There are well-established patterns or templates to our "acting out" in addiction. Identifying these triggering emotions and situations, and having a plan in place for how to prevent or respond to them is important to help you strengthen your recovery.
For example, a big trigger for many guys is the end of a long work-week and a pattern of Friday night or Saturday morning sexually sining. The feelings that are behind that need to be identified and understood. Perhaps it is a blend of exhaustion, frustration, resentment, and entitlement? That's a potent mix to fuel sexual acting out.
Gaining awareness around your triggers and then having healthy ways to instead process those emotions is important. For the example above, seeing this pattern coming, it would be important during the week in a preventative way to build in some breaks during the work week to release some of that building stress and pressure with things like exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well, and sharing you feelings about your work on your daily calls. Additionally, you can plan an activity with your wife or a friend during the times when you would typically act out so that you're not alone - ideally an activity that is active (e.g. not sitting in front of a screen eating junk food). There's also probably some longer-term deeper work you need to do to understand what you're trying to get out of your job besides an income that is fuelling your "need" to perform. The first step in identifying common triggers is to identify the patterns of your acting out and the feelings attached to them.
An easy acronym to remember that is talked about in recovery for emotional triggers that many people have is HALT. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. A combination of any of these feelings can make you more vulnerable to acting out. So being aware of when you're feeling one or more of these feelings (or the other ones you've identified for you as risky) is the first step in then responding in a healthy way that often begins with the simple step of reaching out to someone and sharing those feelings with them instead of repeating your old patterns.
The FASTER Scale is a relapse prevention tool that is part of Pure Desire Ministries' 7 Pillars of Freedom program. It is based on helping you identify the feelings and behaviours that take you down the road to relapsing. By having greater self-awareness, you can take steps to "get off" the scale.
At the top of the scale is where we want to live: RESTORATION (Accepting life on God’s terms, with trust, vulnerability, and gratitude).
But we can start to slip down from Restoration lower and lower down the FASTER scale (Forgetting Priorities, Anxiety, Speeding Up, Ticked Off, Exhausted) until we eventually Relapse - going back to our sin and addiction despite our best intention.
By being aware that we are beginning the downward emotional and behavioural descent, we can reach out to God, our accountability/support brothers, our group, and implement some positive changes before it's too late.
Click here to download the FASTER scale and commit to giving it a try every day for a week, or once a week for a month or two, and see if it might be a helpful addition to your recovery plan.
Check out this podcast episode (30 mins) about how the FASTER scale works and how it can be helpful in recovery.
Recovery from addiction is a process. If you relapse, it's a time to reflect on what happened, why, and determine what will you do differently.
Here are some questions you can pray, discuss, and journal about to help guide you in that process if you relapse:
Were you following your recovery plan? What parts began to slip and when?
What were the triggers that set you up?
Did you confess your relapse to your group/accountability person within 24 hours? If not, why?
Why didn’t you call an accountability/support person for help?
Which “middle circle” boundaries did you ignore or violate before your relapse into your "inner circle" boundaries? Do you need any new "middle circle" boundaries?
What lessons did you learn from this relapse?
Is there a pattern you can see?
What changes do you need to put in place to prevent the same thing from happening again?
Finally, never believe the lie that because you have relapsed once, you might as well just keep going. The quicker we are to bring any sin into the light, confessing it to the Lord and our brothers, the quicker it loses its power over us and the quicker we can get back on track.
Update your recovery plan to include a Relapse Prevention section.
MY RECOVERY PLAN
(Version: [Today's Date])
Prayer (share your feelings with God), Meditation & Reading the Bible
"The Dailies" with wife (if married)
2) DURING THE DAY
Journal (identify your feelings)
Daily-Check In Call (share your feelings)
Worship and Praise
No screens 30 minutes before bed; set alarm to be up at least 1 hour before usual; get to bed at least 7 hours before I need to be up; Pray before going to sleep (share your feelings with God)
Attend Men's Group(s)
"RAW": Renounce, Announce, Worship
Lock down devices (e.g. filtering & accountability software, "dumb phone")
List your boundaries
24-Hour Tell Policy
No boundary changes without first consulting with wife and group leader
List your self-care plan
8) RELAPSE PREVENTION
Identify feelings/situations that are triggers for you to act out and identify three healthy things you can do instead of turning to your addiction
HALT, FASTER Scale
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