It was a Saturday, I was driving my yellow work truck, when my phone rang. I looked at the screen and it read “Alycia S- California “. I was shocked and elated to see her namepop up on my phone. I had not spoken with her in about 3 years.
My first words were “Oh my God! You’ve called !!!”, her words were “You picked up! “ I said, “Why is that so strange? She replied, “Well, nobody picks up their phones in LA, it’salmost always goes to voicemail or to text messages”. We both laughed.
At that point neither one of us realized that a single phone call would be the start of a series of life-changing events for me, my family and my recovery. I will never, ever forget it, as long as I live.
Allow me to give you some history first: I had never met Alycia before. Our relationship was solely through doing service for GDVI ‘s Inspiration Line (Greater Delaware Valley Intergroup). Several years ago while I was the chair of the GDVI Inspiration Line, Alycia left us a message that she wanted to volunteer to do service on the line. I thought it was wonderful, that someone from the California wanted to do something for us on the East coast. After all, it was “our” line, and at that time, I did not realize just how many West coast calls we were receiving. So I gave Alycia access to the line and she began to leave the outgoing Inspiration Line messages. Well, before we knew it, the call volume increased tremendously and we began to receive more and more calls from the West coast. Several months later we had two other volunteers from California join service on our line. Marty, Sarah and Alycia were the “West Coast Inspirational Speakers”. I thought that was the coolest thing ever, 3 people from the West coast and 4 from the East coast. Wow, how wonderful, I thought, connecting the country through service. “Connecting the dots “, I thought.
After about 3 years of service Alycia decided to leave the line and pursue other avenues of her recovery. We spoke a little from time to time, and then the calls stopped for 3 years, until
October 31st 2015.
Back to the present: The phone call ….
After we laughed about LA never picking up their phones I said to Alycia, “So what’s up”
“How are you?” “It’s been years” “Is everything OK?”
She said “Yes, everything’s ok, I called because I had this inspiration today and it involves you.”
(in my head I said, oh no, this can’t be good)
I said “OK, tell me more.”
Alycia said “How would you like to come to LA and tell your story at one of my meetings? “
(in my head I said, oh shit, she’s not kidding)
I asked: “Just one meeting? “She said “Yep. Just one.”
I asked: “How long do I get to speak?” She replied 10 minutes
I said, after a two second pause, “Oh, hum, oh, OK!”
My feelings at that moment were all over the place. I was getting a little anxious. I realized that I might have just promised an old friend something I might not be able to achieve. But, I stayed with my gut, and asked my Higher Power for a little guidance here.
I said to Alycia, “If I’m going to fly 3500 miles to share my story, you’ve got to get me more time. 3500 miles for 10 minutes is nuts, but then again, I’ve done a lot of crazier things than that in my acting out days. I can remember driving hundreds of miles to act out for 10 minutes, so, I guess I can fly 3500 miles to speak about my Recovery for 10 minutes”
Alycia replied: “Well, if you are really going to do this, I’ll check with my meeting. It’s a very large meeting, like 90 people, and they are very strict on times. I’ll see what I can do.
I said “Here’s what I think we should do: I’ll come out for a weekend. Line up as many meetings as you can. We’ll go to them all, and I’ll speak at each one. That will make the trip really worth it for me and all your friends at the meetings. I’ll tell my story to whomever wants to listen (chuckle)
“I’ll talk to my Intergroup, I trust they will get me there, and see if you can get, like $ 200.00, from your groups for my hotel “
Alycia said: “Well, I’m excited that you’d do that, but I can’t make any promises right now.
I just think it would be great if you came out here. You can share your story, talk about how you founded the Inspiration Line and talk about your recovery”
I said:” OK, I’ll start checking on airfares, you check on hotel prices and I’ll approach my Intergroup next week. “Let’s talk next week and see what we can come up with” – That was the end of that first call. When we hung up, neither one of us had any idea what that phone call was about to unfold for me, my recovery, and all those around me.
I Trusted my HP
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon when that call came in….
I trusted my Higher Power and was willing to do the legwork without any expectations of the outcome.
Saturday night, I shared with my wife what I agreed to. My feelings were confusing, thoughts unclear.
I was thinking of backing out. My wife said “You’ve got to do this; you have so much to share.”
You have a lot of wisdom; people need you.” My inner, addict-core did not believe her. I just assumed she was trying to make me feel better.
My thoughts went something like this:
Well, you’re going to get on a plane. – You know how you get at airports; you know how triggering they are for you. -When was the last time you got on a plane? Some 10 years ago?! Remember how you felt when you landed and began to stare at all the people in the airport and fantasize? -You are going to stay at a hotel. Your bottom lines were acting out at hotels! Are you crazy?!!! Have you lost it completely?!! You are going to travel alone for 3500 miles and meet a woman you’ve never met, she’s going to pick you up and be your host for a weekend?!?! You have to go out to eat, there will be alcohol every place you go. You’ve got to be out of your mind putting yourself at risk like that!!!! Do you have a safety plan in place?!!! All of your triggers will be right in your face! On top of all that, you don’t have the money and neither does she. This has never been done before. She has to find some more meetings, change formats, and find 200 bucks for a hotel. You have to go to your Intergroup and solicit their support for your airfare. They ain’t got the money either! It’s been a bad year for Seventh Tradition contributions. They are going to shoot you down.
At that exact moment God said to me “Don’t worry, I’ve got you “
5 minutes later, I booked my flight.
Finding a cheap flight was no easy task. I searched and searched and figured that the weekend
after Thanksgiving would be a good shot. I was right. It turns out the weekend before Thanksgiving was 753.00 and the weekend after was 371.00 for the exact same flights. Great deal!
I had to book it, the booking page read “only three seats left at this price!”
Now for the Intergroup task.
I wondered how I’d pitch a struggling Intergroup on why they should give me 400 bucks to go to a few meetings in California. We never have any extra money in December, only our prudent reserve.
Again, something inside of me said “Don’t worry, just pitch it’.
So the following Tuesday, at our monthly meeting, I did.
To my surprise and disappointment, the vote was a stalemate. 50% of my Intergroup group voted yes and 50% voted no. Roberts rules of order dictate that when a motion is tied, it fails.
I was devastated. Truth be told, I took the defeat personally and began to question my process, and my recovery. I reached out to my sponsor for support. His answer was “Let go and let God”
So, I did. – I struggled and struggled, but finally I let g
In the interim, one of our meetings in New Jersey stepped up and pledged 1 months’ Seventh Tradition for my trip. Another donation of $100 came in from a fellow Intergroup member from his personal pocket to support my cause. All in all, I got 175.00 to go.
Even if I had gotten zero, God said He had me, so I trusted what I heard, and packed my bags.
My 72-hour day finally begins ….
Friday, December 4th 2015 at 6:15am I woke up next to my wife and said “Good morning, sweetheart”, she said “Good Morning! Today is your big day, how do you feel?
I replied, “Scared. This is crazy, I was asked to show up, so I guess that’s what I’m going to do”
A shower, a quick cup of coffee, and off to the train station we went. My wife drove me in her car
and as she drove I realized that I was being “taken care of”, a feeling that I was not used to.
I always drive, and always take care of things. I’m not used to being a passenger, I’m used to
being in charge. I knew right then and there that I was not in charge, but God was, and that I was just getting on a plane to do His work, not mine. At the exact same instant I had that thought,
all of my fears suddenly left me. Every single thought of hesitation was completely gone.
A feeling of peace and trust took over my mind and body.
A hug and a kiss, I said goodbye to my wife and boarded my train.
As I boarded, she waved and called out to me “You’ll both be great! “
I thought she meant me and Alycia.
My wife tells me now, she meant me and my Higher Power.
After one hour and ten minutes on the train, I arrived at Philadelphia International Airport.
Leaving the train platform and walking through the terminal, I remembered how triggering the airport used to be. I remembered how crazy I used to be around all these people and howI would act out later. I remembered that 20 years ago, I probably would have cancelled my flight so I could act out all night. Catch another flight in the morning.
Not this time, not at all, not even a hint of a trigger, zilch, nada, nothing.
God was with me, I thought. Here I am, like an alcoholic in a bar, and instead of thinking about drinking, all I can think about is finding my gate and getting on my flight to Los Angeles.
It was so wonderful not to get all worked up because of my surroundings. I guess that’s what they call recovery.
Boarding my flight was uneventful until the Captain spoke.
He was giving out the flight details, and talking about how we’d cruise to about 38,000 feet and how wonderful the weather was in Los Angeles. He asked us to take our seats and fasten our seat belts. The flight attendant then did the demonstration of the seat belt procedure as well as the oxygen mask demonstration.
Suddenly, I realized once again, that I was not in charge. I was a passenger on a plane going to the California to do God’s work. Once again I was being taken care of. There’d be nothing for me to worry about on my end, just sit back, and trust my Higher Power. He’s going to fly the plane and He’s in charge of this trip!
So, I slept the whole flight.
Touchdown was easy, and as I stood up to grab my carry-on luggage, Rich and Jay from the fellowship called, 1 minute apart. Both men know my story of how triggering airports are to me.
They wanted to know if I was O.K. I told them both I was not alone, and that I felt “taken care of”.
Walking through the terminal I had no idea where I was going. I just followed the signs to the street.
I called Alycia as I went through the exit doors. I said “I’m standing under the American Airlines sign,
it says C-American.” She said “OK, I’ll be right there.” In less than 60 seconds I see this car speeding down the road with this woman holding her cell phone against her ear. She pulled right up to me and rolled down her window and said “Michael”? I said “Yes”, she said “Get in, we’ve got to go! “We can’t be late!” So I got into this car with a woman I had never met. It was fun, and again I realized that I was just a passenger and not in charge.
