Practical Urge Awareness

Lesson forty-seven of Recovery Nation gives an example that made me think. It said, imagine two years in the future having an opportunity to have an affair and having the urge to act on it. I thought about this quite a bit. I do feel confident I would not give in to such an urge. But, here’s the more important lesson, in my mind. There are many, many opportunities to stop or prevent such a hypothetical scenario from ever happening. There is absolutely no reason to find oneself in the position of “having the opportunity to have an affair.”

I guess it depends on how you define “having the opportunity to have an affair.” When I read that phrase I imagine a scenario in which another person is physically near me and making it crystal clear that I could touch them sexually right then and there. Alternatively, it could be a scenario in which I am communicating with the person telephonically or electronically and they say something that tempts me to reply flirtatiously.

In either case, that scenario could have been prevented several steps earlier. First, there had to have been an urge to communicate, verbally or otherwise, with this person one-on-one and outside the bounds of the most basic professional interaction or common courtesies. Second, there would have had to have been an urge to continue the interaction privately or covertly. Third, having given in to that urge, there would have to have been an urge to sustain or repeat that interaction. Fourth, there would have to have been an urge to steer the topic of those interactions toward sex.

In any scenario that doesn’t constitute me being a target of unprovoked sexual violation, there would be at least four points along the route toward “having the opportunity for an affair.” Those are four points at which I could, should, and would stop the chain of events before it escalated — before I escalated it, or before I allowed it to escalate.

Let’s look at this in reverse order. If a person was with me in private, in the real world or in virtual space, and they said or did something to make it clear I could respond sexually, I could, should, and would, say that would be inappropriate, say I am happily married, walk away from the situation, call my wife, and never interact alone with that person again. But, that situation could have been prevented.

Let’s walk back to an earlier point in this chain of events. At that earlier point, I would be communicating with that person covertly and I might get the urge to turn the topic to sex. At that point, I should talk to myself, telling myself I am happily married, that I am keenly aware of the risks and consequences, and that I have an opportunity to do the right thing. Then, I should walk away from that interaction, call my wife, and never again interact privately with that person.

Let’s walk back to an earlier point than that. At that point, I would find myself interacting privately with a potential affair target and I would feel an urge to continue or repeat the interaction. At that point, I should talk to myself, telling myself I am happily married, that I am keenly aware of the risks and consequences, and that I have an opportunity to do the right thing. Then, I should walk away from that interaction, call my wife, and never again interact privately with that person.

Let’s walk back to an even earlier point than that. At that point, I would be communicating with an attractive person and I would feel the urge to steer that interaction to a private or covert venue. At that point, I should talk to myself, telling myself I am happily married, that I am keenly aware of the risks and consequences, and that I have an opportunity to do the right thing. Then, I should walk away from that interaction, call my wife, and never again interact privately with that person.

Let’s walk back to the earliest point in this chain of events. In that first point in the chain of temptations, I would see an attractive person and feel an urge to communicate, verbally or otherwise, with this person one-on-one and about something outside the bounds of the most basic professional interaction or common courtesies. Well, this type of event is not uncommon. It’s much less common than it used to be. Still, it happens. Out there, in everyday life, there are attractive women. Occasionally, one of them crosses my path, looks at me, or says something. Occasionally, when that happens, I feel an urge to flirt. On a regular and consistent basis, for nearly five years now, I have easily and calmly defeated those urges, replacing them with thoughts of integrity, honesty, maturity, and counting my blessings. I know I can do this, because I do it all the time, with very little effort.

So, I’m certain I will continue to be tempted to flirt with attractive women who open up conversation. But, I am also very practiced at defeating those urges. Importantly, defeating those urges at the first step in a potential chain of further interactions is only the first in a series of lines of defense against “having the opportunity to have an affair.” So, while I am certain I would not succumb to “an opportunity for an affair,” I am also confident that several lines of protection will keep that scenario from ever arising in the first place.

Lesson 47 Exercise:
1. Over the next 48 hours, envision at least ten different REALISTIC scenarios where you may encounter a compulsive urge in the future and document these in your recovery thread.

Based on what I wrote above, let’s do this exercise in terms of “an urge to communicate one-on-one with an attractive woman about outside the bounds of a professional interaction or common courtesy.” What scenarios can I imagine?

One, a co-worker or business contact could open up conversation that is outside the realm of professional interaction or common courtesy.
Two, an attractive co-worker could greet me or make eye contact, tempting me to initiate conversation.
Three, an attractive grocery clerk, barber shop receptionist, dry cleaner receptionist, or other service provider could make eye contact, smile, or try to initiate conversation, tempting me to engage in conversation.
Four, I could unexpectedly drive past a street-walker or potential street-walker.
Five, the maid or other domestic worker could try to initiate eye contact or conversation, tempting me to converse.

Those are really the only scenarios I can imagine, but they appear to be a thorough exploration of the topic.

2. With each scenario: Identify how you would know when that urge/ritual would likely begin, when the likely ‘point of no return’ would be and when you would ‘create the break’. Anticipate the emotions associated with that particular ritual, isolate those emotions from your ‘core identity’ and prepare yourself to make a values-based decision (versus an emotions-based decision).

One, a co-worker or business contact could open up conversation that is outside the realm of professional interaction or common courtesy. This is the beginning. The point of no return would be if I speak to her outside the realm of professional interaction or common courtesy. The break would be when I quickly cut the interaction short, stay confined to business or common courtesies, and avoid her whenever reasonably possible. At this point in my life the emotion might be fear: fear that TL, my wife, would not believe me when I tell her I did nothing to provoke the interaction and I did everything to end the interaction.

Two, an attractive co-worker could greet me or make eye contact, tempting me to initiate conversation. This is the beginning. The point of no return would be if I speak to her outside the realm of professional interaction or common courtesy. The break would be when I quickly cut the interaction short, stay confined to business or common courtesies, and avoid her whenever reasonably possible. Again the emotion might be fear: fear that TL, my wife, would not believe me when I tell her I did nothing to provoke the interaction and I did everything to end the interaction.

Three, an attractive grocery clerk, barber shop receptionist, dry cleaner receptionist, or other service provider could make eye contact, smile, or try to initiate conversation, tempting me to engage in conversation. This is the beginning. The point of no return would be if I speak to her outside the realm of professional interaction or common courtesy. The break would be when I quickly cut the interaction short, stay confined to business or common courtesies, and avoid her whenever reasonably possible. The emotion might be fear: fear that TL, my wife, would not believe me when I tell her I did nothing to provoke the interaction and I did everything to end the interaction.

Four, I could unexpectedly drive past a street-walker or potential street-walker. This is the beginning. The point of no return would be if I speak to her. The break would be when I keep my eyes on the road, drive directly to my destination, call my wife, and take all reasonable precautions to avoid the area where I saw the street-walker. The emotion would be fear: fear that TL, my wife, would not believe me when I tell her I did not anticipate the encounter and I did everything to avoid it.

Five, the maid or other domestic worker could try to initiate eye contact or conversation, tempting me to converse. This is the beginning. The point of no return would be if I speak to her outside the realm of professional interaction or common courtesy. The break would be when I quickly cut the interaction short, stay confined to business or common courtesies, and avoid her whenever reasonably possible. The emotion would be fear: fear that TL, my wife, would not believe me when I tell her I did nothing to provoke the interaction and I did everything to end the interaction.

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