Sharing the Journey

Discussion in 'Ages 30-39' started by jk85, Feb 16, 2018.

  1. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    This is my first post in a journal. I will begin simply with where I am.

    I joined the NoFap forums at the end of last year. Since then, I have made a handful of attempts at no PMO as part of the 21-Challenge. My first attempt was the longest—12 days. Since then, a pattern of weekly relapse has emerged.

    This is nothing new for me. I have attempted to quit watching pornography in the past. I know that I cannot do it on my own. It is not enough to trust in my own white-knuckling power. So I have sought out relationships of accountability with trusted friends and structures (e.g., Covenant Eyes) to support that. The accountability was never perfect: I would be confiding either with someone who had not struggled with PMO and who could not entirely share my experience, or with someone who watched porn without scruples. The pattern in these relationships of accountability was the same as what I have experienced in the last couple months—namely, that I would take inspiration from the care of others and begin with a decent streak, but then my efforts would devolve into more frequent relapses.

    I think what I am getting at is this. The acknowledgment that I cannot do this on my own is true. But I take this truth too far. I absolve myself of responsibility to the point where I hope for or expect a new support to solve my problem. Thus the pattern: finding a new support, having a fresh start, and then falling back into old habits.

    I won’t pretend to know the answer for me. Obviously I haven’t found it. But I will keep looking. And I will make it a practice to journal here a few times a week.

    On a practical note, I have noticed that my last few relapses have always begun with an inward conversation between my urge and my commitment. The rationalizing power with which my brain validates the urge is overwhelming, and I nearly always give in. The urges come usually at unstructured or unplanned times: at a mealtime when I have nothing prepared and am hungry, or when I have an entire evening ahead of me with no plans or healthy desires. In the days to come, I will try to make these times as few and far between as possible. And when they do arise, I will try not to fight the rationalizing power of my brain, but rather take the urge as a cue simply to do something else, and quick (run, call a friend, shop for groceries, cook, etc.).

    For the time being, I will move my efforts to the 7-Challenge, and then work my way up from there. Next time I journal, I would like to explore my hopes and wishes for a PMO-free life—in other words, why I am doing all of this in the first place.
     
  2. Duellant

    Duellant Fapstronaut

    I read from this that you're looking for someone who has made the step from p-addiction to sanity - a role model in this area.
    I think you can find these here. However someone in real life would be better, don't you think so?

    We need to focus on those rare moments when we manage to not give in in such a situation, celebrate it and replicate it.
     
  3. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Thanks for this, Duellant -
    Yes, I agree wholeheartedly.
     
  4. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Tonight marks a relapse. I'm taking the opportunity now to reflect on the circumstances surrounding the relapse and patterns that I've noticed in recent relapses, so that I might explore possible triggers.

    Today was the last day of my working week. It had been a long and fulfilling day. I had accomplished quite a bit in the last couple of days and had received words of encouragement and affirmation on the job. This relapse was not a case of feeling low.

    When I got home from work, I was in an unsettled state. I felt hungry, a little over-caffeinated, and exhausted. Because I was waiting to hear back from friends about dinner plans, I ate only a small snack. After that, I had empty, unstructured time in front of me. It was around this time that the thought of PMO broached my thinking. (I'm not sure what its source was). At first, I considered the thought with curiosity. It had been a week since my last relapse. A part of me wondered about the content that I had missed in the elapsed time.

    Not giving too much more thought to this, I tried to take a power-nap (20 minutes or so). Lying down, I became restless. The thought that I had been holding with curiosity grew. At this point, I felt like I would have to make a decision. But I deferred and tried to rest. I received a work phone call then, which got me up from my nap and momentarily distracted me. When I finished with the call, I returned to the decision in front of me. Once again, I deferred, washing a few unwashed dishes and puttering about the kitchen.

    What I'm suspecting now, is that subconsciously I had already made my decision--because as I finished washing the dishes, the next natural thing for me to have done would have been to begin preparing dinner. I had not heard back from the friends whose call I had been waiting for, so it would have been reasonable for me to get started on a dinner of my own. But I didn't. I returned to my room.

