Friday, February 2, 2018

Healing My Marriage: Clarification Letter

I recently wrote a letter to my wife, acknowledging the emotional trauma I've caused her through my behavior throughout our relationship. It was an incredibly powerful experience for us both, so I thought I'd share. I had a three-page prompt I was working from, which I believe was based on research from Dr. Claudia Black. Here it is:

Dear [my wife's name],

In this letter my goal is to openly admit all the ways in which I caused you trauma throughout our relationship so both of us can recognize the lies, excuses, and rationalizations I created as part of my addiction. I want to put these behind us forever.

I first want to make it clear that even though you didn’t know about my addiction until years into our marriage, I was addicted to pornography and masturbation long before I met you. You did not cause any of the behavior I was already hooked on. I had already gotten progressively worse in the content of my addiction, and I had already concealed it from many, many people before we started dating. My continued indulgence in my addiction and deception about it wasn’t because of you, but because of my inability to understand the true nature of the problem and solution and because of my pride in thinking I could overcome it on my own.

Throughout the years of my addiction before I met you, I had accepted lies about how the addiction was affecting me and my relationships. I believed that because it didn’t involve anyone else it wasn’t harming anyone. In our relationship, I didn’t want to believe the harm it was causing, and so I turned many of the problems it was causing back towards you. The fact that, even before my confession, our relationship was shaky—frustration caused by how much I was playing video games or watching shows, by the amount and types of sex I wanted to have, by the amount of work I wasn’t doing on campus and around the house, and by my lack of support of your goals, paradigm, and health—was a sign that me and my addiction was causing you deep emotional harm. In addition to these specific behaviors, my communication was infected by lies I told myself and came to believe to justify my addiction. These include the following:

  • I believed that you owed me sexual intimacy for several reasons. Firstly, because I am a man and have stronger sexual desires. In reality, marriage and sexual health is built on mutual trust, which I wasn’t living up to. My giving into my addiction meant that my sexual desires and expectations were unreasonable. Also, sex truly is optional. Secondly, I believed I deserved sex because I earned the money and helped around the house a little. In reality, my helping us as a family was part of what I was supposed to be doing at a bare minimum, not extra, special behavior that would put you in my debt. Sex isn’t something that is owed, it’s something that’s shared from a place of safety. Lastly, because I considered myself more physically attractive than you. In reality, you weren’t lucky to get me, I was lucky to get you because of your humor, wit, independence, creativity, love of nature, honesty, friendliness, love of others including our kids, curiosity, and innate talents in cooking/home and project design/baby making/coaching/music/etc. Not least of which because of your entering our marriage from a place of honesty and faithfulness then staying with me through the trauma I’ve caused you. You don’t owe me anything, especially not sex.
  • I believed that I was entitled to indulge in my lust and masturbation because you didn’t fulfill your role as a wife to satisfy my sexual needs. In reality, I drove you away through my selfishness and chose my addiction over you because it was safer and easier. It was also hollow, shallow, and a counterfeit mimicry of love.
  • I believed that my strengths and progress was a justification for my acting out. That I needed to be forgiving of my shortcomings. In reality, my strengths are positive things but don’t justify anything. I can make progress without intentionally backsliding.
  • I believed that if I could stop by myself, the whole problem will just go away and nobody would have to know. God would forgive me and it would be like it never happened. In reality, I was creating problems that would affect every aspect of my life and my family’s lives. Isolation and lying isn’t what God had in mind when he promised forgiveness for repentance.
  • I believed I didn’t need help from other people, especially not other addicts, because I was different and better. In reality, while I am different than other addicts, with my own strengths and positive qualities, I am also really similar, with the same or worse weaknesses. I definitely need the help of others who understand me to recognize my weaknesses and recommit to recovery.
  • In order to justify my hypocrisy, I came to entertain doubts about the church, its standards, and even the existence of God. After my second concerted effort at recovery failed, my doubts had progressed from unanswered questions (about church history/Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, etc.) to playing out possible scenarios of how God didn’t exist or the church wasn’t true, to full-blown disbelief…ending with a belief that I was justified in living with my addiction because there was no God. In reality, it wasn’t that God wasn’t there for me, but that I had distanced myself from God and took my lack of success from my half-hearted efforts as a reason to doubt. My willingness to abandon my beliefs was another, deeper betrayal of the trust you showed in me when we got married. As I came to question my doubts, I realized that either there were answers to my questions or, more importantly, that I was basing my testimony on logic rather than the powerful peace that comes through obedience. My success in recovery that came as I have relied on God and acknowledged my countless failed attempts as self will has become the foundation of my testimony that God really does exist, and this really is His church.

