Dean Y (NY)
The night I got my current sponsor in SCA I wrote out my first step as fast as I could, making a list of all 139 people I had had sex with and my 47 romantic obsessions. Then I made an appointment to share it with him just like a fifth step. I saw for the first time that my troubles had been remarkably the same from age five to the present. I also knew my plan (no sex outside a committed relationship) was a good one that addressed each of my sex and romance problems.
Step two had already taken place for me many years ago. I was an atheist at the time and a friend of mine suggested I ask for power from any thing good in the universe to help me when I needed it. Some months later he told me I could take the extra “o” out of good and realize that I had been praying to God all the time. For step two to really work for me, I made a new addition of my own to the step to help it have more potency. “God and actively working the steps could restore me to sanity”.
Step three was another humility step. It also gave me the instructions for daily living. I thought there might be a great mystery to deciphering God’s will but when in doubt, I relied upon this rule of thumb. For today stay sober by helping someone else, go to a meeting, meditate and pray, pray to have my defects of character removed, pray for the health, prosperity and the happiness of those around me both friend and foe. Be patient, tolerant, kind, and loving with all the people I meet today including myself. Be grateful for all events that come to pass in response to these actions, because they are most likely God’s will.
Step four was a step of deeper humility. I did my fourth step using the seven deadly sins as a point of reference. I started with lust, which I had basically covered in step one. Then I inventoried my life history looking at every instance I could possibly remember of greed, anger, gluttony, pride, envy, sloth and then I added a couple of categories of my own, one called general evil things and two others from AA’s Big Book, resentments and fears. I read once in the Big Book that if a person did not do a fourth and fifth step, his chances of staying sober for any length of time were not good. Since I never wanted to go back to acting out I took the fourth step with the seriousness of an operation that would save my life.
Step five allowed me to take a really big chance on intimacy by telling another person about my life’s secrets and shame. It took my sponsor and I several meetings and several hours to cover all these categories, but it was worth it. I suddenly felt better. All my darkness was out on the table and one person, my sponsor, did not run away from me in disgust. I realized that everything I had done was not unforgivable and that if one person could accept me then surely God could too.
Step six took me to even deeper levels of humility as I prayed to be humble enough to turn to God for help with all my character defects revealed in step four. In this step I was asked to turn it all over to God since on my own I had never had made much headway in ridding myself of any of my character defects. I was like a person who swore off the bottle with the best of intentions, only to find after a short-lived reprieve that I was back at ground zero and often worse than before. I discovered that God could and would remove each and everyone of my character defects if I sought him on a regular basis.
When I took step seven, I went to a church to pray with my sponsor. I prayed my own prayers on my knees, asking for God’s help to get me out of the mess in which I found myself. I also used the seventh step prayer. I prayed with a humble sincerity that I had seldom known before. I found myself sobbing uncontrollably with relief as I realized that I was going to finally allow God to remove from me all that I could not ever get rid of myself. For the first time in my life I was going to let God take over in this area of my life. This has become a daily practice for me and has paid off immeasurably by giving me the peace that I have so long sought.
One example of the incredible power of God to work in this came in the form of the removal of my anger and resentment toward almost everyone who had ever crossed my path. I wanted more than anything to have God remove my anger because it was always getting in my way. It had destroyed so many opportunities and relationships for me in my past. I had often tried to control my rage but had always failed. I had masked it with a smile, only to have people run from me when they found out my true nature. By asking on a daily basis to have my anger removed, I have found that it has been removed. I have found that in order to have my defects of character removed I must: 1) Identify a character defect. 2) Share it with just one other person, who will not help me to justify it. 3) Immediately and repetitively ask God to remove it from me. I used to have a therapist who encouraged me to get in touch with my anger and even express it in ‘appropriate’ ways to the person with whom I was angry. This just seemed to fan the flames. I would feel justification for my anger and my ego and pride would inflame until I exploded into a rage. Before I knew what had happened I was full of anger and suffering again without a shred of peace in my life. I believe that expressing my anger appropriately at the object of my anger would work for me if I was not an addict. However, since I am an addict, I recognize that asking God to remove my anger is a better strategy for maintaining my sobriety and peace of mind. I have found it useful to never mention my resentment directly to the person with whom I am angry. Even if someone confronts me directly about my feelings toward them, I must take full responsibility for my anger by not blaming them. I need to express it and then I must get rid of it, because like a cancer, anger eats away at its own container. Left to ferment, my anger will only poison me. As an adult I can choose to see myself as a victim or I can choose to be responsible for my recovery and see that it is pointless to be angry with a person who is like me simply going through the pains of growing up. I believe this is the best strategy for sustained serenity and sobriety. This is the new thinking God has given to me and is one of the greatest gifts I have received so far in recovery.
