Knowing that at least one of my favorite readers not only seems to share our philosophy about infidelity and marital recovery but also is a mental health professional, I want to share my latest effort to learn something relevant from Recovery Nation. Lesson 28 asked me to think of my most recent acting out behavior in terms of a compulsive chain. Here’s my attempt at responding to the exercise questions.
1. “Develop a compulsive chain of your most recent acting out behavior.” I have had an enormous amount of trouble figuring out how to approach this exercise. At first I thought it was because my last acting out behavior was so long ago. Now I wonder whether I even understand what a compulsive behavior is, in the context of my personal failings. Was it a compulsive behavior when I told my wife I had not clicked on a tantalizing computer link when in fact I did? Maybe that’s it. If so, the chain of events was as follows. I’m talking about the lie, not about the click itself. First, trying to be proactive and honest, I told her I had seen a link on the Internet that purported to take the viewer to see “25 women you won’t believe exist.” Second, she asked me whether I had clicked on it. Third, I felt an internal burst of panic. I think it was fear. Fourth, instead of telling her the whole truth, that I had clicked the link but had successfully pulled myself away after a brief moment, I said that I had not clicked it. Fifth, I thought to myself, “Oh, shit, that wasn’t really true, was it?” Sixth, I thought to myself, “Hmm, what do I do now?” Seventh, I thought, “Well, hopefully that’s over, and maybe it’s safest not to reopen it.” How’s that for a compulsive chain? Is that compulsive lying? Or, is it compulsive cowardice?
2. “Upon completion of this chain, review it to ensure that you can recognize the way that each element affected your emotional state.” When I first started to tell my wife about the Internet incident I felt some fear. When she questioned me, the fear increased. Each time I thought about the predicament I had created for myself by responding with a thoughtless half-truth, I became more flustered and more afraid.
3. “Thinking as an addict, look for areas within this chain where you could add additional destructive elements that would have (most likely) increased the overall stimulation of the event. The actual events that you add should be realistic, and related to the chain itself. For instance, someone viewing porn might add the element of setting up a Power Point slide show of the images. Someone engaging in escort services might add the element of videotaping the encounters.”
This is where it becomes more confusing for me. Did I fail to tell my wife I had clicked the link because I was addicted to lying? Did lying stimulate me? I’d describe that as a terrible habit on my part, not an addiction. Maybe my click-bait lie example doesn’t really work as an example of a compulsive chain.
Was it a compulsive chain when I began covertly smoking in 2013? Maybe. Perhaps the chain was as follows. First, I was mentally exhausted from adjusting to lots of new circumstances at work and disrupted daily routines, and I was lonely and restless due to being away from my wife. Subsequently, I felt an urge to do something self-indulgent. It could have been anything. In the past I might have masturbated or sought a prostitute or easy woman. But, I had sworn off those behaviors. Instead, I tried a chocolate ice cream bar. That worked for a few nights, until I got too worried about my caloric intake. So, I tried a cigarette. In retrospect, I should have instead tried a book or even a video game if I was intent on self-indulgence.
That’s really it. It seems there were only two steps in that chain. Now the exercise asks me to think of ways I could have enhanced the self-indulgent pleasure from that cigarette. Well, I guess I could have combined the smoking with alcohol or sex. Thank God I was not tempted by those or other things during that part of my life.
Dear readers, that’s my latest effort at using Recovery Nation. It seems to be designed for me to talk about an act of compulsive sex. I struggle fitting my adultery into that rubric. The last time I had adulterous sex or even masturbation was four and a half years ago. Further, my adulterous sex was pre-meditated and intentional. It was not beyond my control. Does that fit with compulsion?