Monday, March 22, 2021

"I just can't beat this!"

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

Recently a newcomer shared in frustration that they feel like they just can't beat this addiction! That was exactly my problem as well, being trapped in an addiction that I cannot beat. 

The irony of it is that the SA program literature (and witness of other recovering sexaholics) agrees completely that this is exactly my problem. That is precisely what Step One had been telling me all along. But the insanity of it all was that I kept trying to escape the trap by fighting back against my addiction to lust. Fighting it didn't work, and yet after another knock-down, I'd get up off the canvas and put up my fists and tell myself I was going to win the next round against lust. I'd beat it this time for sure! I was going to get stronger if I just kept at it. This is what "everyone" knows is true: "You can do anything you put your mind to if you just try harder!" And all the time my face was being bloodied and bruised all the more. But I kept swinging anyway, and kept getting knocked down over and over again. Insanity!

For me, it never worked. I never got stronger. I never won the fight. And when I finally couldn't even get up off the canvas anymore, I quit fighting. 

For the first few years after giving up the fight, I just fed my addiction whatever it wanted. I hated myself for it. I felt nauseated by it. I was disgusted with myself and my life. I accepted that I would go to the grave, a defeated man, hopelessly wallowing in lust and my acting out. There was no hope, and I had admitted my powerlessness. And yet, it needed to get even worse before I was finally ready to surrender to God and beg for him to save me and to ask for help from another sexaholic (a sponsor) who could guide me through the Steps of the program as I submitted to his direction as well. 

The SA book says it this way:

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) 

The rest of the story is working the SA 12 Step program in a way that changed my understanding and experience of and relationship with God (surrender). And based on that relationship that provided me with Power I didn't not have, my relationships with others were changed as well. How I see myself and feel about myself has continued to change. How I feel about myself is also fully based on that core relationship with God (not as the current "prevailing wisdom" would tell me to base it). 

Can I beat lust now after all these years? After all that's happened, why would I now be insane enough to go back to that fight?!! I prefer to live by the reasonably healthy amount of sanity I enjoy today. "God could and would, if he were sought."

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

SA Membership Requirement

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

Since "the only requirement for membership [in SA] is a desire to stop lusting and become sexually sober", it must be something very important for me (and anyone else who wants to join SA).  But the importance and the actual meaning of those words was not something I honestly accepted when I showed up at my first SA meeting in 1989. My desire was not to "stop lusting". My desire was to get control over my acting out behavior. I erroneously believed that sexual acting out behavior was my real problem, and if I could get control over that, I would have succeeded in my purpose for showing up at meetings. 

And at first, I started to "succeed". I'd only act out each week the day after the SA meeting just so that I could say that I had some "sobriety" the next time I showed up at the meeting, (Yes, pride is one of my character defects.) Eventually I started to string together longer periods of "sexual sobriety", and even achieved a year of sobriety at one point before crashing and burning and relapsing as a consistent pattern.  I stopped any regular attendance at SA meetings and the progressive nature of my addctn took its natural course. I became a "true addct", I had completely "lost control" instead of achieving my purpose of gaining control. 

But wanting to  be "in control" is precisely the opposite of "surrender". And surrender is what I needed, even if I didn't want it. What I truly needed was to have God in control of my life, a Power greater than me and greater than lust, One who "could and would" restore me to sanity and keep me sober and free of lust's bondage. I needed a right relationship with God, but that had to come on his terms, which is why he is God and I am "not God". 

For me to really "desire to stop lusting", I had to be beaten thoroughly, to lose the fight, to "give up, let go, and let God." I had to become thoroughly sick and tired of myself and to finally acknowledge that the problem was me, the problem was in my heart, not in my behavior. I needed a change of heart, and God was willing to do that when I surrendered to him. And when I had finally lost the fight and began to experience an attitude of surrender, I became willing to work all 12 Steps as directed by a sponsor. And that led to a "spiritual awakening" and a "happy and joyous freedom" I could otherwise never know. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Dying from lust, or dying to lust

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

I'm a recovering lust addict.  I was fully enslaved to lust, unable in my own efforts to break free from the prison and chains by which lust held me in bondage. Lust was slowly killing me, taking my joy, my good desires, my right purposes, my relationships, my freedom and my life from me. I was dying inside, and I hated myself and what I had become.

And yet lust still attracted me. This was the insanity of it all! I longed for, sacrificed for, pursued, cherished, coddled, pined for, begged for the illusion of what lust could do for me.  The fantasy of lust remained attractive to me no matter how much I hated the bondage it brought. 

