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!

Advertisements
Bottom Lines

Looking For a Heading

P1000824 copy

April 26, 2016

 

I’m not feeling nearly as energetic as I was during the first days of the diet. I’m still getting these moments of utter deflation, in which I also tend to feel hopeless and depressed. I suppose it could be because the most recent porn slip was less than two weeks ago. Two weeks is usually the point at which I start to feel like myself again.

Also, significantly, my mom is coming for a visit. She lives all the way across the country, so getting her out here is a bit of a hassle. She is also terrible with computers, so it usually falls to us to get her plane tickets. Even just writing about this makes me feel sluggish. This is something I definitely need to work with.

Last night I finally managed to arrange an airbnb apartment for her, which helps me to relax a little. I am in a constant struggle to have her be a part of our lives (especially important now that there is a kiddo), but also keep some space in the relationship. My mom is the kind of mother whose secret dream would probably be to have my wife and me move into her house on the East Coast with our children. She never remarried after my dad left, and instead has put 90% of her emotional eggs in my basket, something I have resented since before I was a teenager. I have actually spent most of my life trying to get as far away from her as possible, a strategy that just doesn’t work anymore, now that she is a grandmother and entering her early 70s. I want her to be a part of our son’s life, and I know that it is up to me to make sure that she is cared for as she continues to age.

One thing I definitely do not want to do is move back East. There is no work for my wife there, and it would be difficult for me to get licensed as a therapist. Also, I don’t have any friends there anymore, and I start to get depressed whenever I even think about going there for a trip, much less permanently.

We love living on the West Coast. We live in a beautiful city, near big water and mountains. We love to hike and kayak. We dream of raising our family with this outdoor lifestyle, retiring to a cabin near the ocean and spending our later years doing expedition kayaking.

But it’s expensive here. We have little in our bank accounts, and not much saved up for retirement. We have done some real estate investing in the past, but it is far too expensive for us to buy anything here, at least not in the city. We rent our apartment. We have discussed the possibility of buying something with my mom, (she would buy it, really, we would help to find it and perhaps do some work on it) but it would be a huge investment for her, and we don’t know for sure how permanent we are here. It’s expensive as it is for my mom to come out, making mortgage payments on a 300k apartment wouldn’t help. It feels more like stress than a great idea.

My wife and I lived in the Southwest for most of our marriage, and we still own a couple of houses and a couple of small apartments there. If we moved back, we could easily afford a bigger place for my mom. She could buy a medium sized house for the price of a tiny apartment here. Or she could move into one of our places. Or, after not too long, we would probably be able to afford another place and make sure it had a sizable casita for her in the back. It is just so much easier to live there.

My fear is that if we move back, all of our kayaking dreams will dry up. There’s no ocean in the desert. Maybe we could still work towards a future in which that would be possible, but it would be more difficult. I think I know my wife pretty well, and if we sell the kayak, it’s going to be a VERY long time before she’s going to be willing to try again.

For myself, I think the draw is increasingly back towards the Southwest. We will almost definitely stay here for at least the next two years, and that feels good to me. Also, my wife has her own reasons for wanting to stay, although I know she also dreams of the Southwest sometimes. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Looking For a Heading

CRYING OUT FOR CONNECTION

February 16, 2016

 

Not sure where I’m going this morning. The writing has been feeling directionless lately—it just doesn’t seem to coalesce into anything. Whether I am going to focus on fiction or something else, I am feeling the need for a specific theme, a specific direction, something that could at least be compiled into a book or a blog or something. A blog about failed attempts at keeping away from Internet porn lacks appeal somehow. As much as I like the idea of the novel, I can’t seem to write more than a page at a time, and in very scattered form. I just can’t seem to get into it.

I finally ended up having to ask my wife to put a lock on my computer. We have done this before, to regulate the porn use, and it is becoming clear that I just can’t stay away from it on my own. Of course the lock isn’t a guarantee, but it makes it next to impossible to hide my use, or to hide my search terms, etc., which is highly motivating not to use.

I just can’t control myself. Even though most of my slips have been what you might call minor, I have started to slip at work, which is just bad news all around. And I can’t control it. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

I told my wife that I wanted the block in order to stop myself from obsessing over the news, and this is partially true. But really it’s about the porn. God help me, I just don’t know what else to do.

The weather is starting to warm up a little bit. Yesterday was rainy and miserable, but at the same time there was more light in the sky than there has been. I could see it glowing through the mist, which made the day seem less oppressive.

I spent most of the morning reading over past entries, and it seems to me that the real villain here is depression as much as addiction. The two are certainly intertwined, and when I give into addiction it tends to lead to depression. But over and over again I read my entries about being in a fog, being tired, being suicidal. Depression is partly physiological and partly psychological, and I think I become more inclined towards psychological depression when I am physically exhausted. Weirdly, having a child and working full time seem to bring about that state fairly often.

But there is also grace peeking through.

Interestingly, I just decided to switch seats, and at around the same moment the sun came out, shining right on me as I write this. The sun helps me to feel better. It feels like hope, and Spring. My life is certainly a mixed pattern of light. I am not a sunshine person, but the light has always shown through. There has always been love, even if the only love I could fathom has been the love of expression. I have cried out, and there is something in that. I was trying to connect with something, and now the connection is there, more often than not. I hear others crying. I connect with their pain.

It is strange that we seem to suffer due to a lack of connection. Being embodied makes our connection imperfect at best, there is always this feeling of separation, for God, from each other. That’s what being embodied IS. And so we cry out. And the cry is for connection, and we connect in our pain. We are finding our way back to unity. We are finding our way back to Ourselves.