    Within minutes, I had unlocked the safety features on my phone and was on my way to PMO. In those few minutes before, though, I was very conscious of what was happening. In that short time, I considered calling an accountability mentor. I reflected on what a relapse would mean--how it would set my recovery back, how it went against my commitment, how it would be dismissing an opportunity for growth, how I would be typing this journal entry later in the evening. It is painful to me now to realize that I thought about all of this, and still proceeded with the relapse.

    Stepping back from the details of today, I can also observe a basic pattern. I often relapse on the last day of my working week. At this stage, I'm usually feeling emotionally exhausted, and I sometimes approach a feeling of apathy. Tonight, I had no strong desire to cook, to read, to catch up with a friend on the phone. There was nothing that excited me.

    I did not help that I had not taken the time to proof my phone further. Unlocking the safety features took only 5 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes.

    The conclusions that I draw from this reflection are, first, that when I feel like there's a decision to be made, I am already further behind in the struggle than I think; second, that when I feel like there's a decision to be made, I should stop trying to think my way through it and start "doing"--anything (tonight, that could have been cooking); and third, that I need to proof my phone further (which I will do tonight). Beyond these immediate conclusions, I will continue to reflect on what happened tonight and how I might respond differently in the future.
     
  5. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    It has been a while since I last journaled. Previously I had high expectations for myself to journal extensively and regularly. When it became clear that my expectations were impractical, I dropped the practice.

    After having lived for several weeks with less routine and discipline, I have realized the need for a program of good habits, including the simple practice of journaling a few sentences. Thus I commit--among other things--to journal daily, even if only to share a couple thoughts or feelings.

    Today I spent nearly all my time with family. I encountered no temptations. That is a commonplace. When I'm with family or friends or otherwise socially engaged, temptations are fleeting or nonexistent.
     
    Fantareality likes this.
  6. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Today I worked for most of the day and then capped it off with a run. Like family, work is generally devoid of temptation. On days when I am alone at the office and stumped with a problem that is not urgent, the thought of PMO does occasionally cross my mind. A change of tasks usually addresses that difficulty.

    One thing that I did notice tonight was that when I eat and read articles on the computer or watch youtube, time unravels. I wander the internet far and wide and eat absentmindedly. I believe my time could be better spent if it were more intentional: eating first, then relaxing for a set period of time. I include this practice now among my habit-commitments.
     
  7. Duellant

    Duellant Fapstronaut

    Yes, you can spent your time way better! Seperate eating and surfing plus set a time for relaxing is a good idea. Also mindfully surfing would be good, but I admit that's a hell of a task. Since surfing and mindfulness seems to be quite the contrary.

    Great that you did run even after a long working day!
     
  8. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Thanks, Duellant! Running is one of my healthier habits. It is a welcome way to turn off the critical thinking and return to my body. I figured, as long as I'm healthy and I have the time, why not structure it into every day?

    Today was much like yesterday. A full day of work. Sometimes work is draining and difficult, other times it feels more fulfilling. Today was the latter. Days like today make PMO feel like a distant, foreign experience. While I am grateful for such days, I am not disillusioned. The moment that work becomes difficult, I will be almost itching for some sort of relief, and PMO will present itself as the easy fix. Of course, it's no relief at all. I can even recall relapses when the novelty of the experience quickly wore off, but I continued because I already felt ashamed and defeated.

    As I reflect now on those relapses, I realize that those hours are lost forever. Now I feel not shame or defeat so much as I feel sad, because my life could have been so much more if I had spent it doing other things: reading, pursuing a project, being with friends, or even simply sleeping. So I am committed to the next day, and the next nine after that (to complete the 14 day challenge), not simply because I think PMO is unhealthy for me but because I want to live more abundantly. I want to see more, listen more, be more curious, wait more, dream more.
     