Friday night men’s meeting
Driving like, a New York City cab driver, Alycia drove me to a Friday night men’s meeting.
The freeway was packed, but that didn’t matter to her. She was cutting in and out of traffic and making her own lanes! It was a 6pm meeting that we got to just in time. Truth be told,I was never so happy as when she finally parked the car. Phew! What a ride! LOL!
Alycia walked me into the Hospital where the meeting was and said she’d be waiting outside in the parking garage. I thought to myself how unselfish it was for her to deliver me to a men’s meeting and have to wait outside. I also thought, now that’s a person, who believes in the power of a meeting.
There must have been 30 guys at that meeting. I had never met any of them, but yet they were all the same as me. We were all addicts looking for recovery. Looking for acceptance and understanding. Looking for answers on how to stay sober. Looking for a chance at a non-addictive life. Experiencing the power of a meeting.
I shared my story, my experiences as a child, my experiences as an adult, and my experiences as an addict. When I was speaking, you could hear a pin drop. There was absolute dead silence as I walked through my life with them. No one got up to go to the men’s room, no one was texting or fidgeting or looking at their phones. Not a sound was heard, only my voice.
As the chairperson opened the meeting for sharing I wondered what I’d hear, or what they would say about my share. What they said almost made me cry.
They said, “Thank You” “Thank You for showing up for us.” “Thank You for carrying the message”
At that moment I felt very emotional because I realized that not only did I show up for them, but I showed up for me. – I showed up for my recovery, and my inner child.
The meeting ended at 7pm with lots of hugs from the group. I did not feel like a stranger nor did I feel like I was 3,500 miles from home. I felt like I was home, with my new family.
As I left the meeting and walked down the corridor towards the parking garage, I saw Alycia sitting on a bench near the exit. She asked me “How’d it go?” I said “I guess OK “She then asked “How do you feel?” I said “Unbelievably wonderful and loved”.
Driving a little slower this time, Alycia and I left the hospital grounds and proceeded back to the freeway. I had no idea where she was taking me but I was enjoying being a passenger.
It was a beautiful, peaceful evening as we drove to “The Grove”.
The Grove is an outdoor mall that was beautifully decorated for Christmas. It was crowded and filled with tourists. Tourists and so many beautiful people trying to outdo one another with their very expensive clothes. Again, I’ll share that a place like that would have been very unsafe for mein the past. This time, not at all. I was completely at ease and comfortable in my skin.
We ate at La Piazza and it was there that I realized how God was going to do his work through Alycia and me. We talked and laughed and enjoyed dinner like two old friends. But our conversations were all about our different recovery experiences and how our lives changed when we finally gave up our addictions. It was like God was prepping us as to what we were going to say at the next 6 or so meetings she had planned.
As we left La Piazza and walked through the mall, I commented that there wasn’t a star in the sky.
I could not believe that when we looked up, all we could see was blackness. I was sure we were inside a building but I knew we were outside. I thought nothing of it until Monday morning when I got back to Philadelphia. I’ll explain later.
A quick ride (yes, very quick!) through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, Alycia drove
me to the Sheraton Hotel in Agoura-Hills.
That’s what recovering addicts do for one another, keep each other safe.
Knowing my story, and knowing how triggering a hotel can be for me, Alycia escorted me into the lobby of the Sheraton. She gave the guy at the reception desk my name. He said “Yes, here is the reservation, it’s all paid for. May I have your credit card for incidentals?” I said sure. And gave him my credit card. He then said “First floor or second floor? But before I could answer, Alycia said, “Second floor.” She said second floor because she knew that the first floor might trigger me to go outside and snoop around the property to engage in voyeuristic behaviors. She was making sure I was safe; I love her for that. That’s what recovering addicts do for one another, keep each other safe.
As I put my credit card back in my wallet I realized that I had no ID. “Oh my God”, I said, “I think I lost my ID! Alycia said, “Don’t worry you’ll find it.” I went to my room, called the TSA, Airport Lost and Found, and American Airlines. No luck. I began to stress worrying about how I was going to get on a plane without a photo ID. So once again I had to let it go and deal with it in the morning.
It was midnight, as I put away my luggage, and the little fruit tart that Alycia bought me at Starbucks.
Saturday morning began at 7am for me. I had to follow up with the airlines regarding my ID so I made a few calls before I had to head down to the lobby for an 8am pickup. I still had no ID, but I wasn’t going to be late for our meetings.
Alycia arrived right on time at 8am and took me for coffee with one of her friends, J.
I can’t remember if we went to a Starbucks or a regular coffee shop, but I remember swapping recovery stories with J and realizing that no matter where you live and no matter where you’ve come from, all addicts are the same. All of us have lived lives that we wish to never go back to.
Male or female, the addiction knows no boundaries. East coast or West coast, the pains and struggles of sexual addiction are the same.
At 9:30am we arrived at our first meeting of the day. The theme of the meeting was “Fantasy”.
How appropriate, I thought, especially since 90 % of my acting out behavior involved intrigue and fantasy. I admit now, that the topic was a little triggering for me. As I told my story to approximately 40 people, I recall thinking that the triggers were behaviors of the past, and have no power over me now. At that exact moment, I could swear I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice saying to me ” Go ahead, keep sharing, you’ll be fine.” I was calm and un-triggered for the rest of the day.
After some ” Thank You ‘s” and hugs, Alicia and I drove off from the meeting and headed for the freeway. I had no idea where she was taking me but was content to be a passenger. We drove past “Hidden Hills” California. I was surprised that it was a gated community with Security Guards and cameras at the entrance. When I asked the question as to why there was so much security at the gate, she humbly replied, I think some celebrities live in there.
A quick tour of Hidden Hills led to Alycia saying “Oh my God, I forgot some stuff that we need! “I said “Ok. Let’s go, “Another 75 mph drive across town, and we picked up our “stuff”
It was now 12:30 and time for lunch. So back on the freeway to Malibu Beach.
I had never seen the Pacific Ocean before. It was absolutely beautiful.
Where does recovery happen?
Arriving at Gladstone’s Restaurant, Alycia made sure my seat was facing the ocean instead of the bar. I appreciated the fact that she knew my story of sex addiction and my troubles with alcohol, so she deliberately kept our conversations on the meetings and our agenda.
It was wonderful to enjoy my burger instead of fantasizing about the people on the beach.
It was at Gladstone’s that I realized exactly what Alycia and I were doing. I realized that we were paving the way for other addicts to get together from all parts of the country to share their experience strength and hope. We were doing it at a local meeting level as opposed to a national conference level. Let’s face it …. Where does recovery happen? Recovery happens whenever two or more people meet for the sake of recovery and call themselves a meeting. We sat and discussed the power of a meeting, – and the power of a story.
It was now time for us to leave Malibu Beach and for me to buckle my seat belt. Alycia drives like a formula one driver. She had us in Santa Monica in no time for a 4pm meeting.
While I don’t remember the flavor of that meeting, I do remember that I took Alycia’s suggestion and shared more on what my life is like in recovery as opposed to what my life was like in active addiction. I spoke more of the gifts I’ve received in recovery than the pains of the addiction. I remember the meeting feedback as ” Thank You, you give us hope ”
We got back on the freeway by 5:45pm and raced to Sherman Oaks for a 6:30pm meeting.
80 miles per hour got us there just in time! Phew!
The Sherman Oaks meeting was a special meeting for me. After it was over, a young man approached me and said that he had heard me speak the night before at the men’s meeting.
He went on to say that he felt a strong connection to my experiences and asked me if I would sponsor him long distance. I was flattered and said I would do it temporarily. I thought we’d have two or three calls and that would be that. Five months later, we still speak every day.
Time for dinner; we went to Burbank to a place called The Granville Restaurant. The food was great but what was more amazing was what happened with the waitress. Caroline was our waitress, and it was obvious that she had a gift. She was so alive and happy to serve her customers. She made everyone feel like they were the only people in the restaurant. What happened when she came to our table is something I’ll never forget.
Alycia placed her order and I placed mine. Suddenly Alycia said something to Caroline like:
“You’re an actress right? ” Caroline said: ” Yes, how’d you know?” I can’t remember Alycia’s exact response but before I knew it Alycia was talking to a perfect stranger about families of origin and dysfunctional siblings and how to heal from addiction and co-dependency.
All I wanted to do was to enjoy my steak, go figure.
After dinner, with no more meetings to attend, we drove to the Griffin Observatory.
What a beautiful place! We were on top of a mountain overlooking Los Angeles!
The view was spectacular! I could see all the lights and buildings and people driving their cars on the highways. We had a panoramic view of the entire city!
It was breathtaking! I was for a moment, very happy.
Then I looked down into the city. I began to wonder how many people were still suffering.
Suddenly I felt sad to think that millions of people in the world have addictions. Drugs, Alcohol, Sex, Gambling, Food disorders and others, you name it, I felt bad. Alycia said ” Michael, What’s wrong? ”
I said ” I’m not quite sure, I just feel sad.”
So we left the observatory and went down to the grounds and prepared to leave. Near the parking areas were two small telescopes for guests to look through. Alycia went first, and then I took a look.
I looked up at the sky and for the first time I noticed a few stars. I smiled when I realized that the reason I had not seen any stars the night before was the fact that you can’t see them from the ground with the naked eye because of all the city lights. I looked through the telescope for quite some time and prayed for those who still suffer and prayed that my visit might help just one person see the light.
I felt better, believing I might make a difference.
Alycia dropped me off at the Sheraton and said “See you at 7am, don’t be late!”
