In early recovery, in the process of ending the unhealthy compulsive behaviours I was engaging in, I many times had to deal with the cravings that are part of the withdrawal period.
Sometimes those cravings would come in the form of a desire to watch porn or to masturbate using sexual fantasy. At times there were urges to contact past acting out persons. The cravings, which many times were sparked by an image, thought or even a conversation, would create an intense internal struggle. It was a fight with my own mind, a fight to get rid of those images and intense feelings related to the cravings.
In addition to the cravings, when I entered recovery I still carried with me one of the trademarks of addiction: self-delusion. Basically the addict mind tries to find all kind of excuses to allow room for sexual or emotional compulsive behaviour during the active addiction and the early recovery withdrawal period. Thoughts and excuses like “one last time”, “other people I know do this also”, “men are like this”, “nobody will find out”, “I am not really hurting anyone” are common. All these thoughts and excuses are addict mind games and in early recovery it is important to recognise these when they come.
Self-delusion is one of the reasons why in early recovery we need a lot of help. We need help both in regards to ways to cope with and eliminate the cravings and to stop the delusion. Help for me came in the form of my therapist, the SLAA meetings, the 12 steps, reading on sex addiction and recovery, my sponsor, my partner in life and soon after from a new-found spirituality. In order to overcome the hurdles that my mind was placing in front of me it was necessary to overcome any feelings of shame or embarassment and reach out to as many healthy sources of help as possible.
Delusion goes away provided we have the courage, honesty and integrity in early recovery to reach out and cross check with people who are honest and want the best for us. These people do not include either women or men we were having an affair with, nor prostitutes, nor casual sex partners, nor married ‘friends’ that cheat on their partners and nor single friends that engage in promiscuous sexual behaviour. Our therapist, sponsor, other long term sober members, a family member who is healthy and we most trust are a wise insurance policy against delusion.
The cravings that I faced in early recovery are long gone. They have gone away after being open to receiving help, being accountable and taking action to help myself at the same time. I now have the necessary tools and my support network to dissolve delusion and maintain healthy boundaries.
If you are in early recovery, remember that withdrawal symptoms do pass. Remember also that you are not alone. Reach out for help from healthy sources and you will receive it. Freedom from cravings and delusion are possible and so is a healthy life.