The 3 Essential Keys to Recovery

Discussion in 'Success Stories' started by Tarsus, Nov 29, 2021.

  1. Tarsus

    Tarsus Fapstronaut

    Today I'm officially 90 days clean and sober, but that isn't the success story. I haven't masturbated in 552 days. 90 days ago I slipped enough for me to reset my sobriety counter. I then did something I haven't been able to do since I started recovery. I reset, but I didn't binge or fall back into my addiction cycle. In fact, I did the exact opposite. I stood back up, made adjustments, learned the lessons I needed as to why I slipped, and I continued my sobriety. Here I am, 90 days later, clean and sober with the cleanest 90 days I've ever had. No p-subs, barely any fantasy, and absolutely no porn or masturbation.

    I started my journey here on NoFap the Summer of 2015. I first joined with the name of Zathura. Over the years I abandoned that profile and I became Daemonwithin. That morphed into Daemonswithin after some lengthy inspirational post about fighting not one but multiple daemons, only to continue brief periods of sobriety surrounded by relapses and binges. I think I managed to hit a couple good streaks, never approaching 90 days, until my D-Day. I was 7 days sober on May 31st, 2020, when my wife confronted me about my addiction and escalations, things I had hoped I would take to my grave. Only my therapist and a friend on these forums knew the full truth, and the one person I had hoped would never find out, my wife, found out because of a stupid mistake. I left my email open, and she read drunken emails I had written to myself years previous detailing the despicable things I had done.

    I thought my life was over that day, but to the contrary - it was my rock bottom. I found sobriety. My wife decided to forgive me and stay with me, and we're closer today than we've ever been, but it's been a gruelling journey of recovery to reach this point.

    I've read many success stories and anecdotes over the years on NoFap. I don't offer any secret ingredients to success. I'm not a professional therapist or an expert in recovery. I'm a sex addict. A porn addict of over 30 years. Those are my credentials along with the fact that today I'm sober. But I will offer up the keys to my success, and I truly believe they can be the keys to anyone's success. There will be exceptions of course, but I'm well travelled on these roads. I've experienced countless failures, fell into hopelessness and despair, all while wanting to be sober with every fiber of my being.

    The truth is often never easy, and I doubt this will be either, but this is what I believe to be the truth about recovery. My hope is someone will read this entry and take what I have to say to heart, but I would dare say that if anyone who reads this is stuck in their addiction cycle, if anyone has been unable to reach any lasting sobriety, then it's due to not following what I'm about to say. That's a pretty bold statement, but I've come far enough along to believe it to be true, and the truth is a 3 legged stool. All are required.

    The 3 Essential Keys to Recovery

    #1 - Transformation

    Recovery requires transformation. This may be met with an eye roll or a captain obvious response, but so often when I read the journals of those who are stuck, no transformation has occurred. How is this achieved? Through diligence and commitment. If there's a lack of diligence and commitment, the slower the process and the greater the chance transformation will not be achieved.

    Transformation is becoming a different person. It's creating a life that no longer requires escape. When recovery succeeds, you will always be a different person in recovery than the person you were when you started. I look at my life and who I was 6 years ago, and I don't recognize that person anymore. I shudder at who he was and the things he allowed himself to do. I can, for the first time in my life, say with confidence I'm a better person today than I was a month ago, a year ago, and absolutely 6 years ago. The reason is because I transformed.

    Saying this is easy. The difficult part is the how, because the how is different for everyone. This will be a common theme in my keys to sobriety. There's a core truth, but the how is something everyone must learn for themselves. I believe transformation is at the core of most of the advice given on these forums, and rightly so. Whenever you hear advice related to habits or doing something different to occupy your time, what's being communicated is you must start transforming yourself in order to recover. Some will come on the forums and swear by cold showers, exercise, diet, or countless other mechanisms that can enable transformation. The problem with all of these things is just because 1 or even multiple things worked for somebody else is no guarantee that it will work for you. And this is where we as addicts get into trouble, because when we follow advice, and it doesn't work, we sometimes think we are the problem. That we're some special form of addict that is beyond help. No - it's just that the advice wasn't right for you. You and you alone must find what will transform you, but there are some simple basics that can be followed. Yes, habits is one of them, and it's a powerful one at that.

