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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2021 11:46 am 
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We're excited to begin our journey together towards healing, and I'm excited to learn and practice all the tools I will need to be present and accountable to myself and to my partner for my health, for my decisions (past and present), and for doing everything I can to help her heal from the trauma of my addiction rather than continuing to wallow in self-pity and denial at the expense of her feelings of emotional and physical safety, at the expense of my ability to live the life I desire (and to share it with her), and at the expense of our happiness together. I know that no one else can do this for me, and that when it comes to our relationship, no one can decide how we will live it but us. That is how powerful we can be together.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2021 12:55 pm 
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Here's the assignment for Exercise 1:
1. Write a letter to your partner that discusses every sexually compulsive and/or destructive behavior you have engaged in. Include in this letter all affairs, lies, broken promises, etc., that you can think of relating to your sexual addiction. This letter will NOT be seen by your partner — ever. And so, if there is a key-stroke program installed on your computer...write this letter by hand.

2. Once you have written out every major incident that you can recall (details aren't necessary, but make sure you don't intentionally leave out people, places, activities or things due to shame, fear of discovery, laziness, etc.), go over that list once more. Purge yourself of ALL sexually compulsive and/or damaging events. If you have been molested, add it. If you have been raped, add it. If you have fantasized about homosexual encounters — though have never and would never engage in one, add it.

3. If you are in coaching, consider sending a copy of this list to Coach Jon (either through the mail or PM) to be used in individual recovery work. This is optional, however.

4. If you want to share this letter with your partner, don't......

5. Seal this letter (put it in an envelope, tape it, etc.) and keep it hidden for three days. At the end of the third day, don't open it. Simply look at it and ask yourself, 'Is there anything that I have done that I have intentionally left off of this letter out of fear of it being discovered, to protect my partner or to protect myself?' If the answer is no, take the letter and destroy it. If the answer is yes, give yourself the opportunity to try this exercise once more. Open the letter and add what needs to be added. If you still choose not to, inform your partner that you are not yet ready to recover as a couple. That you are not willing/able to value partnership above self-preservation. Let her know you will be pursuing an individual recovery path for now.

My Thoughts on This Exercise:
I chose to write this letter by hand, not because of any privacy concerns (scholasticpan has always acted with, and continues to act with trust towards me, giving me many opportunities throughout the day to be trustworthy - from little things like taking me at my word when I tell her I plan to do something, to asking me for help and trusting I will respond in a loving, thoughtful way; she isn't a snooper, though I've definitely given her lots of reasons by my actions that would justify almost any degree of suspicion or doubt on her part). It's really amazing when I think about it this way - I see what a gift it is every day that because of her, I have so many chances every day to build trust and show her love. She doesn't have to do that; I seldom if ever have "earned" it; it is a gift - a demonstration in action of the love and care she feels for me, and of the hope that she has never truly stopped feeling in her heart.

My career as a person living with sexual compulsion was a long one - from the time I was a young child (probably around 7 or 8), but my experience of shame and unworthiness started before that. It was difficult to actually write down everything and to look at it as a whole. I frequently judge myself for my past compulsive behaviors, and this remained a source of suffering and feelings of hopelessness for so long. Putting everything onto paper didn't make me feel any "better" about the things I did when I acted out. If anything, the experience I had was one of revulsion and sadness about my acting out behaviors, especially once I could see some patterns emerging in the letter I wrote. In the past, thinking about these past actions was triggering or I experienced it as a desire (a deep down, wordless mass of "feeling") that I couldn't really put into words, but that seemed to scream out: "Don't look at that. Don't think about that. Find anything else to think about; find anything else to do. If you do look at it, make sure it's so you can blame yourself more, find more/remind yourself of all the reasons you will never be lovable, you will never be good, and even if you are, no one else will think you are." And I would numb out.

