Final Four

After the brief detour to talk about the many faces of a man in recovery, we’re getting back on track. Time to round out the discussion on Secondary Boundaries. What we’ve covered so far:

  1. Geographic
  2. Situational
  3. Relational
  4. Intellectual
  5. Psychological
  6. Financial

Now for the final 4.

7. Emotional feelings. This is the stuff going on at a heart level that might propel us into the addictive cycle. It is important to identify and acknowledge which emotions increase your propensity to medicate. That said, we have to go to the deepest levels. For example, Anger is easy to identify. However, underneath that anger may be hurt, fear, failure, shame or disappointment. We must identify those. Stress is a common one. But when many people say stress, what they mean is they feel overwhelmed and fearful of failure. Some guys act out when they feel excited and happy. Others when they feel sad, lonely or rejection.

8. Spiritualwhere are you and God? We know we can’t fight this alone. And we know that if God doesn’t intervene we’re hopeless. Sometimes God is near, sometimes far. In one of my groups a guy described his relationship with God like this: “I feel like I’m a member of a large audience, 1000’s of people, and I know God the way I know the speaker on a stage. He doesn’t know me, he just knows I’m out there. I don’t really know him, but I know he’s up there speaking, and I should be listening.” Living in that relational space with God could be a space where you act out sexually. Or perhaps when you feel like God is miles away. Or maybe even when you come off a mountain top high with God, like after a mens retreat. The important thing here is again to raise your awareness and plan for those occasions.

9. Physiological – think body. It is unfortunately too frequent for guys to say that crossed a line and acted out sexually because of some bodily urge. Is there a reality to our cycles of sperm production and the feelings of needing a release? Yes. And did God make appropriations in our bodies for that release? Yes. Which means we don’t have to take matters into our own hands (literally or figuratively). Don’t let natural urges be the driver on acting out. Create plans around physiological boundaries. Limit time laying in bed in the morning, or limit time in the shower. Double check your motive for pursuing sexual intimacy with your wife. Don’t give yourself the excuse that your urges and just natural impulses and thus you are entitled to some behavior. I always come back to this verse when thinking about these boundaries:

Jude 1:10b – and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them.

10. Technologicalanything related to technology. We’ve heard so many of the stories of guys acting out using playstations, kindles, ipads, cellphones, laptops, etc. There’s an endless supply of media devices to be used for evil or good. Don’t be so careless as to think that using an online device is safe. It is not. There is always a risk, even if you have a filters in place. Create safeguards around how & when you use technology. Make sure your accountability folks know those boundaries and help you be accountable for them.

Hopefully this info is helpful. Another reminder, the goal isn’t to have a narrow, boxed in life. It is to have freedom because we have guard rails that keep us from getting off in the ditch.

More Fences

Picking up from the last post about secondary boundaries, today we’ll look at 3 more. Again the idea isn’t to manage our lives by avoiding these boundaries at all costs. Instead it is about using these boundaries as signals to help us navigate life in a God honoring way, especially as it pertains to sexual integrity. Let’s jump in.

4. Intellectual – think curiosity. Intellectual boundaries are those places in our minds where we may end up triggered. The most common example of this is when a guy says he saw something on TV or in a magazine, then felt curious, so he jumped online and googled it. He is basically asking to be slimed. It is something that has or could have a sexual hook to it. It could be a person’s name, a product or object, or even an article. If your radar is up and your mind starts to wonder towards something with a sexual edge to it, it is probably an Intellectual Boundary.

5. Psychologicalmental health issues. Some people act out sexually in times of depression. Others in the swings of a bipolar disorder or in the manic phases of bipolar disorder. Still others in the midst of anxiety or when they feel panicky. Mental health issues play an important role for some people and seeing a doctor to discuss medication is the right next step. If you (or someone close to you) can help see a trend or pattern of sexual volatility around mental health struggles, it’s time to get that checked out.

6. Financialmoney. I’ve talked to guys who act out on payday and for very different reasons. Some because they feel powerful and in control, they feel adequate and want to celebrate their achievements. Others because payday is a reminder of their inadequacy and shortcomings, knowing there is too much month and not enough check. Financial talks with spouses can be stressful, as can figuring out how to pay for your son/daughters next semester at college. Mounting debt, unexpected auto expenses, medical bills, etc. can all be a factor. With financial boundaries, the goal is to have a plan in place to handle the issues that will arise. Perhaps on the front end that looks like taking a Crown Financial or a Financial Peace class. It also looks like be on the same page as your spouse, which those classes can help with.

I urge you to discuss these boundaries with your accountability partners. Ask them to help you identify trends and to see your blindspots. Get their input on what appropriate boundaries are and what the plan should look like to deal with them. Be prayerful with them to invite God in, and ask His input on your structure and path forward.

Defining Secondary Boundaries

The next few installments of the blog will be about defining secondary boundaries. As a team at the workshops, the counselors and I have been raising the bar on what and how we present the material. We’re constantly discussing how we can make the workshop more effective and present a TON of important content in the most meaningful way.  A member of the team, Jim Phillis, recently presented a breakdown of 10 types of secondary boundaries that have been very, very helpful. I hope you’ll take this material and apply it to your own recovery. I have already applied it to mine, and am making some changes which I’ll share as we go.

First, what are secondary boundaries? They are the fences we cross on our way to going off the cliff of acting out. In other words, they are experiences where we can potentially enter the addictive cycle and ultimately act out. It is important to remember that secondary boundaries are typically innocuous in themselves; they are usually not sinful. However, when we encounter them, we must acknowledge that we are one step closer to sinning. By defining them, we are simply heightening our own awareness and raising our level of intentionality with respect to integrity.

Here are the first 3 types:

  1. Geographicalplaces that can be triggering. It can include particular cities or parts of town.  It could include places within your home. The idea is to define which geographical areas might activate lustful thoughts. Once defined, you’ll need to decide on a strategy to handle them. That could be avoiding them, but more likely will mean being on heightened alert when you are in them.
  2. Situationalcontexts that can be triggering. Examples I regularly hear are 3 B’s: Bars, Beaches and Ballgames. With situational triggers it is also important to look more deeply, to see if the issue is the emotional experience of the context. Other situational triggers might include:  issues at work, payday, church, meetings where women/men are present, when you’re home alone.
  3. Relational – think people. These are relationships and specifically, situations within those relationships, where you might be triggered. There is overlap with situational here as you’ll see. Again, it is important to look at what happens emotionally in these relational situations to see what makes it a boundary. Examples may include certain people: a flirtatious coworker, a “touchy” person, a family member whom you have a strained relationship with. It could also include particular situations within relationships: conflict with spouse, disciplining kids, dealing with parents or siblings.

To close, remember that we aren’t trying to define every single situation where we might be triggered and to stay away from it. That’s impossible. And unbiblical if we’re to be in but not of the world. The crux of the exercise is to raise our awareness and preparedness. When I worked at Arthur Andersen I was part of a team that developed DRP’s – Disaster Recovery Plans. (The plan at Andersen didn’t account for tax fraud, however). The goal was to assist clients in anticipating situations that might arise where corporate data systems could be compromised (natural disaster, theft, etc), then create a plan to keep the business functioning effectively in light of it.

Same thing here: we want to anticipate situations that might trigger us and have a plan to keep ourselves functioning effectively in light of them.