• Dr. Michael Johnson

    Psychologist, Specialist in Problematic Sexual Behavior

  • Dr. Michael Johnson

    Specializing in Sex Addiction Treatment in Austin, TX

Be Like a Fire Fighter

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Like many people, I've been thinking about fire fighters quite a lot lately. I realized that those of us in recovery have something very important to learn from fire fighters as we fight the fires of our addictions. Fire fighters do an amazing thing. They run into burning buildings when everyone else is running away. And how do they do that? They drill and drill and drill. Fire fighters practice and rehearse until it becomes natural to respond in a way that seems most unnatural.

As addicts, it is important that we drill - practice our intervention behavior again and again - so that when the time and need arrive, we are prepared to act in healthy, safe, and self-protective ways. Here's one way to work that.

Take some time and sit quietly. Recall your personal list of high-risk situations. Those, of course, are circumstances when you know you are likely to act out. That may be time at home and alone, driving by a sex business or the corner where sex-workers congregate, buying something from a store where you see pornography for sale, receiving an email advertisement from a sex site, or whatever triggers you. Close you eyes and imagine yourself in a risky situation. Imagine that you are triggered. Imagine that the glow has begun and that your thinking is becoming warped.

Then stop. Open your eyes and look at something real and important in your environment - something you stand to lose if you resume your addiction. That may be a photograph of your life partner or children, the brief case that holds your work, a religious text important to you; it doesn't matter what you use to remind yourself of your path of recovery so long as it works and is something real and important. This is to orient you back to recovery.

Now decide what you really want to do for yourself in that situation. Think it through step by step. Don't gloss over anything. Make notes if that helps. Think about it in such detail that you could direct a scene in a movie from the script you are writing for yourself. When you are sure you have enough detail and can remember the intervention, close your eyes and return to imagining the triggering situation. This time put your intervention in place. Imagine carrying through the steps that keep you safely on the path of recovery. Really see the scene unfold in your mind. When you have finished, pay particular attention to how you feel emotionally and physically. Compare those feelings and sensations to how you would have felt after acting out.

Based on your list of triggers, work up intervention scripts for each situation until you have them clearly memorized - Practice until you know your personal interventions as well as you know your telephone number or mother's maiden name. When you have these well memorized, continue to practice them when you drive, wait at the doctor's office, and else where.

Be mindful that your addict may try to interfere with this exercise. Your addict may try to convince you that you already know how to avoid acting out or that if you think about the intervention superficially, you are ready. Your addict has a different agenda. Your addict lies to you about your own psychology. You would not prepare for an exam or a presentation or any other important life activity so lightly. Your sobriety deserves careful preparation as well.

Be like a fire fighter - prepared to rescue yourself.




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