A client coming to the end of therapy seemed anxious about terminating and his ability to use what he had learned in therapy. I sensed, “Hurry, I need a plan for the future.” His anxiousness was followed by a sincere question, “What can I do to maintain the progress I have made and not slip back into my pornography addiction?” He related it to diabetes. “If I had diabetes, I would have regular check ups with my doctor, probably have some diet restrictions, an exercise routine, perhaps medication and other things I would need to do on a regular basis. I need a plan that will be a preventative measure so I don’t slip back into pornography.”
I’ve thought about his question and the next time we met I gave him an answer. My response, by all means, is not an all-inclusive list, but I do think it covers some areas that we don’t often consider.
1. Temptation is Constant and Our Ability to Work Through It is the Key.
Recognize temptations to engage in a compulsive behavior is all around us whether the trigger is emotional, physical, environmental or otherwise. Often, we do better if we focus on managing temptation rather than trying to eliminate it. Temptation isn’t going anywhere, partly because we have developed a vulnerability toward it.
2. Be Aware that the Temptation is Much Different from What is in Your Heart.
Most of us sincerely want to get out and stay out of the behavior even though there are strong urges to do it. Remember to follow your heart, not the temptation. We can benefit by reminding ourselves what is truly in our heart. Throughout the day get in touch with your heart.
3. Trusting that Your Behavior will Eventually Align with Your Heart.
We begin to see how the behavior violates our true self, who we are, and what we want to become. Desiring to avoid the self-violation between our behavior when we lapse and what is in our heart is a worthwhile pursuit that often requires daily attention.
4. Who is There for Me and How can I Initiate a Regular Connection with Them Instead of Reaching Out Only when I Am Struggling?
In recovery we hear a lot about having a support system. Having people in place who can support and help is important. What I’m talking about here is building a connection team–people you connect with and feel safe around. Regularly initiating a connection with these people before you get to a struggling state shows progress.Human connection often reduces the temptation to act out.
5. Let Others Love You.
This may sound crazy, but most of us have things about ourselves that we don’t like. With a long history of addictions, we often have some degree of self-hatred. Building and using a connection team can diffuse some of the self-hate. Being vulnerable and letting others into our lives, plus working hard to maintain and keep the connection going is a preventive measure to avoid relapse. We let the walls down and let those close to us love us and we try to do the same for them.
Customized Plan / Self-Awareness
After working with this client for a while, I felt these five preventative measures could help him going forward. For another client, there may be more added or even some deleted. My point is developing a customized plan for what you need is the foundation for long-term recovery. Self-awareness is part of the plan.
© 2014 Rod W. Jeppsen