Step eight required even more humility. I had to list all the people I had harmed and take full responsibility for my actions. I simply made a list of all the people I even remotely thought I had harmed, often reminding myself that no one was to be excluded or over- looked because of wrongs I perceived they had done to me. I reviewed each person with my sponsor and made a plan of action for each one. I had more than 150 people and institutions to try to address. Many could move on quickly while others it seemed would take a life-time to sort out. In still other cases, God would have to show me the way.
Doing step nine was an experience that was quite different than what I had expected. People’s reactions to my making amends were, as I had expected, always different. I once paid back sixty dollars I had stolen from an old employer, thinking he would be shocked and I would be totally embarrassed. Instead, he basically thanked me for the restitution as nonchalantly as noticing that the sky is blue and didn’t even acknowledge that I had done anything wrong.
Another (indirect) amend took the form of helping a man who had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. I did this amend one day a week for a year. In my teens I had harmed someone who had had a stroke and was also confined to a wheelchair. Since this man was no longer alive I could not make amends to him directly. At the right time, I learned from my sponsor that someone in AA who had been sober for 22 years had had a stroke and needed help. I offered my help to this man in reparation for the damage I had done to the man who had died. I really came to love this man and we share a great friendship to this day.
Other amends involved making simple apologies and a decision to lead a more sober and useful life. I was also obligated to address institutions from which I had borrowed money and had been less than prudent in making my repayments. This involved negotiating reasonable repayment agreements and following through on my agreements. I also had to make amends to my parents for many things, while never making reference to harms I perceived they had done to me. I even made a written amends to a man who had sexually assaulted me years earlier, again keeping the focus on my wrongs and never bringing his wrongs against me to light. The deep depression I had once known while sober, without working the steps, completely left me now. I found that all the promises in the AA Big Book to be true and real in my life once I had taken the ninth step.
I have taken the tenth step on two occasions now. It is an opportunity to clean up any new wreckage I still bring about with my character defects. I can only say I am so much happier and more sane than I have ever known before. However, I am still an addict and must keep my ego in check, so I can still continue to be useful to God and others. This has been the purpose of the tenth step for me. Without it I would become very sick once more and be useful to no one.
Step eleven is all about prayer and meditation and constant seeking and listening for God’s purpose for me. I once told a friend that I wanted to be so powerful and famous that I would never be forgotten. He responded by asking me a question. He asked me to name the seven Caesars. I was only able to remember Julius and Augustus. In response he said “Never being forgotten is not a very attainable or noble goal. These men were probably the most powerful men that had ever lived as well as the most famous and you can not remember who they are!” I realized than that I needed and wanted a new reason to live and I found that being useful to God and others was more rewarding and sufficient one than any I had had before. Step eleven gives me the instruction and purpose for my life. God is my employer. My prayers today are prayers of gratitude for the way my life is and the way things are. Earlier in my recovery I would pray for the way I thought things ought to be. With my improved conscious contact with God, I realize that everything is perfect as it is and is perfectly placed for me to learn valuable lessons in my life, even if I do not always see where my life is going. I know from past experience that I have nothing to fear from the future as long as I keep faith and spiritual attitude through the use of prayer and meditation.
Step twelve is how I keep all that I have by giving it all, in its entirety, away. At present I have 19 sponsees. I try for the most part to just work the steps with them in a written way with them. I actively try not to be a therapist and listen to their concerns, guiding them to the steps as soon as possible. Every time I meet with a sponsee, I get more out of it than they do if we talk about the application of a step to a problem. I sponsor all these people not to keep them sober but to keep myself sober. There is nothing like reviewing a step from AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to keep the rust of addiction out of this addict’s mind. If I get lazy about giving it away, I feel the sickness start to creep back in. I try not to let a week go by without making an appointment with a sponsee to go over a particular step. I find I do best on 2 or 3 meetings like this a week. It is the most effective way I know to keep the steps alive in my own life.
At present I have been in recovery for 14 years and I just now have over five years sobriety. My life is full of purpose, happiness and love, in an abundance I never dreamed possible. I am grateful to have suffered from sex and romance addiction, for without my illness I would not have had access to the spiritual life I lead today. The rooms of SCA have, in my opinion, matured to the point where they would support me with rich step work, honest recovery and spiritual experiences back into recovery if I were (God forbid!) to go back to acting out and come back for support as a beginner once again. To SCA, my sponsor and all the recovering sex addicts that have helped me so greatly all these years to find the happy, joyous and free life I have today, I say thank you. May God Bless you and keep you in spirits as good as he keeps me.