According to Webster's Dictionary, the word 'redeem' means "to free from the consequences of sin." Although, it was not my sin, I still desperately need to be freed of the consequences.

"Redeemed women of God have tender merciful hearts, backbones of steel, and hands that are prepared for the fight." - Staci Elderidge

"Even though my heart has been broken at times, I want to retain a tender merciful heart- the kind of heart that is vulnerable, open to all emotions, and engaged in honest, intimate relationships. If my heart is hardened, no matter the cause, I cannot live to my fullest potential.

By setting and holding emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries and standing up with courageous determination to what I know to be right, I continue to forge my backbone of steel.

As women, I believe we want to fight against evil, and we have power greater than we've ever imagined to aid us in that fight."
- Rhyll Croshaw

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cycles and Definitions

I don't know about you, but I think this whole new world I find myself in can be so confusing.  And there are all these new definitions, that people use interchangeably.  Sobriety and Recovery. Triggers, slips, lapses, relapses.  Acting out, throwing up.  (Ok- I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.  But, sometimes this addiction makes me want to throw up...)

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...


  1. I am really enjoying your blog and I like the way you are spelling things out in a very practical (and personal) way...I appreciate it!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I can't tell you how happy this comment makes me! After I broke free of the D-Day darkness, I really felt like the Lord wanted me to chronicle my journey. If even one person could learn from my mistakes and successes, them my pain won't be wasted!

      Tears of joy! Thanks!

  2. I'll chime in. I always do. :) For me the BEST question to ask at any phase of the cycle is not, "what did you view? What did you do?" but rather 'what are you feeling?" "what is off?". Remember, (and people may not believe it) this is an EMOTIONAL and SPIRITUAL addiction. Not so much sexual. Everyone is sexual to some degree. Addicts abuse sexual because there is something off emotionally and spiritually.

    And yes, I did just barely post on this as well....

    Well done on getting super educated on this. Not that it now exempts the addict ("it's part of the cycle...i can't help it') but rather brings light to what we don't normally see. Seriously, never did i think to myself..."hmmm i'm ritualizing" as I click on cute girl's facebook profiles. Knowledge is POWER!

  3. This is really helpful. Thank you!!

  4. I am so glad you wrote about movie ratings. I have looked so many places to find someone else who believes that rated R and MA, and even PG-13 most of the time now, are pornography. I have hurt so much over my husband's watching violence, naked women, and sex scenes. At least I know I am not crazy.