Bottom Lines

April 27, 2016

 

Mike, the author of the fantastic porn addiction and recovery blog Hi my name is Mike writes about what he calls “bottom lines.” “A bottom line” he writes, “is a line you draw around behaviors and daily patterns to create a buffer zone between healthy living and living in the ‘danger zone’ where you might become triggered and ultimately slip or act out.”

This tool seems very useful to me, and I decided to compile a list of the behaviors that most often lead to a slip.

  • Allowing myself to do a Google image search when I’m bored.
  • Allowing myself to do ANY kind of Internet browsing when I’m bored.
  • Allowing myself to get on the computer for any reason when I’m alone and tired, angry, hungry, stressed out or lonely. Even if I have work to do.
  • Using the computer for entertainment, unless specifically sitting down to watch a movie.
  • Reading the news for entertainment.
  • Watching TV for any reason, especially (since I don’t have a TV at home) when I’m travelling alone.
  • Allowing myself to get to a place where I’m physically depleted, especially hungry, when I can be alone with a computer.
  • Allowing paperwork to pile up at work, so that I have too much to do (and avoid doing) at the end of the day.

In large part, I notice that what comes up for me again and again is wasting time. Almost everything I do on the computer, except for work or blogging or intentional entertainment (almost always with my wife), seems to fall into the category of wasting time. It is basically procrastination, and looking at porn is procrastination par excellence: it is not just an avoidance of work, but of life itself.

My bottom line list, then, is fairly simple:

  • Do not use the computer or other electronic media for entertainment.
  • Do not use the computer for any reason (even if I have work to do), when I am alone and tired, stressed out, angry, lonely, or bored.
  • Do not allow paperwork or other bureaucratic chores to build up. If something needs to be done, do it as soon as possible.
  • Do not allow myself to get to a place of depletion. Bring snacks to work and program in appropriate breaks.

I will probably have to add to this list, but I think it’s a good start. I’m actually pretty sure that if I follow these guidelines, I can avoid a real slip entirely.

Thank you, Mike!

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Bottom Lines

SCATTERED

December 8, 2015

 

It has been a week since I started my campaign of staying away from any use of the Internet as a distraction, and my head has been much clearer. I never considered myself an “Internet addict,” just a “porn addict.” But it is amazing how much clearer my head is and how much clearer my motivations seem to be with no casual Internet use at all.

I think this may be the way forward. It seems to be that for me, in order to stay sober from the porn, I may need to just avoid electronic distraction altogether. I mean I can watch a movie with my wife or check my email, but I am not allowed to read the news online, or surf YouTube, or check out the Wikipedia entries on my favorite bands.

Why?

Because there isn’t time. That’s it, there just isn’t time. I remember when I took the Bodhisattva vow ten-plus years ago I read an article by Chogyam Trungpa on the vow. I remember one of the lines in the article was something like, “you will not have time to read Time Magazine.”

I remember calling my wife form the retreat center where I was planning on taking the vow to ask her what she thought about me taking it. “I won’t have time to read Time Magazine,” I said.

And I don’t. Not that Time Magazine was a particularly important part of my life, but I really don’t have time to indulge myself in distraction. And for me, “news” is 97.8% distraction.

Weirdly, I have a bit of a different problem this morning. I have scheduled a bit too much time for myself, and I am having trouble knowing how to use it. Which is ridiculous, since I have so much to do. I have a two-hour break at work. Things that I could do during this break are: listen to a dharma podcast, Fill out some paperwork I need to do for work, call our escrow company and make some demands.

Lots to do but I get very confused if my time is not structured, or if free time comes unexpectedly.

I am noticing that this entry is very scattered, and part of the reason is because I am not as pressed for time as I usually am in the morning. I am terrible with time management. This is something I need to work on. Weird spaces in my schedule often get filled with Media, and I’ll bet you ten bucks that even if I stay away from the Internet I will find some way to waste my time. I need to learn to become comfortable with the discomfort of an uneven schedule. Life doesn’t happen on a schedule, and as helpful as it may be to schedule myself well, there will always be gaps.