In writing this letter, I was mindful of/realized in a very practical way the following:
1. I was writing about things that have already happened, and that cannot be changed.
2. Any feelings of guilt and shame I experience are positive indicators that I have a True Self - it's my True Self that has this reaction to the things I've done in the past, and points the way towards healthier ways of being by distinguishing between my true values (in some cases, as yet unexamined), and the values I have been pursuing in my life up to now (in almost EVERY CASE, without realizing or taking ownership of that fact).
3. I cannot prevent myself from changing - I can only decide to be proactive or passive about the changes that I will bring about.
4. I MUST look at everything - my entire sexual acting out history and the lies and damage I've done - in order to identify the mistaken and harmful thinking, patterns and "habits" for what they are - attempts to deny the reality of my experience as a child, and to deny the role I have been playing as an adult in failing to acknowledge, own and take responsibility for changing.

I have hidden the letter, and I will return to the it on Thursday, to re-review it again for completeness, and I am looking forward to the next step - whether that is to burn the letter, or to open it and make the additions I need to make for the sake of my partner's and my individual healing, and the rebirth of our relationship. I'm grateful to my partner for all of her time, patience, compassion, and love she continues to demonstrate daily.

In doing this exercise, I can begin to work towards forgiving myself for the countless opportunities I did not take to take control of my life before I knew her. But more importantly, by looking at the facts - all of them, in their various repeated patterns - I could see how off the mark I've been every time I've presented her with an angry, frustrated, defensive, gaslighting or manipulative demand for "forgiveness" or "to move on." I always knew on some level that these were doomed to fail because I didn't even have a handle on what it was I was demanding that she "forgive" or "move on" from. When I finished that letter, I had the sense that there were specific, concrete changes I can and must make in order to earn her forgiveness - no amount of self-pity or excuses will do it, even though I may have succeeded in the past in getting to this kind of "shallow" forgiveness. That really was never forgiveness at all - it was being "excused" for "being sick." I don't have to be sick anymore, and I can't earn her forgiveness or her respect without consistent, persistent progress towards healthy living and relating. This letter is a roadmap of the UNHEALTHY ways in which I have responded to life's challenges - by feeling worthless, helpless, hopeless and doomed to repeat a cycle of behaviors that leaves me feeling...worthless, helpless, hopeless and doomed. Without changing my outlook on life and developing tools to respond to it in ways that support and enrich our values, there will only be more of the same.

Important Note - My completing this exercise was not thanks to me or my initiative - I had to face it as a "do or die" consequence for my choices/behaviors, and still lacking good boundaries for myself, my partner had to be the one to hold the line and stand up for our relationship's boundaries, for which I am grateful and in awe of her, because I myself am mystified whenever she can do this, and I want as much or more than anything to grow towards doing it for myself so that she doesn't have to anymore, and so that I can truly begin to EARN her respect for the first time in our relationship.

Thank you again, scholasticpan, for all you have done and continue to do to support us, to support my healing, and for showing up every day for us no matter what. As difficult as completing this exercise FELT to me, I know that it is nothing compared to how difficult your experience of living through this past and suffering through the aftermath of it all with me ACTUALLY was and is. I hope I can hold onto this perspective, and when we face hard times or hard conversations, I will work to see things through your eyes rather than through mine, recognizing that you have worked, suffered and loved me with every bit of yourself from the very beginning.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2021 12:14 pm 
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Here's the steps to the (P) section for Exercise 1:
1. Regarding the letter above, do NOT search for it. If you come across it, do NOT open it. If your partner requests for you to read it, refuse.

2. If you find yourself ruminating and/or obsessing about what might be on this letter, allow yourself to feel the anxiety and pain of these ruminations. Informally compare their intensity to the intensity of other ruminations/obsessions relating to your partner's behavior (no need to document these, just explore them if they exist).

3. If you find yourself feeling 'the right' to read the letter because of all the pain you have been forced to endure, deny yourself this right. Place your commitment to health above your need for self-comfort and/or control. Recognize that while self-control is a major objective in your healing process, there are unknown elements in play that you must trust. That you must make yourself vulnerable to. That there is risk to your commitment to recover as a couple and that you are willingly taking that risk.