    However, remember how transformation is achieved. Through diligence and commitment. Transformation is about strengthening self-discipline, which is essential to recovery, because at the end of the day there will always be moments of white-knuckling. There will be countless instances of responding poorly to triggers. It is a grueling war fought on multiple fronts, and the war can easily wear us down. It is not for the faint of heart. If something doesn't work, something else must be tried, or the things that didn't work must be tried again and again, sometimes in different ways. It's a puzzle that is unique to every individual, but it can be solved - I promise you. It just takes dedicated effort and hard work.

    So many stop with just this first key, and although it's critical - it's only 1 of 3. You can't sit on a stool with only 1 leg.

    #2 - Underlying Causes

    Recovery requires addressing the underlying causes that led to addiction in the first place. Sobriety is pumping the water out of a boat that's sinking. Addressing the underlying causes is figuring out where the water's coming in and repairing the damage. Both are required to stop a sinking boat, and both are needed for recovery. Sobriety is addressed with transformation, but if you do not first determine what led to addiction in the first place, you're a dry drunk. One can be a dry drunk for years - and yes, even 500+ days.

    This is by far the most difficult leg of the stool. You must first find what those underlying causes are, and then they must be addressed. I spent years in therapy trying to find and address the causes. I don't remember when it all came together, but it finally did. I understood why I became an addict. It was a profound experience that allowed me to view myself with compassion - something I had never done before.

    However, finding out the why is only starting down the path. Addressing the cause is where the real work begins. I'm not finished, nor will I ever be. I'm still on my journey. This is why I'm not "cured" - because my underlying causes are still there, and there's a real possibility they always will be. The moment I stop addressing them or finding new ways to deal with them is when my recovery is in jeopardy.

    Underlying causes are different for everyone. The large majority of addicts, like myself, have mental issues. I suffer from depression, anxiety, and many other things built on a foundation of feeling inadequate and worthless. That's just 1 of many for me, but the mental issues are unlimited. However, it is possible for underlying causes to be something else as well. Some may have become addicts simply because pornography is addictive, although I believe that to be the exception to the rule. Those stories are easy to recognize. They typically involve addicts who cured themselves by only doing the first key to recovery. If it is possible, it's as rare as a unicorn. For the rest of us that live in the real world, there are underlying causes. Sobriety does not solve them. In fact, in many ways it exacerbates them. Addiction is a security blanket. It shields us from having to deal with the things that cause us to escape. It's an illusion of course. Addiction no more shields us than hiding behind a couch when someone is in your living room shooting at you. When the protection is taken away through sobriety, you're left having to deal with what's attacking you. Depression, selfishness, anxiety, narcissism - whatever it may be is exposed.

    We're forced to recognize a part of ourselves that isn't easy to look at. In fact, it may be quite sinister and horrifying, but it's crucial to recovery. Many require therapy to figure it out and work through it as I did. We live in a world and a reality of our own making. Sometimes we need someone outside of ourselves to point out the obvious. I guarantee you if you've done wonders in transforming yourself through habits and cold showers, and your counter can never make it out of the single digits - you're not addressing the underlying causes. You can spend countless dollars investing in a pump to bail out the water - but it'll do no good if you don't repair the hull.

    #3 - Accountability

    This is another difficult key to recovery because it's the hardest one to accept. Who wants to admit that we can't do this alone? I was stuck in this particular form of denial up until the day my wife confronted me. 5 years of recovery and giving it "my all", only for me to be thrust into the harsh reality that I wasn't able to do this alone. You must find someone in real life to hold you accountable.

    For those of us who are married or in relationships, this requires disclosure. I'm not saying your SO must become your accountability partner, but what I'm saying is if you're in a relationship and haven't disclosed, I don't see how there can be a lasting, permanent recovery. I was firmly on the opposite side of this issue up until my D-Day. I believed it was possible to do this without my SO knowing. I was wrong. It isn't possible.

    For those of us who aren't married, I also believe this requires disclosure, although the consequences will be far less than those of us that have lied to our SOs. Finding someone to disclose to may be far more difficult for some than for others, but it's essential. Start with the person you're closest to. If you're not close to anyone, go to a 12-step program and get a sponsor. If there are no programs where you live, go to a therapist. If there are no therapists where you live, go to a church and disclose to a preacher or elder. If you're one of the unlucky few where none of the above is an option - find somebody.

    The reason why this is important is because addiction thrives in secrecy, but even more important than that is this fundamental truth: the opposite of addiction is connection. There can be no connection with your SO if you're living a secret life. If you have no SO, disclosing to someone close to you creates connection. It brings your addiction into the light, and shining a spotlight on addiction is the kryptonite to its strength.

