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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.
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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.

About 5 days short of my 8 months of sobriety, I gave into my temptations and acted out. I saw it coming. As the summer had started and there was ‘skin’ back on the streets, I was taking the drinks with my eyes. I had been trying to work on my second gazes, but not too seriously. There were also a few flirtatious exchanges with a girl in my class who I was planning to take out..but it didn’t end up going anywhere. Regardless, I still had lustful thoughts about her. There was trip to the beach as well where I soaked in the images of women I could see around me.

Instagram had been a culprit too. One way or another, I would land on the pages of women I shouldn’t be looking at. There was this one rather attractive girl who started following me for whatever reason and we even chatted a few times…girls never respond to DM’s…so not sure how this happened. I had lots of lustful thoughts about her too..and that pretty much did it. One night lying in my bed I found myself super triggered and gave in. I ended up masturbating and lost my sobriety.

I didn’t go as far as to watch porn; although I was tempted. I binged a little. For next few days, I’d act out before going to sleep. I guess I had lots of sexual frustration built-up inside of the me after all these months..and I needed a release.

There’s a part of me that certainly said, hey, this isn’t so bad. You can just masturbate occasionally..why go back to staying sober and living that tough life. But I know I must recommit to sobriety. I called my sponsor and told him what happened and recommitted. I have gotten rid of the things that triggered me. E.g. I cleaned up my instagram newsfeed and no longer take my smartphone to work..its stays at home where there is no WiFi.

Today I want to write and document here why I am recommitting to sobriety.

– Masturbation is always accompanied by lustful fantasy. Lustful fantasy either has to be fueled by pornography or seeking out illicit relations. Both of these are sinful and displeasing to God. They damage my serenity, spiritual well-being and manageability of life in general.

– I’ve already tried the ‘occasional’ masturbation approach in the winter and summer of 2017. I would stay away from porn, but didn’t abstain from masturbation if I felt triggered. Result? I had no control over my lust and would need to fuel my fantasy by seeking out women or images online. It would eventually lead to binge watching porn after about every 3 months. Compare that to complete sobriety for 8 months: I just wouldn’t seek out means to fuel my lust and would only work towards staying away from triggers. I have some degree of self-control now over my lust. I feel serene when I am not having to worry about getting that ‘fix’ somehow. I feel independent of that intense need for sex. I want to continue this path as opposed to going back.

– The more I feed my desires, the stronger they get. There’s no permanence in the satiety attained after acting out. You just feel like crap the next day. I am an addict and there’s no form of ‘moderate’ dose of this that I can have…if I allow myself even a little, I will just starting acting out compulsively.

– I don’t know when I’ll be able to enjoy healthy sexual relations in marriage. I don’t know when I’ll find my wife..or if, for that matter. I must learn to control my base desires until then, lest I be driven to marriage out of an intense need to satiate my thirst.

– Even after I am married, I will need to control my desires as my lust won’t just disappear and my wife won’t just be available for sex whenever I want it. I will still have to protect myself from affairs, pornography and lusting after women other than my wife. I need to practice sobriety to ensure I have a healthy relationship with my wife.

– The stronger my sobriety is, the more independent and successful I can be in relationships in general. I won’t get into dependency relationships that way….I will only get into one when I find the right women I feel I can genuinely love and I won’t feel the urge to ‘settle’. Sobriety ensures that I am not approaching women for a ‘quick fix’ and am not approaching out of desperation.

– A strong sobriety will prepare me for the worst of what life could throw at me e.g. I am not able to find what I am looking for and have to stay single forever, I might end up getting married but it doesn’t work out and I am having to go back to being alone etc. God forbid any of those ever happen, but one must be ready what life throws at you.

When things ended between us, she said she never wanted to speak to me again. She told me to never to contact her again and said she was no longer comfortable around me. She unfriended me on Facebook and cut me off from all social media. I apologized to her the next day and asked forgiveness. She said she forgives me, but said she still didn’t want any contact for me or speak to me again.

I was heartbroken, devastated, rejected and felt humiliated. I had never had such an experience before. I felt like I had lost my dignity and the good opinion she used to have of me. People break up all the time, I’ve had break ups before. But this was different. This was a woman I loved and wanted to marry. I’ve never felt this way about anyone else before.