  9. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Today has felt frantic. It's been busy, but the unfulfilling kind of busy. At the end of the day, instead of looking back on a number of jobs accomplished, I'm looking back at several loose ends.

    If my evening were free, I might be tempted. But as it is, tonight is my weekly recreational soccer game. Like yesterday, I'm grateful for a day were I'm not really tempted. But I also recognize that much of this is circumstantial. Without as much to keep me busy, and with that nagging feeling of unfulfillment, I might be in a different place.

    As it is, I count this as another day of forging healthier habits and remind myself just how much better I feel in a place like this, rather than in the dark tunnel of the PMO habit. When the going gets a bit tougher, I will revisit these posts and be reminded of why I am taking the path of recovery.
     
  10. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Today there were several unexpected problems that arose at work. These have occupied most of my mental space during the day, so I have not felt any strong urges. Even as I say that, I must also admit that there were two times that I scrolled back up while speed-reading an article because some sexual themes caught my attention. In the past, I would not think of this as serious. But now I am considering that perhaps it's in the small, "innocent" actions such as these that invite or nurture latent urges.

    Again I am grateful for a day without any real temptation. I am preparing for the next few days, because tomorrow is the last day of my working week, and often I have slipped up in the evening of that day. I will not do that tomorrow. I've already made plans to gather with folks right after work. After that, I will go home and get to bed at a reasonable time in order to get a full sleep. For Friday and Saturday (my weekend), I've resolved to cook a meal and also to read through some other NoFap journals and post encouraging responses. I think that little connections like these help to strengthen my sense of community and solidarity and my own resolve.
     
  11. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    It's been another full day and one without any real temptation. For this I'm grateful.

    I do wonder how my various recreational activities compare to PMO. In other words, which activities are merely serving as substitutes, as stand-ins for the addictive habit? I think activities that actively engage my heart and mind are healthy and constructive. These activities would include hanging out with friends, running, cooking, and reading. Activities that allow me to be passive and simply coast at some low level of contentment, however, are suspect--activities like drinking alone and watching TV or playing video games. Of course, there are some times when I'm exhausted and sitting down in front of the TV for a half hour can be restful and renewing. I guess that's the danger with drawing hard-and-fast lines. I've drawn up several rules for myself that have helped structure my days and evenings. But being overly legalistic can deprive me of the occasional refreshment that might actually be healthy and constructive.

    In any case, for today I've already indulged in a little TV while eating dinner. So I will settle for some reading before going to bed at a decent hour.
     
  12. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Today was the first day of my "weekend" (no work). I had it largely planned out, and I'm happy to report that I followed my plan. My fear is that it would feel like I was losing my weekend--my free time--but overall the day still felt relaxed. I'm realizing more and more that there is a certain comfort in structure and routine. I know they are not to be relied on as absolutes, but they do help. Also, I feel relatively fulfilled at the end of the day, like I have grown a little, like I am moving in a positive direction.

    Still no real temptations. At one point in the day, I remembered a relapse that had occurred when I had been in a similar setting. Rather than allowing that memory to linger, I simply acknowledged it and returned to the life at hand, grateful that this time I am not a slave to that compulsion that gripped me before.

    Tomorrow is the second day of my weekend. I have plans and goals for the day. I trust in them and whatever grace it is that keeps me free from the behavior that has long enslaved me.
     
    Less5858 likes this.
  13. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Like yesterday, today has been long and fulfilling. In the past, I protected my weekends as free time. I didn't want to lose too much of that freedom to little chores, like laundry, washing the dishes, etc. But when I choose to do those little things, they feel less like chores and more an expression of my freedom, if that makes sense. Instead doing them out of obligation, I do them with a little more joy because I chose to do them. They are now a part of a larger story, one where I am becoming more responsible, growing more mature.

    Again, no real temptations today. I'm very grateful for that. I have noticed that in recent mornings, I've had fleeting memories of sexual dreams. I wish that weren't the case, but it makes sense. It's only natural that my mind and body would react to the deprivation of what used to be such a strong habit.