In addition to incorrect beliefs I held, I also had unrealistic expectations for you, including the following:

  • I expected you to have libido regardless of how I behaved. I considered you to be flawed because you didn’t match my unreasonable and incorrect ideas about womanly desire. In reality, by prioritizing my views of women—that were formed through watching pornography— over your reality—that was formed through your thoughts and feelings—I was disrespecting and dishonoring you. You were right to behave in the way you did, and it was wrong of me to expect any different.
  • I expected you to accept my behavior and my lies that I believed about myself. In reality, you were being courageous to stand up to me and in tune with the reality of the situation.
  • I expected you to take care of family and food and cleaning because you are a woman. And I thought I was entitled to video games and not helping because I worked and am a man. In reality, just because the culture of our upbringing allowed or even encouraged certain behavior, that doesn’t mean that it is right for our relationship. I lost out on countless opportunities to serve you and express my love through only pursuing my desire to selfishly numb my own fears and pain.
  • I expected you to know and judge me by my actual intentions. So when I actually was making progress and change, I was impatient with your lack of trust. In reality, I need to have more confidence in my right behavior and patience with the effects of the trauma I’ve caused you. It’s completely reasonable for you to doubt my intentions and my verbal explanations.

In addition to the false beliefs I used to justify my acting out and the unreasonable expectation I had for you, I also found ways to cover up what I was actually doing, which was spending time looking at youtube videos, playing video games, browsing the internet, looking at pornography, or masturbating. My smokescreen methods included the following:

  • I claimed to be on campus doing my grading or homework.
  • I claimed to be going to the bathroom or having a shower.
  • I claimed to be relaxing from a hard day’s work with some harmless youtube or video games.
  • I claimed that I needed outlets because of all the stress and anxiety I was going through.
  • I claimed that I couldn’t sleep and needed to get up and get something.
  • I claimed that I was actually sleeping or sleeping out on the couch.
By using these smokescreen methods, I have tainted your view of me being on campus, me looking at a screen by myself, me having a shower, me going to the bathroom, me getting up at night, me having dreams, and me sleeping somewhere else.

I also acknowledge that I applied smokescreen methods to others, whether it be colleagues on campus who thought I was being productive, your parents or others when we were traveling, and others in more subtle ways, such as pretending to members of our ward that our marriage was fine and that I was a strong, faithful, obedience member of the church. I may not have openly lied to family, friends, or others about my addiction, but I certainly lied through my implications and impressions I tried to leave. I actively attempted to not only smokescreen, but to make myself look good, through giving priesthood blessings/baptizing kids/attending the temple/accepting callings despite my doubts and unworthiness, bragging about my work and accomplishments, making progress in cleaning, conducting successful projects around the house, etc. In certain ways I also made you look bad, such as when I focused on progress in cleaning and other things typically done by wives.
Through my addictive behavior and my justifications and expectations I have caused you to be confused about love and my true feelings. For example, by claiming that I loved you and that I was doing dishes and housework because I loved you, when I actually was doing those things to increase the likelihood of us having sex, I was trying to push a false reality on you.

The way I have treated you in our relationship is not what healthy, positive relationships look like. There are healthy couples out there, like [my second sister's name] and [her husband's name] or [my third sister's name] and [her husband's name], who genuinely express their feelings and disappointments, and work through their stresses openly and honestly. Their behavior matches their verbal account of what’s going on, which matches actual reality. I want for us to be there as well, but because of where we’ve been it’s probably wise that you not trust me in certain problem areas for the foreseeable future without accountability and clear evidence in the following behaviors: how I spend my time on campus, when I get on websites by myself, solo video games or time spent on video games, and browsing movies/shows/games/apps.

