When Do You Need to Reset Your Sobriety?
I had a man in my office today and he had been talking with a woman that he had an affair with previously. He said, “we were just talking.” I said, “is that in your inner circle?” He said, “No, that’s my middle circle, that’s slippery slope behavior.” I remarked, “You are in denial, that is wrong and will likely cause you to slip or relapse. He said, Well, I’m not going to take away my 272 days of clean time because you think I was doing something outside of my sexual integrity, because I didn’t act out sexually, I was just talking.” I said, you know what, what you did was absolutely wrong. It is not healthy to talk to old affair partners; you’re a sex addict. Come on, who are we fooling here?
If you remember, Patrick Carnes says the first thing that I am to do is to break your denial. The denial is you think you can talk to somebody, and if it hasn’t gone to (sexting), it’s okay. You know what? That’s not what your wife would want, and is not a healthy choice, because it elicits dopamine in the brain that opens up the floodgates to more sexually acting out behavior. It is not okay to talk to somebody in a way that offers some sort of emotional intimacy. My client defended his actions by saying, I work in an office with all women, I’ve got to talk to them. This person was at work and it’s not that big of a deal.
I worked with another man who had pornography in his inner circle but said he looked at bikini pictures. He said, “I wasn’t looking at porn, I’m not going to change my sobriety because I looked at bikini pictures.” I said, are you kidding me, that lights up the brain in the same way as porn does. It may not cause you to masturbate to orgasm or it may, but the bottom line is that these behaviors substitute for your old behaviors and act like porn.
Sexual Addiction Causes Neurotransmitter Damage
As a Certified Sexual Addictions Therapist, I want you to know it is absolutely not okay in any way, shape, or form to look at provocative images. It lights up your brain and sexual addiction is a neuroscience problem. Sexual addiction activates certain sexual pathways that lead you straight down into the rabbit hole.
Okay, maybe it won’t happen today, maybe it won’t happen next month, but I promise you, you keep doing that and you’re going to be acting out huge, major, full-time at some point. That is what my many years of certified sexual addiction treatment has taught me. You can be in denial and think you can control it, but sexual addiction is cunning, it is baffling, and it is powerful, and last but not least it is patient. It waits for you to think you can make these choices and then it hijacks you back into inner circle behavior.
I was talking to a man last week, and he was looking at a specific lingerie ad. He said, “I used to act out with prostitutes, I used to act out with escorts, I used to act out with masseuses; this is not that big of a deal.” Again, I said to him, oh trust me, this is a big deal. You need to put that in your inner circle. Because again what does it do, it lights up the brain. Before you know it, when you think you’ve got it handled, when you think you can control it, it will come out and bite you and you will end up looking at something else you shouldn’t have looked at.
So, here’s my dilemma. I’m working with you guys, and I want you to be successful. As you believe that these slippery slope behaviors shouldn’t be in your inner circle, you’re going to allow yourself to act out and tell yourself, “I haven’t committed a slip or relapse.” Now we all know that a slip is when you make a poor choice in the inner circle. A relapse is when you do it over and over and over again. Here’s what I know; I know that as long as you fool yourself and think you’ve got these certain behaviors covered, and you can do them even though you wouldn’t want your wife to know it, you wouldn’t want your boss to know it, you wouldn’t want your neighbor to know it; you’re going to be okay. Guess what? You’re not okay; you’re in denial, which again is that first recovery task that Patrick Carnes asks us to help you to break.
Get Back in Touch with Your True Recovery Goals.
I get that when I talk to all of you, you say, I don’t want to go back to Day 1, I had 142 days, I had 762 days, I had 8 years; I gotta say it is your program, you customize it the way you want, but you’re fooling yourself. Go back to Day 1 and do it again and do it right. That is what true recovery is all about. If you have a significant other, I have a feeling she’s going to agree with me, because she doesn’t want you to talk to old affair partners, even just shooting the breeze, even if you’re just saying how was your day today. She isn’t going to want it. If you look at bathing suit images, I promise you what’s the difference between that lingerie, and what’s the difference between that and looking at body parts? It’s one step away, and why would you flirt with that disaster. I always say, is your behavior moving you closer to recovery or closer to acting out, and all three of those behaviors move you way into that dark circle.
I’m challenging you to be more honest with yourself, because you deserve it and so does your recovery.