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.

 

Self Temptation

James 1:14-15

..but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sometimes we’re too quick to blame our temptation on the Devil and the culture. Is it true that temptation arises from these sources? Yes, it is. However, often times our temptation originates from within. It begins when we are dragged away and enticed. What does that mean? It means our focus shifts away from what matters most and we become distracted with what fulfills the least. Many of us have reels of old footage from past porn binges, affairs, strip clubs and chat lines that we can recollect and thereby be enticed. When we engage that footage and allow ourselves to fantasize about it we are being dragged away; or to put it in context of the verse, we are dragging ourselves away. Where is that going to lead us?
We also experience temptation as a form of dealing with our emotions. Some of us have learned that emotions such as anger, insignificance, loneliness, rejection, fear, failure and disappointment can be numbed and soothed by engaging sexual thoughts. Unfortunately, it is easier to engage those thoughts and medicate rather than to deal with the emotions appropriately. It was very difficult for me to accept this truth and to learn to deal with my emotions in healthy ways. It was especially difficult to learn how to process my emotions with other people. I wanted to keep it all bottled up and to myself. I didn’t want to weigh anyone down with my junk. I wanted people to think I had it altogether; that I wasn’t needy. The truth is: we’re all needy and sometimes we have to get needy out loud.
Whether to numb feelings or to excite ourselves, we are giving birth to sin and ultimately that will give way to death. We have to take ownership for our self-temptation and be willing to engage our neediness, and surrender ourselves to God.

A couple of questions to consider:

1 – In what ways do you tempt yourself, effectively dragging yourself away to be enticed?

2 – Have you turned these things over to God and others? If not, how about telling God and others about it today.

Fighting Temptation

When your world collapses under the weight of sexual addiction and you find yourself hopeless and helpless, you WANT to change. You want to crawl out of the hole of destruction that you have created for yourself. Your marriage is in jeopardy, your family may turn against you, and your career may be on the line. You are definitely motivated to change.

Initially, you have success, but as time goes on you begin to waiver. You may have a ‘slip’ and act out. You may stick to your commitment, but the temptation may seem overwhelming. Actually, this is completely normal and expected. Without a miraculous intervention by God, you will struggle with this addiction day in and day out. You will be tempted and you must be prepared for this temptation. The more you have prepared yourself beforehand, the more likely you are to withstand this temptation.

1) Accountability- This one is a no-brainer. But it needs to be a specific type of accountability to be effective. A group of guys meeting together for a bible study is not the type of accountability a sex addict needs. A sex addict needs to be surrounded by other men who struggle with sexual temptation. If you are asking your accountability partner if he has kept his quiet time this week and he is asking you how many times you masturbated last week, you are not in an accountability relationship that will be effective long term. In general, sex addicts know how other sex addicts think, act, and lie. They will be able to relate with you and call you on the carpet when you are being deceptive. Having this type of accountability in place will often make addicts think twice before they act out because they want to avoid the embarrassment of revealing their slip.

2) Plan Ahead- Too many times guys will look back in hindsight and see what they did wrong. However, they will not connect the dots and look for patterns and trends in how they act out. For example, it is very common for sex addicts to act out on business trips and weekends when their spouses are out of town. Rarely do these instances happen unexpectedly. In fact, most of the time, these trips are planned well in advance and the addict finds himself fantasizing about what he will be doing during these trips. When you go on a business trip by yourself take a picture of your family and immediately tape it on the television. This is to remind you that you are NOT single. You have a family that loves you and is waiting for you back home. You need to go to the front desk and cancel all pay per view options. If basic cable is a stumbling block, unhook the cable cord to the television and turn it in to the front desk. Have your wife or accountability partner call you late at night on the hotel phone to insure that you are in your room.

3) If your wife is going out of town, you need to have every minute of every day planned out. The enemy of the sex addict has large blocks of time with nothing to do and no one around. This is a recipe for disaster. Plan a round of golf with some friends, fix the back fence, clean out the garage, it really doesn’t matter. Just come up with a list of projects that will occupy your mind and that you can be held accountable for when your spouse returns.

4) Internet filter- There is absolutely no excuse for a sex addict who looks at pornography on the internet to not have some sort of internet filter. There are many different options at different financial costs. There are a million excuses not to install one, but they are all shallow. If you don’t like the one that you used last, then install a new one and leave it on until you find a new one.

5) Read- You should always have a book about recovery in your reading rotation. New Life Ministries has a virtual library of books about sexual addiction and there are countless other resources available. In order to stay sharp and focused, you should always be in the middle of a book on recovery. As long as you are constantly going through these books, you have a greater chance of not letting down your guard and falling prey to temptation.

Temptation is NOT a sin. Every addict has faced temptation and you are not alone. Be smart, and be wise and use these tools. Do not face these trials alone and do not get blindsided by this temptation. This battle can be won and you can be victorious in your recovery.

For additional help on this topic see Every Man’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

Bryan Atkinson