CRYING OUT FOR CONNECTION

FEVER BREAK

February 9, 2016

 

I had another fever-break type moment yesterday. My wife went out and was pruning some grapes behind our building and I was lying in bed trying to take a nap. It was a beautiful day, warm, blue sky and little fluffy clouds and golden sunlight, a real mid-February treat of a day. The kiddo was napping.

So I was lying in bed and it just came over me, this overwhelming feeling of wanting to die. I heard the neighbor yelling at his kids, and it just felt like life was hell. I knew life isn’t only hell, but I was also aware that my experience of life is that it is hell, and it just washed over me, wave after wave of wanting to die. Feelings so intense that I actually feared for my physical wellbeing… if I had had a gun available I don’t know if I could have resisted using it. It was almost like an epileptic fit, in that it really did come in sort-of spasms, just powering through me as I lay in bed and looked up at the blue sky and the branches etched in sunlight.

And then after about half an hour it was gone. I got up and started cleaning the house. I can’t say I was exactly happy after that, but I also wasn’t afraid that I was going to leap into traffic.

It was still a bit of a rough evening, my back was killing me and I was exhausted, and the kiddo is getting into a very, how shall I say, assertive phase of his development. He wants what he wants and he DOES NOT WANT what he doesn’t want. But I watched a yoga video after he went to sleep and my back feels better than it has in months.

More good influence, please.

Thanks.

FEVER BREAK

LOVE RISING FROM A SEA OF EXHAUSTION

February 1, 2016

 

Not sure what’s going on today. Mostly just tired. Losing sight of the vision a bit, maybe. I need to exercise, need to stretch, my body just hurts all the time. Back mostly, but everything. Need yoga. Time and motivation.

Focus. What was the goal again? Something about “being Love.” Something about Bodhisattva motivation. Can’t afford to burn out. If I get lost, okay, but maybe more helpful not to get lost? Certainly less painful. Trying to just bring myself back to the present. I haven’t worked on the novel since the last time I mentioned it close to a month ago. It’s still fun to think about it but every time I shift focus seriously towards it I feel like I’m distracting myself. I feel like I’m taking my attention away from where it needs to be. Which is, I guess, in the present.

Lots of love this weekend. Love for the kiddo, love for my wife. But also just a sea of exhaustion. Experience feels like waves of love occasionally rising from a sea of exhaustion. I think I need to work on my body. I’ve just been a wreck for the last year. As I say, back pain. The pain in my back wakes me up almost every morning, if the kiddo doesn’t wake me up first. Not to complain. Just trying to remind myself of what I need. Focus on the physical. I am willing to give up writing, or at least give up some of my writing time if it helps me to live my life more fully. I forget sometimes that the point of the writing is to help me live, and if there is some other aspect of my experience that is being neglected, I need to attend to that as well.

LOVE RISING FROM A SEA OF EXHAUSTION

BATTERED

January 4, 2016

 

Saw my mom off this morning. Relatively good visit, but I am tired and I think getting sick. I am at work now, wondering if my consult is going to show up. Last one was a no-show, thought I’d take a few minutes to write if this one looks like a no-show as well.

Yeah, a bunch of slips. Last major one was on the 23rd, at work. Came home and my wife could see it all over my face. I was so grateful that she just knew, and didn’t make a big deal of it. No slips over the holidays, but that was easy, I wasn’t alone for a minute and didn’t have my computer with me most of the time. Another minor slip this morning but I think I can shut it down, or let it go or whatever. I think it’s going to help to get back to the writing.

Part of what came up for me over the holidays is that I just can’t give up my space the way I used to. I need a place to go, to be alone. My nervous system can’t take being surrounded by people, all of whom need me in different ways, all the time.

BATTERED

BURNOUT

December 9, 2015

 

Had an almost fight with my wife last night about the call I was supposed to make yesterday.

I’m in rough shape, falling apart. Not sure if writing is going to help, not sure if it’s supposed to. I was so spacey yesterday, I just fumbled through my first couple of sessions, pretty sure I lost a client. He may have been on his way out anyway. Not sure.

Starting to realize that I am on the crispy edges of burnout. Compassion fatigue. I’ve been working a lot, caring for the kid by myself two days a week, and really just getting one day with my wife to both do all the erranding and get in any fun we might want to have. There have been a couple of parties, we had friends over for dinner a couple of weekends ago, but there hasn’t been any real leisure time for a couple of months. I am starting to get a bit of “I don’t care about you or your problems,” which is obviously a problem if you job is to help people with their problems. My patience is running out. The nanny was five or six minutes late this morning, the kiddo was just clinging to me and crying, and I just felt so irritable. I didn’t have anything to give.

I already know this, but it also reinforces how important it is to take time for myself and to not overbook myself at work. I, you, we, people, are not capable of being fully present, of accessing their full potential for compassion if their systems are overloaded.

I’m not quite sure how to deal with this. I have two weeks to go before I get a little holiday and my work schedule changes. Trungpa used to advise his students to “lean into it”: when the situation just seems like too much you lean into it, don’t resist, use it as the path and as an opportunity to see what you’re capable of. I know from experience that this doesn’t work as a long-term approach. After a while it just seems like you get stuck in a pattern of overworking which, from a spiritual perspective, is a form of laziness.

I just went through my calendar and blocked off any free sessions that I could in order to give myself a little bit of a break.

Not sure I’m going to get any more insight than that, this morning.

Oh wait, one more thing.

Got to be extra careful with the porn this weekend. The desire to escape is strong, the pressure is on. Feeling very under-resourced. Whole body is in fight/flight. Got to keep up on the prayer, see if I can get a little exercise. I need to do things to remind me that I am bigger than this very tight squeeze of time. Get a little fresh air into the system, open things up. Maybe I can talk to my dear friend and spiritual companion Sophia today. Even if not in person, maybe we can have a chat. I’m just gonna put that out there.

 

 

BURNOUT