4. While it is not unusual to experience even a strong urge to see this list, if you find yourself going beyond that urge — if you find yourself actually demanding to read or searching around for it under the belief that you have the right to know such truths — then inform your partner that you are not ready to pursue recovery as a couple. That you must first pursue your own individual healing process.

Summary: This activity tests critical pieces of your current mindsets and abilities. The purpose for the writer is not to relive their past; nor is it to generate shame. It is to test their willingness to be completely honest with themselves and, to prioritize that honesty above fear and risk. For partners, this activity serves the purpose of establishing that, while you do indeed have the right to such information, there are certain things in early recovery that are more important for the welfare of you both than to have every spontaneous urge/need fulfilled immediately. For partner's who have experienced such a traumatic event, there is a tendency for that partner to adopt destructive and sometimes debilitating coping skills. This workshop will help you avoid/minimize those obstacles — with your willingness to trust. Without it, the path to health should be an individual path — as it will pose far fewer dangers for you both.

My thoughts on Exercise 1:
I had brought up RN to sactarin about 2 weeks ago, during a time in which we were looking into many recovery options, most of which resulted in "permanent" "diagnosis" and a painting of a future having to identify with a new identity PUT ON us for the rest of our lives - it felt like we were being told the only option they can recommend is the one where "you don't know who you are, you don't know how to run your life, and you're going to ruin your life and the lives around you UNLESS you give up all your free will to a team of complete strangers who's understanding of what you are going through is a series of training videos that was a $5k investment towards their therapist career. RN being a health-based approach made sense and didn't feel like I was accepting defeat by choosing it as the path forward. I love and cherish our relationship and the family we have created. When I think about things I cherish, they are things that took blood, sweat, tears - things I want to give my all; they aren't things that I profess hopelessness too and ship off to be someone else's business.

We sat in bed together and read the intro page and were onboard and excited to start, but then we realized we had to wait a few days for our account to be activated, so we moved on to other alternatives to look into concurrently while we waited. When the accounts were activated, sactarin eager read through several of the sections of the workshop - I admittedly didn't start reading until a couple days later. Sactarin confided that he was worried to start the writing exercise (I at the time had not read it and had no idea what sactarin was talking about, and told sactarin that as my reply). I got to reading a couple days after Sactarin confided in me their fear of the writing exercise - I admit, I had forgotten sactarin's fear up from shortly after they brought it up, up until the moment I read the exercise section that said "If you still choose not to, inform your partner that you are not yet ready to recover as a couple. That you are not willing/able to value partnership above self-preservation."

This put me in a near instant fury. I was reminded of all the times sactrin said they were uncapable of being honest, even with themselves, with their past without months of intensive sessions with "the right" therapist, or the "cure" treatment that would make them capable of even thinking about the things they have done in their past, or the last 6 months of us going through our own separate recovery journeys (per recommendation from sactrin's recovery resources) when they did not try (try meaning put in at least the same rate/amount of effort towards rebuilding the relationship as they did breaking down the relationship) and continued to see me struggle living a present and making decisions in the present with a misrepresented understanding of my own past.

I demanded that sactrin leave our home until they completed the writing portion of Exercise 1, this was not easy, and felt especially hard, as it was off the cusps of a similar but not exactly related trouble we had in the morning that had the agreed consequence of separate living arrangements for the evening. That night was hard - I felt mentally numb and physically tense and exhausted. I slept most of the next day and only left the bed to drink or use the bathroom. I thought about showering, but fell asleep before I got out of bed. Sactrin's updates and me sending them family updates were the highlights of my day until they came home.

When they called to let me know they had completed writing everything and would be home soon, I was delightfully happy to hear sactrin's voice; it sounded of relief and hope. I was so happy to see sactrin when they got home, it felt like that feeling you get when you see a very close friend from your past at a funeral of a friend you both had and spend time with - sad, excited, comforted, consoled.

