Friday, June 7, 2019

Sponsorship and thinking I know better

(The following is a personal post from one of our group members.)

When I first started going to SA meetings, I heard that I should get a sponsor. So I did, more than one. Long story short, sponsorship didn't work for me.

They typically didn't tell me things I wanted to hear when I asked them questions. They had suggestions and directions that I didn't think I needed to hear or do. I thought I was smart enough to figure out how to work the program myself. I "knew" what I needed better than they did, because I knew myself better than they did, or so I thought

Long story short, I didn't find lasting sobriety and real recovery. My ideas, plans, understanding, and efforts didn't work. My chronic relapsing was the proof that I actually didn't know what I thought I did, and I couldn't get sober and stay sober and find freedom my own. My brilliance wasn't working.

What changed? I became desperate enough through my failures to become humble just enough to ask for help and finally give up and do what I was told. I had the change of attitude our literature talks about forced on me. That didn't happen because I somehow made myself better and stronger so that I could somehow make this happen. No, I became weaker and more helpless to the point I was finally willing to admit I had been thoroughly beaten with no other hope than to ask for help and do what I was told. I was desperate and defeated, not hopeful and victorious. I finally gave up my way and surrendered to someone else's.

"In summary, for us surrender is the change in attitude of the inner person that makes life possible. It is the great beginning, the insignia and watchword of our program. And no amount of knowledge about surrender can make it a fact until we simply give up, let go, and let God. When we surrender our 'freedom,' we become truly free." (SAWB p.81)

That's what happened, and yes, it's what I needed to have happen. Good thing someone was still willing to sponsor me, and good thing "God could and would if he were sought."

Monday, April 15, 2019

Am I willing to go to any length?

(The following is a personal post from one of our members.)

I found myself fully confronted with this question back when I started working the Steps in earnest with a sponsor. Up until that time, I had been willing to settle for periodic "lengths" of sobriety. Because I'm an addict and quite insane when I'm lusting, I had figured that was good enough. Proving I could make progress in my fight against lust meant I would stay in the addiction a lot longer than I would have if I had just admitted from the start that I couldn't do this.

So having failed yet again after a really good stretch of sobriety, I was smacked in the face once again with the reality that I was truly hopeless if left to my own ideas and effort, and I didn't know what to do about that. It must be that enough "enlightened self-interest" kicked in, and I finally went looking for a sponsor who could tell me what to do. That was the first good choice I made in the process of becoming "willing to go to any length".

I remember upon receiving my sponsor's offer of sponsorship that I prayed to God and said, "I will do whatever he tells me, even if it kills me." Granted that I was pretty sure he wouldn't tell me to do something that actually killed me, but that was the second good choice I made in the process of becoming "willing to go to any length".

As my sponsor started directing me through working the Steps, he told me that when I was ready, I should write in the front of my AA book the date and the words, "I am willing to go to any length to stay sober." That was the third good choice I made.

When he led me through Step 3, he told me that Step 3 was a commitment to work the rest of the Steps. That was the fourth good choice I made along the path of being "willing to go to any length" to connect rightly with God and others, and to be given freedom from lust and the obsessions and compulsions.

So for me the SA program of going to any length to work the Steps as a path to connect rightly with God really has worked. And I'm very confident at this point that if I stay in that path and continue to grow along spiritual lines through a life that is progressively surrendered to God, I will continue to receive God's gracious gift of sobriety, recovery and freedom.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It's Not Self-help

(The following is a personal post from one of our members.)

When I started out attending SA meetings, I was still thinking for myself and not ready to listen. I was looking for some ideas that I could pick from others to give me a set of tools that I could use to solve my own problem in my own way. I wanted to "help myself" to just as much of the program as I thought I wanted. I was still being my own god.

Sure, I've heard the 12 Step program (AA/SA) referred to as a "self-help" program plenty of times. It's not.

What the program is for me is a "God will" program. My part in this is to surrender to his will for me, moment by moment, and let him do whatever he wants with my life. Step 3 says that I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to care of God. The rest of the Steps are about keeping me in that attitude of surrender to God as a pattern for life. And as I've experienced how to stay connected rightly with God by working through all of those Steps, I know I can trust that "God will" continue to do for me what I cannot do, and to do with me whatever he thinks best.

The "self" in all of this is simply that which I must surrender to God. Sure, we will say it's "progress not perfection". But it's pretty hard to make good progress when you start out headed in the wrong direction. The 12 Steps, worked under the direction of a sponsor and not just my own sick thinking, are in the right direction.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

A new life vs. substituting another problem

(The following is a personal post from one of our members.)

The reason why lust and sexual acting out are so attractive to me is because they are so very powerful at what they do in me. Initially they were my "solution" to other problems. Eventually I became addicted to them, and they failed to be solutions and became their own problems. But I didn't have an alternative "solution" that would work and not enslave me just as lust and sexual acting out had done.

