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Over the years and countless group meetings there are two things that are very apparent to me at this point in my journey: 1) There will always be a people needing recovery from porn/sex addiction, and 2) There will always be setbacks as people recover.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 24:16:
“for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” (ESV)
This is such a perfect picture of what recovery looks like in the everyday life of the addict. As we try to do better, there will be setbacks and we will stumble. Almost six years into recovery there are still things that trip me up and triggers that I must be aware of if I’m going to be successful in my abstinence. The proverb says that it is the righteous who fall seven times, and this might sound odd but when you think about the key factor that goes into falling what you have to have in order to fall is to be standing. This means that it is the righteous who fall but then after the fall they get back up. And when they fall again, they get back up again. This is what recovery looks like many days, but there is more too it if we hope to change things in the future. So, here are three steps to take when you’ve had a setback.
1) Ask yourself: “What caused the setback?”
Things don’t just happen. This is as true in life as it is in porn addiction. Many times when someone starts crawling through the internet in search of porn or surfing through channels late at night, there is something happening beneath surface, something that happened earlier in the day or week that lead to this.
In group, when someone has had a setback, this is often the first question I ask. In fact, many of the men I work with go into answering this question before I even get the chance to ask it at this point. Why? Because they understand that, sure, the addiction is ever present, but obviously they aren’t acting out to it 24 hours a day. There are things that happen in our daily lives that set us up to fail, whether it be something that we watched, heard, or remembered. We get triggered and then it is very difficult to say no.
The Law of Cause and Effect states: That for every material effect, there must be adequate cause that existed prior to that effect. Now, I’m not a scientist, but the law of cause and effect works for this question. If you’ve had a setback, ask yourself this question. The more you know about yourself, what effects you and what are your triggers, the easier it will be to manage them.
2) Ask yourself: “What did I learn from this setback?”
Just noting the cause of the setback isn’t enough though. You need to put on your investigating hat and do some thinking. Did you figure out that you can no longer watch a particular show? Did you learn that frequenting a certain location is not good for you? Did you come to realization that perhaps your friends are the ones who are triggering you? As I started my journey to recovery these were real questions that I had to ask myself and I brought my entire life into question. Early in my recovery I learned that places like the gym or the beach are bad places for me to visit. I had to monitor what shows I was watching and what social media apps I was allowed to use. But there is more that we learn from setbacks than just the things we need to cut out of our lives.
One huge thing that I try to remind the men I lead in group is that we also need to learn from and remember the good. I have been blessed with one of the most caring and forgiving woman as my wife. When I mess up and start hating myself, she forgives! And in my trying to figure this out on my own, only to dig myself into a deeper hole, I forget that if I confess, small or big setback, she will forgive me. And that has been the most helpful part of my recovery but there are others. Learn from the good in your life and remember it in the dark days.
3) Get back up!
The righteous person falls seven times, but he can’t do that if he doesn’t learn to pick himself back up and try again. One of my favorite movie scenes comes from Batman Begins where Alfred asks Bruce Wayne, “Why do we fall?” A confused Bruce Wayne just stares back in response and Alfred tells him, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” And that is it right there. You will fail, you will have setbacks, I almost guarantee it. I have yet to help someone on their own journey to recovery who hasn’t had a setback early on in their recovery. So know that they will happen but also have the mindset that when they do happen to treat them correctly, asks yourself the questions, and then get back up!
I’m going to close out this article but posting that video clip but also another one to help get you motivated. And as we always say, if you need help, please reach out. You aren’t alone and hope can be real for you today.