Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bottom Line Behaviors: The Gentle Path

Here's a question asked by many sex and love addicts-- how do I know what my bottom line behavior is? For an alcoholic, it's a little more simple, they stop drinking. For a sex and love addict, it could be a whole host of behaviors that are creating emotional drunkenness, and what these behaviors are for one love addict can be different from the next love addict. A bottom line behavior is a behavior that, when engaged in, leads to loss of self. Engaging in this behavior can prevent the addict from experiencing valid and necessary feelings of anger, grief, or even intimacy. The bottom line behavior is sometimes used as a smoke screen to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of anger, grief, or intimacy. Engaging in the bottom line behavior tends to bring an immediate relief, an ah-h-h-h feeling, at least in the early stages of addiction. As addiction progresses, an addict often has to engage in more of this behavior or more intense forms of it to achieve the "high."

When a sex and love addict is ready to get clean, he/she must decide what their bottom line behaviors are and make the conscious decision to avoid those behaviors. Most commonly, these behaviors might be ceasing excessive masturbation, ceasing extra-marital affairs, or ceasing the use of pornography, etc. If you are an addict trying to define your bottom line behaviors, ask yourself these questions, "What is the behavior that, if I stop doing it, I'm going to feel like I'm going crazy? What behavior, at the thought of no longer doing it, makes me almost panic? What behavior, when I stop doing it, is immediately going to send me into emotional withdrawal symptoms?" Whatever you answer to these questions-- that's your bottom line behavior.

Here are a few important things to remember before launching yourself into withdrawal and ceasing your newly identified bottom line behavior:

1. Have a solid support system in place. Be prepared to attend your 12 step meetings as often as possible while going through withdrawal. Have the phone numbers of several recovery friends who can provide support and be very kind to yourself during this difficult time. Seek your Higher Power daily. Do not attempt to go through withdrawal alone and on your own will power-- that's just cruel.

2. Know it is OK to modify and add behaviors to your bottom line list as your progress through recovery. You are not expected by your Higher Power to know all of your bottom line behaviors in the early phases of recovery, maybe not in your entire lifetime! As you gradually survive varying phases of withdrawal from one behavior after another, you will most likely recognize other behaviors that also create emotional crazies. For example, after 3 months of successfully ending an abusive relationship, you recognize that having fantasies of that person also has deep emotional effects on you. Continuing to engage in fantasies of that person is like drinking a poison and you feel sick or out of sorts the remainder of the day. You have just learned that fantasizing about this past partner is a new bottom line behavior that should be avoided to maintain emotional sobriety.

Recognizing your bottom line behaviors and maintaining sobriety from them may sound like a complicated and daunting task. Yes, it can feel very overwhelming at times, causing an addict to just want to throw in the towel. Always remember the practices of gentleness and kindness toward yourself in recovery. You can be firm and discipline yourself in love and humility, not out of punitive shame. Identify the bottom line behaviors and know that abstaining from them is leading you down the path toward your true self. Ceasing bottom line behaviors is an act of love toward yourself not a punishment. You do this because not doing it could mean death or loss of sanity. You do it because today you want to hold onto your serenity. Knowing your bottom line behaviors and respecting their destructive power is a life preserver in recovery.

Photo above found at: path&order=9&offset=24#/d2qvad7