Sunday, 01 April 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

by London (See all authors)

We have a new member on our forum, Bruce, who is 22 years old and has struggled with this addiction for many years. He comes from a broken home and struggles also with religion as well as many other issues, but he is desperate to break free, because, as he writes:

"I want to stop staying up all night looking at porn (and thereby ruining the following day), masturbating until my body begs me to stop, thinking inappropriate things about every beautiful woman I see on the street or elsewhere, losing focus and motivation to do things that are actually important and fun, and I want to be able to socialize without feeling uncomfortable with myself and without being unable to see the women that I talk to as people, and not fleshy pleasure things.

And I don't want to go from here to even worse things. All of the porn that I have seen over the years, some of it very messed up stuff, has completely warped my mind and desensitized me to every kind of emotion there is, especially mercy and compassion. Combine that with an intense personality, a natural propensity to anger easily, pent up anger and frustration at the world, and a naturally mischievous mind and you've got a recipe for disaster. I don't want to turn into a monster. To me there is at least a subconscious association in my mind between crime/general immorality and porn. I don't know if such an association is real, but that's how I see it.

I don't see how I can live with integrity this way. I don't see how I can be a good husband. I don't even see how marriage would be appropriate for me the way I am now. I just don't want to turn into a depraved, under achieving, lowlife."

I want to bring a few of "London"s great replies to Bruce, since there is so much we can learn from them:

Dear Bruce,

What you posted regarding a "lowlife" really touched a chord in me, because it seems that you currently see yourself as a lowlife. Bruce, you are very sick with an illness called addiction, and the medication is contained in the GYE Handbook. Work the tools there, until you find what keeps you stopped. You are not a "lowlife". You are "sick" and trying to get "well", not a "bad" person trying to be "good".

You write that you see yourself on the brink of much worse things. This is classic unmanageability - and that is the first step of recovery, i.e. accepting that you are powerless over the addiction and that your life has become unmanageable as a result. I too struggled with my religion vs. my addiction, but I came to realize that this is just another tool of my addict side to keep me in the sickness. We read in the SA meetings at the beginning that "the sexaholic has taken himself out of the whole context of what is right or wrong". I was told to leave the debating society, as I am too sick for that. For me, porn and masturbating are lethal. I need to STOP & stay STOPPED. Recovery for me, is the most important part of my life, without exception. Without recovery, my life is - as you describe, a depraved existence, trying to gratify a never ending craving monster that has no boundaries and no respect for anyone or anything.

Bruce, from your posts it seems that you are still young. You have a really holy and special soul that is crying out for help. Read the posts and see how many of us waited until we were married many years with children, and only then got into recovery. You have an opportunity that I would die for, to have this awareness at such a young age. I admire you and hope and pray that you will take action to stop this deadly cycle of addiction.

Keep coming back,

Bruce responds:

London, Yes I am 22 and still single, so I guess you're right that it's good for me to be tackling this now, but I still wish I had actually realized that it was a problem much earlier than this and that I had taken care of it years ago. Maybe I wouldn't be so crazy if that were case, and maybe things would be normal enough for me to not be single at this point....

It's just so frustrating to see all my friends my age in relationships and getting married, without all the problems that I have. Their lives are so much more normal in so many ways and they have the tools to create successful relationships. I never had an example to follow. It's like their minds are so much clearer and their hearts and souls are so much more at ease. They are at ease and comfortable with themselves, which allows them to share their lives with others. But me, I'm confused, frustrated, I'm uncomfortable with who and what I am (if I can even define that) and I downright can't trust people. I just can't. It's frustrating that I want to be like they are, but I can't, even if I wanted to. I just don't have the tools for it.

London Responds:

Dear Bruce,

You are now at a junction in your life and you have two paths in front of you. You can either carry on the acting out path with devastating consequences, or you can start on the recovery path. If you choose the recovery path (which I hope you will), this is what the founders of AA write in the promises for those who seek out recovery sincerely:

"If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.

  • We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
  • We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
  • We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
  • No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
  • That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
  • We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
  • Self-seeking will slip away.
  • Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
  • Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
  • We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
  • We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

-- Alcoholics Anonymous p. 83-84"

Bruce, I can tell you from my own recovery (which I am not half way through), that my life today bears no resemblance to when I was in the heat of active addiction. It is very easy for us to look around at our peers and feel self pity about our lot - I used to do this regularly but it got me no where. Hashem has a plan for me. I do not know what it is, but it includes my addiction and recovery. The same applies to you, you are young and you have your entire life ahead of you. Stop looking around at your friends. Who knows what's going on behind closed doors?

One of the tools I have learned in recovery is gratitude. I have a "daily gratitude list" which I give over to a friend in recovery. Even without knowing you - just from reading your posts, I can think of many things that you should be grateful for. My only hope is that you will take the tools of recovery as suggested in the GYE Handbook and work through them thoroughly and honestly until you find what works for you to get recovery. And then those promises mentioned above will materialize in your life before you know it. I have seen the transformation in my life and in the lives of countless other people in recovery who are prepared to do what it takes to get well.

Keep coming back,

OK, London. Just for kicks I'll call you out on it: What can you see in my posts that I should be grateful for? I'm curious to know if you can get any of them right or if you can show me something I never thought of.

Dear Bruce,

Your challenge to me reminds me of when I first got into recovery. My therapist asked me to give her a list of 10 things that I am grateful for and I was stumped, I could not think of one. That's how closed off my mind was. But as for you, here goes:

1. You're alive
2. You write that you have friends / room mates.
3. You are extremely articulate
4. You are very intelligent
5. You have found the recovery path at a very young age
6. You are studying
7. You have your entire life ahead of you
8. You spent 2 years in Israel

That's just from reading your posts. I am sure that if I were to get to know you better, I could write a lot more. I have found that for me, developing an "attitude of gratitude" is one of the cornerstones of my recovery. I have so much in my life that Hashem has bestowed on me, but when I am acting out I cannot see His blessings in my life,all I can see is what I don't have.

There are so many people out there who are sick with this illness and are suffering a living hell. I am so grateful to Hashem that just for today I do not need to live a life like that, that Hashem has allowed His Grace to come into me to get recovery. I hear at meetings that recovery is a gift from Hashem, that I can do Teshuva and that I can make living amends for my past. What a blessing! My worst days in recovery today are still 10 x better then the best days of when I was acting out.

Keep coming back,

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