Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Identifying the Cues

Charles Duhigg, in his book ‘The Power of Habit’, writes that almost all cues (the thing that reminds or triggers my brain to seek a reward through a certain behaviour) falls into five categories: Location, Time, Emotional State, Other People and Immediately-proceeding action. Below are the cues to pretty much every relapse I have had from age 12 to 30 in these categories:

Location
The number one place I relapse is my bedroom. I haven’t moved out my mother’s house for all sorts of reasons but at 30 I intend to move out. This is due to various reasons but mainly because I have been sleeping in the same room for 30 years and a major change of environment may help break the PMO habit. Other locations include hotel rooms and other people’s houses. Hotel room relapses were caused by hangovers. Other people’s houses were always done in bed. The bedroom is the place I most likely relapse in. I have relapsed while showering before. I brought my phone with me to the bathroom, silly idea.

I try to reduce the amount of time I spend in my bedroom. I have committed to this idea by buying a tablet with a keyboard so I can write and do other duties outside instead of being stuck at home. Unfortunately, I don’t have the privilege of additional rooms at home; and so as a designer, I still have to work on my home computer within my bedroom. However I believe changing the environment has to happen. If location is one of my biggest cues, then surely leaving the house I have spent for 30 years in, would be a major step in breaking the habit.

Time
I’ve relapsed all day and night, but the most popular times are the evening, about to go sleep, or the morning, about to fully wake up. Daytime relapses are usually due to hangovers and staying at home all day. I believe time is obviously linked to location, the bed. I’ll have a full blog post about this soon.

Emotional State
Things that saps self-discipline and willpower will affect how I deal with urges. This include all the below. All of these can be managed:

Lack of Achievement (procrastination)
I plan things to do everyday and when I don’t do them due to my own stupidness, I become depressed. I have to learn how to plan accordingly, be honest with myself and be patient. I have to be realistic about myself and eliminate distractions.

Stress Relief
During stressful times, the PMO habit gives me relieve. It becomes a session to just calm down, gain some pleasure and escape reality. The problem with this is that it lasts a very short time. In fact, right after I gain the reward I become depressed. However there are other ways to deal with stress. I believe I must explore these to find alternative stress reliefs that do not turn into a bad habit.

Hangover
Hangovers completely deplete my willpower and self-discipline. I’m also depressed when I am hungover because I know I am incapacitated to do literally anything, which then leads of lack of achievement because I am not doing the stuff I am suppose to do that given day. There is a simple solution to this; Stop drinking or drink responsibly.

Arousal
‘Morning wood’ is something to overcome in the morning. Thinking about past sexual experiences at home or whilst in bed. Arousal is natural but sadly leads to relapses. My brain believes it is explicit content that I need to relief myself from arousal.

Sleepy
Tiredness affects my self-discipline both in the morning and in the evening. A regular sleeping schedule and willpower will help this.

Other People
Alone
Most urges occur when I am alone. Although being in a relationship seems like a fix for this, it isn’t practical, eventually I will be alone and will have to deal with this.

Sexual Partner
I’ve woken up with multiple sexual partners and experienced urges. These urges are easy to deal with because there is no way of actually relapsing. I’ve never relapsed with a sexual partner.

My mother
My mother stresses me out all the time with her passive aggressiveness. The mother-son relationship has now got to a point where I believe I am unable to live with her. Maturity has a role in this. A change in environment for me has to be made to get the relationship with my mother where I would want it to be. The stress of my mother could be a cause for escape.

Things online
Whilst at home, online images or things said by people in videos can trigger urges. The images, words or phrases are said repeatedly in my mind and then I start to remember explicit images and scenes. This can occur anywhere, but at home it can become a real struggle. I have yet to find out how to deal with it. This can happen at any moment at home.

Immediate – Preceding Action (what action came before the urge)
This is the thing I struggle most to identify. I’ve done so many actions before urges. I suppose the most common action that takes place is laying down:

Lying down (tired – lazy)
Lying down (going to bed)
Lying down (waking up)

Then eventually picking up a device to proceed with the routine.

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Process

I have no idea how long it would take to reach the point I can say I am free from this addiction. It’s certainly taking years.

The way I view myself and others has changed a lot since the age of 24 (I am 30 upon writing this). It’s been a humbling experience as I realise I am human just like everyone else. Emotions are something one cannot depend on and a lot of people go through the same stuff but handle them differently. I am more self aware of myself and my actions. It started off with being aware of my addiction and then spiralled into other bad habits in my life, for example drinking. The changes have been part of the process. It’s a slow journey towards being free. This moment is about mending. The process of mending a brain that has been damaged by a mixture of technology and exploitation.

Opening up and talking to others about it is always progress. Sharing ideas, experiences, and opinions. I get a chance to try and make some friends in the process. This is one of many reasons why I started my Instagram account. There is some accountability towards it. People who follow it are actually supportive. This on top of learning about myself by studying myself. What works? What does not? Why did I relapse? I am my own experiment constantly testing out various ways to beat this addiction and documenting it using my own craft.

There is a big difference between the 24 year old me, the me writing this and the various versions of me that will be reading this. It really comes down to the big moment I noticed I had a serious issue and the little moments after up until now. There have been so many times I had to reset the counter back to 0, even when the supporters are encouraging me to keep staying strong. There have been multiple times I have been impatient, asking myself why does this take so long to get over? Surely this isn’t possible? There have been times I felt like a fraud writing about this and have people thinking it is a success story, it really isn’t… yet. I can promise during the years of trying to overcome the addiction that I have not thought about giving up.

