What to do if you’re struggling to stay sober

How is your recovery going? Are you building ongoing, solid sobriety, or are you struggling with repeated relapses? Nobody does recovery perfectly, but doing the work of recovery should yield results. We should be seeing progressive victory over our addictive behaviors. If we are not, it’s time to ask ourselves some important questions.

What follows is part of a video teaching segment in my new Recovery Journey program. In that program, members receive video and audio teaching resources each week, as well as a host of other resources. I thought this might be a good one to share with the readers of this blog. Note the questions I ask below the video.

I would love to get your feedback in the comments below. Do you find video teaching like this helpful? Would you like me to include more of it in this blog, and not just written teaching? What do you think of the questions?

6 thoughts on “What to do if you’re struggling to stay sober”

  1. Great teaching Mark! My recovery has been going fairly well, but as I’ve been separated from my wife for almost 2 years and celibate, I always seem to slip after a month or two. Just the other day I was thinking about “Question # 1” and the things Mark had shared on this in the workshop. I do believe I am ADHD, ADD, &/or OCD and may need some additional help to get and stay in balance. Your description in this teaching of often feeling restless and empty seem to fit. Is a psych the logical first-step? I also remember Mark speaking about a nuerochemical brain scan. An additional problem for me at this time is no medical coverage; I ‘ve been unemployed for about 8 months.

  2. Bob … thanks for writing, and for your comments. I would highly recommend that you try something to get some help with the neurochemical issues. Think of it this way: if you’re unemployed, obviously finding the money to pay out of pocket to see a good psychiatrist will not be easy. But on the other hand, if there are things you are struggling with, they might also be holding you back in your job search and would impact your work (ADHD would be a classic example). So think of it as an investment.

    Also note that a lot of psychiatrists have access to giving you samples of medication (should something be prescribed for you), and there are also lots of options for generics, so if you let the psychiatrist know about your employment status, he or she might be able to work with you to find something that is more workable financially. Finally, I always recommend that people see a PSYCHIATRIST, and that they don’t rely on their general practitioner. Obviously, having a brain scan done is great … but a good psychiatrist can give you what you need. Keep up the good fight Bob!

  3. Hello Mark and my fellow struggle rs,

    The last time I looked at Porn was 1 year ago. New Years Day 2011 (Okay maybe not quite a year). I was very proud of this bench mark. In fact it wasn’t even a struggle, I just didn’t think that porn had any control over me any longer.

    However, last night I fell off the wagon Big Time. I went to a dance club, and had my share of drinks, the woman were young hot and actin naughty and I was totally digging it. (I’m 38 years old for crying out loud!)
    I got home at 3:30am, and took my laptop into my bed room. I started looking at non-porn pictures, but it didn’t take long to delve back into some really disturbing and hardcore material. I masturbated at least 20 times last night (not exaggerating – my penis is raw and hurts badly) and didn’t sleep a wink. I also MB three times this morning. It’s almost like, “hey broke the seal, might as well keep going at it.” It was like the old bad me rose from the ashes and took over my thoughts and actions.

    I am deeply saddened by my choice. However, I am grateful for this website, I also work with a certified sex therapist. I know that the reason I turn to porn is for instant gratification, and I’m sure there is some type of chemical in my brain that gets stimulated when I look at porn. That is the science part of it, however I know first hand the devastating impact pornography has on ones life. I lost the love of my life years ago because of this problem.

    I just want o comment on a few items that you posted in regard to relapse.
    1. as a child I was diagnosed with having OCD. This was back in the 80’s so it was not fully understood, not is it now. I am not taking medication however I think it is worth looking into.
    2. I have let my boundaries soften. When I first read “out of the shadows” it was an ah ha moment, and had the answers I knew I was searching for. However I seemed to have not focused on the lessons in that book for sometime. In fact I’ve found myself distancing myself from being an addict, you know that someone else’s problem not mine.
    3. I bought a new computer since the last time I looked at pornography, and I took pride in the fact that if someone searched my computer they would not find anything I would be ashamed of, unfortunately that is no longer the case.

    One final not, my therapist and I have uncovered that my real problem stems much deeper then pornography (Not to underestimate the destructiveness of pornography), in fact porn seems to be more of a symptom and not the root of the problem. I seem to have deep emotional issues that I have not dealt with, and porn was a way of feeling brief pleasure, basically no different then any other drug.
    I am particularly concerned with the type of pornography that seems to stimulate me, it centers around abuse and humiliation. I have no recollection of these type of things happening to me as a child, but it is possible that there is a connection. At least I hope there is, because I have no way of explaining why I am drawn to that stuff, and I am ashamed to admit that I am.

    Well these are just some thoughts I felt like sharing with all of you. Maybe some of you can relate to them and that will help you feel less lonely and ashamed.

    I am discouraged by my actions, but I have not lost hope and I know that I can get back on that wagon and hopefully use this as a wake up call to get back on the right track,

    Thank you again for having this website, I know this is not a comfortable topic but ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.


  4. Tom,

    Thanks for commenting, and sharing your story. Sorry to hear about your fall back into the behavior. It sounds like you’re taking steps to make sure it was a slip and not a full blown relapse.

    Your story is instructive, and a good reminder for people who think that they “over it.” It is not uncommon for people to go through periods where the press of sexual temptation really seems to lift for extended periods of time. I do think that as we go through recovery, things do change for us. We get out from under the weight of out of control sexual craving. But we are still vulnerable … and that’s the point that so many people miss.

    I also want to affirm what you and your therapist are talking about — that pornography is a symptom of deeper inner turmoil. That’s true with any addiction. Addictions are tools … they are things we use to cope. As the great therapist Virginia Satir used to say, “the problem is not the problem.” What manifests itself as a problem (behavior) is usually related to something deeper going on.

    1. Mark,

      Thank you for your response. I know that this will always be a struggle, and to be honest I have felt myself slipping for a while. This is not something I can just wish away. Even when I am not struggling with Pornography, I still struggle with personal issues. Depression, loneliness, desperation.

      If you met me in person, and you didn’t know what I have shared, you would never guess any of this. I am well educated, I am a homeowner, I make a good living, I am kind to people, I pay my taxes on time, I don’t cheat to get ahead.

      However there is something about sexuality that mesmerizes me, like the Sirens in Iliad poem. Moreover, I don’t understand why I am attracted to acts that are sadistic and humiliating to women? I know you not a psychologist, and even if you were there ma not be an answer. However, this particular attraction scares me. It is a terrible feeling to be scared of your own sexuality.


      1. This is a really blog, and I’ve laerned a lot from it. I first read about this site from the Chicago Red Eye. I also have a site called Sex Addiction Info .I think your site is full of a lot of good knowledge for people, and I’m going to build a link to you for people to gather more info.

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