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Why I need to stay lust-free..

I lost my sobriety today after about  5 weeks. I didn’t binge nor did I watch porn. As I recommit to staying lust-free and sober, I need to remind myself again why this is so important. So, I need to stay from lustful behaviours because:

  • lusting sows desires in the heart and makes them stronger – desires and wishes I have no means of satiating. The key to achieving serenity is to stop feeding these desires so they subside.
  • lusting will lead to acting out, acting out will lead to loss of serenity and peace.
  • lusting harms my spirit and creates internal disturbance within. I am recovering from emotional heartbreak, I need internal peace and comfort within me and can’t afford that disturbance.
  • lusting will lead to engaging in sexually unwanted behaviors. These behaviors will only lead to regret and sorrow and loss in the long run.

I’ve been off of smart phones for over 4 years now. I use my manual phone and its been working fine for me. Four years ago, I really tried using apps that would block explicit content from my smart phone, but I would always manage to find some way to act out using it. With the advent of WhatsApp and its widespread use, I’ve been having to use two phones. One smart phone where I have the app to check for messages occasionally and the other is my regular phone.

This arrangement could continue working but it will be challenged. I am not in a relationship now, but when I am, I think it will get more challenging to keep explaining to my significant other why I have this strange setup. I also don’t have Wifi in my house, and again, that setup will be challenged when I am living with someone else. Also, I can’t control other people’s usage and I will have access to my partners tablets, cellphones, laptop etc when I am living with them. Bottom line is, I can’t be avoiding technology forever and I need to be comfortable around it.

I think I am at a point in my recovery where I can start taking steps to start using smart phones again. More importantly, I am in a situation now where there is good reasons for me to use them. I have recently relocated to a new city which has a 6 hour time difference from my home. I need to have a smart phone on me to be able to communicate with my family. I am also now living in an apartment where there is Wifi. So, it seems circumstances have placed me in a situation where I am being forced to use this technology.

So, instead of avoiding the issue and trying to find another trick to not be around phones, I have decided to tackle the matter head on. I am now carrying a smart phone with me most of the time and so far have managed to stay sober. I am teaching myself to stop looking at it is a device for acting out. The more I surround myself with it, the more comfortable I will become around it.

The challenge for me will be when I am triggered and alone with it. If I am not triggered, I am fine. Its been two weeks and I have been fine so far. It is those moments of weakness that I fear. Will I be able to hold back in that moment? When I am alone with it at night and craving some eye candy and a quick fix?

The key is to not allow myself to be triggered so that craving doesn’t come in the first place. If I am lowering my gaze and avoiding triggers, I am fine. I don’t crave or even think about acting out. But if I cross any boundaries, that’s when I am in trouble.

Last year, I had one session (which lasted a few days) where I indulged. And that was the one time I had a phone with me as I was travelling. This year, my goal is to have no indulgences – and have a phone with me as well. It will be a challenge, but I am up for it.

As I renew my commitment to staying sober, I need to remind myself of the reasons why I need to stay sober. By God’s grace, my life is not unmanageable like it used to be, so I need more of a connection to my ‘why’. The reasons for staying sober for me today are not the same as they were 3 years ago. Back then I was battling porn, today I am battling the root of that addiction: my lust. So here are the reasons I am recommitting to staying sober.

  • Acting out with fantasy feeds my lust. The more I feed my lust, the stronger it gets. In order to develop self-discipline and control over my lust, I need to deny the urge to  indulge every time I have lustful thoughts.
  • Feeding my lust leads to engaging in unwanted behaviors such as: pornography, compulsive masturbation, treating women poorly and seeking illicit relations. Those are the things I have been fighting all along and I don’t want to go to square one.
  • Staying sober forces me to work on avoiding the things that trigger my lust and my urge to act out. It forces me to lower my gaze around women, forces me to avoid watching racy images on social media, movies etc.
  • I don’t know when I will get married so I can enjoy healthy sexual relations. I need to have control over my lust if I am to stay serene and independent as a single person.
  • Even after I am married, I will need to have control over my lust so I am able to maintain healthy relations with my wife. I will need to be able to lower my gaze, to avoid affairs, to abstain from porn, to avoid compulsive masturbation etc, even after I am married. Marriage won’t make those issues go away, so I need to be able to control my lust from now onwards.

