The 12 step community gets it right. The step work and sponsorship ARE the program. I know of many people who attend 12 step recovery meetings but never dig into the step work. There are probably as many reasons as there are people who attend but don’t enter into sponsorship. I’d like to suggest a slightly different way of rethinking a 1st step in sex addiction recovery.
The 1st step, if you’re not familiar, is “We admit that we are powerless over compulsive sexual behavior (or lust) and that our lives have become unmanageable.” For most people I work with, they initially struggle with the idea that they are powerless. They believe they can control their behavior, that it is just a matter of making better choices. Let’s consider something different.
Part of a 1st step in sex addiction recovery is to tell the story of your life and, in doing so, your addiction. This is not a “just the facts, ma’m” sort of narrative. At least it shouldn’t be. Instead, taking an inventory of the experiences of your life – including good times and bad, traumatic events, 1st sexual experiences, 1st exposure to pornography or sexual content, 1st orgasm, abuse or neglectful situations, family-of-origin issues such as bullying or isolation – begins to tell a story of how a beautiful young child finds a coping mechanism to deal with life’s difficulties.
Telling the story is important. But for every story told there’s a moral. And understanding how sex addiction came to be – where it started, how sex or pornography became the “go-to coping mechanism” to feel better or zone out or feel loved or feel wanted – is THE critical piece in a 1st step.
It’s also one of the very most critical pieces in early recovery. Understanding that YOU are not bad, that you struggle with an addiction and that the addiction found its way into your life in a very organic way is a great antidote to the shame that many sex addicts carry with them, buried deep inside never wanting anyone to know.
So, if you’re in a 12 step program such as SA, SAA, SLAA, or SCA, dig deep into your 1st step or go back and revisit it. Understanding how addiction found its way into your life and what purpose it served back then can be a critical component to moving through sex addiction and into sobriety and recovery.