Normal

As the British public seek to find a level after a recent terror attack, im left with a number of thoughts and I’d like to look away from that. However, I wonder if the events in Westminster will be hijacked by those who seek an agenda for a different way of interacting with society…

In a similar way, I’ve noticed that there is a slight drift towards the normalisation of sexual violence in film. In the last 50 years there has been a gradual loosening of the reins surrounding ‘morality’ and as a direct result we are facing some of the most complex questions regarding sex and sexuality. But overall we have got to the point where it is perfectly fine to have pornographic material as general entertainment – Game of Thrones. 

Moving on from there, I would dare to suggest that the recent film releases: Elle (18) by Paul Verhoeven, A cure for wellness – Gore Verbinski (18) and Nocturnal Animals (15) by Tom Ford (15 for goodness sake!), mark a shift to allowing sexual violence to be part of ‘entertainment’. They’re not the first; Gaspar Noe’s rather hard watch ‘Irreversible'(18), has violent rape as its central plot point but at least had the good grace to slip into the ‘extreme cinema’ category and not be widely available. 

This denotes a contempt for women and a distinct lack of any kind of understanding of the damaging effects of sexual exploitation on the mind of the viewer.  I understand that some would throw their hands in he air and label me a ‘prude’ but I’d rather that than see the contemptuous and sneering disrespect that is shown towards women and society by this shift.

Sex and porn addiction are damaging and this kind of thing begins to make it normal and it ought to stop. 

Oh really? Really?

I just shared this with my SAA fellowship: 

“Morning all, I just need to check in some resentment. About 3 weeks ago I was involved with some work via church to help with gardening and painting at local schools. For me it was an excellent chance to spend time working alongside people and build healthy connections. I was also able to make a difference to the life of some children. 

All good you might think. 

However. It was not well supported and, despite being promised many volunteers, I was down to only one other on two of the days. The organisers were nowhere in sight. This caused some resentment but I dealt with this by giving constructive feedback to the organisers and they were receptive to this. There are many feelings that this process generated but I think, in part, that it added to my recent wallow in the middle circle. So why check this now? 

Last night I was at a meeting where one of those who had pledged their support for the work was present. Not long back this person enrolled on a training programme with the church to develop their faith. Part of their commitment to the programme is to be involved with small groups, like last night, tell their faith story to the church (which they did a couple of weeks ago) and tell of how the programme is helping them, and be involved in the bigger projects like the one with which I was involved. I was therefore pretty upset to discover that this person has stacks of free time because they are currently unemployed, have been for some time, and therefore they are ‘devoting their time to the church and church things’. Cue: my intense resentment which, coincidentally, has just crystallised as I have written this. They had pledged their time to the work but were nowhere in evidence for the whole week. 

If you read this far, then I thank you for your attention and apologise for the rant. I am now taking time to process my resentment and move forward. I recognise that my personal prejudice has a part to play and that I have discovered another little corner which requires some tidying up. Thanks. ”

Resentment is a bugger. It can be hard to overcome and, in truth, that was not the only resentment that surfaced last night. I’ve been tasked with leading the next one (I volunteered) but I might withdraw for a while as I think the resentment triggers could be too great. I manage far better with a group of sex addicts of various types…

The way of things

Luke 11:24-26 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” 

The above piece of scripture is a microcosm of how it is to be in addiction. The clearing out is not easy but it leaves a hole and it is hard to guard that hole from harm. Yesterday I intimated that I had questions. In truth I don’t even yet have a clear view of what those questions are. I guess this will be something for me to develop. 

Ok…

I feel sufficiently rested from this to re-engage but I’m intending to do so in a different way. 

In recent weeks I’ve been sexually sober and, apart from a recent brief foray into the middle circle, free from anything that I would consider as sexually unhealthy. (Since first trying to write this post, I have stayed within the middle circle and I’m finding it hard to escape. I neither want to go further nor want to pull back.). However, after much effort, I am back living a fully healthy life. I strayed close to the edge of the cliff and therefore acting-out but kept this side. The final warning signs were hard to accept but I found enough strength to turn back. I wonder if this ever gets easy? When I’m ‘in the bubble’, all I can think about is how I can act-out and how I can achieve the elusive ‘big hit’. It is genuine insanity, and potentially very dangerous. I do worry about those who are porn addicted and the potential for them to slide into sex addiction. 

What I’ve discovered is that I do find my recovery is best managed with regular check-in and fellowship. This does not need to be with other Sex Addicts but can just be any activity which takes me out of isolation.