Right now I feel very scattered. My usual blogging time is precisely between 8:30 and 9:30, and it is now 9:36. I am caught between wanting to stay and try to pull something together and feeling like I should go and deal with things that I need to do from my office. I don’t have my first client until noon, and then I also have a two-hour break in the afternoon. It is interesting to note how completely confusing this is for me. Such a minor shift in schedule, and I feel pulled in all directions. Interesting, because this confusion could so easily lead to using. But more than that: this very minor glitch in the way I think things are supposed to be, and I realize how little control I have over my world, over my moods, over myself. This very minor glitch has almost hijacked me, almost pulled me off into a cycle of action based not upon motivation, but upon fear.

This blog is very much a place for me to open up my faults and weaknesses. This is stuff I can’t tell my clients, because the “me” they need to see, most of the time, is a relatively competent, together, well-regulated person. And I am that and I can be that for them. But I am also Mr. Scatterpuss, Mr. Unregulated, Mr. Porn Addict.

There it is, the fear. I am afraid of being out-of-control. I am afraid of these abstract forces. I am afraid of my wife being mad at me for not making a call I promised to make. But I am also afraid to make the call. I don’t want to, and I am aware of doing it for her more than for myself. So many abstract fears, edging in around my consciousness. Fear of wasting my time. Fear of not accomplishing anything. Fear that I am sitting here and writing and writing and all it is is wasting time. Maybe it is.

 

SCATTERED

PROCRASTINATION

December 1, 2015

 

My energy has been very scattered, and I have been procrastinating a lot. Lots of reading the news and surfing the web and reading about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And the Ramones. And looking up various singers’ political orientations. Wasting time and trying to make myself feel better. Not much help. Meanwhile, my wife is getting incredibly stressed-out because of the impending load of paperwork that has to get done. I think the two are related, in fact I know they are. I have talked or written about addiction as “dependence,” in the sense that an addict becomes someone who is increasingly “dependent” not just upon his or her substance, but also upon other structures in order to stay alive. The addict gives up efficacy, gives up the adult ability to care for him or herself, and by extension to thrive. So this is happening to me. The few minor slips I have had in the past few weeks have been accompanied by a major trend towards procrastination. Procrastination and addiction have always been closely linked for me, because often I use aimless searching on the internet as a way to groom myself into a state where I am ready to use.

There may not seem to be a very direct link between reading the news and looking at porn, but actually there is. Because the first thing that happens is that I get increasingly obsessive about the news, reading and devouring every article, whether it is of direct interest to me or not. And then I start switching around to different news sites, reading and comparing articles and political views. I get particularly obsessed with looking at Fox News, or Russia Today, because I guess I want the shock value. I am actually looking for a high, even if that high might be indignation or rage. And then I start looking at the external links, usually starting with something that is somewhat interesting and relevant to me, like 100 Most Underrated Horror Movies of the 80s or something, and then it’s on to Best Cheerleader Fails and then even if I don’t move on to a Google image search for boobies or whatever I am still charged up, it feeds the addiction and brings me that much closer to that cascade moment where I feel like I HAVE TO use.

So last night I was chatting with Trungpa Rinpoche. (Okay, I was praying. Still sounds weird to me.) What I was asking is that I might have and maintain focus. Focus on the smaller goal of “not using,” and on the bigger goal of Awakening, and on using the first as a path to the second.

The intention of the prayer was pretty specific: it was to remind myself not to look at the news today. It was to maintain focus so that I can continue to become increasingly independent.

That last statement is a little ironic, because what I begin to realize as I become increasingly independent is actually my place in the grand scheme of things. Independence, or non-dependence on substances or people in an unhealthy way begins to bring out the truth of Interdependence, and my role in that. I start to realize that the systems of which I am a part depend on me, and require me to be awake and alert in order to function properly. My wife needs me. My kid needs me. My clients need me. When I am in a fog and I am neglecting paperwork and not responding to emails and not holding up my part of the whole it puts stress on the other parts. I can see it in the tense curve of my wife’s back. And so I would like to allow this entry to function as another form of prayer: May I be the man that I am capable of being. May I fulfill my potential. May I step up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park and bring joy to many.

PROCRASTINATION