Interdependence: Joined at the Heart

Jeff McVay

A few weeks ago, we had a celebration in America. People across the country prepared their grills for barbecue. Pools were cleaned. Firefighters prepared for the fireworks shows (both professional and the amateur) in case anything went wrong. And most importantly, folks unfurled their flags and joined in parades to celebrate the Independence Day of the United States of America.

Of course most countries have a day in which they celebrate the moment that they proclaimed independence from another nation or people and determined to make their own way in the world in the manner that they saw fit.

In the United States, independence is more than just a day that is celebrated. It is a way of life. We are taught to be ‘self made’ people. Some classic phrases that describe this thought are: ‘pull yourself up by your own boot straps,’ ‘if it is to be, it’s up to me,’ and (my favorite) ‘I did it my way.’

In the US, independence is not just about a people group breaking away from another country in order to make a new way of life; it is now about each individual person breaking away from all other people in order to do life their way. Most of us think that we have the right to live the way we want and not have anyone else ‘tell us what to do.’ This concept of individualistic independence has done some good for our society; however, it has also led to great isolation, loneliness and fear as we try to determine our existence without the help of anyone. This loneliness and fear also leads us into many avenues of false intimacy (such as pornography) in an attempt to make us feel better about being alone without really having to deal with the possibility of abandonment by another person.

The reason the loneliness becomes so great is because we are made for real relationships. We were not meant to be alone.

Maybe it is time for us to sign a new declaration; not one of independence but one of Inter-dependence. You may be asking yourself, ‘What is the difference?’ Well, interdependence is the radical notion that we really do need other people in order to survive in this world even after we ‘grow up’ and move out on our own. In fact, I am not sure that total independence even truly exists. Human beings perish without others. Even in subtle ways, we depend on one another. In the words of the writer Thomas Moore, ‘no man is an island’. This does not mean that you cannot do anything yourself or that there is no way to tell ‘Where I end and You begin,’ but that we must find the balance between allowing others to connect with us and help us, and what is the work that we have to do to help ourselves and others.

This is especially so when it comes to the addictive struggles that people may have. Addictions tend to isolate us from anyone who might find out what it is we struggle with. In fact Patrick Carnes says that the core beliefs of a person struggling with an addiction are ‘1) I am basically a bad, unworthy person, therefore 2) no one will love me as I am. 3) My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend upon others and 4) whatever the addiction is: it is my greatest need.’

All of these beliefs foster an atmosphere of isolation. If I am a bad person and no one will love me, then I must face the world alone and I cannot rely on anyone to help. In that isolation I begin to look for something that will always relieve my pain. An addiction becomes that one thing that will always but temporarily relieve the pain. The addiction, however, becomes a source of embarrassment which leads to a greater need to isolate and repeat the cycle. Those that love us the most (family, spouses, children and friends) are usually the ones that we push away the most and who feel the greatest effects of both the addiction and the isolation that it creates.

How can a ‘Declaration of Interdependence’ help someone in this situation? It is only in coming out of isolation and being willing to let someone else speak into your life that anyone can begin a road to recovery. Remember that from the very beginning God declared, ‘It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone.’ We need one another. In beginning the recovery process we cannot do it on our own. We need to be interdependent on others who have the same desire to change behavior so that heart change or faulty core belief change can happen. This is probably the reason that the first 5 steps in a 12 step program deal with opening ourselves up to God and to other people as the beginning of behavior change.

Think of it this way. Pretend that there are absolutely no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the world at all. How would you know what you look like? There would be no way for you to know unless someone else could tell you. The isolation brought on by addiction and the faulty core beliefs that encourage them take away our abilities to see our own reflection.

The purpose of interdependence is to allow someone else to tell us what we look like. God tells us that we are loved enough to die for. Other people can talk about the good things that they see in us that we have forgotten or never seen due to addictive isolation. When we grasp how much we are loved and have a greater sense of who we are and whose we are then and only then is recovery a road that is opened up to us. This road joins us to the heart of God who calls us His sons and daughters, and to the heart of others who walk with us on this road all the way home. Maybe today can be the beginning of your own celebration. The day that you signed your ‘Declaration of Interdependence’!

For help with alcohol or drug addiction, please call our Resource Center at (800) 639-5433.
For help with sexual integrity, please see Every Man’s Battle.

Trigger Mechanisms

Bob Damrau

INTRODUCTION
Trigger mechanisms are painful emotions that are not adequately identified and which lead to compulsive thinking and addictive behaviors (or tension reducers).
All people look for ways to reduce the stresses of life. Some chill out in a whirl pool while others cozy up with the latest novel. Some drop in at Starbucks and others drop dead from exercise. These tension reducers are, for the most part, legitimate. It must be said, however, that any good thing when taken to an extreme can become unhealthy.
We, as people with a bent toward sexual compulsivity, should pay attention to the trigger mechanisms that serve as stimulants to our addictive cycles. We need to find alternative ways of responding to our feelings.

THE ESCAPE ROUTE
Emotions are tricky for compulsive people because most of us have not developed our feeling skills.

When we can’t tolerate feeling depressed, we tend to seek relief (fantasy thinking)

When we can’t tolerate feeling isolated, we tend to seek stimulation (unhealthy relationships)

‘ When we can’t tolerate feeling like a failure, we tend to seek control (entitlement thinking)

‘ When we can’t tolerate feeling anxious, we tend to seek tranquility (masturbation)
‘ When we can’t tolerate feeling criticized, we tend to seek self-mastery (perfectionism)

STAYING WITH THE FEELING
When a sex addict experiences a negative emotion he generally fixes it by taking a drink of lust in order to medicate the feeling. Most addicts have not had any experience from their family of origin in the area of how to have and share feelings.

