Drydocked

Day Twenty-three.

I am still hesitant to declare victory. As I tell my friends in recovery, all I can safely say is that this has been twenty-three days of abstinence; I should not yet call it sobriety. But it feels like sobriety; although that is something I’ve never known before.

At Easter I had a breakthrough. I am still not ready to proclaim it, lest in my pride I fall; but since Holy Saturday, something has radically changed. I have not had a single day in which I felt inordinate temptation. There have been days of loneliness; there have been days of stress; there have been days of severe, nearly paralyzing anxiety; but even when my vice has presented has an escape, it has never for a moment seemed an option.

The pornography and masturbation have been my drug for the past twenty years, to medicate against the anxiety; to dull my senses and numb the pain. And now that they are gone, the anxiety has again seized me in full force. Every time I’ve tried to get away before, I inevitably gave up and gave in, accepting the bondage to the drug as better, at least, than the crippling anxiety. “I need this to cope,” I always said. The temptation was always there then, the seductress always beckoning, waiting in the wings to take me back into her arms as soon as I laid down the fight. But this time, I can no longer feel her calling. There is only the anxiety, and a stillness; only the occasional, rational thought that if I went back to her, I wouldn’t have to deal with this; but going back to her has never seemed more unappealing.

As if my body were working to heal itself from a disease, my unconscious mind seems to be working to purge itself of these demons. I’ve had frequent, intense, vivid dreams, probably half a dozen in only these three weeks — that’s more dreams than I think I’ve had and remembered in the past few years combined. It is in the dreams that temptation presents herself; or perhaps it is my subconscious, in an effort to inoculate me; or perhaps it is my angels, testing me and strengthening me. The dreams have not been troubling — because each time, I’ve been faced with a different situation, each of the ones that have been most deadly to me in my years of enslavement; the ones that every time have melted my resistance like butter and brought me to my knees. But in these dreams, I have faced them and said no; consciously rejected them. Last night’s was probably the most troubling yet. In the dream, I did stray a little, engage in some bad habits that haven’t been a temptation to me for years; and I didn’t boldly, consciously reject them. But when those habits crossed the line into impurity and lust and pornography, my mind, as if to cry out “no!” — woke me up.

All thought of dating and relationships, and any interest in sex or women at all, has passed from me. Learning from my mistakes, gifted with graces I’ve never known before, I am steering clear of the pitfalls that have brought me down so many times before: No more crime TV shows, or even reading about sordid crimes; that only feeds my darkness. No more browsing or even logging into dating sites, which only makes me a gawker in a meat market, surrounded by objects of lust and fantasy. No more AGNES the computer, the host to my evil toys of search and harvest (Father M concurred with my thoughts of her demonic taint, and suggested I take an axe to her; I haven’t yet gone that far, but she is safely out of my hands). I also don’t look at those clothing advertisement circulars that come with the newspaper, which so often are filled with pretty models sometimes dressed immodestly. I probably need to unsubscribe from the email mailing lists of several clothing stores (nothing inappropriate — but I’ve always had a thing for GAP’s pretty models, too). Like a ship drydocked, I’ve taken myself out of the water, away from all the rocks and all the fish, while I’m undergoing repairs.

I thank you all for your prayers. Please continue to pray for me.

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Tantrums

tantrumDay Four. After one last bitter fall, on the most bittersweet of days, Good Friday, I’m now doing quite well — so well I’m rather afraid to tell about it, lest I become prideful and careless and fall. Easter is a time of resurrection and rebirth, of getting up, of breaking the bonds of death. Please pray for me in this critical time.

It occurred to me today that something is changing; something is different. It’s often only in looking back that I realize where I’m coming from. And looking back now, I see it more clearly than I’ve ever seen it before: The very worst, the most brutal of my episodes, my trips into sin, my benders of porn and masturbation and more sinister things, have been tantrums. Like a little child throwing a fit, I’ve willfully abandoned my self-control and lashed out in a demand for attention and reparation — from God? — or in self-pity, wallowing in my own pain, picking at my own scabs, and somehow wishing to “take it out” on the world — ultimately, on myself.

Like a tantrum, there’s always something that gets me upset — not getting the toy I wanted, or not getting to go out and play — wanting it all right now and on my own terms. And what I wanted, what triggers me, is now so clear to me. I’ve acknowledged my dislike of these things before in terms of “this hurts me” or “I don’t want to see that” — but so often my tantrums are directly triggered, precisely by these things: By seeing wedding photos on Facebook, especially of pretty young girls getting married to pretty young boys, both only on the cusp of adulthood, age eighteen or so — as I see so often in certain sects of the evangelical Christian world. Or pictures of adorable babies born to such young couples. Or announcements of engagements or weddings or pregnancies or births, so often involving girls I sort of liked. And I cry out, Why was this denied to me? Why is my lot to be alone? How can all these other people be so blessed, so happy, while I am such a wretch? I must be worthy of so much hate.

All my harvesting, especially as it’s happened lately, of pretty young girls on Facebook; my harvesting of the lovely models on the modeling site; even my harvesting of “amateur” porn, of “self-shots” and other images of supposedly “real” girls — pours forth from this wound. Why was it denied to me to have a girl? Why have I been deprived of this intimacy? I will take it for myself. At its heart, it is all a tantrum. I scream and I cry and I stamp my feet; I flail my arms and pound my fists against the knees of invisible opponents. I go on binges, sucking up as much of my drug as I can, eliciting as much stimulation as I can, to punish myself for not being good enough; to punish God for failing me so bitterly; to punish those around me for being so happy and having what I can never have. I realize, morbidly, that this is the kind of anger, the kind of darkness, that so often becomes the heart of serial killers on the TV shows.

jesus_healerAnd now, I feel something is beginning to change. I used to feel bitter, or pained, or resentful, any time anyone announced they were getting married, or posted wedding photos, or posted photos of their baby. And now, lately — maybe in just the past few days — I don’t anymore. I’ve genuinely felt happy for people. Two or three days is not much to draw a conclusion from, but something is genuinely different. Can it be that my deepest wound is at last beginning to close up?

A prayer I’ve been praying just since Saturday, just since this revolution has begun, begins, asks Jesus to “heal those wounds that have been the cause of all the evil that is rooted in my life.” Can this really be happening?