A run a day keeps the triggers away

Who knew that helping out with my child’s school project could be a trigger to view pornography?  Last night my 12 year old asked for my help photoshopping a few posters for a school council election.  I love to help my kids with their projects and I especially love doing anything creative.  Imagine my shock to find myself totally triggered in the middle of the project.  I was serving someone else for crying out loud!  Thankfully, I was able to work one of my many tools I’ve learned over the years and avoid any complications like a slip.The trigger began when I was looking for a photo of someone blowing a bubblegum bubble.  I still don’t know exactly what caused the physical trigger but after discussing it with my wife this morning, here are some things from our analysis that may have contributed to it:

  1. I was scanning images on Google Images looking for the perfect photo to photoshop.  This behavior falls under one of my old methods of viewing pornography:  I would go looking for it “without looking for it.”  In other words, in my mind I was just looking for something innocent, but if an inappropriate image popped up and I got a chemical reaction “hit” from it, it wasn’t my fault, rightI mean, I wasn’t really looking for it, right?  <- Can you see the lies I was telling myself?!  It’s weird to look back on my old self and see these lies with clearer eyes than I had back then.
  2. There were lots of pink colors everywhere (I have no idea if my brain associated that with objectification of women or not, but it stands out in my head so I wrote it down).
  3. There were several pictures of women in sensual poses.  I’m sure that added to the hormonal reaction going on in my head.
  4. If I’m being completely honest with myself (and I should!), I really wanted to play video games that night and doing a school project for my child was “interfering with what I wanted to do.”  Selfishness is the root of addiction and I was definitely tapping into that.  (I only play video games once or twice every couple of weeks these days, so I felt like “I deserved it”.)

Eventually I got into the mode of helping my daughter, but again, if I’m completely honest with myself I can remember feeling a little bit put out or annoyed at the same time.  I feel bad for writing that down, but that’s how we get better at fighting — PURE HONESTY.  The kind that stings sometimes.

I knew I was being triggered but figured it was just a basic male hormonal reaction and would go away after a bit.  I found the image I wanted to use, I cut out the bubble and pasted it on my child’s image.  Lots of excitement and praise for a job well done!  We printed it out and glued it on the poster.  All is well with the world, time for bed, back to normal now … except … I was feeling anything BUT normal!

It was late, I was tired, it was dark, I was alone.  Pretty much the worst conditions of all.  Now comes the good part.  I was able to fall back on my practiced behaviors I’ve developed since working my 12-step program (via SAAPP).  I recognized that I was still triggered.  I recognized that the feelings were strong and that I was unable to get them to go away on my own.  I went to my training and immediately began a 10th step:

  1. I asked myself if I had done anything wrong?  I admitted to myself I was being a bit selfish in not wanting to share my time and was somewhat resentful about it.
  2. I asked my higher power to please help me overcome my weakness and help me not feel this way anymore.
  3. I tried to contact a friend (I wish I had tried a bit harder at calling more people but I felt guilty about bugging someone at 10:40 at night).  I got no response so I gave up on this one.
  4. Do an act of service for someone else.  Check!  I had just spent the previous 2 hours helping out with a school project for one of my children.
  5. Still feeling triggered emotionally and hormonally I fell back on another tool I learned (from “Like Dragons Did they Fight“) – physical exertion to flush the chemicals in our body.  The trigger event will pass with time and exercise can accelerate that while helping us focus on something positive simultaneously.

So I went for a run.  Late at night.  With the moon out (which was cool!).  With the neighborhood sprinklers on (which was the wrong kind of cool but I pressed on).  I also did a set of pushups along the way to really kick my heart into gear.  By the end of a couple of trips around the block I felt great.  I had worked up a nice sweat and I had zero indications of the trigger any longer.  I felt like a million bucks!  I was a little disappointed that I had the trigger in the first place (I was hoping I would never have them again, but I think that’s not completely realistic).  But I was happy that I recognized it, worked my tool set, and beat it.  And it didn’t even feel like much of a challenge.  It was more of a super awareness of what I was going through as I went through it.  I was very focused on not letting it negatively impact me.

Why did I write this?  Here are a few things that came to mind:

  1. Maybe you’d like to add this to your toolkit of ways to combat your struggle.
  2. You might find strength through my story and it may give you hope that you can win.  You CAN win!
  3. You may be finishing your own 12-step program and feeling like you’ll never have a problem again — you may not, but if you do, I would say that’s okay, it’s normal, and you totally can handle it.  You’ve got this!  (As my 12 year old would say — the one whose project I helped create.)

I hope this helps.  Feel free to share your own tools you use to fight back in the comments below.  The more we share with each other, the stronger we’ll become.

My name is Mike

2 thoughts on “A run a day keeps the triggers away

  1. The worst days for me are Fridays or weekends when I’m alone in the house and the kiddo is napping. One of my favorite tools is to call my mom. Not that she has any idea that I am addicted to Internet porn. Not that she is sensitive, or a good listener. But talking to my mom makes me feel the opposite of sexy. It completely gets me out of obsessive mode and banishes fantasies from my mind.

    When I need more direct support I call my cousin who’s in AA. He is probably the closest thing I have to a sponsor, and he is very familiar with my problem.

    I used to just get out of the house and go for a long walk. I would find a park bench and sit and meditate, and then walk some more. This is more difficult with a toddler, but I still sometimes use it if I have a gap between clients at work, especially if I’m feeling sketchy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s great that you recognize your trigger zone like that. I can see how that could be tough with a toddler but hopefully your plan is helping you work through the triggers. I imagine sticking to your bottom lines in a scenario like that is super helpful too.

      I’ve also been amazed at how strong a positive impact I get from talking to others when I’m in a strong emotional “pre-trigger state”. Just last night my sponsee texted me to check in and asked how I was doing. My initial response was “everything’s great”. Then I reflected a bit more and realized, no, I had been wallowing in some self pity earlier in the day and it was impacting me. When I told him about, just in a text even, I instantly felt better and resolved to ask God to help me and go do service. It was such a simple thing but it worked so well!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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