Expectations: The Great Set-up

Martin Fierro

Traveling through out America we daily experience the ‘rules of the road.’ Such as when we come to an intersection that will display one of the three standard colors (green, yellow red). And as we come to the intersection we are expecting that if we have the green light, the perpendicular street must have the red. Thus, no one should be trying to cross into our ‘right of way.’ These rules of the road are reasonable expectations and we easily become emotionally charged if our path is interrupted to these reasonable expectations.

However on the road to recovery and sobriety our expectations, realistic or not, will affect the daily relation patterns.

Expectations at the early onset of recovery from sexual sin and vices can appear to be like waiting at a double-stop sign waiting for a clear shot to cross traffic, or get into it. And then, in large part, expectations are placed on you to work your recovery, keep sobriety, attend this meeting, make that appointment, make those calls, and the list goes on. It was best said by an EMB alumni that his spouse ‘drilled me with questions’ about my daily behavior and sexual addiction management. Now many of you are probably nodding your head recognizing the expectation of such questions and similar expectations. It is the art of expectations that is related to inspections. For how else is someone going to be measured and then evaluated on their progress of recovery and sexual sobriety?

Within your band of brothers, when checking in with one another, the onset of the meeting should be about inspections. Not necessary expectations being evaluated at the first. When it is not about inspecting and evaluating (good and bad information) the relationship can become one of dictatorship.

Expectations in any relationships will begin when we take our own ideals, standards, and views of things, and project them onto other people. Then we anticipate that our brother at arms will live in accordance with these standards we set. And when that person(s), band of brothers, church, pastor, political leader doesn’t ‘live up to it’ we can become bitter and will most likely cut-off the relationship.

Now take a brief moment and see if you recognize yourself in the pattern of cutting off because someone else does not or did not measure up to your expectations–that might be the exact experience your wife experiences when she reviews her relationship with you. Possibly? Then again some of you might reverb ‘she expects the impossible!’ When it comes to your relationship with your spouse her expectations are commonly for the recovery of the relationship. Not to destroy you. While also in support to the rebuilding of trust, expectations are the fuel to long term stability not necessary short term comfort.

Expectations in any aspect of recovery should be evaluated and reviewed with a brother at arms, officer at arms, mentor etc’ Having too strong of expectations, like you should have all the green lights going your way because your in recovery can be selfish, insensitive and careless to your loved ones. Too weak of expectations on yourself in recovery lead you to feel like you will always be stuck at the red light appearing defeated and stuck in life and will lead to contempt.

Finding the balance of having reasonable expectations is part of the recovery process. Your expectations will not come from out of the blue, but, from your faith system that fuels your moral and ethics in life. Your unreasonable expectations come from your internal wounded self that deep down desires healing and protection. That wounded core self creates many expectations on an individual and the relationship with others.

At the onset of any relationship there is the inspection phase. It is through that inspection a person will learn, rely and develop expectations for how the relationship will pursue, or not. When the road way is open, it appears we have all green lights and the relationship continues. Then, we take a side road, apart from the one we asked to trust in us and expected the same. When sexual sin entered your relationship on that side road trip, your wife’s expectations of full sexual devotion to her alone became the interference with relationship growth. Call it the red light of the ‘trust’ highway. And now maybe you so desire to get on that road, while she won’t even give a yellow light.

In closing what is trying to be conveyed here is that to rebuild trust, a man must be careful of his expectations on his spouse for the green light of the open highway of the relationship. At the same time, work through the expectations to carry out his battle plan with brothers in the battle inspection and evaluation to support you maintain your sobriety and assess if your expectations are reasonable.

‘When we demonstrate the insight and courage to embrace the truth, along with finally putting an end to the pain of constantly being disappointed by unmet expectations of one another, our relationships have the opportunity to become rich in authenticity, trust, and deep emotional bonding.’ Author Unknown

Transparency, the Next Step Beyond Accountability

Mark Sellers

There is this old Russian joke from the Cold War days of the former Soviet Union. It goes something like this:
– ‘Moscow has only two television stations.’
– ‘Oh, really?’ someone asks.
– ‘Yes. One is the government station with the official Party line.’
– ‘Well then, what is the other?’
– ‘There’s this guy in a KGB uniform telling you to go back to the first station.’

I thought it was funny the first time I heard it, but the more I thought it through, the more I found parallels for what passes today as accountability.

The idea of accountability partners has been a staple in the Christian men’s movement for some time. Having an ‘accountability partner’ has a momentum of its own, one many of us accept without question, yet one that falls short of what I believe is really needed.

In many circles it is seen as a major piece of sexual sobriety. You and your partner meet weekly, usually at a restaurant, more often than not for breakfast. You ask each other the tough questions, ones typically pointed and direct. They often go like this:
(1) Have you been sexual with yourself, or with someone besides your spouse?
(2) Have you viewed pornography?
(3) Have you purposely lingered over sexually-suggestive programming on television and/or cable? and the real killer
(4) Are you lying to me now?

I probably have my questions around somewhere, folded up in one of my Bibles. Yet such meetings had a strange feel. I felt pressured to give good news each week to keep my partners as friends. Fortunately I know them now, and know our friendship is intact no matter what, but back in those early days our energy was wrong.

Let’s be honest. Men struggling with sexual addiction are terrible at investing in mutual relationships. We are instinctively secretive, we pull back a lot, and we give ‘happy news’ because we don’t want to be seen for who we really are. We are Marlboro Men, riding the prairie alone, keeping our worlds to ourselves.