Your reactions to my behavior and impulses to protect yourself are completely natural and appropriate. When I caused you pain and was dishonest, questioning my truthfulness and behavior is the only rational reaction. Feeling pain and betrayal is also the correct response, since I lied, deceived, and didn’t come into our marriage with a foundation of honesty and from a place where I could express honest, real love.

Your creation of boundaries and standards for my behavior are also natural and appropriate. I have reacted as if your boundaries were intended to punish me or victimize me when I was trying so hard to improve. In reality, for you to feel safe, being clear about what you will and will not accept is actually a kind, pro-relationship behavior. It was wrong of me to hurt you in the first place, and even more wrong to try to keep you from protecting yourself from me. I support anything you need to do to feel safe, and I commit to respecting anything you ask me to do for your safety.
I would like to answer any questions you have about my behavior, motivations, or thinking. If you ever feel triggered or suspicious or doubtful of my honesty, the burden is on me—not you—to set the record straight and affirm the truth of the situation. Your feelings and questions are valid, and I commit to complete honesty and openness in addressing them.

[My name]

I think this was such a powerful experience because it was empowering to specifically acknowledge the ways and extent to which I tried to force my skewed version of reality onto my wife and the specific ways she resisted. She may not have always reacted in healthy ways, but her feelings were real, and they were real signs that something wasn't right, and what wasn't right was me.I don't think I could have written this letter without some perspective that comes from sobriety (it's been since September 2015 since I've looked at internet pornography, and I've had 9 months of active recovery work without crossing any of my bottom lines). I don't think our marriage could heal all the way before I had written a letter like this. I recommend this part of the process to any addict whose spouse doesn't feel safe and comfortable. The process might go something like this: Admitting Problem => Getting Tools/A Support Network => Brutal Honesty with Self, God, and Support Network => Patience and Consistency in Working Personal Recovery Program (including working the steps, forming/strengthening/keeping boundaries, and doing dailies) => A Really Long Time => then work like this clarification letter, a full disclosure (which I did a few weeks ago), and other things. 

Thanks to my therapist and wife for insisting things weren't good enough as they were!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Willingness to Reject Unwillingness

Step Six:

“As long as we could see the possibility of becoming willing, we were still in the program. At times of unwillingness, we prayed for willingness.”

I love the phrasing “see the possibility of becoming willing,” as though it’s a target I’m aiming at, missing consistently but getting closer. Though honestly, as an addict I don’t always have the most realistic grasp on my attitude—“I could overcome my porn problem any time I want.” Still, when I learned to be honest enough with myself, all I need is the realistic desire to be willing. It’s like the desire to believe as a seed (in Alma 32) that I have to let work within me until I believe. If I’m letting my willingness work within me, I’m still working towards recovery in good faith.

“Although [character weaknesses] tended to pop up anew every day…”

Step six isn’t a magical removal of my character weaknesses—it’s a daily surrender as they arise. What I don’t think the text expresses is that the character weaknesses lose their power and I become increasingly purified as I rely on the Savior’s help to root them out of my chest (Alma 22:15). Over time I learn to become a new being, cleansed of impure motives and desires. Over a long time. Very long.

“…our defects can teach us humility and wisdom.”

This is a concept that I struggle with…I’ve heard a number of addicts say that they were grateful for the addiction because it taught them positive things. Yes, I think I can learn some very powerful lessons from recovering from my addiction that I don’t think I could learn in any other way. And I’m grateful for the miracle of forgiveness and that I’m making the progress that I am. But I think I could have saved myself a lot of misery and learned these same principles in other ways. When I compare the danger of me being lukewarm without the addiction (not being forced to the atonement of Jesus Christ by an uncontrollable compulsion), vs the danger of getting lost in my addiction never to get out…I think I’d take lukewarm. Actually, I’ll take recovery, but you get what I’m saying.