    But we don't want to do this. It takes vulnerability. It requires surrender. It means letting go of our pride and admitting that we aren't strong enough to deal with this alone. If I knew 6 years ago what I know now - I would have talked to my wife immediately without giving it a 2nd thought.

    It's a risk. Your SO may leave you and there can be long-lasting consequences. There have been for me, but this is where you must ask yourself how strongly do you want to recover? How committed are you to ending addiction? If you aren't willing to disclose, you have 1 foot in recovery and 1 foot in your addiction.

    That's it. Those are the 3 keys to sobriety. Disappointed? Hopefully not, but as I said - I can guarantee you that if anyone isn't having success in recovery, it's due to 1 of these 3 pillars. So much can be written about each of these, and I've barely scratched the surface, but I think there's enough here to get anyone started down a path of success. I never thought I would recover, but here I am, and if I can do it - anyone can.
  2. Ubermen

    Ubermen Fapstronaut

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. And congratulations on your success. I do feel your transformation and confidence in this post. Bravo!
    Diderik and Tarsus like this.
  3. Thanks for sharing this wise keys to recovery, an congratulations on your success. We all can do it, stay strong everyone!
    Ronaldeutsch, Diderik and Tarsus like this.
  4. Alpha Wanna be

    Alpha Wanna be Fapstronaut

    Thank you! I've read every word.
    Ronaldeutsch and Tarsus like this.
  5. Psalm27:1my light

    Psalm27:1my light Fapstronaut

    Nailed it! Say it louder for the married men in back who think they can escape this without disclosure! The wife knows, she just hasn’t found the proof to confirm.
    new socks, black_coyote and Tarsus like this.
  6. Kadampa

    Kadampa Fapstronaut

    Thank You.
    Diderik and Tarsus like this.
  7. The-man

    The-man Fapstronaut

    Wow!! a very rare gem, rarely good n sensible. Thank you for sharing.
    Rarely people talk about transformation and recovery, the primary essentials.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Ronaldeutsch and Tarsus like this.
  8. awareness_79

    awareness_79 Fapstronaut

    Congratulations, sir. I am happy for you and your family. Many of your experiences and insights make sense for me.
    Why should I tell my wife about my addiction? She doesn't know yet and we live a good life as a family. You got caught. Thats a big difference. And you were lucky how she did react on the disclosure. What have you done when your SO didn't read your mails? Did she have an idea of your addiction before? How was your relationship before and how did the disclosure improve your relationship?

    Sorry for asking that much, but im curious. I don't see any benefit of disclosure in a functioning relationship or marriage. We can open our heart good friends, therapists, groups or others.

    Thank you for sharing.
    black_coyote and Tarsus like this.
  9. Psalm27:1my light

    Psalm27:1my light Fapstronaut

    I’m going to answer this one too. Why should you be honest with your wife? Because you respect her? Because you supposedly love her? Because that’s the only way to have a truly intimate relationship with someone. Because no matter how much you spin it, you are hurting her. Because she has a right to know. Because telling her yourself is a very big step in you actually trying to really get clean, it holds you responsible and accountable. It also is far less traumatic than her discovering on her own and gives your relationship the best chance at survival.. my husband thought we had a great marriage. You have a functioning marriage, but is your wife really content, happy, joyful? My husband would’ve answered yes to all of that. I was content, happy and joyful about my life. I was not happy, content or in any other way fulfilled with my relationship with my husband. The reason? His addiction. 5 years ago unbeknownst to him, I was counting the days until I could divorce him and never speak to him again. 4 years ago, he told a counselor we didn’t need to come anymore because our marriage was so good, lol! While I was even more set on divorce! Three years ago he started getting help for addiction and into recovery.
    Today? The difference is night and day who this man is. We talk. Every day. About everything. He treats me 1000% better, and no he wasn’t a “ bad” husband, he just wasn’t present emotionally. He was always in his own head. He connects better. He’s thoughtful, he isn’t nearly as moody. Honestly, until he got into strong recovery, I had no idea how much it affected him. This guy is pretty damn awesome. We didn’t need marriage counseling ( 4 solid years did very little to help our marriage and only confirmed I wanted out) we needed him in recovery. I’ve been with him 35 years. You have no idea what this addiction has done to you. It’s so gradual and hidden, you are cheating yourself and your wife out of an amazing relationship. Ps: your wife knows something is wrong, she just can’t put her finger on it. Eventually you get found out, sometimes the wife finds out after her husband dies and that’s even more traumatic for them. True love, leaving that for your wife to find. Having said that, disclosure needs to be well thought out, not just something you dump on her. You would need to be ready to take responsibility for what you’ve done. She may be hurt, she may not care. I’m curious why you would be honest with a friend but lie to your wife?
  10. awareness_79

    awareness_79 Fapstronaut

    Thank you for answering @Psalm27:1my light. I understand and appreciate your point of view. The view of a loving wife.