Reflecting on my relapses over the past two months have made me realize that I am relapsing because I have been missing the big picture. Reading the White Book of Sexaholics Anonymous recently,  I was reminded of my step 1: I admit that I am powerless over my lust.

I am powerless over my lust, not porn..lust. Compulsive masturbation and pornography watching are one aspect of this inability to control my lustful and base desires. My ultimate goal is to keep my lust in check, and if that is in check, my porn addiction will be in check.

I have been relapsing because I have not changed my mindset in light of the progress I’ve made. For my old self, all that mattered was that I stay away from porn. So I’ve allowed myself to relapse lately because I was managing to stay away from porn. But that’s too low a bar. That’s easy for me to do now. I need to raise the bar.

If I need true serenity and a healthy sobriety, I need to work on staying lust-free. That’s the new standard. I have to stay sober not so that I don’t fall into porn again, but so that I am able to have my lust under control. It’s not about overcoming a porn addiction anymore, it’s about mastering and trying to control my lust.

I had lost my sobriety in July after about 8 months but had not resorted to porn; I only ended up masturbating due to lustful thoughts.

In the days and weeks following that first incident, I had lost the motivation to work on staying sober. Perhaps it was all these months of not acting out that I had this sexual energy bottled up inside of me. So basically, for about a month, I masturbated on a regular basis.

Again, despite all the experience I’ve had with recovery, I deluded myself into thinking I was better now and I could manage this and I didn’t need to work so hard at staying sober.

And lo and behold, I eventually ended up relapsing with pornography after about a month of not staying sober.

It took that long mainly because I didn’t have access to porn. Last month I was traveling for work and had to carry a smart phone with me. I was concerned I would use it to act out, but I didn’t have a choice and had to use the phone while I was a way. And after about 2 weeks of managing to avoid it, I eventually gave in and watched it.

It had been almost a year since my last viewing. I thought the desire to watch it would have faded after such a long time, but it didn’t..and I snapped back into it.

It has been 1.5 months since that incident. I have not returned to it by God’s grace. Unlike my old days where I would have cravings every two weeks, I didn’t have cravings for it all this time. Unlike before when I would fantasize about indulging in it again during the time I was ‘sober’, I have not even thought about it. Unlike before where I would find any means to indulge and binge after two weeks, I have not sought it out for the last 1.5 months.

I think that’s the difference between myself now compared to about 3 years ago. While I did act out, I didn’t loose my serenity over it. I haven’t been obsessively thinking about it or craving it. I am able to focus on work and other things. Alhamduillah for this progress.

I wrote a few posts ago about how I called and made amends with my ex.

While I felt relieved after the call, I felt the need to do more. The rock on my chest wasn’t lifted. I had sent her a gift after the call as a thank you and she sent me a message thanking me for it. So that was a positive thing.

So several weeks after the call, I sent her an email saying that I was going to be visiting her city and wanted to see if she was free to grab coffee. I wasn’t sure if she’d entertain the idea, but to my surprise she agreed! I couldn’t believe it, I was gonna be seeing her again.

I had to be clear about my intent. I didn’t go there to try to win her over again or something. I was gonna stick with what I said just meet for coffee to catchup. My desire was to build that comfort again that we lost and to leave behind a better impression of myself. I was so disappointed in my behavior last time. This was step-10-and-a-half for me – ‘Took actions of love to improve our relationships with others’. This was an act of love. My wish was that perhaps a better version of myself might give her reason to reconsider me, but I wasn’t there to bring up the subject. My hope was that we could be friends again at least…perhaps she might add me on facebook again.