“…what appeared to be a character defect in one situation could be an asset in another…conscientiousness to the extreme of perfectionism, concern for the opinion of others to the extreme of dependency on their approval.”

I don’t know that I agree that character weaknesses suddenly change just based on the context, but I do think many, if not all, of my weaknesses are based in good impulses. The addiction itself is mostly based in a desire for acceptance and love, which is not a bad thing. Independence, a desire to take care of myself without hurting others, can also be a good thing. The way that it manifests in my life, though, is an unhealthy, corrupted version of these otherwise positive attributes.

"As I become willing to admit that I'm wrong...I become willing to surrender more defects."  

Part of the reason I think I turned to my addiction is because I connect my sense of personal value with how people view me. If I look good, then I can tell myself I am good. To admit error, then, is to undermine my value as a human being. A funny thing happens when I become willing to admit wrongdoing--I learn that I didn't need to hide my flaws in the first place. I'm still a valuable individual even with weaknesses. I'd like to partake in the cycle described in this quote--constantly humbling myself, constantly surrendering defects, and constantly making progress.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

I Am Powerless Over My Character Weaknesses

Alright! I'm going to just dive right in where I was commenting on the Step Into Action step five:

“I was horrified to hear myself recite behaviors and attitudes of a very different person from the one I had hoped to become.”

The memory of my addiction behavior is shame inducing and hard to come to terms with, for sure. But when I think of all the chances I’ve missed to lift others and improve myself, the years of isolation and self-destructive behavior, all the hobbies, skills, relationships I didn’t build on…that’s when I really feel shame and self-loathing. Still, I can’t change my past—it’s set in stone. Thinking of the serenity prayer, I need to accept the things I can’t change (like my “might have been” self) and change the things I can (like my “might be” self).

Step Six
“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” (emphasis added)

Firstly, I like the ARP version of this better, since it doesn’t make me sound so defective…which I guess technically isn’t incorrect, but still.

One of my many character weaknesses is all-or-nothing thinking. If I can’t be perfect in something then I might as well not do it. “I missed one day of my goal to read the scriptures every day, I might as well give up.” This step is the “all” part of that—I have to be “entirely” ready for “all” of my weaknesses to be removed. Maybe I’m wrong about the all or nothing thinking…maybe it’s just a lack of determination and diligence, looking for an excuse to give up and judge myself. That’s not what this step is. Recovery means I forgive myself for not being perfect and commit to healthy choices regardless of the ebb and flow of my emotions. Rather than perfect surrender, this step is asking for consistent commitment to keep trying to surrender.

“We were looking for rescue, not recovery.”

When I think of rescue, the image pops into my head of being stuck on a housetop in a flood and needing a helicopter crew to save me. It presupposes that I’m powerless over the water, with no hope of living except someone else helping me. I was ready to say this image is incorrect, but I think there's something to it…I'm powerless over my addiction, just like I would be over a raging river. I need the help of the Lord, who is the only one who can help me (like a helicopter crew would be). I tried making the analogy working by saying I need to be willing to hook myself up to the harness rather than expecting others to or cutting corners and just trying to hold on (until I lose my grip when the winds start buffeting me again). That still implies rescue, though, which I don't think is quite right. Still, it's interesting how I started wanting to refute this image but found a fair amount that was accurate.

“We had to change if we were to live a useful, meaningful life…If we could have changed on our own, we would have done it long ago.”

My experience has taught me that I don’t have to change—nobody is making me do it. God won’t. My wife or family can’t. My church can’t. However, if I don’t change I’m going to be stuck in a self-centered, downward-spiraling existence where I hurt those around me while trying desperately and futilely to fill the hole in my soul. I recognized this (to a certain degree) from the beginning of my addiction. I honestly tried to throw away the porn and force myself to not return to it. But it takes more than I’m able to generate on my own to overcome this addiction and become the kind of person who has a useful and meaningful life.

“We found that we were powerless over our character defects in the same way that we were powerless over lust.”