    Your success story, @Tarsus, deserves to be celebrated and not questioned by me in your thread. I am sorry. I'm just insanely curious how the disclosure helped you and your wife as I am not yet ready to take this step. That's why i asked so many agitated questions.
  11. Tarsus

    Tarsus Fapstronaut

    Thank you. And there's no reason whatsoever to apologize to me for any questions you may have. If I'm able to help, that's good enough for me. I don't expect everyone to agree with my insight, but at the same time I will always speak the truth, and it's based on a personal experience I've accumulated over decades of addiction.
    I did get caught, absolutely. My wife found out things I wish to this day she never did, but at the same time it opened my eyes to how necessary it was for my recovery. I wouldn't be here having the success I'm having were it not for my wife finding out.

    So the answer to your primary question of why you should tell your wife is quite simple. You and your wife are one flesh. I'm a Christian, but I don't say that based solely on biblical values. No matter what your beliefs are, you and your wife are one. If one of you struggles, the marriage struggles. You are currently struggling with addiction, which means your marriage is also struggling. How? Because there's a secret side to you that is directly harming your wife. It's less about the addiction and more about the secrecy and the lies. Even if you've managed to not outright lie to your wife, by hiding your struggle from her you are lying and deceiving.

    I come at it from an addict's point of view. The truth is, SOs will handle the truth very differently with varying degrees of betrayal trauma. I will not mince words, and I say this not to offend but to help - your addiction is traumatizing your wife. You may not realize how or why, but the trauma is real. It may very well be an active trauma as Psalm described with her husband, or it may be a ticking bomb that has yet to explode. Either way - there's trauma. You may very well live a good life as a family, but that does not excuse the betrayal of keeping your addiction and your struggle from your wife.

    I remember watching the Sopranos, and there was a sequence of episodes where Tony, the main character, started an extramarital affair with a woman where he got emotionally involved. He regularly cheated on his wife, but this was different. It changed him. His mood was incredible. His relationship with his wife improved. He was on cloud 9, surfing the bliss that came with the affair - until it all fell apart.

    That's basically what it is for the addict who is keeping his struggle secret. Things may very well be going fine, but the goodness of it all is shallow and a lie. If it weren't, then you would have no problem telling your wife. We addicts are in denial about disclosure - and I was king of that hill for quite some time. I never believed my wife would forgive me. I thought it would destroy my family. It almost did, but I'm one of the lucky ones in the sense that my wife had every right to leave me and take my kids away from me. She chose not to.

    You're right in that my disclosure came from me getting caught, but what you don't realize is this fundamental truth - it was worse because I got caught. It would have been better if I had not gotten caught and had voluntarily disclosed. This is fact. It's not situational nor does it depend on the relationship. Voluntary disclosure is and will always be better than getting caught.

    But what about option C? Not disclosing. That's an option for sure, but it's one based on denial. We addicts know denial very well. It's a fundamental core of our addiction. You've crossed denial barriers just by being part of the forums. You've admitted that there's a problem in your life - otherwise why would you be here? That's great, and it's a huge step. Many addicts have yet to take it. They refuse to admit or even see the damage that is being caused by their addiction. Of all the many forms denial can take, one of the most insidious is believing that secrecy is better for your marriage. It isn't. It never will be, and it's a form of denial to believe otherwise.

    You asked an amazing question at the end. How was my relationship before and how did the disclosure improve my relationship? My relationship before can best be described as having a relationship with someone you love while in prison. Sometimes I could get as close as a pane of glass to my wife and share intimate moments. Other times I was even able to be in the same room with her. But the prison was always there. That's how it is with addiction. There were countless wonderful, intimate moments I shared with my wife mixed in with the anger, selfishness, and depression that was fueled by my addiction. It was like a guard that was hovering ready to jump in if I ever got to close. It wasn't real. My wife didn't know me because I was shielding her from a huge part of myself. How did disclosure improve the relationship? It destroyed the prison. I was left standing there exposed. My wife then had a choice. Now that she could see me - all of me - she could choose to forgive and love or choose to leave. She chose the former. We struggled. There was so much pain to get past, but we did it. I've known my wife for 21 years, 15 of which I've been married to her. This past year and since D-Day is the closest I've ever been to her. It's night and day. My love for her has grown exponentially. She saw the real me, and she still chose to forgive me. I can't comprehend it. I still don't to this day, but I accept it. Her leaving me would have destroyed me.

