Are we not masters of looking back and saying, “How did I get here?” or, “What just happened?”
Most of the people I meet with express a similar sentiment at some point. The reality is that we neglect to attend to our present moments and therefore we lose track of our experience, and any recovery. When this happens, we may not see that we are in relapse or headed for one.
I hope to give you some new ways to consider attending to your own life and recovery, and then a new way to classify where you might be on your journey. This is an active, appropriately involved stance to take toward your own growth and thriving. This truly is an alternative to cruising; learning how to attend to our recoveries—and broader lives—as we live them.
Learning to See Ourselves
Siegel describes observation in the following way: “It is the ability to perceive the self even as we are experiencing an event .” The skill of observing and experiencing in the same moments is that we can both have a thought or feeling, whilst not being swept away or overtaken by it .
Ultimately, the benefit is knowing that your current state of mind and experience is temporary and not defining of your needs or options. This is very different from what most addicts experience.
You can begin to cultivate observation by using active self-reflection. Siegel has a wonderful image to help us here: “This reflection is like reviewing a checklist before you leave the house. Do you have your wallet, your keys, your calendar, your phone? Focusing on the internal life of the mind is often ignored in the hustle and bustle of everyday life .”
The “checklist” of the mind—your experience—is this: listening to and asking, what sensations am I feeling in my body? What image do I have in my mind? What are the feelings (emotions) tugging at, and floating in my mind? What thoughts occurred and are they still around ?
If you write these questions down and get into the habit of making space to answer them frequently throughout the day, you will cultivate the ability to observe, and know there you are in relation to recovery.
The Relapsing Brain
When we abstain from using a stimulus, our brains adapt and desensitize to the stimulus. Therefore, emotional attachment to sexual actions or content will reduce. Unfortunately for every addict, the hardest part of recovery is coping with whatever the addiction medicated.
When we relapse, we are effectively unable to cope and return to addiction to help us. Observation is a vital ability to break this cycle.
Whilst desensitization may occur, it is also true that our memories are still present—memories about the relief and ‘good’ feelings attached to the addiction.
It is inevitable that unmet needs, unnoticed stress and more can overload us.
If we don’t see this coming or know how to cope, it is our memory of ‘easier’ relief that engages and leads to foregoing continued recovery. The neurological links between memories, emotions and behaviors are complex—this means we need to attend to our experiences carefully .
A Classification for Your Observation
Rather than remaining in denial and allowing our memories to lead us back toward temptation when we are under stress, it is helpful to use the skill of self-observation in conjunction with a recovery classification. When we can accurately name our experience and discern what vulnerabilities this presents, we can choose recovery-enhancing options.
We can break down our present state within recovery into the following categories :
Healthy Sexual Zone: Where we are using healthy coping skills to continue recovery and manage our daily stressors.
Trigger Zone: Where we are vulnerable to relapse as we become overwhelmed, or neglect to manage our lives.
Relapse Zone: Where we are no longer resisting temptation.
- Thinking about using sexual stimulus
- Accessing sexual materials/people
- Using stimulus as a sexual outlet
As you practice the skills of observation, you will be able to discern which of the above categories you may be falling into. Each category will illuminate what type of help or action step you may need to take next.
If you need help to cultivate or apply the skill of observation, you would do well to find a mindfulness-trained therapist and begin your own mindfulness practices.
About the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.
: Siegel, D. (2010) Mindsight: the new science of personal transformation. Bantam Books: NY.
: Adapted from: Siegel, D. (2010).
: Matheson, L. (2014). Your faithful brain: designed for so much more.
: Adapted from: Maltz & Maltz. (2008) The Porn Trap.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on June 16, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 29, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com