9. Put Safeguards in Place

In this Practice:

  • Why safeguards?
  • Two kinds of safeguards/support you need
  • Assignment for Practice Nine

Safeguards are support pieces that do just that: they support your efforts in changing your life into the kind of life you want to live.

Think of it like this: when we teach children how to bowl, oftentimes the bowling alleys have padded gutter guards that extend over the alley gutters. When the ball strays to the right or the left, the gutter guard keeps it on the alley and eventually the ball makes it way down to the pins where it will take down at least one or two. Success! The child’s bowling ball stays in play and they knock down a pin. They are rewarded for the effort and encouraged to do it again.

The goal, of course, is that if they repeatedly engage in bowling this way, they will learn to roll the ball toward the pins. Eventually they can bowl without the gutter guards.

That’s what the right support mechanisms do in recovery. They help us to stay out of the life gutter until we learn how to handle our feelings, direct our thoughts and choose our behaviors in healthy, life-giving ways.

We only depend on the safeguards we put in place so that we can work on changing how we’re engaging life and making choices.

The goal is to get to genuine life-change that comes from a heart of love, not the threat of fear or the scourge of shame.

There are two kinds of support you want to develop, depending on the makeup of your compulsive behavior.

If online porn or using other online sexually oriented websites is an aspect of your behaviors, you need technical support to help you stop using the Internet for unhealthy purposes. For a lot of us, using software programs to filter or monitor our usage has been absolutely essential. Filter software limits what sites your device can go to. Monitoring, or reporting, software allows you to go to all sites, and sends reports of what sites you’ve visited to people you designate. These are accountability partners and may be the same person or persons I’ll discuss below in relational support.

If using phones and other hardware is part of your unhealthy behavior, then you’ll have to change your usage of them. To recover from this disease, you have to become willing to do whatever it takes to stop using technology in ways that hurt you. I have friends who’ve gone back to flip-phones because removing their access to smart phone technology is a healthy support of their recovery.

In the Assignment section, I’ll give you several websites you can go to and survey the different software programs that are available.

Besides technical support, you need relational support from others who are moving in the same direction and have the same goals you do. This is with a person—or perhaps more than one person—with whom you make an agreement to check in every day. Maybe more than one time a day. For those of us in a Twelve Step group, hopefully we’ve found a sponsor and they would be one of the people we share this with.

You talk about what’s going on, what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, if you’re being tempted and what steps you’re taking to take care of yourself and live in a healthy, self-respective way.

The person or persons you choose need to be safe. They need to be someone with whom you’ve got a sense of personal trust.

It may be that you start a supportive relationship with someone but on down the road discover your interpersonal chemistry isn’t working. You’re holding back, or not sharing. You have an increasing sense they don’t get you. You are losing trust or dreading interacting with them. If this becomes the case, kindly but firmly bring the arrangement to a close. This applies to sponsors, too.

Do not, however, decide you need to or have to go it alone. We already have a tendency to isolate. Don’t go there. We need each other to recover. Look for someone else. Never let one failed attempt stop you. You need support.

Ideally these supportive relationships will be with someone in your geographic area. But that is not always possible. Here you can use the Internet to find a supportive friendship or two, as we discussed in Practice Four—assembling your community of intentional support. You feel like I’m just repeating what I discussed there. This is related, but much more focused.

In this Practice I’m guiding you to an intensive support for a period of time. Practice Four is an ongoing, life arrangement.

Right now, to break the hold compulsive behaviors have on your life, you need to engage is specific support that helps you change your daily patterns.

If you are using Internet porn, for instance, stopping the usage of that for ninety days begins a healing in your brain and thought patterns. But how do you get to ninety days? It’s not easy or you would have already done it.

One thing you have to do is stop. Another thing you have to do is stay stopped. Then you need to replace what you were doing with something better. And finally you need to be talking about this every day—sometimes more often than that—to get out of your head, break your isolating patterns, discover how and what you’re really feeling and hear someone else tell you that you can do this, it will get better, you’re worth the work of recovering.

The purpose of utilizing safeguards is not to make you feel ashamed or weak. Quite the contrary! Weakness is never fighting back, never trying to extricate yourself from an affliction that makes you comfortable, distracted and psychically miserable all while it inexorably takes life from you.

It takes courage and determination to use safeguards. This is how you get your life back.

Assignment for Engaging the Ninth Practice—Put Safeguards in Place

1.     Go to http://www.covenanteyes.com and click on “Internet Accountability”

2.     Go to http://www.covenanteyes.com and click on “Web Content Filtering”

3.     Go to http://www.xxxchurch.com and click on “x3watch” for online monitoring and accountability software

4.     Go to https://www.accountable2you.com and “see the features”

5.     Find a person to help you with support; think over all your relationships, everyone you know and ask yourself who you know who’s safe to you, shares your values and outlooks, with whom you are willing to risk partnering with in your recovery

6.     Call that person and ask to make a mutual agreement to talk with them at least one time a day for a minimum of ninety days; after that you’ll reevaluate and renegotiate how often you will connect with each other and you’ll keep doing this as long as you need or as long as mutually beneficial

7.     If you cannot think of anyone in your network of friends who can offer you personal support, go back to the Assignment in Practice Four and begin looking for online support, whether a group or individual

8.     Ask God to help you find the person who will be good for you and for whom you will be supportive, too

9.     Here is a prayer I recommend you use daily:

God, you have made us social creatures. You created us for community. I need the help of others. And I want to be helpful, too. Help me to find a spiritual, recovery friend. Use our relationship for mutual blessing so that we may all do Your will. Amen.

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