Embarking on a new path in recovery

Last week I was writing in my recovery journal and one of the questions asked, “What behaviors or weaknesses do you want to change?”  My initial response was, I’ve found my freedom from pornography, I’m good.  But a few minutes later I remembered that I still struggle with viewing women as objects instead of people.  If I’m not careful, when I first see a woman my brain tends to see her as her physical attributes instead of as a human with thoughts, feelings, personality, etc.  I would like to change that and see all women as who they truly are — a human being, a person, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, etc.  They are someone.  They are not a collection of objects to be lusted after.

I thought I would record the entire process for you in case you’re curious how I go about solving these types of scenarios.  The interesting thing is the solution is in the future.  I don’t know what it is yet.  I don’t know how I’ll get there.  It feels very real to me in terms of a bit of fear of the unknown (what if I don’t find an answer, what if it’s harder than I assume, what if I fail?) combined with nervous energy from having an audience as I go through something fairly private.  You are my audience, but I want you to benefit from my experience and so I’m going to share.  I hope it means something and is helpful.

[Update 1: 5/9/2016 – I met with my counselor and he gave me some great advice and a few things to practice.  I will record my practice and report back on it in 30 days.]

I’ll quickly bring you up to speed on the first few things I’ve thought of or done.  Then we’ll all be on the same page and I’ll add updated entries as I discover new things along the way.

To start with I prayed and let God know that this was something I was interested in turning from a weakness into a strength.  One of my favorite scriptures is:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  Ether 12:27 (Book of Mormon)

For those of you who do not believe in God or feel that God has abandoned you (both very real scenarios and I have friends in both categories), I’ve been told as well as read, it is helpful to let your higher power be something that is more tangible to you.  For a lot of people that higher power is their “group consciousness” (e.g. if they attend a support group like a 12 step program, it is the combined thoughtfulness of the men in the group).  Find whatever works for you and feel free to replace it wherever I use “God”.

Essentially I went to God to let Him know that I could not do this by myself.  That I had a weakness that I would like to turn into a strength and that I was prepared to let Him guide me down a path to do just that.  I am willing to be patient — this could take weeks, months, even years.  I don’t care, I will do whatever it takes.

Immediately I had an impression that I should reach out to my counselor again.  I haven’t met with him since last December as I felt that I had run out of things to discuss and felt comfortable with the things we had been working on.  I plan to send him an email outlining what I’d like to discuss and what I’m trying to accomplish.  If that is something that he can assist me with I’ll setup an appointment.

This weekend is the semi-annual general conference of our church where the leaders of our church speak to us on various topics.  We are often advised that if there is anything we are struggling with or need answers to, we should prepare mentally and spiritually to listen with an open mind, heart, and spirit.  If we are prepared and listen intently, then the answers will be shown to us.  I’ve already had several personal revelations since this morning, that I believe will be helpful based on what I’ve heard.  After tomorrow’s sessions are over I’ll compile my notes and write about them and what they mean to me.  I expect my answers will be of the “try this, go this direction, study this” variety rather than, “Just do this and voila, problem solved!”  It has been my experience that personal growth does not work that way — on purpose.

Finally, I shared this with my wife.  It was an interesting conversation because she is very thoughtful and brought up a few questions I hadn’t thought of.  The biggest one was, “What if how you’re reacting is a natural component of being a heterosexual male?”  She has a very good point.  I remember in one of my early meetings with my counselor that he pointed out that “seeing women as beautiful is a natural and good aspect of being a heterosexual male.  That was how God designed you and it was for a good purpose.  Be careful to not see that as a ‘bad’ thing.”  Somewhat deep and something I’ll definitely need to keep in mind and ponder as I work through this part of the journey.

I’m sure there are books to read, scriptures to search, talks to ponder, things to practice, etc.  I’m just barely scratching the surface here, but it is a beginning.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  — Lao Tzu

My name is Mike.

4 thoughts on “Embarking on a new path in recovery

  1. This is a very specific issue I struggle with as well. The bus I take to work most mornings happens to also be the main line to one of the universities nearby, so it is often crowded with attractive young women. In the evenings, when I am on my way home, it is often crowded with attractive young women all dressed up (or down) for a night on the town, which is even more… interesting. Often, I am just able to enjoy the energy of youth. This is not my world, it has nothing to do with me, it is just young people doing what young people do. But if I am feeling “sick,” if my mind has been spiraling towards the darker end of the spectrum, I start to see the young women just in terms of their attractiveness. I start living in a fantasy in which I could have my pick. Psychologically, I start to see them as “mine,” (or as part of my fantasy) rather than as discrete individuals with their own lives and destinies.

    For me it is this possessiveness and entitlement that is most disturbing. I am literally seeing them as less than human. Porn of course feeds this view better than any other known substance, since it is specifically designed to play into men’s fantasies that they can have what (who) they want just because they want it.

    In these scenarios, I usually just have to keep my head down. I also pray. I rarely pray in the moment, as you described, but I do pray, very frequently, that I can use this weakness as the path to enlightenment, which I think syncs pretty well with your quote from the Book of Mormon. I also pray for humility.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jon, I always enjoy your posts because they’re so thoughtful and real. You once again have reminded me about a part of my past struggle that was something I had a hard time overcoming — fantasizing about other women. It took a couple of years (actually, probably closer to 5, late teens to early twenties) before I finally had that completely under control.

      Interestingly enough, my counselor hit me between the eyes one time a year ago or so when he asked, “Do you fantasize about your wife?” Me: “Yes”. (I thought that was okay.) He then asked, “Do you have her permission to do that? Do you think she would be okay with that?” … *silence* ….. *more silence* …… Me: “No.” … “No.”

      Wow. That was a big revelation to me that day. Fortunately, it didn’t take long before I had that under control (about a month is all, due to the skills I gained from getting the earlier fantasizing under control). Surprisingly, once I got it under control (this was before my 12 step program), I began to recognize the temptation to fantasize about her just to numb the high stress of work, extreme sadness, depression, anxiety, etc. I had no idea how frequent that was until I had stopped. It was a real eye opener.

      Thanks again for bringing this up, I’ll add it to my list of things to write about, I think it’s definitely worthwhile.


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