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We all know that holidays can be stressful. There are additional expectations from loved ones, gift purchases, and quality time with less than beloved in-laws. Addicts, who are often used to being more isolated, may be faced with holiday friends, family, and house guests. With all these additional interactions, the addict or recovering addict may have less free time for addictive behaviors. In addition, the extra stress may cause the addict to drink more, eat more, have a blurry-headed hangover, and be more prone to act out sexually. However, when faced with the unwanted gift of holiday stress there are actions you can take to restore that sense of holiday cheer or, at least, not revert to old ways of coping.
A Trip to the Mall
Let’s say you’re walking in the mall with your wife. Yet, your “fantasy guy” or your “looker” is going crazy at the sight of the Santa’s “Elves,” barely-legal women in sexy costumes who are escorting children to talk with the fat man in the red suit. Then, when your wife says she needs some “special underwear” and drags you into Victoria’s Secret, your mind starts spinning like a Las Vegas roulette wheel. Yet, you’ve gone this far in your recovery, and you think you might be able to deal with standing around in Victoria’s Secret while your wife looks at panties.
However, once in the store, you get captivated by the photos of women in bras, or a bikini ad with an overly endowed model. Then, while waiting patiently near your wife in the bra and panties section, you notice a blonde woman holding up a black thong with sequins. Okay, you think, that’s it. This is too much. My wife is being insensitive by pulling me into sheer-bra-and-panty triggering hell. Doesn’t she notice the blonde woman holding up the black thong? Doesn’t she know how good I’ve been in my recovery? And how difficult this must be for me? So you start a fight by angrily telling her that you’ll meet her in the food court where you plan to buy the worst possible bad-for-you food you can find, and eat it while watching Santa’s Elves.
Then you stop. You see the concern in her eyes and realize that all she wants to do is find a few pairs of sexy panties so she can help with the newfound intimacy in your marriage since you stopped looking at porn. At first you feel like a fool and quickly apologize. Then you remember that you can always, without exception, be compassionate towards yourself. You’ve been doing great work in your recovery. You don’t have to make yourself wrong. You breathe, relax, and put your hand on your heart.
Once you do that, you appreciate that she brought you in to this trigger-laden store so she could see how you reacted to the sexy panties. She was, in fact, doing this for you since she’d much prefer plain white cotton underwear. You take your wife’s hand in yours for a moment, squeeze it affectionately, and give her quick kiss. I like those red ones, you say. I can definitely see you in those, you say, as you and your wife share a mischievous smile.
A Gift to Yourself
Buying gifts can be triggering in more ways than one. For example, you need to buy lots of gifts for your wife as well as gifts for your kids. Although you know your wife really wants the latest and fanciest iPad, your finances are not in the best shape. So maybe you start resenting your wife for not being considerate enough to just ask for a new baking spoon or the latest Alicia Keys CD. It’s not your wife’s fault, of course, yet you start making her wrong. You also feel bad about yourself and your mind starts wandering to what might make you feel better, such as looking at porn.
What you can do is give yourself a gift by as, George Collins says, asking yourself what else you can do instead of acting out. For example, you can get yourself a sweet treat or take up a new hobby or treat yourself to the time it takes to just walk by yourself in nature. By not acting out, and by accepting that you are okay as you are, and that you’ve gone a year or whatever it’s been without looking at porn, you are, in fact, giving yourself a gift of being compassionate towards yourself.
Holiday Banter Bull
We’ve all had those fake holiday conversations where you try to be witty with the uncle or brother-in-law or whoever that you haven’t seen in a year. Maybe you’re trying to be nice. Maybe your wife’s brother is talking about how successful his Mercedes dealership has been this year. You're jealous but you don’t want to show it, and you start thinking about acting out, having another drink, or ducking into the garage to be alone.
What if this is the first holiday gathering since your wife found out you were a porn or sex addict. You know your wife talked to her sister about it, and her sister probably talked to her husband about it, and now that husband is looking at you with a sort of smug smile. You never particularly liked the guy. But now you just want to wipe that smile off his face. Or, with your blood pressure rising, you want to just leave and go to a strip club. You can’t do that now, but you can engage in “cross addictions,” such as excess drinking, eating, or sugar consumption.
Now is the time to remember that you always have a choice. You can say the hell with it all, or you can be compassionate towards yourself. You can take a deep breath and, when your wife’s sister’s husband confidentially asks how your marriage is going, you can sincerely smile at the smug-faced moron and casually mention that your marriage is becoming better than it’s ever been, better than you ever could’ve imagined, and you enjoy your time at home now more than you ever thought possible. And you start thinking about how tonight’s the night for your wife to wear those sheer red panties.
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