    Tomorrow begins my working week, and I have plenty planned. I move forward with hope.
     
  14. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Today has kept me busy, but my feet have dragged through these last several hours. Sometimes I'm inspired to do my work. Other times, it feels a bit more routine, just something I have to get through. For the first time in these last ten days, temptation struck. As I was preparing dinner, I felt a bit listless. I had no real objective for the evening. The empty time sat waiting in front of me, and the thought of PMO broached my mind. I tried not to indulge it, but simply to acknowledge it and then carry on with preparing dinner. But the thought returned several times, and there was a part of me that began to consider it as a real possibility.

    I thought then to develop a bit of a plan for that empty time, including journaling and reading through some others posts on the forum. That has helped immensely. It has reoriented me toward my truer self and my commitment, toward the larger story and not just the short-sighted tale that my rationalizing mind tells itself in the midst of temptation. I want to love more, learn more, listen more, watch more, wait more, be more curious, read more, go on more adventures...and PMO will not help me toward these goals.

    I am grateful for the stories and encouragements of others. I am grateful that walking this path is not the inexhaustible task of always bushwhacking, but that others have helped to clear the way. For this evening and the days ahead, I walk trusting their wisdom and their way.
     
  15. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Today has been busy and good, with very few distracting thoughts or temptation. Almost every minute had been planned for, and for the most part I felt engaged and fulfilled in each task I undertook. I'm grateful for this. I don't know exactly why there are some days where work is interesting and satisfying, and other days it is not. But I think part of the reason that today was fulfilling is that I've gotten a full 8 hours of sleep for the last several nights. I've noticed that when I'm tired, I'm more liable to be dragging my feet through the day, treating each task as a chore. When I'm more awake and alert, I approach tasks with more interest and energy.

    Tonight I have a late recreational soccer game, and that will likely cut into my normal 8 hours of sleep. That means that tomorrow I may feel less energetic, and I will need to be intentional about recovering my sleep in the days ahead.
     
  16. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    At the end of another day, and I'm in good shape. At the present stage, life without PMO does not feel like a struggle. It feels like a fulfilling alternative to my previous pattern of living. I've been here before, though, and my recollection is that while the temptations become fewer, they can also become quite acute. That accounts for previous relapses at this stage. How do I plan to respond to those temptations this time around? I think one thing that will help is maintaining the structure of my days--praying, running, journaling, social time, reading and writing goals. All of this also helps me to tell a different story, one where I don't need PMO to live a fulfilling life, one where I am grateful and growing. In the past, PMO felt like a necessary evil--like an exhaust valve that helped to release stress and anxiety. But the truth is, it was hindering me from growth and adding to anxiety. Thus the vicious cycle. But now I am beginning to see more clearly that I can acknowledge and even abide with stress and anxiety. Indeed, sometimes they are the very circumstances where I am growing the most, for instead of running away, I am beginning to accept hard truths and address difficult realities.
     
  17. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    I'm writing at the very end of the day, and again it has gone by without incident. I'm very grateful. It is tempting to think that this is the result of my own doing, but I know that it is not. It is not me resisting temptation. I am where I am because of responsibilities (which imply calls to which they are merely "responses"), community, and the grace of whom I call "God."

    More importantly, the calls to which I am responding are not simply calls away from PMO. They are calls toward good and beautiful things in life: relationships, health, sharing stories and hope.

    Tomorrow I complete the 14-day challenge I committed to. I will mark that completion with a small token. I plan to commit to another challenge, which I will mark with another token. This journey is about much more than challenges and tokens. But little stuff like this helps me to remember that I am growing and that this is a life worth celebrating.
     
  18. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    Today I completed my first 14-day challenge. My plans are to begin the same challenge again tomorrow. This time, the token with which I mark the completion will be a gift to a friend.

    Work has kept me busy most of the day. Part of that time was spent in mutually supportive conversation with colleagues. I was grateful for the opportunity for us to share our joys and our struggles. There wasn't much advice. It was simply listening. Sometimes it's nice just to be heard.

