Tuesday, 03 April 2012

Sensitive to triggers

When we find that we are increasingly more sensitive to triggers, are we moving forwards or backwards?

by Ahron, Dov, London, Rashkebehag (See all authors)

Dov writes on the forum:

Once sobriety became my #1 priority and I achieved some time sober, it became precious. And to do anything that will make me lose it, is unthinkable.

Nevertheless, when I feel lust, suddenly doing the unthinkable becomes very sensible, and I actually think I need it! Even though this is truly crazy, I know beforehand that I really do work that way! But I also know that "my thoughts" are lying to me. (Some people call that "my addict" - I call it "my body").

When a lust opportunity/image/fantasy/book occur, I calmly close my eyes, avert my thoughts to Hashem and - clearly and verbally - ask Him to help me, giving Him all the credit. I might make a phone call to another program guy. My motivation to do this is; to save whatever precious sobriety and sanity I have accumulated. Also, not to have it even harder the next time, because I know I'll be even crazier/stupider next time! But to fight the lust, is out of the question. All I can do is give it up, and ask Hashem for help just to give it up, while I do that.

As time goes on, the aspect of this that gets easier is the progressive nature of this "giving up", or surrender. But on the other hand, it seems that it takes less and less to turn me on and endanger my sobriety. Not that I am trying to be on a higher madreiga at all, it just works that way. My tolerance for lust gets less and less. And as a natural result - not a choice - I undergo the above process (of surrender) on more benign lust situations.

For example, in my first year of sobriety I was able to sneak a look through a dirty book for ~ 30 seconds. It was wrong for me and made life harder (i.e. it was harder to give it up the next time), but I did do it and other things like that. Finally, it just became impossible to do if I was to remain sober, so when the thought came, I gave it up with Hashem's help, as above. Over time, giving it up got easier, but now I cannot afford to even look at clothing ads, or what I consider suggestive comics in the newspaper. Occasionally it is easier, occasionally it is more painful. But no matter what, I simply cannot look at that stuff and stay sober. It's not a choice nor a madreiga. I know I will lose my sobriety if I do it, so when the opportunity presents itself, I ask Hashem for help not to.

Of course, since it is really important to me, I take whatever steps necessary to eliminate that stuff from my environment, so that the opportunities are less likely to present themselves.

 

Ahron elaborates beautifully on this idea above from "Dov":

Sobriety depends on avoiding the FIRST drink, not the last. You are not sober if you merely avoid porn and masturbation (the "bottom line"). You're sober if you don't take the first drink of lust (i.e. looking). I found that if we work on sobriety, staying clean will follow, and not the other way around.

I found a huge chizuk in this, and it has helped me answer a question that has been bothering me lately... Why do I feel like I'm going backwards even though I remain clean? The answer is, because over time, as we continue to stay clean, our tolerance for lust becomes less and less. More and more situations become triggers.

In our quest for avoiding "the first drink" we will naturally make tighter and tighter guidelines to avoid lust. Because that's how it works, it's NATURAL to feel like we're going backwards. We ask ourselves: "I wasn't tempted by this yesterday, why am I tempted today? Am I slipping?" NO! You're not slipping, you're IMPROVING. And as a result, your tolerance level has declined, so you're now tempted by a formerly "innocent" trigger.

 

"London" continues this thread:

I am going thorough this exact phase now. B"H I am slowly recovering from a relapse and getting in sober days now. But as I pull back from the lust, I am now becoming increasingly more sensitive to lust triggers. This is normal.

When I get triggered, I try to remember to say a quick tefillah: "thank you Hashem for reminding me how sick I am".

My mind is slowly emptying out of all this muck, grime and trash, and I now have the capacity to replace it with love for my wife & children, Torah and Tefillah. Since I have now started to get sober, I have noticed that my chayshek (desire) for learning Gemara has increased.

I will share though, that today (on Shabbos) I struggled after shul and at a Kiddush I went to, with lust triggers. But I was able to share this with someone who is understanding of my issues, and after Shabbos I called another member and shared again. A few weeks ago, I would not have been bothered by this and would have almost automatically gone right into lust and fantasy, but today that I am sober and working my recovery program, I have a choice. And B"H today I chose to stay sober, and not to lust after these women.

 

"Rashkebehag" posted on this thread:

This morning I was driving down a side street and ahead of me was jogging a female dressed provocatively, an unusual sight in my neighborhood, and I wasn't ready for it. Normally I would have looked as I got closer, but now that I am in touch with you all, I said, "Whoa!" and averted my gaze.

 

Dov shares his amazement with Rashkebehag and London:

These shares above - from London and Rashkebahag, depict the real program. This is real recovery in action!

My disease is "wacko", too. When presented with a lust opportunity, I sometimes feel like "THIS is just a little thing, this is not what they are talking about when they say "lust" or "a first drink"... As if there are supposed to be trumpet blasts or bad music in the background when a "real" lust trigger comes along to signal it to me! Ha! But it's true, I really think that way, sad to say.

But lucky for me there are enough other people around me "losing it" over "little things". That makes it less necessary for me to experiment.