A Higher Power moment</stron g>
Once in my room I set my alarm for 5:30am. I figured I’d have to call the Airlines in the morning to try to find a way to board a plane without a photo ID. The hotel desk clerk said that this has happened before to guests and I’d have to get to the airport about 3 hours before departure to go through strict security procedures. Augh!
I let the stress go, called my wife, and went to sleep.
Awake at 5:30am, I began to pack my bag. As I opened a side pocket, – there was my ID!
I have no explanation as to why or how it got into a zippered compartment, but there it was, all by itself. I remembered showing it to security in Philadelphia, but had no recollection of putting it into a side pocket. Definitely a Higher Power moment.
At 7am I hopped into Alycia’s car and off to an 8am Sunday morning meeting in Hollywood.
As we drove I said to myself; “Who the hell gets up on a Sunday morning and goes to an 8am SLAA meeting? There will probably be 5 people there, this is nuts, I need breakfast.”
There were 93 people at that meeting.
I could not believe it. 93 people at a meeting! WOW! I said to myself as I grabbed a cup of coffee from a table next to the literature table. I was really wishing for a donut, but straight coffee would do.
Alycia led the meeting. The meeting lasted an hour and a half. While introducing me, Alycia shared with the group that I was a member of GDVI and that our work in Philadelphia has helped hundreds of people find recovery. I felt honored to represent GDVI.
Unlike the other meetings we attended, I got to speak for 20 minutes instead of ten. I was so nervous but somehow God helped me through it. I never broke eye contact with the group and never felt any shame when sharing my inner secrets. Using a two-minute timer, with one minute to wrap up, many people got to share. I was blown away with the level of honesty and commitment I felt from the group. Never have I been to a meeting with so many people. I left that meeting feeling very close to my Higher Power.
After the hugs and thank you’d from the group Alycia and I walked to her car. I don’t know how Alycia knew it, but somehow she knew I needed to do something different. Something I had never done before.
She said to me, “Michael, how would you like to come with me to a spiritual service? We have a few hours to kill before our next meeting, I think you’d like it, it’s called Agape.”
I said “What’s Agape? ” She said ” Just come, you’ll see, “I said “Ok.”
My “Ok ” response was so unlike my norm. A spiritual service? Me? Nah, I’ll pass, would be what I would usually say. But, I went anyway.
What happened over the next three hours changed my life forever. I believe now, that the reason I went to Los Angelis was not to tell my story, but to experience Agape. Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. I have never read the Bible, but I can honestly say after this experience, Agape is real.
Alycia took me to the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City. Michael Beckwith, the founder, was scheduled to speak that day. He doesn’t speak often, as he travels around the world most of the time. But Alycia said this Sunday would be special. Again, she had no idea how right she was.
Once we arrived at the center, all I could see were lines of people waiting. There were people from all walks of life and from all different faiths just waiting to get in to hear Michael Beckwith speak. I thought we’d have to go to the end of the line. Nope.
Alycia had attended many services at the center in the past and knew that one of the perks is that “New Friends” get to go to the front of the line and get seated in the first 5 rows.
Wow, I thought, as she walked me right up to the front of the line. When you get to the front you are welcomed by another member who pins a ribbon on you that says ” New Friend” – not a name tag, just simply ” New Friend”. Ok, I said to myself, I’m a “New Friend” – What the hell does that mean?
I found out really quick, what that means.
It simply means that you are accepted into the congregation, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, what you’ve done in the past, or whether you are rich or poor. It just doesn’t matter, you are just accepted and welcomed for who you are. Just like walking into your first meeting.
No one judges you, no one criticizes you, and no matter what, you walk out feeling loved.
Not only did I walk out of there feeling loved, I left there feeling touched and held by
My Higher Power in a way I never thought possible. Let me explain …
Touched by My Higher Power
We were seated in the middle of either the fourth or fifth row from the front. The stage was set up with flowers, soft colored backgrounds, a few musical instruments, including a piano and a beautiful harp. The lighting was soft and soothing. The atmosphere and pulse of the room was comforting and soothing. I would guess there were at least 300 “Friends” present.
The lights dimmed as a young woman came out and sat on her chair, center stage. She smiled ever so sincerely at all of us sitting in our seats. The room went completely silent.
She began to speak as another friend softly played the harp. She spoke of getting in touch with one’s inner self. She asked us to allow her to guide us through a fifteen-minute silent meditation. She was so soothing to listen to, almost hypnotic. I closed my eyes as instructed, and began to meditate according to her instructions. She asked us to breathe softly and to look inside ourselves for love and peace. As I walked through my mind looking for that peace, I began to cry.
I saw myself running through a violent jungle at first. Danger and pain everywhere. I was so frightened. I saw what the jungle did to me as a child. I also saw the many atrocities that I had committed in my life, and cried even more. I began to breathe heavier as my heart began to beat faster. I was beginning to gasp for air. I was experiencing some sort of body memories.
It was so confusing and so painful. I had gone back to places in my mind that I had blocked for years.
I had only been mediating for 5 minutes.
All of a sudden, as I was about to scream for help, I felt a hand on my shoulder from behind.
It was a firm reassuring hand and a voice that said ” Come with Me.” Immediately my heart slowed down and my body surrendered. I stopped running and began to walk. I could hear the harp on the stage that was softly being played the whole time I was meditating. I realized I was walking with my Higher Power. No one will ever be able to tell me otherwise.
I was with a Presence, a Presence of peace, a Presence of love, a Presence of forgiveness.
It was real, not imagined. As we walked out of the jungle, I saw a garden. It was so beautiful. It had millions and millions of flowers in it, all in my favorite colors. Then I noticed a path in the garden that was just wide enough for two people to walk through.
The Presence said to me “You came here to help others and carry the message. You have done well; you have touched so many. Continue down this path, and I promise you, you will never see that jungle again.”
At this point I was crying, uncontrollably.
The meditation ended. The lights came back on, and you could see that I wasn’t the only one crying.
It was very apparent to me that the tears some of us experienced were tears of joy and relief.
I felt like 40 years of pain were lifted from me in 15 minutes. I was in a place that was safe, and peaceful. It was like no other experience in my life. Just for the hell of it, I looked at the seat directly behind me to see if anyone had touched my shoulder. The seat was empty.
The woman left the stage as Michael Beckwith came o
ut to began the service. He was wonderful, loving, caring and inspirational. He spoke of unconditional love and acceptance from within ourselves and to all humanity. He spoke of nations who embrace peace and understanding. He spoke of looking inside to find the true answers to our problems outside. He was absolutely awesome!
The service ended, and as we walked out to the car, I noticed that I looked at people differently than before. I looked at them as “Friends” of my Higher Power. Not as objects of my addiction. Alycia and I left the Spiritual Center to go have lunch. As we drove away I could not help but wonder if God had this all planned, and that Alycia and I were just participants in a much wider story.
Lunch was great. Alycia took me to a place in Manhattan Beach. We had pizza and then took a walk
around the pier. The weather was fantastic and the ocean was so beautiful. As I looked out over the water and watched the waves hit the shore, I realized that each wave is a symbol of new happiness
and new challenges. My future happiness would depend on how I roll with the waves.
Share the gifts, give hope…
After a scenic drive down the coast, it was time to hit the 4pm meeting in Culver City. Alycia said it was a beginners meeting and to tailor my story to focus on hope and recovery. She said to share the gifts, and to give hope to the beginners.
That’s exactly what I did.
I did not speak about the tragedies of my life, I did not speak about all the harm I caused my family and friends. I did not speak about hopelessness or giving up. I spoke about a fight between the addict and the wonderful human beings we all are. That it can be a life long struggle, and that we can prevail.
I spoke about making amends and changing the way we see life. I spoke about recovery as
a way of life, and how to practice these principles in all areas of our lives.
After the meeting, one of the newcomers asked me how I dealt with shame. I said I kept going to meetings, I always shared, and I never isolated. He liked that answer, he may not have understood
it completely, but he liked it.
Sixty hours have passed since the start of this 72-hour day. It’s now time for dinner and plans
to head for the airport to go home. Alycia invited two of her sponsees to join us. They were great company. They were not newcomers to the fellowship, none the less they had lots of questions about long term sobriety and how it works. It seemed to me as though the west coast has a harder time with sobriety than the east coast. That’s probably an unfair statement to say, but it was just a feeling I had. I enjoyed watching Alycia work with her sponsees. But, I wasn’t sure what I enjoyed most, having a nice dinner with three women, – or my delicious burger! LOL!
On a more serious note, I was moved by how Alycia worked with her sponsees during our dinner. I started to think how powerful recovery can be when it is intermingled with every day events. Is that what they mean when they say “Getting together for some Fellowship”?
Dropping off Alycia’s friends at their cars, we proceeded to Los Angeles International Airport.
Traffic was heavy on the freeway, but there was no rush. We had plenty of time.
As we got closer to the Airport, I silently wished we had another day. I wanted to stay with my feelings and not get distracted by the trip home. I wanted to go to just one more meeting, to express my gratitude to the members of SLAA in Los Angeles. We pulled to the curb at the airport and I got out of the car. Alycia got out of the driver’s side and came around to say goodbye.
She kissed my cheek and gave me a hug, and simply said ” Thank you, Michael”
With that, I felt like the luckiest man alive….
My thoughts were:
What a beautiful human being she is…
What a wonderful recovering person she is….
How is this possible, that a person who I’ve never met before, could bring me clear across the country, to carry the message, face my demons, and finally have peace.
How extraordinary is that!
I walked to my gate and boarded my plane. It was 9pm Pacific Time. Buckled up in my seat, I looked down over Los Angeles as the plane took off. I saw all the beautiful lights below, that I did not see when I first arrived.
As we rose above the clouds, I began to replay in my head all the feelings of the weekend.