The things I have learnt about myself and the change of perception towards other people is as important as the end goal. I would dare say more important than overcoming the addiction itself. However there is still a long way to go because this addiction has still got a great hold of me. I trust the process enough to say by the end of this, whether I do overcome the addiction or not, I will turn out to be a better human being. I would do everything I can during the process to ensure the end goal is met.

 

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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Just a counter

Relapsed.
Day 0.
Time to start all over again, right?

Wrong.

The truth is progress has been made. Day 0 literally means a counter goes back to 0. That’s all it is, a counter.

I try to seek other people dealing with this addiction and connect with them. For some, if they relapse and go back to day 0, they feel like they failed and they have to start right back to the very beginning, which is completely wrong. They have emotionally invested too much into a counter. I haven’t failed if I went 3 days in a row without watching explicit content, but on the 4th day I did. It’s an achievement.

Counting consecutive days should solely be used for motivation purposes but shouldn’t be considered anymore important. Those days I went without explicit content, that are not part of the current streak, are past victories. Positive data that should encourage one to keep going and striving for more. I once went 22 consecutive days one year ago. I use that as encouragement. 22 days! Could I possibly go a whole month? It means it is possible that I could do it again. But going on a winning streak shouldn’t be the end goal.

So if it isn’t consecutive days, what is real progress? If the start is realising I have a serious issue and the end is overcoming the issue, what is in-between?

The answer is the present day. Right now. To even go on a winning streak means dealing with each and every day with care. I know this and still fail, it is hard. The real progress are the things I am learning about myself and the changes I have to make.

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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Getting to the Start Line

Dealing with my addiction has made me notice other people and their addictions. To be honest, I have worked in the gambling industry for five years. So maybe witnessing people gamble their lives away has played a major role.

What is interesting to notice is the people who are completely unaware of their behaviour and so cannot begin to deal with their addiction.

Someone who is miles away from the start line is a person who is addicted and is completely unaware. Nothing is wrong with them. In fact, they will defend their habit and may even become upset it has been brought up that they may have a problem. For gamblers: “I can stop whenever I want to.” “I’m only making small bets.” “This is how I spend ‘me’ time before I go home to the family.” For users: “Everybody masturbates, it is natural.” “You get the opportunity to see these ‘hot chicks getting laid’.” “Great way to get rid of stress and sexual frustration.” Insert other defensive comments here. As Morpheus from the film ‘The Matrix’ states:

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

Someone who is closer to the start line, is a person who is addicted, aware of it but has done nothing or simply quit. I tried to quit but it is too hard. I haven’t got the time. Insert excuse and defensive comment here. They’re fully aware it is bad for them and yet they continue. It’s not that important to them. They could become upset because deep down they know, they need to stop.

A person who is at the start line, is a person who is addicted and aware of it. They received real evidence that it is costing them too much and it is time to really address this. It’s that “holy crap, this is actually destroying me” moment and they start seeking information about it. It’s the moment that it has now made this become really important to them.

For a gambler, this could be when they have used their rent money to bet on a horse and lost. I’ve seen that moment on their face. Some just walked away. Some have walked towards me, told me they now can’t pay their rent and either seeked assistance or walked away.

For me this, “holy crap, this is actually destroying me” moment, happened at age 24. It was a couple of days after not ejaculating during sex, again, and seeking information about it online. Consuming explicit sexual content was costing me the chance to perform sex naturally.

It’s a shame that it took real evidence to persuade me and others that they have a serious addiction. Hopefully other people will learn the easy way.

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Thursday, 25 January 2018

Inner Freedom

 

“How you gonna win, when you ain’t right within?” – Lauryn Hill

Overcoming my habit is the primary objective for this year, just like last year and the year before that. Although I am still struggling with urges and relapses, I have been making small progress. An evening or morning here and there overcoming urges.  A small win is still a win. The main thing I have learnt during my absence from this blog, is that I have to deal with my inner troubles before I can manage the external things we call life. Dealing with inner issues and sticking to principles would be setting foundations to handle anything that life throws. During my absence, I broke a promise to not get into a relationship until I handled my inner issue. That relationship ended after a couple months because of my inner issue. I wasn’t surprised it ended. This is an example of my inner issue becoming external and affecting others. I wasn’t right within.

To me, Inner freedom means possessing the power and resources to fulfil one’s own potential. It is controlling what you can control (yourself) to go out and be the best you can be. External freedom means freedom to do whatever and say whatever you want, however we do this, we must face the consequences. My addiction is holding me back greatly and unabling me to fulfil my potential. So much time and energy have been spent chasing a dopamine hit, in fact I record the time. I mainly use my phone during relapse and I have an app called ‘QualityTime’, that tells me how much time I spend on my phone and which apps I spend more time on. When I overcome my addiction, I will cut two to three hours of the time I would spend daily using my phone. That’s an extra two to three hours doing/focusing on something else than watching explicit online material. To do this means controlling the controllables which are the things that are within.

There are many things I want to do in life, but I believe I will not get there until I deal with my inner issue first. I have to deal with my addiction. I have to strive and maintain being right within.

 

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