Something deadly serious had to happen. Either I was going to die from lust,  or I would have to die to lust.  But I had become powerless over lust, unable to be free of it, and certainly unable to kill it in me.

Instead of fighting lust and successfully killing it myself, I needed Someone to be my Savior over lust. I needed a Power greater than me and greater than lust to win the fight for me, to take on my lust for me, because I could not bear it or be free of it. 

"Every time I surrendered a wrong in process—temptation to lust, resentment, or fear, for example—and would say something to the effect, "I don't want to bear this; I want You to bear it for me; I cast it onto You," it worked. Someone has to bear my wrong, and Someone does." (SAWB, p. 121)

For me, God does make this happen. God, in his graciousness, accepts the lust I surrender to him and puts it to death. He makes it possible for me to have life in him. But God is not my errand-boy who simply wants to keep taking my lust while I go on about my life playing my own games and living life as the master of my own destiny. Believing I could be the master of my own life got me into this trouble in the first place. No, I needed a new Master, one who knows what is best for me. I need to surrender my will and life to the "One who has all power," to a "loving God" who "could and would" restore me to sanity. 

I must be willing to be changed by God from the inside out. And this is where the Steps of the SA program come to bear on the whole process of recovery. The Steps can, if done with the proper attitude and actions of surrender, bring me into a right relationship with God and others.  And when that happens, lust begins to lose its attractiveness. Its dishonesty and delusion become transparent. I find that I really do want to be rid of it, to be dead to lust. Surrender becomes easy as the default action to take when temptations to lust appear in my sight and mind. 

God takes care of the lust, and in that moment of renewed freedom, I respond, "What's next God?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Solution to Fear

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

Recently in our local group meeting, we read from the SA Step Into Action book, Step Four. I found this particular paragraph stood out to me (page 73). 

We find that, once again, prayer coupled with action is the solution. We use prayer to address each fear. We begin to see ourselves as people who can live in faith, not fear; who can start the day with hope, not despair; who can take the next right action, rather than wallow in the expectation of defeat. This is how we begin to outgrow fear.

Two weeks ago I was asked to share about my spiritual growth process in a setting that would leave me quite vulnerable. If I'm going to share honestly about my spiritual growth, there's no way not to talk about my addiction recovery. My natural reaction to possible "exposure" is to run and hide. I am afraid of people knowing too much about me. I have told myself that the more people know, the more reason they have to condemn me, just as I have condemned myself. This is a long-term pattern for me from my many years of judging myself. (And then there is that little issue of being quite introverted....)

Given that it was a pastor friend that asked me to share, I thought I'd better at least "say" I'd pray about it. But then having said I would pray about it, I didn't want to be a liar. So then I actually had to go ahead and talk to God about it. And then given that I had "made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God" at some point in this journey, that meant that I had already committed to "take the next right action". 

In prayer, it became clear to me that the only reason to not share my story was because I was scared of looking bad. But this was actually an opportunity to give credit where credit is due, and to let people know that God has been truly amazing and loving and gracious to me. And I actually am very grateful for what he has done in my life (if I take some time to actually think about that for a couple of seconds). So that sealed the decision, and I shared my story yesterday. 

I tried to not so much share "my story", but to share the story of what God has graciously done in my life. One of those areas of growth is to be willing to be vulnerable, even if it scares me. What happens after that is simply up to God. And since I know that God isn't condemning me, I need not worry about anyone else.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Step 12 - Carrying the message

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

My Step 12 experience is that in order for me to continue to live in this new life I've been given as the result of having worked the Steps and having had a spiritual awakening, I am going to continue to grow by trying to carry the message of recovery to other sexaholics (and to practice the principles of our program in all my affairs). Through this program, God saved me out of the mire in the pit of addiction to lust and sexual acting out that I had jumped into. My feet are now on solid bedrock, and I can continue to "trudge the road of happy destiny" as I continue to follow God. That is the message I can carry to other sexaholics. And it is a message that I must carry, must give away, if I want to continue to grow along spiritual lines.

That message is really not about me. It's about what happened to me as I simply continued to surrender to God and follow the direction of a sponsor to work the program. It's not about me and what I did right, because what got me into SA in the first place was doing everything wrong. It's a story about being saved by Someone else. Someone else is the Hero in my story.

