I had a really interesting conversation the other day with Rhyll Croshaw. She defined some of the addiction terms for me. She defined trigger vs. slip vs. lapse vs. relapse. It was clarifying for me and I thought it might be for you too.
First, I want to talk a little bit about the addiction cycle. Jane talked about it here. (And I actually like her model better with the 'ordinary time' in between shame and preoccupation.)
Depending on where you want to start the cycle, it goes like this- the husband (spouse) acts out, in whatever way he does. Masturbates, looks at porn, goes to a strip club, whatever is his drug of choice. He feels bad. He feels he is a bad person. He commits to never do that horrible thing again. He's kind and loving and helpful (insert Jane's Ordinary Time here). He loves me and I love him. Until he's stressed/bored/overwhelmed (whatever). Then he begins to preoccupy. That's thinking about porn. Finding ways to circumvent the blockers. Lusting after the woman he saw jogging down the street. Remembering things he's seen and feeling enticed by them. Fantasizing about the women he encounters. Those kinds of things. Things in the mind. He fights them for a while, but eventually, they win, because that is what the cycle does. And thinking about them is suddenly not enough. So, he begins to ritualize. He circles the block to get a second look at the jogger. He visits the book stores and looks at the relationship books right next to the sexuality books. He walks past the strip club and imagines what is going on inside. He opens the browser and then slams it shut. These are things he does. Eventually, the ritualizing won't give him enough of a hit, so he'll succumb. And that takes us back to the beginning (or the end.)
That's the cycle.
So, here is how the addiction terms were defined to me and where they fit in the cycle above:
1. Trigger- these are external or internal events or thoughts that try to get you into preoccupation. It could be a magazine cover, a seductive scene from a tv show, a woman jogging, a memory of something he has seen. Anything that is enticing and alluring to him. If he surrenders it to God and dispels the myth, this is where it ends. As a trigger. If he dwells on the trigger, it becomes a slip.
2. Slip- is what happens when the addict allows himself to be swept away by the trigger. This is what happens when he enters preoccupation and therefore enters the addiction cycle. It is all in the mind. Fantasies, lust hits, remembering and fantasizing and being enticed by the porn he's seen, developing mental plans of how he can circumvent the porn blockers. Those things. And when he decides to act on it, it becomes a lapse.
3. Lapses- happen when he enters ritualization. He begins to go through the motions of beginning to act out. They are the pre-curser. 'How far can I go? THIS isn't really acting out....' Driving down the red light district. Testing the internet filter to see what will get through. Physically going through the motions of getting around the blockers. For some addicts, it could be looking at porn. It is purposefully putting himself in situations where he is tempted to act out. It is the external manifestation of the internal dialogue. If he chooses to jump back into recovery and be open and honest about his acting out, it can remain a lapse but if he hides and continues in the cycle, it becomes a relapse.
4. Relapse- whatever he does to act out on a cyclic basis. Masturbates, looks at porn, goes to the strip club, hires a prostitute, whatever. The relapse is his outing out phase and is always accompanied by lying, hiding, minimization. Once he relapses, he is once again ensnared in the addiction cycle.
So, in order for me to understand where MY husband's addiction fits this pattern, we needed to figure out what defined 'porn' and 'sobriety' for us. The White Book's (Sexaholics Anonymous) definition of sobriety is "no sex with self or with partners other than with one's spouse and a progressive victory over lust." For us, we have added "no sex with self or with partners other than with one's spouse, 'no porn' and a progressive victory over lust."
If my husband deliberately chooses to search for porn or places himself in a situation where he could knowingly encounter porn, time starts over. If, by some chance, he was searching google for "boy's bikes" and comes across a mislabeled video of a naked women, as long as he IMMEDIATELY shuts it off and tells me IMMEDIATELY, time would not start over. (But- I've never encountered a naked woman when I've searched for boy's bikes....)
We define porn as "pictures, videos, places, people or any other format of sexually suggestive material that causes excitement or arousal." So, technically, a rated PG-13 movie (or "Oz") could be considered 'porn'. (But, in those cases, he would have to be deliberating going to that for an arousal for us to consider a re-start of sobriety.) In any case, for us, watching a rated R movie is porn. Books on sexuality in the book store are porn. And any suggestive material on the internet that he goes looking for to get aroused, is porn.
You can read more about what Rhyll says about this here.
I know everyone has different ideas and definitions of these things, and I am finding that sometimes mine change. So, I'd love to hear yours...