Last week I decided to cut off my regular contact with my sponsor but in retrospect I think that was just me trying to create the right environment to act-out. There is much that I resent about having a sponsor and having to engage with sex addicts anonymous but in the end I have to accept that it has helped and without it, I might find that I would be in a more dangerous place.

I do find that engaging with church and the people of church helps but it has started to throw up some questions. These questions are not simple and maybe they are at the very heart of my relationship with God. Sometimes it is hard to be someone who is questioning but at the same time I need not to question the nature of God. How I view and treat God,  is central to how I view and treat myself and others. 

Conspicuous 

I’ll be about here from time to time but I think this method (blogging) has run its course for me. I have a Whatsapp group which is allied to my SAA group and that is the place for my check-ins. I’m also grateful to be able to check in with the crossdressing healing support prayer group. I’m journaling again but doing that in a different way.

I think I might have lost touch with God recently. I’m quite good at trying to hide from him and I think that if I turn away, I can’t be seen. Eventually I work out that this is nonsense. He sees all and he is there but it is I who chooses to be blind. I therefore have need of making sure that my connections with God are kept alive. Church helps but I often get the strongest connections through the SAA group. I’m going to have to be quite careful to spend more Thursday nights with them rather than splitting them with church house group. This is needed because I’m not that good if I don’t keep up my recovery work. 

I’ll be around but anyone who wants me knows where I am 

The art of failure

I thought I was doing well. 

I thought I was fine

I shouldn’t really have tried thinking

I might well have been ‘caught out’ in middle circle behaviour of ‘lingerie browsing’. 

If you’d asked me ‘why’ I did it, then I couldn’t really tell you. It was a mindless thing prompted by a small trigger. It’s been hanging around on my eBay ‘recently viewed’ for ages. The reason it has sat there is because I looked a while back and left it there because I like to look from time to time. It’s not my inner circle but I figure it’s not harmful. That’s why it sits in my middle circle – it doesn’t cause me harm. 

However. 

That’s not how it might be perceived by someone who catches you looking; as may have happened. We won’t discuss it. That would never happen so it’ll just be one more of those things that we never discuss. I kind of wish we could and then maybe I could ask for a bit of help. I could use an accountability person for my internet use and that can’t really be my 12 step sponsor. I don’t really want to have to go through everything with someone who is just a friend, as they really won’t understand, but it needs to be someone who I would be unhappy to disappoint. I would also love to be able to even have the kind of discussion with my wife where I can even honestly state my position. It need not have detail but at least I could then have mutual recognition that I am, in fact, a sex addict. Maybe that’s not right but I’d happily pay for her to attend a course to help partners of sex addicts.

Although this was a minor thing I have to look back at all the progress I have made. I look at all the things I no longer do and some of the thought processes which have been brought under control.  I have made tremendous leaps forward and I am mostly free of the problem but I know that there is work still to do… 

Another little step

I’m OK. It’s the run up to Christmas and that carries a certain degree of pressure but I’m OK. 

I had a chat with my sponsor yesterday and I’ve moved fully into the realms of step 10: “continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it”.

This now means that I’m reviewing things as I go and using steps 4 to 9 as a template for living. 

I think it’s really striking that the words of that step say ‘when we were wrong’. This is clearly very much a likely thing rather than a possible. It doesn’t say ‘if we were wrong’. I’m not a saint and I never will be but I’m going to try damned hard to be conscious of my impact on the world. 

As a result I’m going to have a go at taking someone else through the steps. The SAA world is short of sponsors and this can be a big issue. Without sponsors, sex addicts do tend to drift and it’s all too easy, as I well know, to drift straight back into the addiction. 

2017 is looking like it’s the year when my recovery starts to help others. 

This may well come alongside helping to set up a ‘recovery group’ at church via CAP (Christians Against Poverty), but this  is very much in the early discussion phase. 

Clear lunacy

BBC article on Stephen Port
Sextortion
The above pair of articles make for interesting but very disturbing reading. The murky online world of internet hook-up sites is clearly a place where danger lies. If it’s not someone out to kill or harm you then it may well be someone who is trying to make money from you.

The problem for sex addicts, including myself, is that the power of the addiction can push past the perception of the risk and draw you into these worlds. 

The other problem is that it is the lack of acknowledgement of unmet needs which is behind all this. It takes courage, determination and willingness to pull away and live differently. 

It isn’t easy to move away and it is all too easy to be drawn back into the problem. 