A drowning person doesn't get saved by a lifeguard and then goes out telling the story about how they saved themself (unless they are a liar). Surrender is to stop fighting the Lifeguard and do what he tells me to do. God says to me, "Trust me, don't struggle, relax, I got this, give up, let go, and let me."  Before recovery, I wanted to do it myself (pride). But it was "myself" that got me into this mess in the first place. It was my core self-centeredness. Carrying the message is not self-centered. That message is God-centered and must be freely given to others as it was freely given to me. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Going back to Step 1

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

I was listening to another sexaholic sharing about how he was "going back to Step 1" because of his recent relapse. I could relate. I did this many times in my early years of going to SA meetings. I had to do this because there was something still missing in my Step 1 experience (and experience is different from knowledge). 

As the Sexaholics Anonymous book reminds me, the truth is that I must be "taken by Step 1". For me that was at the point of complete despair, the "incomprehensible demoralization" the Alcoholics Anonymous book talks about. That was when I fully admitted and fully embraced the belief that I was powerless over lust and that in my own power I remain powerless over it for the rest of my life. I no longer had any delusion that I could work hard enough to gain power over lust. It is as if powerlessness had become part of my DNA, not something I could change by any effort of my own.

I have not  "gone back to Step 1" once I started really working the SA 12 Step program. I started working the program in earnest under the direction of a sponsor not long after I had been "taken by Step 1". Since then I have not relapsed. But I have not doubted for one minute that I am still powerless over lust. How can that be? The only wayt to explain it is to experience a Power greater than myself and greater than lust who is at work in me.  And if God were to withdraw his power, I would be lost. And that is where the rest of the Steps become so crucial as a path to a right relationship with God, a means by which I can stay "plugged into" God.

Here's that section from the AABB (p. 30) that reminds me of my ongoing powerlessness, edited to fit my particular "drug of choice":
"We sexaholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our lusting. We know that no real sexaholic ever recovers control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals - usually brief - were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced to a man that sexaholics of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

An Easy Burden

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

There was a difference between what I thought I had to do and what I ended up doing to find sobriety, recovery, and freedom.

What I thought I had to do was to find a few key ideas that I could implement in my life to take care of this one problem that I had of sexual acting out. What I actually had to do was to give my life to God (surrender it) and allow him to change whatever he wanted to about it. That process is still ongoing and progressive.

I started out wanting to maintain my position as the lord of my own life, but I perceived that I had this one glaring problem, my sexual acting out, and to that I was seemed to be a slave. I wanted to become strong enough to master my own impulses, to be able to fight a battle and win it myself, to be able to lust without consequence.

What I had to do was to admit defeat, admit that I could never become strong enough to master myself. I had to find a true Lord of my life who was Master over all, a Power that could and would do for me what I could not do for myself. The program of the 12 Steps gave me a path to follow to connect rightly with that Lord and Master, to be open to the work of his Power in me to do the impossible in me.

What I had wanted was a few simple actions I could take that required no serious commitment on my part to real change. I feared real change, because I perceived it would require me to give up things I didn't want to let go of and to do other things I really didn't want to do. (About that I was correct.)  The program people said, "We beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start."  When someone starts with that as the intro, you might want to pay attention to what comes next!

What changed for me that finally pushed me off the top, that finally broke me and my will, that finally made the idea of Someone else running my life look truly appealing? For me it was the internal, spiritual pain of loneliness and self-loathing, the demoralization that the program people talk about. It was the recognition that I was completely in bondage to lust with no way out in my own strength.

It turned out to be a sweet defeat. That's where I found God waiting for me.

The path to defeat was easy. All I had to do was to run my own life, my way, do whatever I thought was right and best for me, and follow after the pleasures of lust. Easy; anyone can do that! But the consequences were devastating.

The path to recovery turned out to be far easier than I had feared it would be. Yes, it was hard work to be "fearless and thorough" from the very start. Yes, there were times of painful recognition of who I had become and what I had done. Yes, there was the admission of wrongs and the humbling of making amends. Yes, "clearing away the wreckage" of my past took effort. Yes, I no longer had an "easy" drug to temporarily dull the pain that reality brought to me when I stopped living in the illusion. But it has been far, far easier to live life this way than the constant pain and fear and harm that my old way of life was loading me down with, a burden I could never bear.

Through following the SA road to recovery, Someone lifted that unbearable burden from me. His "burden" of living rightly connected to God and others is light. I am never sufficiently grateful.