and commit crimes. That’s on me, not on her. However, once I realized the impact that I allowed our relationship to have on me, I began to make the necessary changes.
I also used to try hard to get everybody to like and accept me. Now, I realize that there are those people who really know me and accept me. Those are the people I want to have around in my life. The ones who can’t forgive me for what I’ve done no matter how much I demonstrate positive changes, the ones who don’t like me because I’m on the sex offender registry, the ones who don’t like me because I’m Jewish, the ones who don’t like me because I’m a white male, and the ones who don’t like me because I’m from Connecticut can all go jump in the river. I’ll spend my time focusing on the people who appreciate what I have to offer.
You don’t have to take me literally when I say “eXepl the unhealthy influences.” Sometimes that means ending relationships. Other times, it means establishing healthier boundaries. Your job is to figure out what it means to you!
Identify the key people in your social network. Then classify each person as a Healthy Influence or an Unhealthy Influence. For each person you labeled Unhealthy Influence, identify your strategy for dealing with that individual.
|Person||Healthy or Unhealthy Influence||Strategy (if Unhealthy)|
______I have identified the unhealthy influences in my life
______I have a strategy for dealing with each of them
Yell. When my daughter was very little and she was frustrated, I told her to grab a pillow and yell into it. Believe it or not, it helped.
I’ve seen a number of people with sex addictions who keep everything inside and then one day just explode. Controlled yelling is a great way to let out some of that frustration. Of course, it’s best to yell when nobody else is around. I’ve yelled in the car.
Yelling should be done in private. But there are other ways to make sure that you’re not bottling up your feelings and emotions that are not as private. Section C-Communication, touched on letting others know what’s going on inside.
I used to be guilty of keeping it all in. I felt that I needed to be strong for everyone else in my life. I couldn’t show any vulnerability. That sort of stubborn logic ended up having the reverse impact. I ended up gradually falling apart and then imploding with a big bang.
Now, I take time to share my thoughts with family and friends; the healthy ones I’ve chosen to have in my life. Anyone not willing to listen to me is not worth having in my circle of close friends and family.
Grab a pillow and practice yelling into it. If you are not mad at anyone at the money, yell at your addiction. Let it out. Yell.
______I don’t hold stress inside until I explode
______I have healthy outlets for expressing my pain and dealing with stress such as sports, yelling in pillows and talking with friends
Zelebrate. Oops, I did it again. I took liberties with the alphabet for a second time. However, I really wanted to end the workbook on a positive note with the celebration theme.
Part of recovery involves healthy celebration. I like to mark the milestones. Fill your life with healthy goals and then celebrate when you achieve them. Celebrate anniversaries and birthdays. Celebrate religious and secular holidays. Celebrate promotions. Celebrate a good performance review. Celebrate the time change. Acknowledge the moments. Make memories.
You also deserve some kudos for reading all the way through to the letter Z in this workbook. That shows dedication toward your recovery and perseverance toward achieving your goals.
Send me a letter telling me you’re proud of yourself for the positive changes you’ve made in your life as result of this workbook. Tell your support group. Tell anyone who will listen!
Appreciate. The work is not over! You can start back at the beginning of the alphabet and review each concept again. Think of your ideas that will solidify your recovery. Maybe you think of a few that I didn’t touch on. Maybe the next time through the workbook you go a little deeper into each subject.
Even though you declared success in Z-Zelebrate and marked the occasion, your work is never done. But I promise you, it gets easier. Maybe you will put the workbook away for a few months. However, I suggest revisiting the concepts presented here on a regular basis. Following the advice outlined in this workbook will keep you on a better path. Good luck! I’m rooting for you and your continued recovery!