I remembered all the feelings of love and acceptance, all the feelings of “being taken care of”
I felt high from the drug of Recovery. It was incredible.
I landed in Philadelphia at 5:10 am. I walked through the airport and proceeded towards the train station. As I sat on the bench waiting for the 5:30 am train, I looked up and saw the clear night sky filled with thousands of stars. Then I heard a voice say, “Thank You.”.
Lying is the fuel that keeps my addiction burning.How many time, even in recovery, has my first impulse been to lie?
I got a speeding ticket a while ago and my first thought was how I could hide it from my husband…or minimally tell him I was going less fast than I was.
I got a call while I was driving home, asking how long it would be before I arrived home. Why did I almost immediately say I was 10 minutes closer to home than I actually was?
I spent a bit more on clothes than I originally anticipated, and decided that I would only say I had spent my originally budgeted amount…even when he didn’t know what that amount was.
All of these happened after I was in recovery, and I had nothing to hide from my husband…at least nothing worse than having cheated on him for years. If he hadn’t left me during that disclosure, I didn’t think a speeding ticket was going to send him over the edge.
It’s taking a lot of effort to get out of the habit of lying, but the truth is so much easier, and fits in a lot better with the image of who I’m striving to be
To the extent that you take responsibility for your addiction, is the extent to which you can recover and help others do the same.Early on in recovery, I found myself often blaming my husband for my inability to do certain things. I couldn’t go to certain bars, I couldn’t walk at the beach, I couldn’t go on some web sites, I couldn’t accept invites to some parties, I couldn’t even walk the dog in some neighborhoods. I was making him the reason I was so restricted as I tried to keep myself sober from bottom line behaviors.
Only when I realized that I truly didn’t want to be imprisoned by addiction did I start to take responsibility for my own actions. It was a lot easier to not walk on the beach because I knew I’d be triggered into potentially doing something I didn’t want to do, or to not go on web sites because I had recognized for myself that I was powerless over doing it compulsively once I started.
As sex and love addicts, we don’t have the luxury of holding on to resentments.Holding on to resentments is the surest way to fail in our program, so we need to do everything we can to prevent them from happening and if we have a resentment, work quickly to rid ourselves of it.
Tried and true methods of getting rid of a resentment:
- Pray for the person every day for 30 days – pray for their health, happiness and success.
- Gain an understanding of the other person’s background that might make you more sympathetic to their actions.
- Have gratitude about situations surrounding the resentment.
- Talk to trusted members of the program about your feelings.
But whatever you do, make sure you work on ridding yourself of the destructive poison that resentments can be for you.
Picking up the phone and talking on the phoneWhen I talk to someone about my life story and know I am not alone it helps knowing I have feelings, thoughts and
actions others have. Hitting bottom means not letting others control you. I have a choice. I have a choice to let neediness
go. I am glad I know the difference.
“Addiction is a disease of ‘more’ and recovery is finding out you can’t find true satisfaction from things or people outside yourself”The frenetic way I acted out in this disease made me realize how desperate I was to find something I felt I was missing. And it didn’t seem to matter how many times I’d search for it in empty, meaningless sexual encounters that never delivered. It never occurred to me in years of acting out, that what I was looking for wasn’t there.
Even more insidious was how the disease distorted my crazed search to make it seem like acting out was the goal.
Only after years of working the S.L.A.A. program, and gaining back a moral compass and a sense of self-esteem, did I realize how off-kilter my goals were. I didn’t want more and more empty encounters. In fact, they only seemed to make me feel more lonely and sad.
My goal is now peace and joy, and I don’t have to search every waking minute for that goal…it seems to find me more and more.
“What cost is it to you to give away credit to someone or something other than yourself?”When self-esteem is low, it’s always satisfying to have someone acknowledge you for something you’ve done well. It can be particularly fulfilling when you can accept the praise without distorting it through the lens of sexual or romantic addiction.
Once you’ve gotten to a place where you are happy with who you are, you may want to consider giving away credit. Most helpful things you’ve done have involved others, and telling a boss or a family member that you couldn’t have done it without someone else’s help can spread the goodwill and help others get to a place of better self-worth.
Even acknowledging your Higher Power for help is a way of avoiding the defect of arrogance.
And giving away such positive feelings costs you nothing…in fact, it might even be a positive gain by giving it away.
“In what areas of your recovery have you made progress since you came into S.L.A.A.?.”Have you made progress in the area of abstinence from your bottom lines? Have you expanded your concepts of spirituality? Have you worked on establishing connected, non-addictive relationships? Have you focused on making amends for things you done in the past? Has your self-esteem grown? Has your ability to be alone added more serenity to your life?
Focusing on the areas of success in your recovery can be a great example of how important is is to make progress and not be perfect.
“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”Whenever I heard this read at meetings, I focused mainly on the last part, thinking I had to get over the imperfections of others and focus more on principles.
Perhaps it does mean this, but as I’ve delved further into this tradition, I’ve realized that anonymity is one of the most profound ways of being humble and sticking to the spiritual principles of S.L.A.A.
Anonymity means I don’t go announcing all that I’ve done for the program, or how important I am to my home group. It means realizing that I’m just as important (or unimportant) as everyone else.
So, instead of noticing all the faults of others in program, and trying to see past them, this tradition tells me to focus on my own faults and keep them to myself.
“Sometimes getting past difficult days just requires you to take one step.”
On days when I’m feeling low, or struggling with addiction, it seems as if the path to getting past it is insurmountable.But that’s when I realize, it usually only takes one small step in the right direction to get me on my way to a better place. I call someone. I say a quick “Help me.” prayer. I go to a meeting. I read some literature. I meditate. I reach out to help someone else in worse shape than me. None of these actions by themselves are daunting…I just need to do one of them today.
“God, I offer myself to Thee. To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
Often, pray comes for me during those times when I’m needing help the most…more as a last resort. I like the Third Step Prayer from AA’s big book, because it’s a proactive request to be a better person, a constant reminder that we need to turn our will and our lives over to a higher power.
“Sometimes you need a breakthrough to find out something you’ve known all along.”Often, a breakthrough in our recovery is simply being reminded of something we’ve known for a long time. It seems like the timing of the reminder is critical to how important the discovery is. A simple phrase you may have heard or read multiple times, now comes through in a way that is clear and brilliant. We often feel as though we just hadn’t been ready to hear the message up until it finally makes its way through, deep into our mind and heart.
I often times feel like someone trying to break into an old-time combination-lock safe…everyone once in a while, I just hit on a combination where another tumbler clearly falls into place, and I’m just that much closer to opening up the treasures inside.
“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”Addiction seems to offer only false substitutes for those things our souls seem to crave. Instead of true joy, addiction offers euphoria. Instead of love, addiction offers lust. And instead of peace, addiction only offers some intermittent deadening of our feelings. It’s usually pretty easy to tell whether you’re experience a false substitute or the real thing, since the false substitutes are almost always followed closely by shame, despair and/or self-loathing.
As you start to progress towards sobriety in your life, you’ll begin to experience some of those true feelings of joy, love and peace. You might find that early on, you’ll want to sexualize those feelings, since that is what you’ve been used to as an addict, but when you stick with those feelings, you find they’re satisfying in a very deep and meaningful way. They fill the very hole you sought to fill through acting out in addiction.
“First things first.”Sometimes in the midst of withdrawal, we get caught up in our wild emotions.
Stepping back for a second and prioritizing what is important often helps us to get to a place where life seems more manageable.
Staying abstinent needs to be always at the top of that list. It’s said, that anything you put ahead of your sobriety, you’re bound to lose.
And if life seems too chaotic to even begin to be able to focus and prioritize, that’s the time to reach out…to a sponsor, to a trusted program friend and/or to your higher power.
“How could it be that his story was so much different than mine, but we’re still working the same program?”When listening to others’ qualifications in S.L.A.A., it is suggested that you look for similar patterns, or core similarities in your stories.
Romantic obsessions may not be what you struggle with, but the compulsive way another member pursued his obsessions might mirror how you pursued yours.
When you view your addiction to internet pornography, and think to yourself that it’s not anywhere near as bad as the woman next to you having multiple sexual affairs and cheating on her husband, you may want to see how damaged both your primary relationships have become because of different types of acting out. Or perhaps just realize that some of the activities you have never done as part of your disease might be just “not yets” and that the disease can have amazing power over influencing you to do things far beyond what you think they could.
Relating to others in the program will give you valuable insight into your own disease. Differentiating and judging will only make it easier to rationalize acting out in the areas you struggle with.
“New beginnings, taking stock and looking toward top-line behaviors.”A new year could be as meaningless as any other date on the calendar. It only holds meaning when you give it meaning.
Part of my recovery is seeing how I look for opportunities to make sober decisions.
Do I look at the first of a new year as the chance to bemoan my fate and the struggles I had in the prior year? Or do I look to take full advantage of what life has given me and make the most of it?
Whichever you decide, just know it’s up to you how good things are in your life. If things aren’t what you want them to be, do all that you can to change that. If things are incredibly good in your life, keep nurturing those aspects of your life that will most likely allow the incredible to continue.
I have goals in my life today. I look to see that I can have a strong, healthy and intimate relationship with my husband. I look to make healthy connections with close friends and associates in my life. I work to make sure I have a healthy body that supports my efforts each day. I work each day on my relationship with a higher power and knowing myself better in the process.
Taking stock of my life and establishing top-lines that I can strive for in my life, keeps me healthy and sane today.
“Your Higher Power can show up in the most unusual of times.”Having just gone through a few stressful events in my life, I have to admit, there were a few times I looked skyward with blaming eyes. Just the question, “Why would you put me through this?”, addressed to my Higher Power, should have been an indication that I needed to work on some aspect of my program or life.