Regarding the letter, I think I only asked about it once (maybe twice, I just say that because I am not certain that it was just once, but I can't think of another time we discussed it)... and honestly it was because I was very conscience of the fact that I literally just factory reset our printer because of my own printing snafoo and hadn't re-setup the printer I temporarily bricked... and honestly didn't want to be a barrier (or excuse) to impede sacrin's own progress - this is not a noble thing, this is a self preservation thing for me - trying as much as possible to not be the scapegoat.

Anyways... so I guess the waiting is half-way done or so, but I don't really care where it is - except in the meta way, like when I read the question that says "DON'T TRY TO FIND OR READ IT", for a split second my mind goes... hmmmmm, then, *poof*, continue reading


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 20, 2021 1:40 pm 
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Exercise 2:
(P) Your job is to allow yourself to be nurtured by another human being. Don't worry about motivations, mistakes, interruptions...just feel the love they are trying to communicate to you through their awkwardness, tenderness, thoughtfulness, etc. This activity isn't about them anticipating your every need, it is about both of you remembering how fragile life is and how much potential meaning can be experienced by having someone to share that life with.

My Reflections:
With our relationship feeling more recently like the sactarin show, I was not only welcoming exercise 2, but at certain points, out right demanding it. We completed exercise 2 over the course of several days, which I asked for since I wanted to enjoy the activities leisurely across a few evenings.

I was excited to see how excited sactrin seemed to do the activity, the planning and attention to incorporating things I might have previously expressed interest in. It was so nice to have the feeling that sactrin wanted to do something special for me, and instead of out right just asking me what I wanted, they recalled back to things I expressed genuinely/off-the-cuff in the past. This reminded me of the good times we've had throughout our relationship - that even in the bad times, there were at least good moments that were real.

In the beginning, I had trouble keeping still and just enjoying the experience. Like when sactrin was making dinner, I didn't feel compelled to help make dinner, but I definitely felt the urge to keep busy in the kitchen. Sactrin admitted to feeling silly feeding me, but to me, it didn't feel foreign at all. We frequently share and eat off of each other's plates, this just seemed like a light extension beyond that.

The points where I came to demanding to do the exercise were the times when we had to pause or reschedule; sactrin didn't make it clear when we would resume again and after days would pass, I would get frustrated, feeling like sactrin had forgotten about completing the exercise - which led me to feel uncared for and as an insignificant priority in their life.

Overall, my reflection on this exercise rings a similar sentiment as to our relationship - overall pleasantly good. Yes, there were some intense, angry emotions that came up, but they were short lived. And it's not like sactrin stopped nurturing me when we took breaks/pauses between activities in each exercise, they continued to care for me and nurture me in other acts that I really appreciated - like, setting their alarm to be the same as mine, just in case I accidentally sleep through mine so they could wake me up in time - or taking responsibility for almost all the chores around the house. This exercise felt silly, heartfelt, sometimes infuriating, human, real, fun, captivating... just as our relationship.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 25, 2021 11:01 am 
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I'm here to post my reflections on completing Exercise 1. Here's the last step in Exercise 1:

"5. Seal this letter (put it in an envelope, tape it, etc.) and keep it hidden for three days. At the end of the third day, don't open it. Simply look at it and ask yourself, 'Is there anything that I have done that I have intentionally left off of this letter out of fear of it being discovered, to protect my partner or to protect myself?' If the answer is no, take the letter and destroy it. If the answer is yes, give yourself the opportunity to try this exercise once more. Open the letter and add what needs to be added. If you still choose not to, inform your partner that you are not yet ready to recover as a couple. That you are not willing/able to value partnership above self-preservation. Let her know you will be pursuing an individual recovery path for now.

Note: You should continue on with your lessons over these three days. Do not suspend your work."

