Learning to map my cycles was a huge part of my recovery. I learned it from one of my greatest recovery friends. She is a stalwart in recovery and I am so blessed to have her example to fashion my own recovery after. She has given up very hard things, as you will see, in order to return home again. She is an example to us all.
I felt it best that we all learn this principle of recovery from the one who has worked it to the bone...
Thank you Nena, my dear friend... I surely do love you.
One of the things Nakken talks about in The Addictive Personality is the cycle of addiction; I was fascinated by this & began a process of mapping my own addictive cycles. It took the rock-bottom threat of the loss of my marriage to shock me into recovery and open my eyes to not just the single acts of addiction but the full cycle of it. I understood that some actions would get me kicked out of the temple and out of my marriage, but before recovery I wasn't able to trace those actions into anything I had any control over. I thought I was just stupid or silly to perform that final act even though I knew it would bring destruction. When I finally realized I was an addict, I started with the actions and tried to work backwards one step at a time.
For example, the final destructive act in the addict cycle for me was hooking up physically. So I looked at it as pragmatically as I could: what led me to hook up with a guy? In almost every case, it started with an online relationship. OK, so online relationships were a component of the addiction. What led me to have an online relationship? In almost every case, it started with online profiles. That meant that online profiles were a component of my addiction.
For my first level of recovery, I was lucky to have a bishop who required that I give up all these physical components. After working with my husband to get clear long-term understanding into my addictive patterns, Bishop laid out my probation: I couldn't ever be alone with a man I wasn't related to. I couldn't use the internet at all for anything that wasn't work related. I couldn't have online accounts or profiles that weren't related to work (and eventually after more than a year of recovery I realized that hanging onto a professional profile was "a skittle" for me, and gave that up too).
My addict didn't let go easily: I hated it. I felt oppressed and restricted and humiliated. I felt dictated to. I did not want to give up all those things, but I was willing to follow the counsel of my bishop and my husband. In spite of the humiliation, I submitted to the treatment my bishop was inspired to prescribe. I went to tons of meetings. I called my sponsor and others in my women's support group. I worked my steps. And I started to get better.
But I wasn't done mapping the cycle yet... this is where it started to get tough. Honesty was critical now. What led me to have online profiles? I set up online profiles because I wanted attention. I found that the drug of attention was so deliriously intoxicating that I went back to it over and over again, and I didn't mind paying the price of sexually explicit conversation for that attention. Of course sexually explicit conversation stimulates its own drugs, and that drug use eventually progressed to where I needed a physical connection to get my fix.
What was causing me to want attention? Have you heard of BLAST? I was Bored, Lonely, Anxious, Stressed, and Tired. I didn't want to go home to my husband because there were things I was unhappy about in my relationship with him (both legitimate and imagined issues). Instead of facing and resolving those issues, I wanted to escape, so I chose to escape. I chose drugs instead of reality. It wasn't until I came to terms with my escaping reality that I could start facing reality.
By now my brain had dried out from some of the physical components of the addiction - my husband and I had been separated for six months, so I was REALLY physically dry from acting out and I could go a level deeper. Why was I unhappy with my husband and what were the root issues I was avoiding? God revealed to me that I had been using my husband as my idol, that I had put him in God's place. As Lysa TerKeurst says, "Even a great husband makes a very poor God." I learned that all people are flawed and imperfect. When I expected my husband to read my mind and meet my every need without fault or failure, I was the one in the wrong, not him. It wasn't his fault that I: hadn't learned how to communicate my needs to him; hadn't insisted on resolution of issues that needed to be attended to; had hidden my self (fears) from him. I had expected him to "take care of me," and as unfair as that is in and of itself, I hadn't given him any tools to work with.
Wow. I was using him as my excuse for bad behavior.
I started to try to catch myself as early in the chain of acting out as I could, but even in that effort, I hit a roadblock. This was a devastating blow to someone who had been raised to be completely self-reliant and independent: my brain could not be trusted. The addict side of my personality would use its crazy logic to rationalize risky and addictive behavior. At one point I set myself up to pick up a single male coworker from the airport & shuttle him around while we worked on his upcoming project. My husband saw right through this addictive finagling to get myself alone with a guy; I completely disagreed at the time, but looking back, I can see he was right. I'm glad now that I followed his counsel to have my coworker rent a car and meet at our office instead of all the one-on-one time I had planned with him.
I think this is one of the biggest challenges with the addictive cycle: addictive logic. The addict in us can and will make the components of the addiction seem not only harmless but necessary to our life & survival. I have seen women in sex addiction rationalize dancing, dating, cell phones, internet, gym memberships, relationships, and even marriages in order to continue acting out. For me, I was blessed to get to a point where I was willing to give up ANYTHING that came between me & my husband or between me & God, no matter how useful or good I thought it was, or no matter how silly the people who suggested I give it up seemed to be. God didn't tell us to cut off our little pinky if it offended us. Why not? After all, you don't REALLY need your pinky, so why not just trim a bit here and there? No, God commanded that we cut off our very hand, or pluck out our eye, if it offended us. And again, I resented it. I did it because I felt I had to - although I also felt that God wanted me to. As I chose to submit to my husband's wishes and prayed for the Grace to be at peace with that submission, God granted me the peace I desired and also melted my husband's heart towards me. We had a beautiful season of reconciliation that I knew was a gift from God and a direct result of my submission to God's (and coincidentally my husband's) will.
I was lucky to have people who drew those boundaries for me and insisted that I give up the components of my addictive cycle. What if you don't have someone who will put pressure on you to give things up? I would suggest that you find someone. Get a sponsor who will be completely honest with you, and when they suggest you give something up, go the extra mile & give up that thing and two other things that are like it. You'll be guided by the spirit about when/if you can reintroduce it into your life, but be prepared to give it up forever if that's what it takes for you to be obedient to God's will for you. If you're a sponsor, don't hold back from telling the people you sponsor that you think something is a component of their addiction. It is ultimately their choice to continue any thoughts or behaviors, but your job as a sponsor is to point out roadblocks to recovery.
I look back now and am amazed and thankful that I somehow had the people around me that I needed, when I needed them, so that I could recover. God was and continues to be good & gracious to me, and I've just shared a tiny part of the miracle called Recovery that He worked in my life.
Contributed by Nena