#6 Keep a Gratitude List

June 21, 2012

The Gratitude List:

A beneficial part of recovery is to make a gratitude list of things that happened during the day for which you are thankful. Research has shown that people who are grateful recover and remain healthy better than people who are negative.   Thoughts are energy and they have a powerful effect on your immune system and your overall health.  So being grateful is one of the ways to keep your thoughts healthy.  Sometimes it may seem difficult to find things for which to be thankful, but if you pause and really focus your mind, you can do so.  Taking a walk in Nature helps.  Begin to appreciate the beauty of creation, the positive changes you are making in your life; affirm that you now approve and accept yourself just the way you are.  Keep at it!

I do not want you to make your gratitude list like this (although that is how you may be tempted to begin):
1) my family
2) my friends
3) my job
4) recovery
5) my dog, etc.

If you do the list in this way, you will have difficulty finding more and more things for which to be thankful. Instead, be mindful and begin to notice seemingly small things for which to be thankful. For example:

1) The sweet way my partner smiles at me and touches my hand.
2) The lovely birdsong I heard as I was getting out of my car this morning.
3) The beauty of the sunrise (or sunset) as I drove to and from work.
4) The rich aroma of the coffee as I woke up this morning.
5) The trust my sponsee has in me.

Do you see the difference? The world is full of wonderful things for which to be thankful (including little things about yourself). Name them!

#5 Daily prayer/meditation

May 31, 2012

Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to increase my conscious contact with God, as I understand God, praying only for God’s will for me and the power to carry that out.”

This is a beautiful step, but for many, a tough one.  Yet, you will find as you do the steps, having a spiritual connection to a Higher Power is the foundation and the key to recovery.  Therefore, it is mandatory that a time of daily meditation be part of your daily routine.  In addition, I recommend memorizing the Serenity Prayer and repeating it throughout the day.

If you say to yourself that you do not have time to stop and pray or meditate, remember how much time was devoted to acting out.  Or obsessing over what your partner was doing.  Prayer is talking to your Higher Power; meditation is being silent and listening.  The subject of finding something to believe in that fits the category of Higher Power is a topic for another blog.  Just begin by sitting quietly in a comfortable place where you will not be interrupted by cell phone, texts, TV, or people.  Gently let your eyes close and deliberately scan your body in your mind and relax every part.  Focus your thoughts on your breathing.  Your mind will go crazy with thoughts.  That is normal and natural.  Slowly imagine the thoughts drifting by like clouds.  Don’t get angry with yourself or MAKE them stop.  Just notice them and refocus your thoughts back on your breathing.  This is a practice, like learning to play the piano.  You didn’t expect to play a concert piano when learning the scales did you?  It is the same with meditation.  You are learning to trust your Inner Guidance System.  Eventually you will be able to hear that still small voice inside you that you know is not you.  Some days nothing will happen and some days something will happen.  Just keep doing it 20 minutes a day, preferably first thing in the morning.

Prayer can be words or thoughts directed to your Higher Power from your heart.  They need to be authentic.  Not somebody else’s made up flowery prayer.  YOUR prayer.  Like, “I’m so mad at you!”  “Where are you?” “Please help me overcome this”  “Thank you for being here with me and loving me anyway.”  “What would you like me to know about you?”  “I hate having this ****** addiction”  “I don’t know what to believe or who you are, but I’m here anyway.”  Your Higher Power doesn’t want you groveling and begging.  You have shamed yourself enough already.  Your Higher Power wants commitment-to learning to love yourself and surrendering to the process of recovery.   Add to the prayer/meditation recipe an inspirational reading like from “Answers in the Heart”, “The Language of Letting Go”, or a similar book.  You can add whatever is meaningful to you to make this time and place special for you.

Make your prayer/meditation a top priority on your to-do list.  It needs to be written so it can be marked off until it is such an integral part of your day that you don’t even have to write it down.  Remember your brain has been negatively affected by the addiction.  Daily focus on recovery behavior will, in time, repair faulty brain circuitry.  Keep at it.  You are worth it.


Next: The gratitude list


#4 Write a doable to-do list.

