10 Principles of Recovery
100 Days! (2nd time around!)- what have I learned?
10 Principles of Recovery
Below are several principles that have been in place for me currently and during my longest periods of abstinence. For those times when we get lost in the forest, and we need to find our way, use these principles (or those that have worked for you) to again find your way out.
The principles below have been developed in my own experiences since joining Reboot Nation back in November of 2014, and have come out of the crucible of applying them in real-time. These applied with diligence can turn around any negative trend toward relapse. My hope is that they can be of help in your own recovery efforts.
1. Don't think about it.
This is what has been presented as the Porn is NOT an Option mentality. I would call it the 'Porn does not Exist' mindset, as Underdog discusses in the article.
We tend to think about it- all the time! As long as we bring it up in our mind, we recreate it's reality (and hence it's possibility) in our consciousness.
Thoughts often become actions, too.
Now we can't prevent all thoughts arising, but these can be dismissed as easily and as quickly as they came. It's when we let the thoughts linger that they become difficult to remove. "You can't stop every bird from flying overhead, but you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair"- as the saying goes.
Practice not thinking about it, not by trying not to, but by thinking of better and more productive things.
2. Don't shame yourself.
For me, what flipped toxic shame on it's head was the undiluted, unadulterated grace of God, without any admixture of law or legalism. In coming to accept that ALL my sins were forgiven, including all future sins, instead of giving me a license toward immoral behavior, it's had the opposite effect.
Included in this is not moralizing your addictions. Instead of casting them as right or wrong issues (though they may be), think of them in more self-compassionate ways. Understand yourself, your struggles and weaknesses. Don't berate yourself, even after a fall. Instead of being your own worse enemy, you should be the most compassionate toward yourself.
What if someone were not religious? I think the same applies. We can always be compassionate toward ourselves, and forgiving of ourselves- no matter what. Toxic shame only fuels the addiction!
3. Build an entirely new you, not the old you minus PMO.
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
~ Character 'Socrates', Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book that Changes Lives by Dan Millman
This ties into the above, not thinking about it. Instead, we're too busy- not just rebuilding our lives, but creating an entirely new life, free from PMO. This isn't about, "I need to quit this and that, and do the other...", instead it's just focusing on doing the other.
Now's your chance! All the things that you wanted to do, but porn and masturbation got in your way, robbed you of male virility, masculine creativity, now you can have that energy back to refocus and recreate the life you've always wanted. The vision for this life should consume your every waking moment, and even as you go to sleep. 'Nature hates a vacuum', and that's exactly why we had an addiction in the first place, an inward emptiness. Now's the time to fill it up with visions and actions toward an entirely new you.
4. Work with triggers/urges in real time situations to regain self-control.
Here's where I personally worked with ERP (exposure-response-prevention), or exposure therapy. Though, it needn't be a controlled practice, but one can work with the triggers (outward stress and inward anxieties), as well as urges/temptations in real-time, in real life scenarios. After all, we want to mimic real life scenarios as closely as possible, in order to carry it over into daily life.
This is a practicing on how to handle urges. Not many train for the times when these things really count, in the heat of the moment. What do you do when your heart is racing, and your pulse is rising, and your breathing is shallow? Are we even aware of our physiological responses when urges come upon us? Do we know when we're obsessing?
Do you know that this is precisely the times when you can shine? Learn that you are after all in control, not your addiction. Follow the A.W.A.R.E. acronym to deal during these times, whether it's physical urges, or even if fantasies and memories are arising in your mind:
A - Acceptance. Be accepting, even welcoming of the anxious feelings, urges or fantasies;
W- Watchful. Watch as an outside observer without judgment, with compassion and understanding.
A- Act. Take action on these feelings, in terms of breathing deep, staying calm in the moment.
R- Repeat. Repeat steps 1-3, until the feeling passes.
E- Expect. Know that these feelings of anxiety, triggers, or urges will come, but have an expectancy that you will handle them successfully.
5. Follow the two-second rule to undermine lust/voyeurism.
I always had wondered what was the elusive and blurry line between appreciating a woman for her beauty and actual lust, which leads to masturbation and/or pornography. I knew that there was a place where I could appreciate their beauty, and not be lustful, or voyeuristic, but when I'd start thinking along those lines, I'd eventually fall into lust without realizing it- or sometimes realizing it.
Only allow yourself a two second period where you can look, but then turn your eyes away. This takes a little practice, but you'll soon find it comes automatic. Often times I don't even take the two seconds, I'll look away automatically. If you feel an anxiety about it rising, say in public, then slow down and deepen your breathing.
The two second rule is different then say, 'white-knuckling it', trying not to lust after everything that moves, afraid to even see a woman, without falling into that obsessive mindset. The two second rule says, "Okay, you can see a beautiful woman, and appreciate her beauty- but only for two seconds"- now, that isn't a long time, but it's long enough to appreciate her beauty, while at the same time disrupting what may be a natural biological stimulus to our reproductive system, where our brains starts seeing her as a potential mating partner. I've found that even in the two second time period, my mind can remember the image, but it's not so burned into my brain. Instead, I get a better sense of self control in public, and it spills over into my private life. In this way, I can appreciate beauty without taking it as a dopamine hit, or something to further unhealthy behaviors later on.