    My friend - this isn't easy. Addiction sucks. There's nothing good about it. You can continue on as you are, but you're marriage will never rise to the levels it could if you would just be honest with your wife. Addiction thrives in secrecy. To recover you must bring it out of the darkness and expose it for what it is. Hiding it from the one person who chose to devote her life to you is holding on to the addiction.

    There's so much more I can say, but I'll leave it here. Feel free to respond here or even in my journal if you choose. You're always welcome, and I'll be happy to provide further details or answer whatever questions you may have.
  12. awareness_79

    awareness_79 Fapstronaut

    Thank your for the long response @Tarsus. I can feel the power of your words as i read. It gives me a new perspective to think about. Thank you for that.
  13. Psalm27:1my light

    Psalm27:1my light Fapstronaut

    It was an amazing response. I showed it to my husband because we BOTH felt how dead on accurate it is! For me the acknowledgement that even when done in complete secrecy it traumatizes your wife!! This was so true and it’s the secrecy and lies that cause the most trauma! Long before my DDAY I knew something was wrong but didn’t have any proof or idea and this caused so much confusion and doubt and the list goes on.
    black_coyote and Tarsus like this.
  14. Beekind

    Beekind Fapstronaut

  15. YodelAy

    YodelAy Fapstronaut

    Great post!

    One of the most realistic I have come across here- I’m recovering for the past 3-4 years and making the best strides in transformation in the past year since I joined 12 step program- I’ve done it on my own, therapy . I voluntarily disclosed to my wife myself - I just couldn’t keep this in me. Why? Because I love my wife and could no longer hide what was really going on inside me. Tearing me apart, changing me from the man she met and who I hoped I would become. The conditions were there when we met and the porn use but not the addiction. I really became one of the “hungry ghosts” depicted on Gabor Mates book about addiction. I didn’t feel me any more. I didn’t recognise myself - I was lying to myself.

    Recovery from addiction isn’t that easy- I do believe it requires transformation. This involves brutal honesty and vulnerability- if you are an addict I don’t think you can honestly do that without disclosing.

    What I am learning is that loving is about vulnerability - not my attachments and wants. If I truly love my wife I can be truly vulnerable with her. It is understandable to want to hide it - deep shame and guilt keep you trapped. But to recover you have to free yourself from shame and guilt.

    Hiding will not work in the long run - the motivation may be trying not to hurt but the reality is she is hurting more if you don’t disclose. Often the real motivation isn’t not wanting to hurt but not being able to deal with deep, deep guilt and shame. It just isn’t possible to free yourself from that, learn to love yourself when you are hiding your true self.

    Your relationship is hurting in the darkness. Coming out into the light is the path to loving yourself and your wife.

    Looking beyond one’s own selfish needs and wants is key in any loving relationship.
  16. AspiringProgrammer

    AspiringProgrammer Fapstronaut

    Thank you.
    The seeker and Tarsus like this.
  17. happygilmorescaddy

    happygilmorescaddy Fapstronaut

    absolute belter of a post. it really resonates with me . i confessed everything to my wife 2 fridays ago . i thought i was cruising with 14 months sober from porn and prostitutes, but i dropped my guard and got really drunk and ended up in a brothel at 3am . the guilt and shame was overwhelming the only option was to confess, i just could not lie anymore. and as painful as its been , my wife hasnt thrown me out. but i realise now its so true , you cant recover properly with out brutal honesty even if you risk losing it all. the 14 months clean wasnt even that clean ive realised now , i was fooling myself big time with white knuckling and living on the edge of the addiction. the relief after disclosing finally brought a tiny bit of hope even if it almost destroyed my marriage
    Psalm27:1my light likes this.
  18. Fleefromsin

    Fleefromsin Fapstronaut

    Congratulations and thank you for this post. I am currently dealing with post acute withdrawal symptoms. Mainly insomnia. It creeps back up every so often. Especially after sex with my wife. Do you feel as though you are back to as normal as you can get? Can you have a normal sex life? How long did you have to battle the post acute withdrawal symptoms? Thanks again for your post.
    Tarsus likes this.
  19. black_coyote

    black_coyote Fapstronaut

    @Tarsus Thank you for sharing your story! This whole thread has been an interesting exchange of wisdom kindled by experience. Wish you well! :)
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2022
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