The solution is in God. 

The solution is in coming out of isolation 

The solution is in community

Given the above articles, I have to wonder if sex addiction is at least as dangerous as heroin or cocaine. I think I’ve underplayed the risks in the past but it’s hard to ignore them when they are right there in front of you. The truly sad thing about sex addiction is that it is the pursuit of a feeling which, in all honesty, cannot last any longer than a few moments, but for the addict there is a desire to make it last forever. If only they could find that place… 

in truth, addicts never do find that elusive ‘peak’ and I spent my days chasing a feeling that never came. I’m not perfect, even after all this work, but I can at least say that I’m making progress. Recovery has to be a better place than addiction. 

Stepping out

It’s been a little while and that is not a bad thing. I’ve been keeping well and my recovery is on track despite some pretty big challenges.

Once I step away from the bubble of acting out I find myself becoming more able to settle and it almost feels as if I am breathing clean air for the first time. 

I know what I need and what I don’t. 

I spoke to my sponsor this week and I’d done a little bit of written work on the sort of things I was trying to achieve with my acting out. As I have said before my acting out is based around becoming ‘acceptable’. What this means is that this is a definition of acceptable which I have created based on false beliefs I have about my self and about what others require. Challenging those false beliefs is hard and not at all straightforward. They’ve been there for a long time. It disappoints me that it has taken me this long to get to the bottom of my issues but I know that I am accepted and I am acceptable and that is what Gods grace does for me. Without the grace of Jesus Christ I would struggle and I’m sort of sad that it has taken me so long to understand that I am accepted in Christ. I’m not perfect and I never will be. I will, in all likelihood, fail again but the foot of the cross is a place of refuge. 

I also realise that I am ready to help others and this is useful for me too. It helps me keep in fit spiritual condition. I can however, only help those who want to be helped. I have ceased making active direct efforts to ‘fix’ my wife. She is lovely and acceptable just as she is. I should not be trying to fit her to some ideal I have. After all, I have ceased trying to do things for myself and am letting God do the job for me. This does not absolve me of responsibility for both of us but it does mean that I am there for her in a way which is likely healthier than it was before. Trying to ‘fix’ her was becoming an unhealthy obsession and it is something I had to ‘let go’, perhaps one of the last things. I love her so much that I never wish her harm and only want the best. I now have to rely on God to do that job. Maybe getting out of the way is what is needed. Meddling probably isn’t needed. 

I’m also quite proud of myself in that I had a couple of really challenging days at work and I did not lose my cool. Nobody was the victim of harsh words and everything happened. It wasn’t easy and I felt all the same emotions but I reacted in a way which was healthier.

Church

” Church is not a museum, nor a club for anoraks, nor a right-wing pressure group, nor a religious equivalent to the Flat Earth Society. In such human terms, it is a hospital for souls where broken lives are made whole by the grace of God. That doesn’t mean made perfect. Wholeness means knowing God and ourselves through Jesus Christ. Wholeness means the breaking of chains that kept us from God Wholeness means the breaking of chains that have kept us from being human in its best sense. Wholeness means not only living a life for God but living a life that make us fully human and fully alive. These people are the best in the world and I thank God I know such human beings.”

I copied this from a friend of mine and I so wholeheartedly agree that I thought I’d share it here.

On Saturday I attended an evening of worship and I have to say that the time zipped by really fast. During that time I took time to pray and meditate. 

Meditate? During worship?

I know. 

That’s what I thought.

Last week at the SAA meeting the focus was on step 11: “sought through prayer and meditation to seek conscious contact with god as we understand God”. During the reading of the explanation of the step, there was a discussion of ways of meditation and it included ‘worship’, so I thought I’d give it a go. 

I’ll admit that it wasn’t easy to get into a meditative state during worship but I can attest to the fact that it is possible and when achieved it is desirable. 

During meditation, I like to acknowledge my thoughts but let them ‘be’ rather than pick at them or worry about them. The focus then comes back to the real focus for the worship and that is God. Not worrying about everything and everyone else surely must be the goal of worship. Not worrying about what they are thinking and about how you are being perceived. Not worrying about all the human crap that gets in the way e.g. petty resentment, minutiae of life and the downright functional. This is about sharing a direct time between yourself and God. Not easy but possible.

So. I’m going to bring you back to the ‘opener’; the chains that hold us can be broken and it is through prayer and meditation that we can be kept free of those shackles which is why it is step 11 and not step 2.