6. Not every lapse is a relapse, recast lapses as lessons learned and not as failures.
This speaks to what's called the Abstinence Violation Effect. There are few of us here who have a perfect and flawless reboot or recovery effort. Lapses may generally happen, and we need to have a contingency plan for when that occurs.
How we handle a lapse will determine whether we learn from the lessons presented, or fall into a full blown relapse. Can we come back to control? Or, are we out of control? Is there a re to our lapse? Is it repeatable, or a purposeful repetition of former behaviors on a daily or weekly or bi-weekly basis?
It's our counter, our reboot, but know yourself enough to when your counter needs to be reset. You alone can be the best judge for that. Always do what works in favor of your own recovery efforts and goals, not based on what others think.
The quicker that you bounce back from a lapse, without falling into the ditch of porn is what's of primary important. Don't binge upon a lapse, as that does incalculable damage to your efforts.
7. Support others without criticism, remembering your own times of weakness.
There's a subtle attitude called pride, when you may be doing well for so long a period, and then you see others struggling, resetting their counters every 10 days or less. "Man, they must be doing pretty bad. Can't they get it together?!", or, when you're 'helping' them, it comes off more as a pontifical rebuke, a wagging of the finger, as if to brow beat a brother back into some invisible compliance.
There are several addiction models out there, some based on the disease-model of addiction (which I don't follow), and others that are more based in the science of habits, and still others come from a religious background, where these things may be hyper-moralized, as they were for me for so long. It's not one-size-fits-all, there's room for different approaches, just so the results are the same: quitting pornography and masturbation addiction. Again, not all agree that masturbation is a problem (I happen to view it as such).
Always remember yourself when you go to help a struggling or weak brother/sister. Stand beside them, helping them up, not standing over them, kicking them down.
8. Work with mindfulness techniques to develop new coping mechanism, through breathing and meditation.
This point could very well be number 1, could be numbers 1-10, because in all that we do, we're to be mindful.
Mindfulness is... Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness (sati, in the Pali language) is defined as being aware, being present, and also remembering in the moment core or key teachings as will help to properly interpret present experiences, feelings, or thoughts.
Mindfulness is 'right thinking' as discussed in the Noble Eight Fold Path, and it's practice prevents one from 'reincarnating', that is, from reifying thought processes or schemas that lead to bondage and suffering.
Emotional turmoil may erupt around us, circumstances may go haywire and be all but uncontrollable, and the need to escape all of this, to avoid it, to insulate ourselves from the pain and stress of this, is undercut and short circuited by breathing, being mindful, aware, remembering principles whereby right interpretations defog and clarify the present situation.
We learn mindfulness in a practical way through meditation, simply being in the moment without regard to thoughts. If thoughts/feelings arise, we don't fight them, we simply and non-judgmentally let them go on by, keeping our focus on the present moment. This practice spills over into our moment by moment experiences.
Let mindfulness be your new coping method.
9. Beware of falling into old thought and habit patterns, especially after lapsing from a long streak.
Despite our best and noblest efforts, even after some time has passed, we need to be aware of deeply ingrained thought processes, or learned responses toward various stimuli. Maybe we can now handle a skimpily clad woman on a billboard sign, but our boss berating us may 'trigger' other well rehearsed thought processes and physiological responses that put us in a high-risk situation. Work with these as per the other points given above, but be aware.
In the event of a lapse after a long period of abstinence, it's seems very difficult to climb out of that ditch and reestablish the level of victory that we were just used to a day or two ago. Maybe we thought we had it licked, and we kind of 'edged' up to the rim of the porn pit through porn-substitutes, whatever those are for you, until we fell headlong in. Or, maybe it was a momentary lapse in judgment. Either way, beware of this, because how difficult it is to come back to your 'new normal' is being threatened, and we are our own worse enemy. It's all in how we choose to interpret what happened, whether we simply bounce back, or continue on in a reestablishing or a resensitization of old neural pathways.
Bounce back as quickly as possible, and recount all the victories that you had, those are not lost. All progress is not lost. Return quickly to what worked before, and don't beat yourself up over it. You're better than this!
10. Beware of the power of negative thoughts and emotions which affect behaviors.
Investigate the merits of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and realize how that our thoughts-feelings-behaviors are intricately linked, based in global belief systems that we have toward ourselves, others and the future.
Begin to learn your self, Know Thyself, as maxim inscribed above the Temple to Apollo at Delphi says. Watch your thoughts, are they following a certain trend of negativity? Are you taking your thoughts too seriously? What about your feelings, are you in a bad mood? Are you depressed, or anxious (fearful), or are you happy? If your moods are negative, find out why.
Don't take any of your thought processes or emotional states for granted, because these very well may put you in a high-risk place for a lapse. You have to ascertain what it is that caused these negative thoughts/feelings to arise, and get back to a state of happiness and hopefulness as soon as possible. Watch rumination, thinking and thinking about your problems- the causes and their results, but without any solutions. These lead us into negative emotional states as well.
Our soul (psychological aspect) is made up of volition (will), intellect (thoughts) and sensibilities (emotions). Through our will, we can control our thoughts directly, but our emotional states only indirectly. So, if we're feeling angry, or sad, we can't just snap our fingers, and we're out. But, if we can change our thoughts by changing the attention of our will (onto more positive, hopeful and joyful things), then our emotions will eventually follow.
I hope that this was a blessing, and useful to you in a practical sense.
LINK - Ten Principles of Recovery
BY - Leon (sola gratia)