Dealing with feelings is a skill that you can develop and acquire levels of mastery over, once you have practiced it. It’s kind of like growing up and not learning how to maintain a car. It doesn’t mean that you are less intelligent or worthwhile because you can’t fix a car. You’re simply untrained. If you were to take a class on car maintenance, you would probably be a good mechanic. The difference is that the skills you are exposed to and have learned will dictate how you handle your emotions.

Now, expressing feelings in recovery is very important for several reasons.

In your acting-out days, if you had a feeling, you probably would not know what it was. But if you acted out in some way, the feeling would go away. In this process, you may not have learned to identify feelings and hence can not meet your own real needs.

In your early recovery, between usually the third to sixth week of abstinence from your acting out behaviors, you may begin to start recognizing feelings. This can seem almost like a thawing out of emotions. It is best to have already begun to identify your feelings so that they don’t confuse or overwhelm you and activate the cycle (unidentified feeling -> act out -> feeling disappears). In recovery, you get to feel without acting-out.

As relapse prevention, if you can identify your feelings, you may better know how to handle or manage these feelings in order to prevent relapses.

If a slip or relapse occurs, you may be able to track down what emotion(s) preceded this and move forward in your recovery process (identified feeling -> corresponding need -> needs met).

TALK ABOUT IT
It is important that you begin to communicate your feelings to a safe person. A safe person is one in your recovery group or a person to whom you are accountable. The person’s role is simply to listen, not really give feedback.

When sharing your feelings, it is important to maintain eye contact with the person you are sharing them with. This eye contact with a person may feel uncomfortable at first, but will eventually be comfortable to you. This is part of the benefit of this exercise.

TRY IT

1. Identify a feeling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . lonely

2. Generate the need present in that feeling . . . . connect with a safe person

3. Act to legitimately meet that need . . . . . . . . . . call a group member

Need some help? See Every Man’s Battle.

Confession (Part 1): By God’s Design

David Speicher

Confession is an integral part of recovery. Did you know that a restored relationship comes only through confession? You might think that having a changed life is enough, well it is not. Your changed life is a good thing for you, but what about the carnage you have left in the lives of other people?

I wonder what God thinks about all of this? I wonder what God sees as He looks into these things? He sees you, a changed man, blessed by Him and on your way to purity and holiness. He sees her, wounded, broken from all the sexual transgressions. I believe God would ask of you, ‘What are we going to do about all of this?’

You see, the scripture is replete with verses that would encourage you to look at another’s hurt, especially if you were the source of the hurt.

I hope that when you read this, you have already experienced God’s grace and mercy and that you know that you are truly forgiven. I hope that you can see beyond yourself to what has happened in others as a result of you.

One of those verses in the Bible that speaks to the issue of a man looking into another person’s life is II Corinthians 7:10. This is a powerful verse that will help you to understand God’s point of view in relation to others. Listen to this, ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.’

The reason why confession is instrumental in restoring your relationship is that confession works in your heart, as well as in the hearts of those who have been hurt by you to produce God’s view of the situation. If you can get God’s perspective on the situation, you are so much closer to where you need to be.

Here is what often happens. When you do something wrong you say ‘I am sorry’ or you may venture out into those difficult words, ‘would you forgive me?’ The result of this is that you have fulfilled the legal requirements for asking for forgiveness and believing you are all done, you move away from the situation on to bigger and better things in your life. You have just engaged in a legal transaction, that is what I would call worldly sorrow. It is precisely this worldly sorrow that leads to death, because you are relieved of the guilt for what you have done, yet the other person still carries the hurt.

If nothing is done to address the hurt and you feel legally you are absolved of the situation, then you will experience death, death of the relationship.

You see, as unresolved hurts mount in the other person and you continue to say ‘I am sorry,’ or even ‘would you forgive me,’ that person will grow to resent you. That person will grow bitter. You will see no reason to change what you are doing, and you will assume the other person has not gotten over the hurt. You might even assume that this is her problem not yours. You believe you have done what is necessary by asking for forgiveness.
Listen men; do not fall into this trap by missing the true needs of that person. This is most likely not your heart, yet you can end up doing this time and time again.

Let’s look deeper into this verse. Use your imagination with me for just a moment. Can you imagine if God was watching the person that you hurt the moment when that person heard the news, maybe the moment that she found out about the betrayal? What do you think God was feeling for her? Maybe God was feeling compassion, a broken heart, sadness and sorrow. This is Godly sorrow.

Have you ever felt that sorrow? Don’t read by this too quickly, God’s sorrow, not yours. Not you sorrowing over what you have done, something different than that. You overwhelmed with the look on God’s face as He sees His precious child, His little girl hurting, have you ever felt that?

There is a big difference between these two. One is about you and the other is about God, and the only means of true restoration. One prompts you to say ‘there that is enough, I am I am done. I am no longer responsible for what I have done to her.’ The other prompts you to see things as God sees them. Then you feel things as God feels them and then you do things that God would have you do as His hands, feet and lips.

This kind of attitude would prompt conversation that might sound like this: ‘As I look into your soul (the way God does) I see hurt and brokenness. I am here as God’s agent of reconciliation. I am here to be what you need me to be.’

You see men, this is how Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and worldly sorrow leads to death. Worldly sorrow prompts you to do everything you can to restore you. Godly sorrow, because you see that you have hurt God and because you see that you have hurt others, prompts you to do everything you can to restore others. In the next article I would like to offer to you a template of what Godly confession looks like. A confession that is born from the foundation of a Godly sorrow that comes directly from the throne of God.

For more help, see Every Man’s Battle.