Alright another question regarding ERP...
Last night i did something that could have cost me my sobriety. It was stupid and dangerous but I felt that it was useful in helping me do ERP. I posted about this before - I'm unable to actually feel triggered when I do ERP normally. It doesn't make my heart rate increase or make my breathing shallow. It feels nothing like when I'm genuinely triggered.
So I have two questions: First off, what I did last night was I went on Google and I made a search. I stopped and stayed on the search results page so that I didn't see anything triggering, but I knew that with just one click I could be in the hellish world of porn again. So I stopped, closed my eyes there while sitting in front of the computer, and tried to imagine myself going through with it and looking. It made my pulse go up a little. So I took it to the next step and I turned my chair sideways, I moved the mouse over the "images" word, the link that would take me to google images instead. So I closed my eyes, and clicked on it, and turned around with my eyes closed so I couldn't see anything. And I put myself in that situation to have two options - keep my eyes closed and turn away and do good things, or look and see my poison. That got my heart to race even more, knowing that just by turning around I could see. So what happened was in that turned around state I started deep breathing, when I got my pulse down a little more, I felt around for my mouse and moved it to the top right of the screen and exited the internet and i continued breathing. I turned back the to the desk, opened my eyes, and read my affirmations, and then went to stretch.
What I wanted to do was to create a dangerous situation and trick my brain into thinking I was actually going to go through with it. Now the thing is is that I did it with confidence, and I felt
in control. Now, I need your advice and opinions, was this smart? Was it safe, was it helpful or useful to me? Normal ERP doesn't do anything for me. Was this just another one of those lies my brain was trying to give me so I'd fail and watch porn? I felt
in control and mostly safe, but can I trust that feeling?
Second, one day I was going through some very old posts here on FTRW, and I came across "ERP Triggers" posted by Climbing. It was about the same issue I have and so I read FTRW's reply:
Hello, just a quick question about ERP:
I've just started doing ERP (3 times so far), but I notice that when I do it, I really don't feel particularly triggered while imagining my triggers. I don't feel much response at all. My pulse rate is the same after imagining the triggers as it as after completing ERP. Is that normal? Or should I be feeling a very noticable response while imagining the triggers?
I've read your journal post, and was going to reply to that, but this question presents a better opportunity.
ERP is designed and works the best for people who are still active in their addiction. For example when I was active I couldn't go for longer than a week without acting out. When people are in that stage their "habit" is so powerful, that every time they are exposed to triggers they can't help acting out. For those people pulse, blood pressure etc will go up when they even think about a triggering situation.
You and I are in the maintenance and relapse prevention stage of our addiction, and it is different. Imagining a triggering situation for me no longer produces the same effect. Additionally a healthy response is more or less a learned behavior for me right now. But sometimes I do get triggered. It could be something I see on TV or internet, and I feel the drive to "investigate" or find out more. That is when I still rely on ERP, breathing, looking at my pulse, remembering why I want to stay sober, and doing something healthy instead of acting out. But I no longer do it every day. Because after I did it consistently for about 60 days, I learned it. Just like after you learn to drive the bike, you can stay off it for 30 years, than jump back on and in few minutes be riding it no problem.
So while I think you still can benefit from learning and practicing ERP, it will not be as affective for you now, as it would have been as you first got sober.
I believe that in our stage the most important thing is to check our behaviors often, preferably daily, making sure that we are still on the right track. And if we noticed that something is going off, we need to deal with it right there, by examining what is causing us to feel vulnerable (often times it is some external conflict, negative believes, or stress of day to day life) and do something about it.
I also find it is helpful to stay active in a 12 step group, not because I believe in everything that goes on there, but because it helps me stay accountable in a group of like minded individuals. Forums and online support groups help, but there is nothing like real contact.
Thanks again for posting and I hope to see you here again.
So my question is what should I be doing now? It's conforting to know i'm not so far down in my addiction anymore that ERP doesn't affect me. But I'm in a dilemma: 1 - I'm not in the pit as deeply anymore, so ERP doesn't do much for me. 2 - I still don't have the habit of ERP fully practiced though, so what if I'm not ready to move on? I'm stuck in a grey area!
Do I do ERP anyway, the normal way, even if it doesn't make me feel triggered? Or do I continue with the next step? And if I stop ERP, won't I be in danger since I have not yet formed the automatic response to do ERP like Alex has?