After making it through all of the despair and craziness with my sobriety intact, I realized that the events brought at least as many blessings as they did anguish. I had turned to other members of my program for advice and guidance, and the vulnerability it took to do that, strengthened my relationships with them. The events also brought my husband and I much closer, since we needed to lean on each other often, and share our tears with someone else who understood us best. And finally, it strengthened my relationship with an ever-evolving Higher Power in my life by realizing (only after the fact) that my life continues to be guided with love.
I was very grateful for having a strong program in my life that I could rely on during a more difficult period in my life. I realize the next time I find life challenging, I need to just keep making healthy choices, and things will work out.
“Have you called someone today?”I can’t always trust that my thinking is sound.
If I’m in the throes of withdrawal, I may make decisions to my own detriment.
If I’m having a difficult day in sobriety, I may take something very personally that normally I could handle easily.
When the insidious nature of the addition is helping me rationalize acting out, I may not be looking at the whole picture.
Calling someone else in the program is always a positive step in the direction of getting healthier. Whether it’s as sponsor, or a sponsee or someone else struggling with this addiction, it’s almost always a good idea to get someone else’s perspective on what’s going through your head.
On ever chip or coin that’s given out for an anniversary of sobriety, the words “You are not alone” are inscribed to remind us.
“The best advice for others in recovery is work the program.”The S.L.A.A. preamble gives a checklist of how to succeed in recovery:
- Sobriety – Our willingness to stop acting out in our own personal bottom-line addictive behavior on a daily basis.
- Sponsorship / Meetings. Our capacity to reach out for the supportive fellowship within S.L.A.A.
- Steps. Our practice of the Twelve Step program of recovery to achieve sexual and emotional sobriety.
- Service. Our giving back to the S.L.A.A. community what we continue to freely receive.
- Spirituality. Our developing a relationship with a Power greater than ourselves which can guide and sustain us in recovery.
S.L.A.A. is a twelve-step program which would indicate that working the steps is a critical component of recovery from sex and love addiction. It is also an amazing program of growth and self-understanding that allows growth that might not otherwise be available to someone not in a twelve-step program.
So, when you’re at a crossroads, or someone you sponsor asks where to go next, you can always focus on step work.
“Telling my story helps me stay sober by helping others do the same.”I heard someone tell their story in S.L.A.A. one night in the most succinct and accurate way. He said, “I was doing things that I didn’t want to be doing, I couldn’t stop doing them, and now through S.L.A.A., I’ve been able to abstain from those activities.”
Sharing our stories of acting out in our addiction, finding recovery, and working towards a more and more sober life are critical to our ongoing health and well-being. Our stories also help carry the message as our 12th step suggests, to others who are working on the same things.
“I’m not afraid of anything, except the possibility that someone may get too close.”Mark is a tough guy…blue collar tradesman, strong as an ox and lives and works in some pretty rough areas. He’s been in his share of brawls and scrapes, but mostly he avoids them because he is so intimidating and he’s not afraid of anything. Or so I thought.
He and his longtime girlfriend have had their share of problems, and Mark shared one time, that he’ll face a pack of wild dogs without fear, but trembles at the thought of coming home to see his partner’s bags packed, ready to leave him.
Often times, the fear of intimacy is really the fear of loss or abandonment, and our addiction can leverage this fear in very destructive ways, as many can recount of their times in active addiction.
Risking getting close to someone is also risking rejection and loss, but understanding how important connection and intimacy is to a fulfilling life, makes it easier and easier to go past the fear and to open yourself up to love.
“In many instances the values we had thought were ours had turned out to be someone else’s…”Throughout much of my active addiction to sex and love, I was a complete fraud. I had totally abandoned my integrity in lieu of doing something I thought I desperately wanted (or needed). Even more so, the goals I had always held out as important, had now been corrupted, and I found I was pursuing a new and darker set of goals by pursuing acting out in my addiction. And each time I’d act out, I’d find my original ideals being more obscured, and pursuit of my false goals as more and more critical.
It was only through the clarity of abstaining from my bottom line behaviors, and then examining my life in the first five steps, that I was able to see clearly how off-track I had gotten. When did it become critically important that I compulsively chase after more and better pornography, or more frequent sexual conquests, or lose myself in fantasy and obsession over someone else? By inventorying my morals, I could see what I had truly always wanted, and just how different my actions during addiction had brought me from those morals.
“…and we had shed or changed these to allow the seeds of our own personal wholeness to take root and grow.“
“The best antidote to diseased thinking is honest sharing.”Every so often, a bout of “stinkin’ thinkin'” takes over in my life, and I find myself heading quickly down the path of addiction. In the midst of such misguided thoughts, it’s easy to deceive yourself back into the old justifications and rationalizations that you used to use in active addiction…”Who am I hurting?”…”No one will ever know.”…”Just check to see if it’s still exciting!”
The longer you allow these thoughts to roam freely, the easier it is to keep them a secret, and the more secret they are, the more enticing they seem to become.
Breaking the cycle is simple and quick…share about it at a meeting. It may not be easy, and it may even seem humiliating, but shining light on these dark thoughts disperses them handily.
“Tenth Step Reassessment”The slogan, “You are not alone” reminds us that when trying to figure things out, sometimes our mind is our own worst enemy, and that eliciting feedback from someone else about a problem we’re having can be useful. But sometimes just talking ourselves through a specific issue, can help to clarify it in a way that makes it seem a lot more manageable.
Recently, I was bemoaning how awful my job was and how much I hated going and just how dreadful Monday’s were, and on and an. I realized that to achieve some of my life goals, that I needed to work, so I decided to set aside some time to review my situation and come up with options By simply reviewing what I liked about my work and what I didn’t like, I realized there was honestly very little to complain about, and the irritating parts of my job had taken up a lot more time in my inner voice than the parts that I really enjoyed. I was quickly able to re-frame how I saw my work and start to be a lot more grateful and even joyous about what I was doing.
It was amazing to me that I could have an entirely new attitude with no changes at all to my circumstances.
“Have faith.”At various times during my recovery from sex and love addiction, I have felt as though I was being taken care, or guided by unseen forces that were pushing me in the direction of recovery. I had an overriding sense that everything was going to turn out alright.
I also had many more memorable occasions when my mind was encouraging me to do things that went against my bottom lines or do things that were less than healthy for me.
But somehow, I always seemed to know when to trust my inner voice. I had regained my moral bearings in a way that I knew what was right and what was wrong. With this in mind, I was able to trust when I was being guided to sane decisions, and reach out for help when I was being encouraged to stray from my own personal values.
I found I was always either walking toward recovery and sanity, or toward disease and insanity. When it was the latter, I knew I always had the choice to turn around, and when it was the former, I could have faith I would be brought to where I needed to be.
“Just make it stop!”Sometimes it just comes down to realizing we just had to stop acting out. No matter what.
Early in sobriety from sex and love addiction, it can be incredibly difficult to stop acting out on our bottom lines. Everything we try…praying, calling other members, going to meetings, reading literature…none of it seems to get us sober. And each time we dedicate ourselves to stopping the cycle and we do it again, it just seems to strengthen the grip the addiction has on us.
Making sobriety our ONLY priority seemed to be the only answer. Not acting out, no matter what, was what it took to start us on our way to sobriety.
Abstinence isn’t the ultimate goal of SLAA, leading a sober, sane life is. But sobriety requires abstinence from our bottom line behaviors.
“One integrated life”Many of us now that compartmentalizing our lives into two or more areas, and keeping them separate and distinct is possible. Many of us know this, because we did exactly that during our active addiction.
In one compartment, we led a public life that our family, co-workers and community could see. It usually seemed from the outside that we lived a life of honesty and integrity.
In the other compartment(s) we led a life of self-shame and dishonesty.
Keeping our lives compartmentalized took an enormous amount of energy. Making sure we remembered who we told what, and trying to ensure that none of the people we knew could possibly get to see both sides, or worse, let the public side know what the private side was doing.
As recovery starts to take hold and we can let go of all the secrets we had from our acting out, we realize the relief of not having to maintain two or more separate lives. Yes, this recovery takes rigorous honesty, that is sometimes difficult, but the result is well worth the effort.
“You are not alone.”This one statement, found on all of the anniversary chips and coins in our program says a lot of important things in four words.
First, we are a fellowship. Our sobriety is dependent on the input from others and helping others to stay sober.
Second, your addict-mind can’t always be relied upon to help keep you sober. Others can.
Third, you can always rely on a power greater than yourself. Just ask for help…it is available at any time.
“We’re only as sick as our secrets”Sharing those things about which we are most ashamed in meetings helps in at least two ways.
First, it allows you to rid yourself of the burden of shameful secrets and start to get rid of your shame.
Second, it creates an amazing atmosphere of honest and vulnerability in a meeting that lets others know it is safe to share their shameful secrets.
“It’s easier to ride the horse in the direction it’s going.”Sometimes, when all things point to the healthy choice, it’s actually the easiest choice to make (despite all innter voices of the addict to the contrary).
A member recently stated the reason they came into SLAA.
“I was doing things I iddn’t want to be doing, I couldn’t stop, and I needed help from others to stop.”
Whatever form your acting out took, most people come into the SLAA program for similar reasons. Perhaps your acting out was completely against your personal morals. Possibly your acting out was dangerous to your health, or was affecting your finances, or was threatening your job or your relationships with family, friends and loved ones.
Another new member, reluctant to admit he was a sex and love addict, did realize that,
“…if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…”
When you can come to admit that you’re doing things you shouldn’t and you have no power to stop, just know that the members of SLAA can help. You can truly learn that when it comes to recovering from this addiction, you are not alone.
