About 3 weeks ago I had a slip. Let me tell you what happened.
Honestly, looking back I should have recognized that something was wrong at least a couple of days in advance. But I got too over confident and was too busy with my work and school to pay attention. It was the end of semester for me, and I was pushing myself really hard to try to finish all of my projects in a little amount of time that I had left after my work.
Eventually I noticed myself experience a slight increase of sexual desires, but I brushed it off as something not to be concerned about. After all I was coming up on 11 month of sobriety and had very clear and effortless 3 months under my belt with unrestricted internet access on my work computer, and I just did not feel like I was in danger of acting out. I thought I would habitually stop myself before I cross the line.
So there I was sitting on my computer, working on one of my projects when a though came across that I needed to take a break. So I decided to take a healthy break, and was looking at a blog post that had a collection of travel pictures from around the world. I looked at few countries in Asia and Europe, and they were beautiful, but I just “FELT” like it wasn’t enough.
That is when a thought came into my head: “This is boring, let’s see if I can find something sexual in here”. I quickly searched through the titles and found one post copied from National Geographic featuring a tribe in Africa. I opened that post, and noticed that there were 3 women on it, with their backs towards the camera, but they were not fully dressed. Perhaps if I were to click back at this point, I would not have called this event a slip. But my next though came in to be “Well, maybe there rest of the pictures will have clothes on, it wouldn’t hurt to look”(LIE). So I scroll down and saw few more pictures, and the last one that I saw had complete frontal nudity, and I definitely knew that I’ve crossed the line. Over the entire entire incident took about 10 seconds.
What came after for me were feelings of guilt and confusion. I struggled to understand what have happened. It took me a few weeks to fully allow the event to fully sink into my head and to distance myself far enough from it to be able to look at it objectively.
But there was another feeling that came with it, and that was feeling of joy. And that joy was not a result of what happened or what I saw, the joy was part of realization that I would have to tell all of the readers of http://FeedTheRightWolf.org about it. The reason that I was happy to tell everybody about my slip is because I viewed it as an opportunity to start over.
When I first started http://FeedTheRightWolf.org I was not getting any visitors. Now I understand that this was just a result of me having very little content on the site. But back then I thought that it was because I wasn’t doing a good job “selling” recovery.
So I thought that if I make things sound a little bit more like other websites do, I will be able to get people to read what I had to say. As a result something very unfortunate happened. While I honestly shared all of the positive things that I learned about recovery, I was not completely transparent about some of the personal struggles that I had.
This approach was putting a huge limiting block on my own recovery, and my own experience with http://FeedTheRightWolf.org , after all, the real purpose for this site was to help me with my own recovery. And I only hoped that my own experience might help some other people as well.
Additionally, I believe that because I kept throwing a phrases like “It’s now been 2 years since I watched pornography or masturbated” all over the site, but did not take the time to explain what it meant to me, it gave a lot of people an unrealistic expectation of what recovery would be like. So let me clarify my progress. And let me tell you that it has not all been black and white as I’ve made it sound before.
It has been 5.5 years, since I had any sexual physical contact with any person other than the one that I am in relationship with. It has been 2.5 years since I masturbated. It’s been 2.5 years since I watch hard core pornography involving two people engaging in a sexual act. It’s been 2 years since I purposely watched nude videos for extended period of time. For the rest of the time I would have minor slips, where I would find myself looking at nude photography (or video on 2 occasions) with lustful intentions on rare occasions (1-3 months).My second longest period of continuing sobriety was 8 months. My last period of ongoing sobriety was 11 months, until the incident that I described earlier which happened about 3 weeks ago.
So what did I learn from my recovery? I learned that I am not perfect. When I started out, I thought that I will magically find a way to change my cravings and desires, and will fix myself, and then I will fix the rest of the world.
What I found out, however, that it wasn’t that simple. I came with a certain piece of hardware, my emotional brain, which I just would not be able to get rid of. This is actually a good thing because without it I wouldn’t be alive. But as any other complicated hardware, it came with additional responsibility. So for the most part of my recovery I was trying to learn to use my body in a way that was less damaging to me and others around me.
Did I get completely free of any sexual compulsion? No. Did I make and continue to make progress? Yes.
I really liked the leveled definition of pornography addiction as proposed by Dr. Skinner in his book “Treating Pornography Addiction“.
Level 1. Mild exposure – once or twice a year, no effect on regular life.
Level 2. Pornography use does not indicate addiction – occasionally looking at pornography with increased interest.
Level 3. Signs of trouble – person looks few times a month, usually tries to avoid it, but occasionally urges get so strong that it cannot be controlled, and person gives in.
Level 4. Individual notices increased sexual fantasies, and attempts to control them, which results in stronger withdrawal symptoms.
Level 5. Pornography impacting day to day living with significant portion of the day spent thinking about pornography.
Level 6. Pornography dominates most of the day to day life, affecting work, school, and personal relationships.
Level 7. Pornography and acting out consumes most of individuals time, leaving him feeling completely out of control.
When I first got into recovery, I was at level 6 or may be even at level 7 of pornography addiction. I slowly worked my way down the levels, and while my recovery has not been perfect, I have spent my last year at level 1, and the year before that at level 2.
So I hope I did not mislead you with my blog. And if I did, I sincerely apologize and I hope you can forgive me.
I will understand if you will choose to stop following http://FeedTheRightWolf.org and or unsubscribe from our Recovery Email.
After all I cannot give sway something that I don’t have.
But if you are going to stick around, watch out for my next email in a couple of days. I am going to announce a challenge, where you could (very easily) get a $20 Amazon gift card. Stay healthy until than!
Your friend in recovery,