When I say “write”, you can put this on your Smartphone, computer, calendar book, actually write it on paper, whatever is comfortable for you. By doing this, you are setting a daily goal for yourself and holding yourself accountable. As each task is done, you can check or mark it off thus giving yourself the good feeling of accomplishment. Be sure to include in your list recovery type items. A down side to this suggestion is the tendency on the part of some people to make the list too long and, therefore, impossible to complete. Be realistic with yourself here and gentle in what you expect of yourself. Progress-not perfection. Prioritize according to 1) Spiritual 2) Self-care 3) Other. If you don’t take care of you and your recovery/spiritual life, you won’t be effective in what you do for others. More detail about your daily list in the next blogs: “Daily prayer/meditation” and “Making a gratitude list.”

Tip #3 for Enhancing Recovery: Make phone calls

May 20, 2012

It has been said in 12 step that the phone weighs 1000 lb. Many feel so isolated and alone and just can’t force themselves to call someone when they need help. Here are just a few of the excuses that the addiction will put into your head:

1) I can take care of this myself. (If you could do that, you wouldn’t be in trouble now!)

2) I don’t want to impose on anyone. (Actually, getting a call from someone in recovery is helpful to someone else in recovery.)

3) What would I talk about? (You don’t have to be having a major crisis, although you MUST call then, but just to CONNECT. If you call to briefly chat and get to know people and let them know you, then when you have a major urge to act out or you are not doing well, you will be more likely to call someone you know and who understands.)

4) I don’t have the time. (Come on! How much time did you spend acting out or doing whatever you did to cover up pain? With cell phone availability now, there is plenty of time.)

5) They don’t know me. (Yes, and they won’t ever if you don’t call. Program people are used to getting calls. Calling is a good way to find who would fit the bill to be a good sponsor.)

6) I have called and they don’t answer–I left a message and they didn’t call me back–they didn’t have time to talk to me. (If someone doesn’t call you or answer when you need them, then CALL SOMEONE ELSE! That is why they pass that notebook at meetings–so you can copy down phone numbers of those with whom you can connect.)

You see, there really are no good excuses. We need others in the program. Be gentle with yourself as you recover–this is very difficult work and it is necessary to try something that is uncomfortable. It takes courage–and so we slowly and steadily move from fear to courage. It is part of the journey. Just do it.


#2 Tip for Enhancing Recovery-Go to 12 Step Meetings and/or Support Groups

May 11, 2012

This tip applies to everyone not just those who have a sex addiction. People who have addictions are suffering! It is such a relief to find you are not alone and you don’t have to carry this burden alone. Having said that, there are a huge amount of excuses people use to avoid going to meetings. Here are just a small number of them:

  • I’m not as sick as those other people, they are not a special case like I am.
  • I’m too ashamed to show up with my problems, I could never talk about myself to a room full of strangers.
  • What if I see someone I know?
  • I don’t believe in that “Higher Power” stuff!
  • I don’t have the time.
  • I can stop all by myself, if I just put my mind to it.
  • I don’t really have a problem, it’s all his/her fault that we’re in this mess.
  • I don’t want to say out loud, “I’m a “whatever” addict.”
  • I’m really a loner and don’t mix well with others.

The list goes on and on. Here’s the truth-trust me! We were not created to handle an addiction alone. There is healing and support in a group of others who suffer as you do. While the specific behavior may be different, the root addiction is the same. Sex addiction and sex/love addiction are extremely powerful addictions and cannot be stopped ALONE. Because they involve basic human drives and behaviors, as opposed to substances like alcohol, they are harder to stop. Studies have proven that in these addictions, the wiring in the brain has been altered. Healing is indeed possible, but you have to love yourSELF enough to do what is required to heal, and one of those things is to get the support you need in 12 step AND to work the steps of recovery with a trusted sponsor. 12 step recovery is not a spectator sport. Yes, take your time, don’t rush it or pressure yourself to HURRY up and get a sponsor and finish up those steps! Just go–sit there if you must, try different meetings until you find one you can feel comfortable in, copy down phone numbers, let yourself talk with people after the meeting, but keep going. You will be glad you did. It may feel awkward at first, but just keep doing it.

If you would like to try something that fits better with your personal religious beliefs, there is Celebrate Recovery that is offered in many Christian venues. Also the LDS (Latter Day Saints) have a fine program and materials that fit the recovery model. Check it out.