Fortunately my partners are exceptional men, and we have pushed past accountability to a better place. We couldn’t sustain our friendship on the shaky platform of a question list. There has to be more than a KGB officer directing us back to the Party line.

Unbalanced partnerships form when one person is identified as the addict and the other is seen as the healthy one. These usually don’t survive the long haul.
I once had to console a man who was dumped by his partner because he wasn’t ‘serious.’ Certainly there are two sides here, but what killed it from the start was the lack of mutuality and its unbalanced nature.

Another time a man shared his story with his partner, and it was good. But the partner heard that the man’s wife had not been sexual with him for some years, and passed the information on to his own wife, who in turn passed it on to the man’s wife. We almost lost a marriage then and there.

One former pastor I know confided with an accountability partner about his struggle with pornography; only the partner had different ideas. The pastor wasn’t moving fast enough in his eyes, so he reported him to the other pastors. What could have been wonderful grace-driven restoration instead became a dramatic platform dismissal.

To be honest, the picture I laid out is not that bleak. God continues to move in all their stories, and they are seeing restoration despite such setbacks. More importantly, God is receiving the glory for it. Still we can do better. Accountability partnerships based solely on asking the hard questions cleans only the outside of the cup. Jesus said, ‘First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.’ (Matthew 23:26 NIV)

I suggest caution before we move into accountability relationships. We can seek out men who are also in recovery, who have had their lives broken, who are not spiritual superstars, but who will sit with us through our worst storms. We need partners who will love us even if we mess up and act out. Such men should earn our trust, and we theirs.

I suggest an even higher standard. How about ‘transparency partners.’ ‘ men with whom we can walk in the light together, experience mutual Godly fellowship and not demand an immediate external fix? God heals in our openness. We already know that (1st John 1:7). Still we must discern the wolves out there hiding in sheep’s clothing. With a transparency standard we can be mutually open, and move beyond our false selves, see the dirt inside each other’s cups, and celebrate together as God begins to clean those cups.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle.

Tiredness in Recovery: Don’t Let It Get You Lying Down

Martin Fierro

You have worked a long day, feeling a cold coming on or is it the spring time allergies, you did not have one solid meal, did not sleep well the night before, stuck in traffic, late for an appointment, forgot to call your wife back, that home project needs to be completed, the car engine light just went on AND it is only Monday. When the last hour seemed hard enough to get through to remain sexually pure in heart, mind and soul, here comes the next hour to press through.

Taking it one day at a time really can come down to a minute to minute per the environment our mind is entertaining. Part of what can make a tempting situation worse is the condition of ones mental and physical state when such life stressors occur. And it is common that tempting situations will occur with more intensity at the early onset of sexual sobriety along with when you are physically/mentally drained (the enemy does not want you to win). And sobriety can seem more intense because for the first time in your life maintaining sexually integrity, to not sexually acting out, is the healthiest option irregardless to what has occurred on any particular day of the week.

‘Well, what do I do now? I am exhausted; feel disconnected, lonely and angry. So now I sit in a lonely house with no one, what I can get myself into? This is boring; I need something to make me feel good about myself. I am so tired of going through this on my own. No one has my problems.’

Should we call the ‘whaaamm-bulance?’

Self pity not only can be a trigger to acting out, but also a key that you are physically and mentally needing rest and recovery.

Don’t let temptations catch you lying down and don’t under-estimate your tiredness in your recovery process. And the reality is that you are going to have tired days, tired of working recovery days, and both.

Let this be of encouragement to you. You are not alone. God has not abandoned you and there are others out there who want to be supportive to you as you seek sexual integrity and sobriety from the addictive behavior. But in a tired emotional and cognitive state of being we begin to believe that this cave of our emotional struggles is to be kept inside that cave, keeping our feelings in the dark.

Just the opposite is true for health and sobriety. Bring the feelings to the light. Seeking support from other brothers who are in ‘the battle’ is a great step. And when asked by that brother in arms ‘how are you doing?’ Not answering ‘fine.’ Those of you who have participated in a 12 step program know what that acronym for FINE is (we’ll just say ‘Faking it,’ Insecure, Negative and Evasive).

Here are some options to consider to help when you are tired of fighting this fight and want to just give up because of life stressors:

1. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Ground yourself spiritually. Do not rush through the prayer of ‘okay okay okay, I am sitting’..waiting’.. ahhh’.okay, waiting waiting’ um, where are you God?’ Quiet you inner talk and LISTEN. Let me encourage you to first turn off the television and/or radio. Then go and sit down somewhere comfortable, uncross you arms and take some deep breathes for at least 5 minutes while focusing on nothing but your breathing. Clear your mind.

2. Have an officer in arms/sponsor. Pick up that 600 pound phone and connect with a brother in arms. Be open and honest. Saying what is going on is not weakness. It can mentally beneficial to say it out loud (take some power away from it).

3. Remain on alert. When you become tired you can convince yourself, ‘I can handle things now, in this part of my recovery.’ Don’t open that door to temptations; keep your Armor of God on. There is a spiritual war going on with your mind and the enemy knows the best way to get you is by brainwashing (convincing) you to believe and behave otherwise.

4. Exercise. It cannot be said enough: go for a simple bike ride, swim or walk. Observe the creation of the earth, take in the splendor that is before you (watch your eyes and where you look, of course!).

5. Eat well, diet appropriately per what your doctor would recommend for you stage in life.

6. Pick up that God given gift, talent ,or skill and put it to use for others benefit.