Yes, very much this! I’ve discovered recently that I’m a terrible parent, with or without my addiction. With my addiction I didn’t have as frequent angry outbursts, but I was distant and selfish with my time. Now I go from the extremes of patient and involved to angry monster (we use the term “momster” when my wife is angry at the kids. I wish there were an equivalent for me). I’ve tried changing, willing myself to calm down and be reasonable when the kids kick the ball in the house and shatter their light fixture (true story). I’ve realized I need to treat my anger issue just like I do my addiction—surrender and reach out in prayer, calls to recovery buddies, journal, my wife (unless she’s the momster, which, in fairness, she never was before the trauma I put her through), etc.

Rather than a conclusion, here's a picture. 
Yes, that's a tree growing through the engine block of that car. It's pretty powerless...just like me! :)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Taking Up Residence in Reality

As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from posting. In the interest of honesty, let me address what happened. I was making good progress working in and writing about the Step into Action books, but when I tried actually doing the step work I needed to, I ran into problems. That’s not code for admitting a relapse. In fact, I’ve done pretty well at keeping up my recovery (my current sobriety date is from right around my last post—November 28th). Instead, I struggled getting my step four completely done and shared with my sponsor: having no idea what to write about, taking my time to be complete, losing motivation, focusing on my family and marriage, my sponsor being busy, and me being busy. Eventually I did, though—I wrote a thorough step four that addressed my character weaknesses as well as my most recent acting-out behavior. Now that I’ve shared all that with my sponsor, I’m working on continuing where I left off in my step work. Let’s hope when I get to step eight and nine I don’t drop off again. J

Step into Action Step Five:
 “We began to practice being the same person on the outside as we were on the inside.”
I was about to write that this is what recovery is all about, but then it struck me. This alignment of who we are and who we appear to be isn’t inherently good. I mean, of course honesty and lack of duplicity is good, but it's also possible to give up on recovery and collapse my double lives into the worse of the two. Instead, though, I’m striving to have integrity by admitting the worst in me but embracing the best.

“Living life from a foundation of honesty and transparency was easier and felt better than hiding.”
Note the verb form—“living.” I don’t think this is saying that building a foundation of honesty and transparency is easy, but that once we've done that work it’s easy and more satisfying to maintain. I have seen this, especially as I don’t have to always doubt my recovery and be paranoid of a relapse. I feel like real, long-term recovery is possible. For me, personally. I’ve always believed I need to maintain a healthy level of mistrust of myself, but the way this quote works in my life is that I feel really good knowing that I can trust myself more than I ever have been able to in the past.

There are four good reasons to share our story with another person: perspective, humility, empowerment, and insurance.
That is, I need to share my step four inventory in order to 1) see where I’m still off, 2) feel that I’m not capable of recovering just by myself, 3) gain power over the addiction, and 4) do what those who have found recovery do. I think this list is also true of making daily calls to support friends. The group I’m a part of is really good at encouraging and modeling the daily call. When I call someone or admit my weaknesses to someone who gets it, all four of these benefits come into play.

“[After sharing our story with another,] we no longer needed to swing between grandiosity and despair. We saw that we were actually imperfect and worthwhile members of the human race.”
I love the “imperfect and worthwhile” phrasing—it says to me that I may be deeply flawed, but that doesn’t make me worthless. My flaws don’t define me or my value. That doesn’t mean I can ignore them, but I’m ok. This connects with the recovery paradox of “I can do it only when I accept that I can’t do it.” This quote also reminds me of a Brene Brown idea—we can work through shame when we stand our ground and don’t let it puff us up or shrink us down.

“We began to be more honest about ourselves and to take up residence in reality.”
I love the phrase “take up residence in reality,” implying that I was living in a fantasy world. And I guess I was—a place where I was justified in “taking care of myself” (selfishly acting out), judging others, writhing in self-pity. Where I needed my drug of choice in order to cope with life. Reality, though, is a place where I take responsibility for my problems—self-caused or not—and address my trials head on. This is what recovery is all about.