I didn't complete this exercise according to the timetable in the workbook - when I came home having finished writing out Exercise 1, I hid the letter and am proud to say that over the next three days, and in the ensuing days, there was nothing I could think of (and I racked by brain) that I had not included in the letter. I'll admit that I was scared to burn it at first, because in the back of my mind, I could think of all the times that I'd set out on a path to health, only to later sabotage myself or find that there were parts of myself that I was holding back, and part of me longed simply to give scholasticpan the letter, especially when she's hurting because of me, or angry with me about the things I did when I was living in my addictive behaviors. More than anything, I want her to know - truly KNOW - that I have changed, but I know that will come with time if I work for it. We have spent several weeks in the meantime making what I see as progress together (more on this in my response to Exercise 2). After several weeks of not going back to the letter, and of scholasticpan exhorting me to get back to posting, I finally retrieved the letter from its hiding place, and set to burning the letter. It took seemingly forever to burn, and I experienced this as the universe sending me a message of sorts - that there is a lot for me to overcome (and a lot for US to overcome, in terms of how pervasive my compulsive behaviors and patterns and defenses have been in scholasticpan's experience of knowing me). If I'm not careful, I know I can see my past as an impossibly huge obstacle to overcome, one of the things that sustains me when we have difficult days is acknowledging that I have already changed to such an extent that the person who lived the way I wrote about in the letter seems like such a stranger to me. That's not something I could have imagined a year ago, or two years ago, when I was so stuck in my addiction that I couldn't imagine living any differently, and when I was either numbing myself to the reality of my feelings and to the hurt I was doing to myself and to scholasticpan, or living with the thought that I was irrevocably broken and disgusting, and not knowing what to do with myself - it was a truly hopeless way of living into death. I know that I will not go back to living that way, but it has been challenging trying to build in the present. I find myself wishing there was an instruction manual of some sort, because though I know what I used to be like, and though it seems so foreign to me now, I find as I peel off the unhealthy behaviors and mindsets (which I'm super happy about, and grateful that I have been able to do), I'm left with little in the way of understanding what a healthy relationship looks like and how to build and maintain one. I think that scholasticpan finds this really frustrating and difficult to understand sometimes, and I don't always know how to communicate the idea that for me, understanding what went wrong in my life is a way to get at what I need to work on mending in myself so that I can be the kind of partner - boyfriend, husband (someday, I hope), father (again, someday, I hope), provider and protector - that I want to see in the mirror, and that I want to be for her. I know it's all about balance, and I don't have much experience with being balanced or knowing what that looks like, but I'm nevertheless trying. We have good days, and we have bad days, but I'm grateful that she is still by my side, and I am hopeful that we can continue to heal together, and to cultivate the kind of relationship we both want.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2021 12:51 pm 
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Exercise 2:
Purpose: The purpose of this activity is to expand each partner's perception of the other from their current stage of life to stages throughout the life span. While engaging in what is below, you are asked to temporarily suspend all thoughts of addiction/recovery (past, present and future) in order to grasp each other's fragility and humaneness. Rules:
(SA) The person in recovery will take an evening to care for their partner. This care should be playful, but intimate. Meaning, the partner being cared for is not to act as an invalid, but rather, as appreciative and helpful in having someone nurture certain needs that they can no longer meet on their own. This caring will include areas such as eating, hygiene and 'feeling loved'. As you are providing this care, focus on how vulnerable your partner's life is. How fragile her life-sustaining activities are (e.g. breathing; heart beating; need for food, water, etc.). Focus on how lucky you are to have another human being to relate to in times of such fragility and vulnerability. Focus on how many opportunities you have in your day-to-day life to nurture your partner more than you are already do.

Once you have completed this activity, both of you should write up a brief summary of what positive thoughts such dependency on each other triggered and post them in your couple's thread.
_____
Sactarin:

Here are my reflections on Exercise 2:
*I always thought of you as the stronger, more capable, more "together" one between us. Getting to care for you in such a complete way re-opened my eyes to the fact that you are just as vulnerable and in need of care and support as I am. I thought of all the responsibilities you have taken on in our lives as a result of my addictions and dysfunctional behaviors - both the things you have asked me (in many cases, repeatedly) to do, and things that you never thought to ask me to do because we both entered our relationship with the assumption I would do my part and later, that we both stopped assuming I would do.