So, I took the long journey to her city just so I could have a coffee with her (she didn’t know I was coming to just meet her). I was quite nervous she might change her mind..esp. as she was late. But she eventually showed up and we had a wonderful evening. I was looking for signs to see if she was just doing this as an obligation (perhaps she felt guilty still for being too harsh on me) and wanted to keep it short and simple…or of she was actually comfortable being around me.

To my surprise, it was the latter and she actually seemed okay hanging out with me. I had asked for coffee..but we ended up getting dinner and she herself proposed going for dessert. I thought we might have hung out for an hour at most..but we almost spent 4 hours together.

By the end of the evening, she opened up to me about her own problems…partially explaining her over- reaction to my mistake. The relationship topic came up in conversation…and it turned out she was still single. I asked if she’d ever reconsider things between us, and she seemed open to the idea..though she still wasn’t sure and needed to think. She said we should stay connected as friends and maybe revisit this at a future time.

The evening ended on a good note..far beyond my wildest expectations. She gave me a hug and told me I could call her anytime. She said she’d add me on facebook again. I couldn’t believe it…I had hoped for that very thing. Its as if all my prayers and wishes were coming true.

I went back to my hotel and was breathing heavily. I felt like a rock was lifted off my chest. I had this constriction in my chest for so long…and Allah created the means to finally lift it. I had been praying for an expansion in my chest based on the dua of Musa, and that is just what happened. I felt so elated, relieved and grateful. I was so happy to be able to see her again, to know that she felt comfortable around me again, to know that she had a good opinion of me. I was given a 2nd chance and I was so grateful. Imagine living a life where I didn’t get that..having to carry that weight with me my whole life. I felt so grateful for everything.

So I wanted to share that story for those in similar situations. Things can get better even in strained relationships. You just have to do your part and rely on God. An important lesson learnt was that time alone does not heal all wounds. Time wasn’t healing me. Months had gone by since things ended between us and that heaviness on my chest wasn’t going away. Apologizing isn’t enough as I did that right after our fight and she was too mad to accept me at the time. It is only when I was able to right the wrong that I did, made amends and reconnected with the person, that I felt that the burden and heaviness went away.

Many weeks have gone by since we met. There haven’t been any signs on progression on the relationship front. I don’t know if she was serious about reconsidering me…or if she said that out of kindness on the spot. I had hoped that evening could be the start of something new, but that didn’t happen. I’ve tried to reach out to her with hopes of advancing things, but no luck.

So that’s the other lesson. You can’t always get everything you want, even if it might appear that things are going your way. I didn’t think we could actually be together…but that evening had given me hope and that was the wish in my heart…and it remains to be. I have to accept that I can’t really do anything about this wish…I’ve done everything I could to pursue her further but she won’t reciprocate. So, I am learning to accept that not all things are meant to be and you don’t get to control another person’s heart. I am just grateful I got a 2nd chance and Allah lifted the constriction in my chest. I didn’t even deserve that, but I am so grateful the All-Mighty blessed me with that.

I read a great piece about infidelity in marriages in the Atlantic today. The author, a therapist, goes into the all the complex reasons why couples who are happy end up cheating.

While its all interesting to read, it also highlights the inability of these psychologists to acknowledge the spiritual realities that lead to infidelity. The can’t seem to recognize that it is our inability to control our base desires, our whims, our lust and our ego that lead to things like adultery. They refrain from making a moral judgement on the clearly immoral actions of their clients, and they use fancy language to explain the psychological reasons behind these dangerous actions.

So, if you want to spare yourself the long read, let me give you the real reasons why happy people cheat: its because we have lost control over our base desires. Instead of learning to tame our lower-self (nafs), we’ve been taught to feed its whims in the name of liberation, freedom and discovering a ‘new identity’. We have forgotten who our real Master is and we’ve become slaves to our nafs. We feed it what it wants, when it wants. And it never satiates – the more you give into them, the stronger the desires will get. As Ibn Arabi says, ‘The desires of this world are like sea water, the more you drink of them, the more you’ll thirst’.

So, you want to save yourself from falling into adultery, here’s the secret: deny, deny and deny what your nafs wants.