When all indications point you to this program, perhaps it’s time to let go and let God, and ride the horse in the direction it’s going.
“Hitting A Bottom”Addiction and recovery programs have developed a language over the years to describe many aspects of addiction, disease, recovery and sobriety.
The point at which you realized it was time you needed to get help in SLAA, can be both a shameful, low point in our lives (thus the term “bottom”), but it can also be the most important turning point at the same time.
Listening to a member of SLAA share their story, it never fails to inspire me when I hear when the person finally realizes their activities have got to stop, and their is no other course but recovery. That moment, when the revelation that the disease has taken over a person’s life and they have lost control of their ability to act in ways consistent with their beliefs, is one of the most powerful and moving parts of a person’s story of recovery.
What depths finally brought you into SLAA? At what point did you realize that you couldn’t go on acting out in the addiction any longer?
While I can’t imagine anyone wishing for that moment in their lives, I know a lot of people who used “hitting a bottom” as the reason to turn their life around.
“Objectification”One of the more difficult habits I had to break after starting the SLAA program was how I constantly looked at and pursued what I considered to be attractive people.
Years of practice trying to recruit acting-out partners, had me in a constant habit of scanning groups and public places for people that might give me the “signal” that they would be interested…and that I would be interested in adding to my growing list of sex partners.
Finally, I was able to break this bad habit by realizing that in addition to continuing to pursue acting out, I was also negating the humanity of the people that I was staring at, flirting with or pursuing. Literally turning them into objects.
How could I hope to start establishing healthy relationships with others, if I couldn’t even see them as human?
By starting to get to know people at meetings in a healthy, non-sexual way, I could start to re-acquaint myself with people as people…as opposed to bodies or pretty faces.
“Diversity”Diversity in experience and in thought in our meetings allows us to see our addiction and those things that trigger us from a different perspective. If it truly was our sick thinking that brought us into the addiction and eventually to recovery, looking at others’ ways of thinking might be useful for us.
Sometimes, diversity brings with it disharmony. People who you don’t agree with, or even care to spend time with. And what’s even more annoying, is that those very people are often the members of SLAA that you get the most from. Can you understand how useful it would be to take any situation in your life and see it from lots of different perspectives? If you’re having problems with your spouse or partner, don’t you think it might be illuminating to see it from the partner’s perspective, or the children’s, or the in-laws’, or the neighbors’, or the pastor’s, etc.. Now you might not like all of those perspectives, or the people themselves, but getting to see your situation from all those different angles can shed a lot of light on a problem…no?
Opening yourself up to the ideas of others is a huge step in humility and recovery for some of us. Try it out and see.
“Newcomers”New members in SLAA play one of the most critical roles in a recovery meeting.
First of all, it’s an amazing step for a person to come to their first meeting. It’s usually a statement that many other ways were attempted to control their addiction and nothing had worked up to this point. It says that the person is at least willing to look at getting sober from a very confounding addiction. It’s often a scary time for the newcomer…often they don’t know the rules and they don’t know the people at the meeting and they don’t even know what to say and how to act.
For others in the meeting, the newcomer is often a timely reminder of what it took us to get sober from our sex and love addictions. Hearing the newcomer share, allows us to “keep it green” or keep it fresh in our minds just how we struggled with our own addiction everything it’s taken us to get to where were are today.
Making the newcomer feel welcome and letting them know meetings are safe places for us to get sober from sex and love addiction are important aspects to having them be successful. Especially making sure they understand what “safe” means…no graphic language, no triggering behavior or stories, no 13th stepping…etc. Also sharing your experience, strength and hope can go a long way to having a newcomer relate and feel as though they are in the right place.
“Basics”When I first cam into SLAA, it was all about identifying behaviors that I could no longer do, and then stopping those behaviors. I wrote out a “bottom lines” list and dated it. Bottom lines are those activities that would be considered a break in abstinence if I did them. Examples include:
- “Going into on-line chat rooms”
- “Any contact at all with an acting out partner”
- “Flirting with any women”
- “Driving downtown after dark by myself”
- “Bringing my computer back to my hotel room”
My list evolved as I started to gain some clarity about my sobriety in SLAA. Any time I would add or delete a bottom line (with the agreement of my sponsor or some other trusted member of SLAA), I would document the change in writing, including the date the change was made. This allowed me to track my sobriety accurately..
With the clarity of my bottom lines list, and the simplicity of the 12 steps…and the patience and support of my sponsor…I was able to steer clear of behavior that put my sobriety, my sanity and my life at risk.
“Community”As I grow older, I find the wisdom of my parents’ advice to me to be more and more sound. I was often told that I was judged by the people I hang out with.
When I was active in my addiction, the community of people I hung out with were like-minded and supported my unhealthy behaviors. I would never be called out for hiding my feelings from my peers in that group. They were all just as busy trying to bury their feelings. I was encouraged to replace true feelings for the euphoria of acting out in an illicit sexual activity. I was admired for the notches on my bed-post. I had set up entire world of falsity that supported behaviors that promised satisfaction, but rarely delivered.
Now, as I grow in sobriety, I find that I’m proud to be judged by the people I hang out with. I have found a supportive community within SLAA. My home group encourages me in healthy choices and wants me being honest and getting current with my feeling and triggers. I have also started to look to healthy ways of expressing intimacy and emotions in communities where I won’t be likely to confuse kindness and caring with sexual acting out.
Interestingly enough, when I started getting sober, my former community of enablers turned out to be more like bar buddies. While they may have missed me, not one of them reached out to find out how I was doing and I’m sure I was quickly replaced with other people looking to medicate.
“Keep It Simple”The number of times that I’ve made a situation much worse by over-analyzing it or trying all sorts of complex solutions, when a simple solution was right at hand.
The SLAA program is a simple one…go to meetings and remain abstinent from your bottom lines.
While it may not be easy some days, just keep working a program and the clarity of simplicity will become more and more clear, an you’ll see how often “keeping it simple” works in all areas of your life.
“Going it Alone”Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “You’re as sick as your secrets.”
When you’ve done something that you’re ashamed of, or you’re having urges to act out, or keeping resentments…these feelings can only serve to make you sicker. Sharing them at meetings, or with a sponsor is a way of letting go of the feelings and dealing with them in a healthy, sober-minded way.
Getting current with the truth can seem like the most difficult thing to do. It sometimes seems like complete failure. But in truth, it’s either already a failure, and not acknowledging it only keeps you in a downward cycle, or it’s a failure waiting to happen, and by not dealing with it, you cut yourself off from the people and feedback that can help keep you from failing.
Take a look at any of the SLAA tokens/coins given away for milestone anniversaries in the program…they all state “You are not alone.” Remembering this, and also remembering that the isolation and compartmentalization that we exercised during our addiction are hard habits to break.
Sharing ourselves honestly with others is a very liberating antidote.
“Sanity”Once in recovery and starting on step work, it’s often easy to see those areas of your life where you were insane. Our addiction can lead us to do things that, while seeming reasonable at the time, were clearly not the actions of right-minded people.
But recognizing sanity is also important. Making day-to-day decisions that demonstrate a desire to be sober and getting back to a more stable life are critical to recovery from sex and love addiction.
Setting “top lines” can be a useful way of monitoring your progress. For me, I know when I’m exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, it’s an indication that I’m making healthy decisions for myself. What aspects of your life indicate that you’re recovering? Getting back to a hobby or creative outlet that you gave up during addiction? Paying your bills on time? Making regular calls to your sponsor? Reading the newspaper and keeping up with current affairs? Practicing good dental hygiene? Following a financial budget?
It doesn’t matter how simple the healthy behavior may seem, but when you start to recognize there areas of your life that have returned to sanity, it allows you the ability to gauge your strength in sobriety each day.
“Forgiveness”To forgive…or to “give as before”. How often can you say that when you forgive someone, you give as fully as before the forgiven event? Do you still hold some level of resentment, irritation or feel the forgiven person still owes you something or that they’re less trustworthy? Do you really need to re-establish a level of trust with someone before you can truly forgive them?
Making things right with others can be an incredibly powerful gift for both the person you’re forgiving and also for yourself. I’ve heard it said that holding a resentment is like drinking poison, hoping someone else dies. Letting go of ill-will toward someone else, or even letting go of minor irritations with someone can free up a lot of space in your mind…space that can be used for personal growth instead.
As with many things, putting yourself in the shoes of someone else can often make it a bit easier to have compassion and forgive. How many people have forgiven us for past misdeeds? How many people have supported you in your recovery from sex and love addiction, even though your acting out hurt them? Does your list of amends include people whose forgiveness will help you stay sober?
Forgiveness isn’t always easy, and there may be some things that aren’t even forgivable, but if you have the opportunity to truly forgive someone, it will let you live in a more sober way.
“Intimacy”After being sober for a while, it occurred to me that much of my acting out was done to avoid intimacy. While I was able to act out in ways there were very personal, I never had to experience true intimacy with anyone…only the outward expression of intimacy. This fake intimacy seemed safe to me, and didn’t expose me to the potential hurt of getting truly close to someone else.
It also became apparent that the partner I had chosen had difficulty expressing his feelings or experiencing intimacy.
Again, I had created circumstances in my life that helped the addiction grow.
Today, I still struggle with intimacy…it scares me to get close to my partner. Some remnants of feeling not good enough and revealing my inadequacies makes intimacy very difficult. But we try, one day at a time to experience closeness and honesty with each other, and work more and more to an intimate and loving relationship.
“…And The Wisdom To Know The Difference…”The serenity prayer is a great way to pause during times of indecision or when you’re overwhelmed or triggered by a situation. Just the brief pause you take to recite the few words will allow you the possibility of making a more healthy choice in how you proceed.
