I usually feel like I'm not getting anywhere in recovery. However, I recently celebrated a year of sobriety, which gave me a chance to look back and see that I really have made some progress.
I have actually been on the road to recovery for about three years. I started as an active member on the Guard Your Eyes forum. That helped but, for me, it wasn't enough. I joined the Duvid Chaim 12-step phone conferences (offered through GYE). That helped a lot more, but I fell after a seven-month clean streak, twice. I realized the long-distance support wasn't strong enough for me (I'm in a different time zone than most of the other people on the phone conference). I needed face-to-face support, so I joined SA just over a year ago.
I remember I used to feel possessed by a demon, being forced to masturbate--about once a week. I have not felt this feeling in a long time, thank G-d. Also, whenever I sat down in front of the computer a voice in my head would say, "porn, porn." I felt compelled to look, no matter what I was doing and no matter what was going on in my life. Even when I didn't look, I felt this constant struggle. Thank G-d and thanks to the program, I usually don't hear this voice anymore. I can sit and work at the computer for hours without the thought of pornography entering my head.
I also used to suffer from terrible mood swings--sometimes I would be flying in the clouds, and at other times I'd feel like I was trudging through hell (neither of which is healthy). Thanks to recovery, these mood swings are less frequent, and less extreme. A really serious resentment which used to linger for weeks or months and wreak havoc all the while, now, with the tools of recovery, is usually gone in less than twelve hours. I can sometimes get rid of lesser resentments on the spot.
For example, I went to the hospital a few weeks ago and had an unpleasant encounter with the guard at the door. I was in the hospital for a few hours and when I left, the same guard was still there. I went over to him and made a quick amends, "Sorry for the misunderstanding." He responded, "You're all right! You're all right!" I knew I had done the right thing at the right time; I didn't want to have to wait for six months later and then wonder how I'll ever manage to do amends with this guard that I'll never be able to find again.
It's not only that negative aspects of my life that are starting to go away, but I see that positive things are starting to happen, too. I have been working freelance for about ten years, which means I've basically been wasting a lot of time on the computer and not earning any money. I just recently got a regular job with regular work that pays. I'll admit it's not the greatest job in the world, but it's finally a step in the right direction after having traveled in the wrong direction for most of my life. I'm finally being responsible and mature.
In addition, I'm part of a kollel--a program for Talmudic studies. I've spent years learning on my own--nobody else was fast enough, or smart enough, or dedicated enough to learn with me. I have started to recognize that this is really a result of my sickness--staying isolated. I have started being involved with other people and learning with them--no matter what their capabilities are, and no matter what their personality may be. I have even starting learning with someone whom I once despised--but I'm enjoying it now, and I am happy now to spend time with him.
Furthermore, for years I was seething with resentment at my Rosh Kollel (the head of this program) for not recognizing my talents and putting me to use. In the past few years he would always show up on my fourth-step (or tenth-step) inventories. After all, I'm so smart with such great abilities to teach! But he has never given me a teaching position. Lately I have been able to put aside my resentments, accept things the way they are, and I even got up the courage to discuss this matter with him. As a result, opportunities have opened up. Not long ago the Rosh Kollel was out of the country, and I taught in his place. If not for the program of recovery, I'd still be sitting by myself in a corner seething with resentment.
You probably appreciate hearing how the program has made a difference in my life, but I imagine you're even more interested to know how the program can make a difference in your life. What did I actually do to get these results that, perhaps, you can do and get similar results?
A big part of it was just going through the motions, though I felt stupid doing them. I would call people to say that I'm having a lust attack, or even just call to say hello. I called enough people often enough that people would start calling me, too. On a number of occasions I was sitting at the computer determined to look at pornography. I didn't want to give it up, and I didn't want to call anyone about it. But, just at that moment, someone called me--to say they were having a lust attack, or just to say hello. I didn't have enough sanity to call them for help, but I still had enough sanity to pick up the phone and admit that I needed help. They instructed me, "Get away from the computer. Get out of the house and go for a walk." I listened, and I wouldn't have a year's sobriety today without that. On one hand it was a miracle they called just when I needed it, but on the other hand such calls have become a regular part of life for me.
For me, the most important phrase I learned in recovery is, "Increase your awareness of your perceptions and motives." When I joined the phone conferences with Duvid Chaim he said, "If this is the only thing you learn in the program, it's worth it." At first I became more aware of triggers, "I'm aimlessly searching the net, so if I keep at this I'll be searching for porn soon." Later, I started to become aware of my negative feelings which compel me to act out--mostly fears and resentments. Through the tools of the program, I learned to deal with them instead of letting them fester. As time went on, I started to notice restlessness, irritability, discontent, and more subtle feelings. Now when I just feel somewhat unpleasant, I know something is wrong; I know I've got to write about it and share it with someone as soon as I can.
In the beginning I attended a Hebrew SA group because it was in my neighborhood, though I felt uncomfortable with the language and didn't want to come back after the first time. Yet, the other fellows made me feel welcome and accepted--we had SA in common. Since then, as a result of the program, I was able to put aside my fears. I became more comfortable reading publicly in Hebrew, and I have even lead meetings. And, when celebrating a year of recovery, I was able to speak in Hebrew for a straight half hour, and what I had to say was understood and appreciated.
I'll say that, at first, I hated going to meetings. I hated sharing with, "No cross-talk, please." I wanted to tell everyone about my problems, and then I wanted them to tell me answers. Instead, I'd complain about lust, and the next person would completely ignore me--he'd complain about his own life. We'd go around the room and people would complain about their jobs, their parents, their children, their wives, and their own struggles with lust. But nobody in the room would give me any solutions to my personal problems. I hated it. It took me a while to get used to this, and I'm just starting to really appreciate it. As an addict, I think, the biggest part of my problems is that I keep them to myself. Sharing, just plain sharing, is a big part of the solution. It is new for me to open up and relate to people as human beings, to be able to share emotions rather than just exploit information.
As I become more aware of my perceptions and motives, I recognize that I am as powerless over anger as much as I am over lust. I have begun to surrender this, too, and life has only gotten better as a result. I see this, especially, with my children. I am able to answer their questions and be helpful to them--even though they are interrupting me in the middle of work. I can put my three-year-old to bed and, although it may take a half-hour or more, and although he may scream and cry all the while, and although I may have planned to do other things, I no longer resort to yelling or other such measures. I can remain calm and gently rock him, and even sing to him. Thanks to the tools of recovery, I am becoming the type of father that I had always hoped to be.