At various points along the way, we gradually slipped into acting (and believing without saying so) that I was incapable of fulfilling certain basic adult responsibilities, and that you had no choice but to take or retain control of some of those things because it wouldn't be safe if we let go of thinking and acting that way. I thought about how we had both talked together, in the beginning, about being in previous relationships where these patterns existed, and I've thought about how they existed in my family, and that maybe they did in yours too. I may have even suggested it at some point, but maybe I kept that thought to myself; I really don't recall.

I thought about how we promised each other then that if we took a chance on being together, our relationship would be so much different. I thought about all of the chances I had to care for you in small daily ways, and in big ways, and I felt grateful for this exercise giving me a chance to try doing those things again. I thought about how my addictions (and all of the dishonesty, abandonment, shame, blame and betrayal that went along with them), and the pain and anger I've given you as a result (so much) have become, in the story of us, the cause of us finding ourselves in a relationship that is, for the most part, happy, love-filled and mutually emotionally supportive and safe, but that sometimes must feel painfully familiar to us both.

I find that our recovery is, in a very real way, a re-covering of the feelings and hopes and aspirations we both brought to our relationship, and the discovery of the (perhaps) hopeful thoughts that we did not become unhealthy by choice, that we never asked to be unhealthy or to hurt or to feel incapable of trust (just as I didn't want to learn to do the things I did that hurt you and undermined the trust in our relationship, and for which I now try to take responsibility for changing); that even as we wanted to be different for each other, we didn't know how; and most of all that it is just as worthwhile and possible NOW to build on that hope and care for each other as it was in the beginning, before we both realized that if we didn't get help in working towards health together, we would risk doing things the way that we were taught by life to do them, without ever being asked what WE wanted and needed. I love you and I'm so grateful for every chance I get to care for you today.

I love you,
Sactarin

ScholasticPan wrote:
Exercise 2:
(P) Your job is to allow yourself to be nurtured by another human being. Don't worry about motivations, mistakes, interruptions...just feel the love they are trying to communicate to you through their awkwardness, tenderness, thoughtfulness, etc. This activity isn't about them anticipating your every need, it is about both of you remembering how fragile life is and how much potential meaning can be experienced by having someone to share that life with.

My Reflections:
With our relationship feeling more recently like the sactarin show, I was not only welcoming exercise 2, but at certain points, out right demanding it. We completed exercise 2 over the course of several days, which I asked for since I wanted to enjoy the activities leisurely across a few evenings.

I was excited to see how excited sactrin seemed to do the activity, the planning and attention to incorporating things I might have previously expressed interest in. It was so nice to have the feeling that sactrin wanted to do something special for me, and instead of out right just asking me what I wanted, they recalled back to things I expressed genuinely/off-the-cuff in the past. This reminded me of the good times we've had throughout our relationship - that even in the bad times, there were at least good moments that were real.

In the beginning, I had trouble keeping still and just enjoying the experience. Like when sactrin was making dinner, I didn't feel compelled to help make dinner, but I definitely felt the urge to keep busy in the kitchen. Sactrin admitted to feeling silly feeding me, but to me, it didn't feel foreign at all. We frequently share and eat off of each other's plates, this just seemed like a light extension beyond that.

The points where I came to demanding to do the exercise were the times when we had to pause or reschedule; sactrin didn't make it clear when we would resume again and after days would pass, I would get frustrated, feeling like sactrin had forgotten about completing the exercise - which led me to feel uncared for and as an insignificant priority in their life.

Overall, my reflection on this exercise rings a similar sentiment as to our relationship - overall pleasantly good. Yes, there were some intense, angry emotions that came up, but they were short lived. And it's not like sactrin stopped nurturing me when we took breaks/pauses between activities in each exercise, they continued to care for me and nurture me in other acts that I really appreciated - like, setting their alarm to be the same as mine, just in case I accidentally sleep through mine so they could wake me up in time - or taking responsibility for almost all the chores around the house. This exercise felt silly, heartfelt, sometimes infuriating, human, real, fun, captivating... just as our relationship.


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