Saying this prayer, allows you to take a moment and assess a specific situation to determine if it’s something you can change, whether you have the courage to make the change and most importantly it reminds us to take a moment to determine if we’re accessing the part of our thinking that holds the wisdom of knowing whether we have any sway over the situation. When you realize that something is clearly something you can’t make a difference with, it makes it a lot easier to let it go. But just asking the questions, “Is this something I can change?” “Do I have the courage to make the change?”…there is wisdom in just opening it up for questioning.
Many people say that wisdom comes more from making mistakes than it does from having successes. Think of the stores of wisdom you have waiting for you based on your years in addiction.
“…The Courage To Change The Things I Can…”There are some things I can change and some things I can’t.
As a general rule, if the change is associated with other people, it’s not my job to change them, but it if has to do with me, I should see about working on things that should change.
Attitude is certainly an area that is changeable. During the first year of getting sober in SLAA, I found I was often bothered by a lot of different little things. People walking too slowly in front of me, my partner chewing loudly, people on the road texting while driving, SLAA members who shared about things I considered insignificant…and the list went on and on. I found that by the end of each day, I was not just annoyed, I was downright angry with all the built up irritations of my day.
Learning to let little things go, and pray for people that annoy me allowed me to change that aspect of myself. I still get annoyed sometimes with little things, but eliminating the majority of minor annoyances from my life has significantly increased the joy I can get to experience instead of the anger.
Some change can be good.
“God, grant me the serenity…”The Serenity Prayer has been a useful tool to many SLAA’s to help get past various triggers to acting out. Stress, anger, frustration and any other emotion caused by circumstances you have no control over are perfect targets for the Serenity Prayer.
The ability to let go of uncontrollable solutions and gain a level of acceptance over those circumstances is an incredibly valuable step toward serenity and sobriety. Acceptance, letting go, surrendering your will, and turning things over to your higher power are all activities that when practiced, make it easier and easier to maintain abstinence from your bottom lines, and ultimately bring you closer to a life of sobriety.
“Take time to smell the roses!“How many times have you heard someone say this and think, “Oh please!, If you only knew what my life was like, smelling the roses is the least of my worries.”
Some gauge of healthiness for me has become how open I am to accepting advice.
When I first came into SLAA, I would have scorned anyone who advised me to smell roses (perhaps not out loud, but definitely in my mind). I would have considered the advice silly, trite, cliche, and the dispenser of such advice, an idiot.
Today, while, I still don’t know that I’d be willing to actually take this advice, I have become willing to consider it without scorn. It doesn’t harm me in any way to ask myself, “Is this useful advice?” “Is this advice that might help me stay sober…gain serenity…learn something useful?”
One great way of measuring your growth in SLAA is to ask yourself how open you are to hearing feedback. We all know that it was our “stinking thinking” that got us into the mess of active addiction…considering others’ thinking as a possible way out might be the critical shift you make that will allow you to get and stay sober.
With Spring around the corner where I live, I may actually just find a rose to stop and smell.
“Willingness”It seems like innumerable times where I told myself that it was impossible to get to a place of abstinence, never mind sobriety based on how strong the urge was to act out.
Another SLAA told me something that has stuck with me all these years. “You just have to be willing.”
The level of peace and serenity that accompanies that thought for me has helped keep me sober, even when I didn’t think it was possible.
Being willing, opens the door to the possibility that staying sober can be a reality. There is a level of surrender…surrendering my old ways of thinking and looking at ways other program members, or my higher power might have me act. When I have used up every other possible tool in my program, sometimes the last thing I do that helps me get to the next day is utter the words, “I need help.” That statement shows a willingness that has been enough up until now to get a daily reprieve from the addiction.
“Setting Healthy Boundaries”Many SLAA’s dealing with dependency issues aren’t experienced in setting healthy boundaries. In fact, quite the opposite, our experience prior to and during our addiction, often teaches us to ignore boundaries and establish unhealthy intimacy with people we hardly even know.
It’s not surprising that when we first start establishing boundaries, we are confused with what boundaries should be set, and even when that becomes clear, the way of setting those boundaries can also be confounding.
Writing out our bottom line behaviors is the first opportunity in early sobriety where we get to practice setting healthy boundaries:
- Absolutely no contact with any acting out partners
- No unfiltered access to the internet
- Abstinence from a spouse or partner for a 90 day period of time
- No participation in risque jokes at work
- Blocking any phone calls, texts or e-mails from dating sites or chat rooms we used to visit
Getting input at meetings and from a trusted friend or sponsor in SLAA is often useful to make sure your boundaries are healthy and sufficient to keep you sober.
Knowing that your thought process on areas like boundaries might not be the clearest in early sobriety makes it nice to also know that you’re not alone and there are others, including your higher power, who can help you establish a life that’s safely set up with healthy boundaries..
“Faith”The SLAA program has a number of steps that require you to have faith in some power greater than yourself.
While there are many members of our program who came into SLAA with a strong faith in a higher power, there are also a number of people that struggle with turning over their will to some unknown entity Many of the latter group, express how they felt somewhat damaged by either their upbringing in an organized religion, or by a perceived judging (or worse) of some aspect of who they are by the religious community.
Fortunately, SLAA doesn’t demand that we join a religion. It does, however, require us to identify something greater than ourselves.
Being someone who felt damaged by both the religion I was brought up in, and also damaged by religions who have disdain for who I am and how I live my adult life, I struggled with the concept of a higher power. But I didn’t let that stop me from acknowledging a higher power. I still don’t know exactly who or what that higher power is. I just pray and meditate, acknowledging that some higher power does in fact exist.
As an addict, it would have been easy for me to defend a decision of not pursuing the SLAA program, but by working past this issue for myself, I have both benefited from the results of sobriety in my life, and opened my mind up to a possibility that was closed prior to joining. Today, I can be grateful for both.
“Sponsorship”The relationship between a newcomer and a sponsor provides an amazing amount of benefit to both people. The newcomer gets the benefit of experience and someone to guide them through unknown waters and the sponsor gets to be reminded of what their early recovery was like. Often, the sponsor/sponsee relationship is the first chance either member gets to experience intimacy in a non-sexual way.
Taking on either role is a big decision.
The sponsee has to exhibit some level of humility in declaring that s/he can’t do it alone. Picking up the phone to call another member can be daunting for a newcomer, so actually asking someone to sponsor them could be a huge step in recovery.
The sponsor has a big role as well. From trying to separate SLAA issues from issues a profession should deal with, or maintaining the relationship as one providing experience, strength and hope, as opposed to a co-dependent, or disciplinarian.
As both a sponsee and a sponsor in SLAA, I got wise advice from someone who walked in my shoes before. He said, “I know I’m a successful sponsor, because I’m still sober.” This comment put into perspective both what I expect from my sponsor as well as easing the worries of sponsoring others. It also did for me what many of the steps and traditions of our program did, which was to remind me that my sobriety comes first.
“Dishonesty to Honesty”Maintaining the lies and secrets of my addiction became incredibly complex and hard to keep track of. “Where did I tell people I was last Tuesday night after work?” “How did I introduce my current acting out partner when we bumped into people I knew?” “Did I remember to delete the cache on my home computer?” “What on-line persona did I present to the current person I’m chatting with last time we chatted?”
Many of us became incredibly talented at crafting a lie…with planning if we had the time…but also right on the spot in case we were confronted unexpectedly.
We got so good at lying, in fact, that the lies started to be used in all areas of our lives. It became easier to lie to ourselves about our ability to control our as-yet-undiagnosed disease. It became easier to explain late tasks at work with a lie. Even when asked a simple question like “Did you get the car filled with gas?”, our immediate response was whatever lie we thought the person asking wanted to hear.
A common newcomer story in SLAA rooms is the member who’s first impulse is to lie, even when I lie is completely unnecessary.
Having a safe place where we can truly “get honest,” whether it be in a meeting or with a sponsor, gives us the ability to start unraveling the tangle of lies. It was amazing to me the burden these lies were in my life, and the simple choice of telling the truth became incredibly freeing.
With every day of sobriety, I had another day I didn’t have to cover up and hide and make up a story about where I’d been or what I’d done. When my partner shows up unexpectedly while I’m on my computer, I don’t need to hide anything or justify what I’ve been doing. And I never need to worry again about my child somehow finding a site I had recently been on.
Yes, getting sober is hard work, but so is maintaining an addiction. I’d much prefer the hard choices of getting sober over the more difficult task of keeping up lies.
“Morality and Disease”Many newcomers to SLAA are deeply ashamed of their acting out. For some of them, the shame helps keep them sober by reminding them that there are consequences to acting out. But for many, shame has become a long-standing companion…one that sometimes keeps us stuck in a self-destructive pattern of feeling badly about ourselves, and craving some way of medicating those feelings.
Realizing that sex and love addiction is a disease that requires treatment, can sometimes help SLAA’s to get past the shame of their acting out. It doesn’t mean we don’t have to take responsibility for what we’ve done, but it takes away the burden of feeling morally bad. While some of our actions might have been morally or ethically wrong to us, it didn’t necessarily mean that we were morally wrong. Often, looking back at our acting out makes us realize just how desperate we were to medicate our feelings. So desperate, that sometimes we strayed far from our personal idea of integrity and morals.
The choices we make in sobriety help move us back to that place of feeling good about ourselves. We can again start to take pride in our ability to do the right thing and make the sober choice.
I particularly try to remember this when I find myself judging someone’s behavior on a moral basis. If I find myself thinking that someone’s behavior is “bad”, I try to remember to re-frame the way I see it, as the person making decisions that aren’t helping his sobriety instead. Adding more shame to a person already struggling under the burden of past shame rarely helps them get and stay sober.