Member share: “I always strive for completeness, but as the fog clears, I always see more things that should have been included [in my inventory] but weren’t. This narrowing of the path is a wonderful thing to look forward to.”
A recovery buddy (kind of a sponsee) is working towards completing a disclosure document (basically a step four inventory) in the next week or two. He dreads finishing it only to discover he will have missed something and will have to disclose something else to his wife. This quote illustrates a different attitude—actually looking forward to a “narrowing path,” what I would probably call purification. I can see how it is exciting to recuperate my past, jettisoning my baggage and celebrating my strengths and successes. My past mistakes aren't a ghost, haunting me forever, but they are a pile of junk I've been carrying around with me for years...that I need to learn to throw away. If I find more junk under my bed after my first cleaning, all the better. Perfect cleanliness, especially with the mess I’ve had, isn’t a reasonable expectation all at once.

Member share: “I believe that even in the depths of our disease, each of us tried to choose the least destructive options we saw at the time. As we learn better options, we improve. I need to let go of my shame for not knowing what I had never been taught or shown.”

I have mixed feelings about this one. I agree that I tried to minimize my destructiveness and was honestly trying to solve the problem in the best way I could…however, the best way I could involved still clinging to it even as I tried to get rid of it. I don’t think it is, but I’m uncomfortable how close this quote sounds to justification: “I did the best I could—it wasn’t my fault!” But at the same time, I really did try. Yes, people told me to avoid porn and that it was evil, but the shame-based lectures and lack of clarity about what porn is and how to deal with life didn’t help me avoid becoming addicted. I gave my dad honest answers when he asked me about it…but he never followed up or delved deeper. He did more than others did for me. I have to take ultimate responsibility, but at the very least I don’t want to drop the ball for others who are struggling and who don’t know the way to overcome this addiction.

It honestly feels great to have completed an expanded step four. Anything that I wondered about--"should I have shared that?"--is now shared and behind me. And not only that, but I've now put a lot more thought into who I am. I have a better sense of the patterns of character weaknesses that have added to my addiction or been made worse by it. I feel like I'm taking up residence in reality more, though I still have frustrations. For example, today my son--ignoring what my wife and I have told him several times--kicked a ball inside and smashed a light fixture all over the carpet. I freaked out and had to reach out to a recovery buddy, though not until after I tried calming down on my own. I'm learning that not only am I powerless over lust and sex, but I'm powerless over my character weaknesses. I can't change my weaknesses into strengths by myself, no matter how hard I try. But if I surrender my right to impatience and anger and pride, humbly asking God to help me, I can change with His help. And that's reality.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

"Our Sobriety Becomes the Most Important Thing Each Day in Every Circumstance"

Part of me is not really comfortable with the way I think about the steps--I think, "now I'm done with step one, so I'm going to start step two." The problem with that kind of thinking is that nobody ever finishes step one. Or any of the steps, for that matter. I think a more accurate and appropriate way to think about it is "I feel like I've learned some important things as I've been working on step one for the last while, so I'm going to leave explicit study of it for now and apply the things I've learned as I move on to learn important things in step two." That said, this week I did finish reading through the first book of Step into Action, and I'm starting step four and the second book. It'll be interesting as I rework my step four inventory...since what I count as my step four inventory is really just a thorough step one inventory. Still, I'm not sure if this weekly post is going to look the same moving forward, but I've still enjoyed this last week of working through these books.


The solution [to alchoholism] is to not take the first drink...The solution [to sex addiction] is to become sexually sober.

I thought it was really interesting the difference between these two. I think the reason it doesn't mention "lusting" or "becoming sexually stimulated at all" in the second one isn't because that isn't the equivalent of the first drink, but because the solution and the addictions are inherently different. Even though it's called "Sexaholics Anonymous," there is no such thing as "sexahol." However, I consider part of sexually sobriety as progressive victory over lust, not complete victory over lust. To accomplish that, the addict would have to go live in a cave somewhere. And even then...


While we may feel we will die without sex with self, our experience is that this simply does not happen.