I figured I’d forget about it all after a few weeks but that didn’t happen. A month, two months, three months and more….my feelings for her, my yearning for her didn’t change with time. I never contacted her, looked at her pictures or tried following her life on Instagram during this time…she was just in my heart. It was clear this wasn’t just some obsession..or else it would have faded by now. I didn’t think I’d care enough to want to try contact her again after a few months to try to set things right…but I did. I wanted to at least try.

I was in a place in the program where I had to do my Step 9, so the timings were good. I did Istikhara and consulted my sponsor who gave me the green light. Enough time had passed where he felt she might be in a place to hear from me again. I was going to call her out of the blue, but my sponsor advised to email her and ask permission first. I didn’t want to do that as I knew she wouldn’t respond. However, calling her out of the blue would be like ‘barging though the door’ my sponsor said, and I should knock first. If she doesn’t open the door, then I have to accept it. I recognized that this was the right approach as well as real amends can only happen if the other person cares enough to actually listen to what you have to say. The point of amends, for me anyways, was not to just get some guilt of my chest and move on (I had already tried apologizing and the guilt had faded months ago). The point was to accept responsibility for my wrongs, try to set things right and hopefully reestablish connection. This can only happen if the other person cares enough to hear from you again.

The point obviously was not to try to get her back either, and I had to be careful not to give her that impression. I had accepted that there’s nothing I can do of my own will to get her back. Her mind was made up about me (even before our fight) and when a woman makes up her mind, she rarely changes it. We could have stayed on good terms after deciding to end things, but things ended badly because of mistakes I made. The connection ended because of me. My hope was to try to reopen that door and leave behind a better impression of myself. That’s the part I can do and is my responsibility. If for whatever reason this effort leads to her having a change of heart, then great. However, I wasn’t going to try convince her to love me..I can’t do that. God controls her heart. Only He can.

So I typed up a short email explaining that I had been working on myself and wanted to call her and try to make amends. I told her that I realized I was making excuses for myself last time when I tried to apologize, and I want to take responsibility for my wrong actions and try to right wrongs. I told her I was doing this because I cared for her still, because I felt she deserved better than what I offered her last time. I read it over and over again (and got others to read it) to make sure it wasn’t full of egotism, narcissism and self-pity. This wasn’t a plea asking her to help me overcome my guilt; this was an attempt by me to redress the wrong done to her and offer her what she deserved. I recognized in the email that she had to no impetus to give me this chance, but that I would be grateful if she’d let me call her to make amends.

I was reasonably certain she wouldn’t respond, or she might respond with something courteous saying she forgives me but doesn’t want to talk. She was a generous and kindhearted person, so I figured she’d be nice about it..but didn’t think she’d care enough to hear for me again.

But she did! She responded within an hour and said she had forgiven me a long time ago and that I should forget about it all. She said she’d offer me a chance for a call too if I really wanted.

So, we setup a time and I called her. I was dreading having to do it. I had to really swallow up my pride and go for it. It was quite emotionally draining on me. But I am so glad that I did. I wrote out my amends and read them to her. I acknowledged the wrong I did, how it had harmed her and apologized for each thing specifically. I tried to honour her, and restore her pride and dignity which my poor behaviour had trampled on. I took responsibility and offered her something more honest and sincere.

She appreciated what I said and forgave me. She said in retrospect, she felt that she might have been too harsh on me and apologized as well. She said not to dwell on this and move on; no more hard feelings. She said she recognized now that my intentions were never to harm her or take advantage of her; she had a high opinion of me. The rest of the conversation, we just caught up on life and chatted about what’s transpired since we last spoke. It was a good conversation, much like the old days.

I felt elated after the call. This was nothing short of a miracle. I never thought I’d hear her voice again. I never thought God would give me a chance to make amends. I never thought I could get some of my dignity back. I never thought we’d have a normal conversation again. But alhamduillah, God is Great!

I must admit, there was also a sense of unfulfillment and sadness as well. Based on how she spoke, it was obvious her mind about me had not changed during this time. She took my call as a gesture of kindness and so that hearts could be mended, but that was it. It was obvious there was no inclination in her heart to go any further than this.

I accept that. I am grateful I got this chance; most don’t even get this. Beggars can’t be choosers. If the woman I love at least has a good opinion of me, I can be happy with that….even if she doesn’t want to be my wife.

So, the point of the post is, miracles can happen! If you have ended things badly with someone and you want to try to set things right, then at least try. Give it thought, take the right means and pray to God to give you a chance. It can be emotionally draining and takes a lot of work, but is worth it in the end. There’s no feeling like knowing you’ve mended a bond that you broke.