Written by Ewan:

 

Last time we looked at the relationship between relapse and hope. I discussed how there is hope in what we can learn from them. Hope can inspire, hope can drive us, hope can motivate and fill us with a good urge to act. To do something! The question is, do what?

Addiction to crossdressing has many fronts which need to be fought. There may be deep psychological and heart needs. The ways we act out can be many: buying, wearing, purging, looking, desiring, edging, masturbating, meeting others, fantasising. We may have other conditions or addictions alongside crossdressing. We can’t fight these all at once. If we try to we will wear ourselves down and lose.

We need to be strategic. We need a battle plan. In any given moment, we need to consider what the best thing to do is. Battle plans allow us to fight small fires, letting us know when we need to call for reinforcements and how to proceed in certain situations.

They remove decision fatigue by providing “if this, then that”. Equally, it’s important to remember that they can change over time, as you grow in experience and wisdom and in the knowledge of what your triggers are, or practical arrangements as life changes.

There are two kinds of action plans. One is to help you avoid or resist temptations well before the stage of full relapse. The other is for just after a relapse. They go hand in hand. The stronger work you do to the first the less likely the second will be needed.

This post is for after relapse.

After a relapse we need to take immediate action to keep ourselves safe. We don’t have time or headspace to think about long-term plans We need to act now. If we get this right, we will create enough safety to keep us going until we can make the preventative plan. If we don’t attack we will surrender and go further into the world of crossdressing. So buckle up, and get ready for war.

It’s important to think about what you personally need to do after relapse. What has helped you in the past? It may look different for each of us. I suggest three steps:

·         Recognise it happened.

·         Redirect your actions toward recovery.

·         Recognise you need others.

 
 
Recognise it happened

Own it. Name it. Be specific. Use active voice.

Early on in my recovery I often said “I fell.” Now I’m looking at younger me and asking him “what did you actually mean by that?” Younger me answers: “I went down into sin and Christ pulled me out of the pit (psalm 40:2).” While that’s true, it didn’t move me forward. It was passive, accidental language. “He fell” is what a child says in the playground.

But the Bible is clear that we fall because of our own actions. James says we are lured away by our own desires. Saying “I sinned” is akin to saying: “I chose to sin in this way.” Secondly, “I fell” did not go far enough. It makes it sound like I was just walking along and then whups, into the hole I go!

The phrase “I fell” does reflect how it feels when we are first in recovery. There is a sudden realisation that we have reached rock bottom. We wake up to the reality that we have done it again. But the further I go into recovery, the more I realise that what I do today can impact my likelihood of staying in sobriety two months from now.

In Dante’s inferno the Character moves through the circles of hell by walking. Theologically I don’t know how the circles stacks up with the Biblical concept of Hell, but I do think it’s a powerful image that we do not just wake up one day having found ourself in the hole.

 
 
Redirect your actions toward recovery

Owning my actions by saying “I relapsed” invites further questions. In my last post I mentioned some questions to ask after relapse. Some require more time and headspace. These ones are about redirecting your steps toward recovery:

·         Where was the relapse? At home? Which room? Outside? In the car? At work? Whereabouts at work? In the toilet? At the desk?

·         When was the relapse? Early in the morning? Midday? What day of the week? What week of the month?

·         What were the behaviours?

·         Was I Hungry, Alone, Lonely, Tired?

·         When was the relapse?

·         What were the behaviours? What did you actually do?

The next question to ask is: What changes can I make to do things differently? This means you can take immediate actions to keep you safe. The more specific you are, the better. Remember that temptation + opportunity = relapses. After relapse the chaser effect means we may still have strong desires. We therefore need to immediately minimise opportunities as far as possible.

On your phone while on the loo at work? Easy change: don’t take the phone to the loo.
Did you buy some clothes in an actual shop? Make yourself accountable and share location with other people. Were you on your laptop, phone, tv, aimlessly scrolling or channel flicking? Choose to read a book instead.

This is part of owning your relapse. You’re moving beyond acknowledging it happened and moving into living life better.

I summarised my last relapse in my last post. I’ll add the related questions and actions this time. I do this to demonstrate the process I go through. I cannot speak into every situation. Ultimately it is our job to own our actions and behaviours.

·         Where was the relapse? I bought some clothes at a local charity shop. Action: Don’t go back to the charity shop. Steps to take to avoid that: share location with my accountability partner and wife. Don’t carry cash.

·         When was the relapse? Shortly after work, on a Thursday afternoon. This is significant for me as Thursdays are the only day I don’t have my toddler in the car. I could therefore get in and out of the shop quickly! I’m also quite tired toward the end of the week.

·         What were the behaviours? Daydreaming about crossdressing. Action: daydream about my wife and/or how good freedom actually is. Buying clothes. Action: Give my cash to my wife. I just said something like “it’s not safe with me.” She knows I struggle. Wearing clothes. Action: get rid of them as soon as possible. I did this on Saturday, taking them back to the store. YouTube videos on my phone: Delete history and search terms to reduce temptation on other devices, disable YouTube on my phone, limit screen time. Porn/sex chat sites. Action: ensure net nanny was working on laptop and phone. Change password to an unguessable password and give it to an elder from church. I gave it to him on the Sunday when he was round for dinner.

·         HALT? I was feeling tired, and hungry, and was going to feel lonely as my wife was going to nightshift that evening. Action: ensure I take more food to work, have a snack on way home. Ensure I sleep long enough.

There are some things I need to work on. Given that I was dressed and walking through the whole house, it was really hard to establish the whole house as a safe space. Really though, getting rid of the clothes and access on devices helped ensure that it was going to be a safe space moving forward and not too triggering.

 
 
Recognise your need for others

It is my belief that a large part of our crossdressing desires is about connection. We are hardwired to live in relationship with others, not just romantically. Unfortunately, we don’t always connect healthily with others and take this into crossdressing. Whether it’s through chatting with others, or the imagined relationship we build when dressed, or when we seek out porn. So in recovery, we need to build connections with others.

There are lots of ways to reach out. Comment here on this blog. Ask to join our prayer support group. Message a friend. We often don’t need to tell a good friend anything other than “I’m struggling.” If you can, pick up the phone. A friend did that to me when he was at work and it just broke the power of the temptation as he spoke and we prayed. I wish I had done that before my last relapse. I knew I should have… but I chose note to. I’ve found my people that I can confess to; this good friend, the prayer group and an online forum for Christians who are breaking free from porn.

Even if you don’t talk about this issue, you need to connect with others. Being alone gives us opportunity. Even if we have locked down everything else. Our imaginations can do amazing and horrifying things. So as part of your immediate action plan make it a point of connecting with real life humans in some way that works for you. If possible, I advise getting out the house and being in public, not taking your phone with you. Meet someone for a coffee or lunch or walk.

The main advantage of being with others is that when we learn to focus on the company and what we’re doing, not only are we not thinking about crossdressing, but we are building genuine connections and better desires.

My action plan includes messaging the group and a good friend.

Remember, this plan is about keeping you safe until you are in the headspace to create the preventive action plan, which can help us steer clear of relapses. We’ll look at that next time.

 

Ewan