We are back with our third edition of answering anonymous questions. I want to give large props to those who submit these questions. Also, so sorry it took us so long to get this one out! I hope our answers are helpful. To answer this episodes question I was able to catch up with Brian Murdock, LCMHC of Brian Murdock Counseling. Brian has been in the mental health field since 1992. In private practice he currently works with sexual addiction and traumas connected to those addictions.
Your Question: I'm grateful I found this site. My life situation is such that I don't have any "safe" people I can talk to besides my wife, who is amazingly supportive and understanding. There limits though to how much she can help. So my question for you is, what do you define as "being sober." I find for drug addicts and alcoholics, it's easy. You can want to drink. Think about drinking. But as long as you don't drink, you're "sober" and thus "worthy" in the eyes of a bishop. I feel with any form of SA, there's such a continuum. My brain and emotions have been broken for so long that phrases like "do your best" "when you feel worthy" "when you feel forgiven" "when you no longer want it" are of no help. I want to be sober and past this so badly. But I don't even know what that is other than "not having any arousing thought about anything except my wife," which seems impossible. Thank you.
Answer: To get to the first part of your question about defining sobriety. It sounds like you are asking ‘When do I finally know I am ok?!’. I’ve asked myself these questions a lot. I can also relate to feeling like you are on a merry-go-round that you can’t get off. The first thing is understanding the difference between sobriety and recovery.
“You can have those same thoughts and not be acting on those behaviors, which Steve just defined, and that’s being sober. That’s not recovery in my mind; recovery is what I think you're craving and what you want. In recovery, I felt there was almost a physical change in my brain.” – Brian
Sounds like you get sobriety. When you start working on recovery Brian described it as a lifestyle change. Having more awareness around your emotions and thoughts. “I don’t have to constantly be on guard. I don’t have to constantly be fighting those thoughts. And it is absolutely possible to get there.” Recovery is a little different for everyone but some themes are honesty, self-compassion, and connection with God. Brian also talked about how the work of real lifestyle change just seems like a lot of work upfront, but we can tell you, it’s worth it. I’d recommend listening to Chris & Autumn’s story and Mack & Melissa’s story. The idea that you’ll always be fighting this just isn’t true. With sobriety and recovery, you can be free.
“One of the biggest things we have to remember is self-compassion and self-care. We know that God loves and always will no matter what. If we can take that knowledge that he loves us and have that be our core versus “I’m bad” then we can move forward…Just because we’ve made a bad decision (or decisions) doesn’t mean we are bad.” - Brian
Lastly, you talked about how you feel alone. Haven’t we all! I highly recommend connecting and participating in a 12-step group (ex: SALifeLine), group therapy (ex: LifeSTAR), or retreat (ex: Wild at Heart). “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection” – Johann Hari. In my experience, I have not found any men that find recovery without having connections with some other men where they can talk about the addiction out loud. If you have men that are organically in your life (bothers, friends, etc) all the better and I promise there are men close to you that also struggle with sexual addiction.
We hope these answers have been helpful! Thank you for having the courage to ask and be an Outsider. By doing so you give other men courage to reach out and connect as well.