    Tonight I endured more temptation than I've had in the recent past. I'm not entirely sure of its origin. I think a part of me may have felt like since my original 14-commitment was completed, I deserved a way to celebrate or relax. The truth is, though, that these 14 days have all been a sort of celebration, each with its own sort of peace and renewal. Every day without PMO is richer and more fulfilling. Sometimes the days have less "fun" in the old sense (video games, TV, etc.), but I fall asleep tired and "complete," rather than restless.

    There is another part of me that worries about the prospect of continuing. "How much longer can I do this?" it asks.

    But I've been told that this question is not a helpful one to ask. All I can face is the day in front of me. No reason to worry about what's beyond that. For the time being, these smaller challenges help me to focus on my commitments in a real and practical way. For the next 14 days, as in the past 14 days, I will continue to live by the rule of life that I have set for myself.
     
    newlifeahead likes this.
  19. dwalk77

    dwalk77 Fapstronaut

    Congrats on 2 weeks!
     
    jk85 likes this.
  20. jk85

    jk85 Fapstronaut

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    I relapsed last night and again this night. It's hard to say how I feel right now. PMO sort of dulls everything.

    Before too much time passes, though, I'd like to record some of my reflections on the relapses. Maybe there's something I can learn for the future.

    The initial relapse yesterday came after an afternoon spent with family (parents, brother, and sister-in-law). It was my day off, and I was away from the computer the whole day. At some point in the afternoon, I began feeling a vague malaise. I cannot determine why. I had enjoyed my time with family up until that point. With the malaise came occasional snapshot memories of PMO. In the past couple weeks, I had been able to acknowledge these memories, let them go, proceed with the day. On this occasion, however, they kept returning.

    It felt a little bit like I was slowly approaching an insurmountable wall. In the days before, the memories had been little hurdles that I could hop and then keep running. But as I neared the two-week mark, I had begun to have frequent dreams with sexual themes and imagery, and also dreams of relapsing. My dream self was excited about the prospect of relapsing. My waking self shunned that feeling, and yet I could not contradict completely my dream self. There was a part of me that was looking forward to a relapse. It feels like that part of me emerged more and more on that day with the recurring snapshot memories.

    Before I relapsed, I told myself on more than one occasion that I had not done anything yet. I still had a decision to make. I had a sponsor-like friend I could call. But I rejected that possibility. I think at this point already I had made my decision. I didn't want to spoil what I had decided to do.

    As I got ready to leave my family and return to my own home, I felt mournful. I dreaded what was to come, even as another part of me was excited.

    Today's evening relapse came rather suddenly. In the morning, I had resolved to turn from my relapse and begin anew my journey. The day itself was fulfilling. Much had happened, and I had been there to play my part in it. As I returned home, I was exhausted. I fell quickly into the pattern of thought and action from the day before. And I relapsed.

    I could speculate about both experiences a great deal more, but I'm not sure I'd arrive at many more conclusions that I have. My greater concern is how I can respond in similar situations in the future--particularly in situations where I feel helpless and mournful, like I am approaching that insurmountable wall.

    Much of what had helped me up to the point of that insurmountable wall was structure and purpose to my days. I will certainly maintain that. But there will be days again where no amount of structure and purpose will keep me from feeling that malaise. I think I need to address the malaise earlier, before it has taken full hold and PMO looks like the only relief. I can address the malaise by calling my sponsor-like friend, or perhaps simply by confiding my feelings to a trusted friend. Also, I could seek a creative outlet for that malaise, like poetry or piano-improvising.

    I will continue to reflect on strategies for the future. For tonight, however, I simply accept God's forgiveness for my shortcomings, give thanks for the progress that has been made, and turn around from the unhealthy patterns to which I had returned.

    Also, thank you, @dwalk77. Your encouragement means a lot even here at the point of relapse.
     
    Ben4567 likes this.

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