When I first began public speaking I was given a simple formula — tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. Easy enough, just repeat everything three times. I wish public speaking was really that easy.
When I came into recovery from sex addiction I was told all I had to do was follow twelve simple rules. I quickly learned that the twelve-steps are simple, but not easy. Let me share simply how the twelve-steps have worked in my life. As I write more, I’ll add a lot more detail. Occasionally, I’ll summarize for you.
I engaged in sexually addictive behavior for many years. At first I thought that I could stop anytime I wanted. But I recognized that after I threw away all the pornography, it would only be a short time before I began collecting it again. I had lost the power to stop.
As I worked the steps with my sponsor, I learned that Step 1 was simply my admission that I was powerless to stop my addictive behavior and that my life had become unmanageable.
Next, I recognized that if I was powerless to stop acting out I needed to find that power, a power greater than me. Accepting that simple principle is Step 2.
Step 3, turning my will and my life over to that higher power, was more difficult for me. I was angry at God, blaming Him for my own shortcomings. Plus, I had a long history of not asking for help. So initially, I used the twelve-step group as my higher power. By using the group, I was no longer trying to recover alone. Developing a relationship with God came later for me.
Steps 4 and 5 were difficult and emotionally draining. My sponsor shared a format for outlining a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. I identified in detail resentments that I had harbored for years, underlying fears, and people I had hurt because of my addictive sexual behavior. I accepted my part in each of those as well. Sharing those with God and with my sponsor helped me to learn that character defects that drove my addiction, and my life.
With Steps 6 and 7, my relationship with God began to come into focus. I recognized that only God could remove those defects of character. I could not do it alone. Prayer was becoming a more important part of my life.
Steps 8 and 9 involved making as list of people I had harmed (a list I began in Step 4) and making amends to all of them. Before I made an amend, I asked God’s help for courage and wisdom. Most of my amends were done in person. I admitted the harm I had done, recognized my character defects (defects like selfishness, dishonesty, and being inconsiderate), and listened to learn of additional harm. I did lots of listening, no rebuttal, and never used the words sorry or apologize. My victims had heard those words from me too many times.
I could not make direct amends to some people. Some had moved away, some had died, and some would be injured if I contacted them. The best amend I could make to them would be to change my life.
Ok, let me summarize. In Steps 1,2 and 3, I recognized I was powerless and my life was unmanageable; I accepted that if I did not have the power to stop my addictive behavior I needed to find the power somewhere else, somewhere greater than me; and I had to make a decision to turn my will and my life over to that Power.
Steps 4 through 9 are the growth steps, the steps where the real action begins. I made a searching and fearless (let me be honest, it wasn’t totally fearless) moral inventory, shared it with my sponsor, and identified the character defects that led me toward addiction. I brought God into the picture — removing those defects myself was beyond my ability. And I faced those resentments and fears by making amends to the people I had hurt.
By this time I was beginning to feel the spiritual awakening that the program told me I was going to receive. My relationship with God was growing. The obsession to act out was diminishing and I was establishing friendships with others in the program.
Please join me next week as I discuss Steps 10, 11, and 12, the maintenance steps that allow me to Live in recovery.