5. Do an Honest Self Evaluation
In this Practice:
This Practice will take some time; you will want to set aside several points to work on it. This is a very important practice and you want to give it the effort it needs.
Before you go any farther, I want you to think about a few very important things.
First, this Practice can be really intense. How could it not? When we’ve been using sex compulsively, we’ve been avoiding feelings and dodging reality. This Practice is going to bring us face-to-face with our reality.
Second, for some practitioners, this Practice will expose a lot of feelings, and possibly feelings of deep shame. I want you to be honest with yourself, but also careful with yourself.
Third, this Practice is not intended to make you feel bad about yourself. Quite the contrary. It takes courage to do this sort of self-evaluation. It’s a necessary part of the path to healing. But if you feel overwhelmed emotionally, or awash in shame, put this down and come back to it later. This Practice is not about shaming you; it’s about freeing you, because you are worth being freed!
Fourth, it’s vital that you recognize and remember that whatever you put down in your answers to these questions is not a definition of who you are. The answers are only partial descriptions of some things you have done.
You are a child of God, a valued member of the human family. Your very participation in this work of recovery speaks to the goodness at work in your soul.
Finally, if you’ve made some progress in cultivating your culture of support (Practice 4) it will be helpful to identify a (very) safe person you can talk with after you’ve completed this Practice. I do NOT mean go over all you write down or think about. But it will be helpful to have a safe person you can talk with about your feelings who can help you stay grounded to reality.
This Practice does not have an “Assignment” section because this Practice is primarily working through sixteen questions, and then recording your thoughts and feelings about your answers. A few specifics:
- Think carefully.
- Give this time.
- Write down your answers.
- Come back to it.
- Set your mind to think about this when you’re not actually working on it.
- Ask the Spirit to help you remember accurately and to give you what you need to be honest with yourself.
- Here is a prayer I recommend you pray each day you’re working on this Practice:
Spirit of my Creator, you know my heart, my thoughts, everything about me. Open my mind to see my life as it truly is. Help me to be honest and thorough. And please help me to walk in your light. Amen
Because this is so important I want to repeat this: there is no place for shame here! This is not about making you feel badly about yourself. What we’re doing here is trying to be fully honest about diagnosing what has been going on because your life truly matters! You are worth recovering and it takes serious work to recover. So be both gentle and thoroughly honest with yourself.
Make notes—write these things down. I said that already; but we have a tendency—especially when ashamed or uncomfortable—to read over, think we’ve got the point, skip a bit. It’s taking a short cut. People who are impulsive love shortcuts. I know you’re thinking, “I just need to go over this in my head; I get the point.” But no, you don’t.
It’s not just you. It’s all of us. Those of us who are compulsive have a very serious challenge of not being fully in touch with reality. Writing these answers out helps us get back in touch with what is real. This exercise is for you and your well being!
Some questions may not apply to you. Whatever answers you write down are for yourself and your use only. Keep your notes in a safe place and when you’re done, you can destroy them.
1. What were your first sexual experiences (age, behavior, with whom, your feelings during and after)?
2. List all significant sexual encounters with people in person, that is, actual sexual encounters you have had.
3. If your compulsion is with Internet pornography, when did you first access it? How old were you?
4. When you first began viewing Internet porn, what sort of porn did you watch? What sort of porn created the strongest response in you? (Remember this info is for you only!)
5. How long (weeks, months or years) have you been regularly using Internet porn?
6. Are you now looking at/looking for types of porn that are different than what you started off with?
7. Have you looked at certain porn images/genre that earlier you would not have thought arousing or even may have thought revolting?
8. How do you feel about how your porn appetite has developed?
9. How much time (think carefully here, review honestly, this is for your benefit) do you spend looking at porn?
10. List all your sexual partners.
11. What sexual experiences/encounters have you had that were a stretch for you—meaning earlier in your life you would not have anticipated or desired?
12. When have you had sexual experiences you regretted afterwards? List all of them. Again, think carefully.
13. List all sexual experiences that left you afraid of potential consequences (stds, aids, legal, relational, reputation or other consequences). Write out the encounter, the potential consequences, what actually happened and how it impacted you (i.e. did you not ever repeat it or did you repeat that experience? Do you think it caused you to change for better or did it further your compulsion?)
14. Think through and try to calculate all costs of your sexual experiences:
- Relationship—spouse, partner, dating relationships
- Time/attention taken from activities or professional pursuits
15. Have you attempted to stop sexual behaviors (or porn viewing) and maybe been successful for periods of time—only to reengage them again? Can you remember how you felt when you resumed sexual activity you tried to stop?
16. Does your sexual history accurately (or mostly) reflect your own personal convictions of what you truly want your life to look like?
Now, thoughtfully look back over your answers.
How do you feel? What do you think?
Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal or somewhere else where you can keep them and refer to them in the future. You will benefit by looking back on the thoughts and feelings you had after completing this practice.
Remember, this Practice is not about shame or condemnation. Jesus said “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” In knowing what is really true about ourselves, we find freedom from the lies we’ve lived.
And the reason recovery is available to us is love. Christian mystic Julian of Norwich said, “First there is the fall, and then there is the recovery from the fall. But both are the mercy of God.”
This Practice will help you face truth. May God’s Spirit hold you in love.
© 2017 LivingIntegrated