I'm not working a perfect program of recovery and I know I never will. But I'm finding that - by the grace of God - my recovery really is strengthening over time. Here is a list of some of the main things that are working for me.
1. Since 2008 I have been a member of Sexaholics Anonymous*. At first I was just going along because there was a meeting in my town, but after a while I decided it was where I belonged. Why? Because it tells me that sex has a place in my marriage and nowhere else. No ifs, no buts. It doesn't help me to be told that this is just my personal choice, one among many choices I could make. The choice has been made by my Higher Power and my choice is simply whether or not I go along with his.
Also because SA identifies what I'm really addicted to and gives it a name: lust. The stuff that goes on in my head, the chemical I can flood my brain with just by playing a fantasy on my internal DVD player. And this means that there's more to being really sober than giving up external behaviours, vital though that is. More about that in point 4.
*As ever, this blog represents my personal views only and not those of any group.
2. I go to meetings.
3. I do service at my meeting. Nothing heroic and spectacular, just service.
4. I have a zero tolerance policy towards sexual fantasy. It's taken me a long time to get there, but it really has been working for several months now - after a rather serious "wobble" made me realise I had to stop using half measures in this area.
In particular, I've accepted that for me there is no such thing as an "innocent" fantasy of being a woman. They're all sexual and they will all lead me to the "hard stuff" before I know where I am. So the time to stop is as soon as I become aware of what's popping up inside my head.
How do I stop? By turning the fantasy over to my Higher Power. Usually I use a prayer formula adapted from the White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous: "God, I surrender the right to entertain this fantasy. Please take it away from me". I use this for any other lust triggers too. The beauty of it is that in an instant it turns each of them from a threat into a moment of contact with my Higher Power. He is a reality in my life and wants to keep me safe - I just have to do my bit by asking.
5. This flows on from the previous point. Lust is spiritual anti-matter. My head used to be full of it. Cutting it out leaves a void and the void must be filled with something. For me that means putting prayer at the centre of my day-to-day life.
For a long time I thought prayer was a means to an end. But that meant I was trying to manipulate God, turning him into a kind of slot machine - I put my coin in and out comes the chocolate. The truth is that prayer works when I stop trying to make it work - when I'm talking to God just because actually that's the most important thing I can ever do, and if it's the only thing I do all day the day hasn't been wasted.
So: I pray in church when I can. I take a prayer book to work with me and use it on the train. I have a "starting work" prayer on my computer. I say some prayers before I go to sleep. And I have a particular short prayer which I use as a "mantra", saying it over and over throughout the day (this is the traditional and well-known "Jesus Prayer": "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me").
6. I believe I have found my way to the form of religious practice that can support my recovery better than any other. For me this means membership of the Catholic church. Here I encounter a God who is infinitely loving; who, being infinitely loving, is gently uncompromising in his demand that I do his will - because what he wills can only ever be what is best for me, what brings me out of the darkness of addiction into the light of his love.
If you are in any way affected by the issues discussed in this blog, I would like to offer you my prayers that you will find help, healing and blessings.