“And Then What?”When you were acting out, did you ever have the experience of having a triggering thought, and the next thing you knew, you were regretting the shame of having acted out again?
I can’t tell you how many times, despite adamant resolve not to, I would almost hypnotically walk through the process of acting out, with seemingly no control or ability to stop myself. I’d be leaving the office thinking I should probably leave my laptop in the office, and then I’d have a brief recollection of some euphoric acting out with my computer, and then it was all downhill and my ability to not take my computer home, go on-line, access pornography, chat with acting out partners, was completely gone. I was powerless.
The miracle of my time in SLAA is that now I have the ability to insert small decision points at each stage of the downhill slide, and I’m given multiple opportunities to make a sober decision instead of acting out.
One of the things I often ask myself is, “And then what?”
As an example, an attractive person will flirt with me on my walk home and I’ll have the urge to act out. By asking “And then what?” I can short-circuit the uncontrollable urge, and realize this path I’m considering is one that will only bring me shame and regret.
Consistently choosing the sober option…when that option is available to me, I am slowly reprogramming my actions to stay sober one day at a time.
“Step 12 Behavior”As my acting out spiraled out of control, and the feeling of euphoria and intoxication became more and more difficult to obtain, my life started to become dismal and desperate. Relying too much on the buzz I got from acting out, I could only pursue more and more drastic ways of attaining it.
Who would have believed that the depths of despair that this downward cycle of addiction brought me, might actually prove useful in recovery?
Sharing my story of addiction and detailing how by abstaining from bottom line behaviors and then working toward sobriety in all areas of my life, has become a way of doing 12th step work for me. Sharing my “experience, strength and hope” can help a newcomer or even a long-time member who might be struggling.
Never underestimate the power that your story can have on another member of SLAA. Sometimes the more extreme your acting out was, the more hope you can provide to someone looking for a way of breaking the cycle of addiction.
Combining a successful story of recovery, with a warm welcome to a newcomer can go a long way toward helping encourage someone to pursue sobriety. Knowing that 12th step work also helps me stay sober is even more of a bonus.
“Gratitude”Being thankful for your sobriety is a great way of both acknowledging the progress you’ve made and having some true humility about how you’ve been able to stay sober.
I don’t personally know anyone that has gotten sober in SLAA by themselves.
A common expression I have heard often at meetings is, “My sick brain can’t cure my sick brain?” So I often thank the members at an SLAA meeting for helping me stay sober or for allowing me to experience intimacy in a safe, non-sexual way. My daily praying is often thanks to my higher power for having given me another daily reprieve from the obsession of this addiction. And of course, my sponsor deserves my undying gratitude for her patience and guidance during an incredibly difficult time. As part of a daily journaling exercise, I will often list the top five things for which I’m grateful. It’s a great way to start the day.
Giving thanks costs me nothing except some arrogance sometimes, which is a currency I’m glad to be rid of. It also allows me to remember that my sobriety rests squarely on the shoulders of those who came before me in SLAA and the loving guidance of a higher power.
Gratitude helps me remember to value all that I’ve gotten back in sobriety. How could I not be grateful for getting back my life?
“People, Places and Things”What were some of the things you had to give up when you first started abstaining from bottom line behaviors?
Having previously reviewed “People” and “Places”, it appears that “Things are also something we focus on when sobriety takes top priority in our lives. There were certain things that I had to get rid of to keep myself safe and sober.
Could I continue to bring my work laptop back to my hotel room when I traveled for work? Could I have a computer at all in my home? Was blocking software something I needed to use to eliminate risk? Pornography was a big part in feeding the disease for many of us. On-line chat rooms were a source of acting out partners for many of us. The computer has become a big “Thing” to take into consideration in a recovering sex and love addict’s life.
I also looked at how food and alcohol affected my ability to assess whether I was making a sober decision or unhealthy choices. Did I want overeating to take up where my sexual/romantic acting out left off? Did having a drink negatively influence my ability to say no to a possible acting out partner?
I also had to seriously consider what movies I could see? What television shows I could watch? I even considered the possibility of having a television-free home, but found I could safely stay sober with one in the house. But putting “first things first,” I would have eliminated the television if keeping it meant a source of culling intrigue.
Using any ways possible to make sober decisions uncomplicated was a necessary component of my getting and staying sober. Looking at People, Places and Things from the perspective of making healthy choices made early sobriety a little less complicated.
“People, Places and Things”Certain places that I frequented during my addiction had to be strictly avoided as a way of safeguarding my ongoing recovery. Even places that might just be a trigger were added to my list of places to avoid.
There were some obvious places I could no longer go. Adult book stores, bath-houses, and other places where sexual activity was always available. There were some additional places that were simply triggers for me in acting out.
Re-routing my drive home to avoid a particularly triggering billboard. Being on guard so that my addict didn’t convince me that the route past the house of an old boyfriend was the fastest way to get somewhere or avoiding the convenience store where I had flirted with the cashier, and even checking in with my sponsor to make sure certain SLAA meetings wouldn’t be too triggering for me were all decisions I had to make on an ongoing basis when I got serious about my recovery.
When I put sobriety first, I had to always ask myself questions such as:
- Is the gym a healthy place for me to go?
- Do I need to change the store where I buy my groceries?
- Should I ask a program friend to join me at a movie, or is it okay to go to the theater by myself today?
- Am I sober enough to handle being at my mom’s house for a picnic with family?
- Should I ask my sponsor if I can check in before and after an after-work celebration with co-workers to make sure I stay sober?
At the same time, I had to make sure there were places where I knew I could go that would be safe for me. SLAA meetings and social events or retreats organized by recovering Sex and Love addicts provided a good starting point. From there, I was able to grow the number of places where I could go and not be triggered to act out.
“People, Places and Things”Beginning to abstain from those activities that I could no longer control in my addiction required me to set certain boundaries to help keep me safe and as far away from the temptation to act out as I could.
I had to definitely break off ties with certain people. Some were easy…like a recovering alcoholic, I found that some of my “friends” were just the equivalent of bar buddies. As soon as I stopped showing up in places where my acting out occurred, they no longer had any need of my friendship. Those people fell out of my life effortlessly.
Others were a bit more difficult to avoid.
Acting out partners who had become my sole source of emotional support had to be replaced by trusted program people, including a sponsor.
Co-workers who were involved in my acting out had to be avoided in any way I could…parking in a different location, requesting a transfer to a different department, changing jobs or just stopping any interactions with them.
Community members, neighbors or even employees of my local grocery store were also sometimes difficult to avoid. Changing habits to avoid people who were dangerous to my sobriety seemed like I was uprooting many aspects of my life.
But putting sobriety as my primary priority, made those decisions to change somewhat easier.
December 15, 2011
“Progress, Not Perfection”As addicts, we sometime focus only on the areas where we work to do.
Balancing your recovery with both vigilance against the addiction and acknowledging yourself for progress that you’ve made can be important to long-term sobriety.
- Helped introduce someone to our program?
- Made amends to a particularly important person?
- Done service in the program?
- Re-established trust in a relationship with someone in your life?
- Acknowledged the contribution someone in program has made to your life?
- Sponsored someone in the program?
- Established daily times of prayer and meditation?
- Asked for help in an area where you are powerless?
- Had the urge to act out, and stayed sober anyway?
- Reconciled past issues?
- Completed your fourth step?
- Read the SLAA big book?
- Found ways of being serene in times of solitude?
- Written regularly in a recovery journal?
- Been more present to someone because of your sobriety?
- Became willing to address other areas of obsessive/compulsive behaviors in your life?
- _______________________________________________ (add your own here)?
Congratulations on your progress!
“Joy, Satisfaction, Serenity”It’s often occurred to me that recovery from sex addiction enables me to experience feelings that weren’t possible during my active addiction.
While I had instances of euphoria as part of my acting out, I wasn’t able to experience real joy.
Smug arrogance or superiority in my acting out days was replaced by a sense of deep satisfaction.
And though there were times during my active addiction where life wasn’t completely frenetic, only in recovery have I been able to experience a sense of serenity.
I’ve found that even some of the less positive emotions have gotten better in sobriety.
Getting to experience feelings like sadness or grief, has been a far more real experience for me than the shame and despair I experienced regularly before SLAA.
To paraphrase a popular bumper sticker about fishing, “Even a bad day of true feelings is better than a day trying desperately to suppress all feelings.”
“Meditation”Many of the members of SLAA seem to incorporate as many of the tools of our program as they can to help them stay sober, but some seem stymied when it comes to meditation.
What is Meditation?
Initially, someone described meditation in this way:
“Prayer is when you speak to your higher power, meditation is when you listen.”
My favorite dictionary definition is:
” To think or reflect, especially in a calm and deliberate manner.”
To many, the idea of meditation is very much like their ideas of a higher power in that personal ideas of what meditation is can be very different between one member and another.
“I’ve Tried – I Can’t Meditate”
Many of the folks who try to meditate, have too active a mind, and before they know it, they’re thinking about work, or something they forgot to put on their shopping list, or even harder, start obsessing on acting out in the addiction.
A pastor at a friend’s church once said, “You meditate all the time…every time you worry about something or concerns of the day keep you awake at night, you meditate on those issue…sometimes to the point of obsession.”
Turning those worries or concerns into a time to sit quietly and focus on a single thought, such as “gratitude” or asking a single question to focus your meditation, such as “How do I perceive love?” are all ways of meditating.
Many successful members of our program find it helpful to have set times for both prayer and meditation. Says one member, “I pray in the morning and ask for another day of reprieve from this disease, and I meditate at night, right before I fall asleep, focusing on one aspect of my recovery, and letting the rest of my mind re-organize itself before I have a restful sleep.”