I May Be Only Half Sober

“I think I am doing very well.  I have not acted out in xxx number of days.” That may be true but I may still be feeding my addiction with daydreaming or fantasy. Picture a recovering alcoholic. He is gripping a bottle of whiskey in his hands.  For 15 minutes he just stares at that bottle. What’s really happening?  He may not be actually drinking the whiskey but his mind is drinking it. He is enjoying every last drop.

He puts down the bottle and congratulates himself for his sobriety. But in reality, the same chemicals that are secreted in the brain when he drinks are also secreted in his brain when he fantasizes about drinking.  AA refers to this type of a person as a "dry drunk"--one who is still drinking inside his head.

What about us. When we daydream or fantasize about porn, masturbation or any other type of sexual activity we secrete those same chemicals in our brains. When that happens we are continuing to feed our addiction. This can happen to us at any time and any place.

So for us, we may have the same thoughts we had before, only now we just stop short of acting out and we call that being sober.

I am not sharing this to make you feel guilty.  I am not suggesting that we run to the bishop or stop taking the sacrament every time we have a bad thought. I just want to bring this to your attention, because many of us have not thought about this before. We may not even admit that we are still having those kinds of thoughts. But keep in mind, any time you have those thoughts you are half way to acting out.

So how do we stop or even lessen those thoughts? That’s a hard question. We unconsciously create those thoughts whenever we come across one of our triggers. We may not even be aware that it's happening. But we have all had a lot of practice doing it. And until we can get better control of those initial thoughts we are all susceptible to a relapse. I don’t think there is a simple solution to this problem. Perhaps just singing a hymn or repeating a scripture in our head is not enough for an addict.

For those of us still having a problem stopping pornography or masturbation, we may wish to concentrate on finding ways to better control our thoughts. Without the thoughts the actions won’t happen. As another author has stated, Pornography and Masturbation are not the addiction, "Our thoughts are the addiction."

After reading this post, you may wish to read my later post on this same subject: My Addiction and the Amusement Park.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think there is some truth to this. It would be very difficult for an alcoholic to grip the bottle for 15 minutes and not take a drink. If he puts the bottle away, I think that is cause for some celebration. Perhaps its just stage one on the road to recovery. When real healing has taken place, the bottle won't even make it to the hands.

With sexual addiction, the act of fantasizing may be more akin to taking a sip but not getting drunk (but maybe not). If we begin the fantasy, but walk away before acting out, that is cause to celebrate. It takes courage and strength and frequently divine grace to do so. Of course much better is the act of not fantasizing.

I don't know that I control every thought I have (Elder Packer's article of January 1974 Ensign seems to suggest not). When triggers happen bad thoughts may come. Part of it is the conditioning from the addiction. But we have a choice from there. We can entertain and invite the thought and its companions (this is probably what we have conditioned ourselves to do with such thoughts), or we can dismiss it. For me, it has not always been easy to dismiss such thoughts. I have found that memorizing scriptures or singing hymns does help, since I need something to replace it. The other thing that works for me is engaging my rational mind. That usually includes me telling myself I don't want to go where this is going, and that its not real. Admittedly, that is much easier during the times in my life when I have way more to think about than I want to. I count the fanaticizing returning as a sign that I am beginning to slip back into bad patterns and more attention to "daily's" and other good habits are needed. It has been my experience that controlling my thoughts partly comes after I have changed habits of behavior (for me, idle internet time).