The reason there is such a variety of 12 Step groups for a variety of addictions is because all of those "alternate solutions" are also addictive. I'm quite sure I would very quickly enslaved by anything I used to "substitute" for lust and sexual acting out. That of course is my natural tendency, so I have had to find a real solution instead of a substitute that would also become my next problem.

That real solution is the "spiritual awakening" that Step 12 refers to. It is the right connection with God and others. It is a new way of life. It is living life on life's terms. It is accepting reality that includes hardship and pain instead of always believing I should have a way of escape into a fantasy world of my own making. And the amazing thing about God is that he is a master that doesn't enslave me. He only accepts what I willingly give to him. I am free to take my will and life back at any time that I might foolishly decide to make that insane decision.

That new life was the result of surrendering to God and working the Steps under the direction of a sponsor. The program works when I work it. And I believe it will work for others as well.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Humanly Impossible

(The following is a personal post from one of our group members.)

On page 50, the Alcoholics Anonymous book has this to say about "the humanly impossible" (emph. mine).
   On one proposition, however, these [recovered] men and women are strikingly agreed. Every one of them has gained access to, and believe in, a Power greater than himself. This Power has in each case accomplished the miraculous, the humanly impossible. As a celebrated American statesman put it, “Let’s look at the record.”
   Here are thousands of men and women, worldly indeed. They flatly declare that since they have come to believe in a Power greater than themselves, to take a certain attitude toward that Power, and to do certain simple things, there has been a revolutionary change in their way of living and thinking. In the face of collapse and despair, in the face of the total failure of their human resources, they found that a new power, peace, happiness, and sense of direction flowed into them. This happened soon after they wholeheartedly met a few simple requirements.  
What I like about that quote is that it goes beyond simple "believe-ism" and gets at the core of my problem. The core of my problem wasn't that I didn't believe in a Power greater than myself (God), it was that I was unwilling to "take a certain attitude toward that Power, and do certain simple things" that the sexaholics with real recovery, freedom from lust, and a changed life had done. But when I finally had been completely defeated by lust and fully experienced Step 1 (admitted and accepted powerlessness), I became willing to change my attitude toward God and do those certain simple things. And having connected rightly with God, he took care of the rest.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"The Toughest Act in Town"

(The following is a personal post from one of our members.)

Steps 1-3 brought me into the SA program (vs. just participating in meetings). Steps 4-9 under the guidance of a sponsor took me though the process of reconciling with my past and connecting rightly with God and others. Steps 10-12 keep me in right relationship with God and others and show me a path ahead to keep growing spiritually.

The Sexaholics Anonymous book introduces Steps 4-10 by titling them "The Toughest Act in Town". (p. 97)  Nobody is saying these Steps are not hard work! But I agree wholeheartedly that they are necessary for real growth to happen (vs. just working Steps 1-3 and just staying sober). "Sadly, many men and women with years of physical sobriety in Twelve Step programs never make the breakthrough into the heart of the program and true recovery. The biggest obstacle seems to be Steps Four through Ten—the core substance of the program." (SAWB p. 97)

Steps 4-9 provided me with some painful experiences, completely necessary pain if I was ever going to grow up and face reality. The thorough inventory work on my past (Step 4), confession of my wrongs to myself, God and my sponsor (Step 5), and facing my many character defects honestly enough to really want to be rid of them (Step 6), could not be called "happy days".  But finishing that process by taking it through to the direct amends to others in Step 9 meant that I really could "clear away the wreckage" of my past.

I no longer have to hide from myself and other. I know I can admit my wrongs to myself, God and others. I know that God loves me and will continue to do for me what I can't do for myself. I know that I have done (am doing) what I can to make things right with others. That "dreadful load of guilt" has dropped from my shoulders. I can "lift my head, look the world in the eye, and stand free." None of that could have happened without working Steps 4-9.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lust addiction (vs. acting out sexually)

(The following is a personal post from one of our group members.)

Step 1 of the SA program says that I am addicted to lust: "We admitted that we were powerless over lust—that our lives had become unmanageable." Some compulsive forms of sexual acting out were what showed me that I had a problem, but those were actually the result of something deeper, the result of my lust.

I found along the way that that is an important distinction for me. When I focused on trying not to act out sexually, I failed to make any positive gains against my problem. When I instead focused on lust, it became apparent that without lust driving me to act out, acting out didn't happen. But then it also became apparent that the real problem was that I was powerless over lust, unable to fight it or succeed in struggling against it. And that's when Step 1 became a real experience for me. I knew beyond doubt that I was truly powerless over lust--that my life had become unmanageable.

Fortunately Step 2 follows immediately after Step 1, and provided me with some hope that there was a solution outside myself, a powerful God that could and would restore me to sanity. For me, lusting really is insanity, so I needed a God who could do something about that problem. And having learned to surrender my will and life and temptations and lust to Him (Step 3), I am set free from my addiction to lust. And when I am free from lust, any form of sexual acting out just doesn't happen.