Another way, in addition to the free 12 step meetings, is through group therapy with a trained sex addiction therapist. In my men’s and women’s groups there is crosstalk, bonding, trauma resolution, and healing. There is great power in the group experience. It takes great courage to start the journey of recovery, but it and you are well worth it!

Next: Making phone calls.

I welcome your comments and/or questions and until next time remember that you are loved and precious, no matter what!




The importance of having a daily routine

May 4, 2012

As promised, this post is about the first tip to enhance recovery: having a regular daily routine. While it is important that we do not become rigid, it is important to become balanced in keeping to a daily schedule. Have you ever noticed when there is a break in your schedule, such as when you have to travel for business, have houseguests for a week or longer, or are ill and have to stay in bed, that something within doesn’t feel quite right? I’ve heard many people say and have said so myself, “I’m ready to get back to my regular routine.” This is because we feel safer having boundaries.

In sex addiction, the brain has been hijacked–i.e. brain chemistry has been altered by the addiction. And the addiction will take any opportunity to step in and offer to fill any unplanned time with acting out behavior. Therefore, it is important to have a plan–for when one is going to be alone, for any unplanned time, for travel, and the opposite extreme-when one has to work on any tedious task for an extended period of time. The reasons for this are as follows:

1) Alone: gives the addiction a chance to think it can be sneaky and do whatever it wants (to your detriment.)

2) Time on one’s hands: The addiction can always offer some acting out behavior for you to do.

3) Travel: The opportunities are varied for the addict to find ways in which to violate your recovery plan.

4) Too much work without a break: The addict tells you you need a break to act out-giving you a sense of entitlement.

The remedy: 1) Plan some healthy recovery activity when you know you are going to be alone such as calling friends, exercise, journalling, getting outside in nature, something you enjoy to keep you busy–even getting extra rest.

2) Make sure you plan for some healthy recovery activity during times when you don’t HAVE to work. See #1.

3) Have a complete travel plan/itinerary and an accountability partner to call and with whom to check in. Find meetings in the other city.

4) Be gentle in caring for yourself when doing any tedious task–breaking up the work with frequent breaks to get a drink of water, or snack, or resting. This is especially important if your work involves the computer.

*Please note that the term “the addict” is not referring to YOU as a whole person who is precious and has integrity. The addict is the disease of addiction and the reason you are in recovery is to heal from the addiction that is preventing you from living your life fully.*


Tips for Enhancing Recovery

April 27, 2012

In the addictive culture in which we live, it is difficult to get and keep the balance we need to stay focused on our recovery. I want to offer some tips in the next few blogs to assist in doing this. When we first find out we have a compulsive behavior that we can’t stop or that we are partnered with someone who has a sex addiction, life seems absolutely overwhelming, to say the least. It is as if you are looking out from within yourself at the whole world going by and no one understands the hell you are experiencing. It helps to have a checklist of activities to do and those to avoid. Later, I will cover details of each one. But, for now, here goes:

  • Have a regular routine every day–from the time you get up and go to bed, to the times you eat. Sometimes this is hard to do, with work and family schedules, but try to do the best you can.
  • Go to 12 step meetings and/or attend support groups.
  • Make phone calls. (Yes, I know all the excuses, but do it anyway)
  • WRITE a doable to-do list.
  • Include in your list a time for yourself to pray/read inspirational literature/meditate/journal/BE, even if for only 15 minutes.
  • Make a gratitude list daily. Studies have shown this strengthens the body’s immune system!
  • If you feel overwhelmed or simply unable to function, call a qualified therapist who specializes in sex addiction or complex PTSD. Never be afraid to ask for help. You are worth it.
  • Know that this feeling will not last forever–yes, the nightmare WILL be over.
  • Avoid reading or watching the news, especially just before bed, as this is the time for your body to repair itself.
  • Make yourself practice self-care: eating nutritiously, regular exercise, doctor appointments.
  • Avoid negative people and confrontations–learn to have a loving relationship with Self.
  • Walk through the fear.
  • If you slip or are tempted, use your recovery tools and forgive yourself.

In weeks to come, I will comment on each of these points in more detail. Please feel free to email or call me with questions or comments.