I once read a troll comment in the Rowboats and Marbles webpage that tried making the argument that not masturbating is really damaging (maybe I even wrote a post about it?). I can attest to the feeling that I might die, but not so much in a physical sense--more that my faulty core belief that "sexual fulfillment=my being a good person" means that I have control over my value. Not being in control of feeling that way feels like abandoning myself in a scary dark pit. However, as I do without I realize that I have inherent value and that not having sexual fulfillment isn't the end of the world.

When we stop these behaviors, we find that the urges pass, and we go on with our day. Our sobriety becomes the most important thing each day in every circumstance.

This line struck me probably more than any this whole week. It seems so strange to say that sobriety is more important than my relationship with God, my relationship with my wife, kids, friends, family or self. How is that possible? Every circumstance? What if I have to choose between making a good decision for my recovery and keeping my job? How could I choose sobriety over that? The answer is that sobriety is like salt--you might think by tasting salt directly that it will overpower any food you put it on...when in actuality it brings out the inherent flavor in everything. So by putting recovery first, my relationship with my wife becomes stronger. By choosing recovery first, my relationship with God becomes more powerful. So, yes, choosing what's best for my sobriety needs to happen "every day in every circumstance." If I lost my job standing up for my recovery, I will eventually be better off for it.


[Anonymity] teaches humility and also protects the well-being of the Fellowship if one of us loses sobriety or takes a public stand.

I wrote in the margin: "so no 'I've become sober because of SA.' More 'I've learned some really great principles that have helped me on my path to recovery.'" I think learning humility is one of the best benefits of 12-step groups. Taking ownership of my recovery and realizing I'm only a few dumb decisions away from relapsing is important. I think occasionally about people who considered themselves healed from pornography addiction and openly proclaimed so during meetings. Then I think of one guy I know who's approaching his second year in recovery and is still making daily calls, attending weekly meetings, actively working steps, and sponsoring two guys (which he never mentions...I found it out indirectly). He has humility and the kind of recovery I want.


Step one in AA vs SA: "...powerless over alcohol/lust"

I wrote in the margins the exact same thing with arrows to "alcohol" and "lust": "not a specific kind--the underlying addictive ingredient." It doesn't say "powerless over beer" or "liquor." It's the addictive ingredient, alcohol. Similarly, it doesn't have to say "powerless over porn" or "strip clubs" because the common ingredient in all of it is lust. By the way, my wife shared a great explanation of how lust addiction is a real thing, contrary to outdated beliefs that addictions can only come from outside chemical sources. I have the feeling that neurology will help sex addiction be treated seriously in years to come.

Step four: "searching and fearless moral inventory"

To me "searching" means "as complete as possible" and "fearless" I take means "as honest as possible." Also, maximum honesty I think includes positive things about ourselves. I don't know if I'm afraid of admitting positive things about myself, but I think as part of my accepting myself and not trying to punish myself by wallowing in shame after each relapse I need to acknowledge that I have good qualities. Should be interesting to do that without minimizing or rationalizing.


From the book two foreword: "We learn to take action to heal our anger and our fear. We learn to see ourselves more clearly. We begin to repair our relationship with ourselves so that eventually we can repair our relationships with others."

I really like the focus on action, seeing myself more clearly, and the concept of having a relationship with myself that needs to be repaired. Also that anger and fear are things that need to be healed...and can be healed. I feel like the two are related--my fear and anger have been part of my coping to my (largely unsuccessful) attempt to stabilize my life using porn and acting out to deal with life issues. I lash out or hide because porn doesn't actually solve my problems--it's simply a smoke screen that makes me feel better and hides the issues, which are actually getting worse. I need to heal from the damage my addiction has caused directly, but also the fear and anger I resorted to to deal with the fact that it doesn't work.

Also, my grandmother died on the 11th. I had all kinds of guilt for not being closer to her, but also thoughts of how I will one day be where she is now. I know it will be sad to be at the end of my life, but I really don't want to get there and know that I've ignored the resources and direction that's been given to me about how to be happy. I don't want to choose the easy path of indulgence and selfishness and get to the end of my life and realize that the easy path is the wrong path.