Abstinence (partial or total): We get support and growth
by abstaining from people, places or things that we consider harmful. Early
in recovery a period of total sexual abstinence is a benefit; without abstinence,
recovery is impossible. Some people call this a period of celibacy.
Later abstinence will come to mean abstaining from your bottom line behaviors
(sometimes called inner circle behaviors) and boundaries (sometimes called middle
Acceptance: Accept that you
are a sex and love addict. Don't blame yourself for failures, but don't
give in either. There is no room in recovery for guilt and shame, as they
perpetuate the shame spiral that often feeds our very addiction. Guilt is
when we feel we've done something bad. Shame is when we feel that we are
bad. Both of these attitudes need to be addressed head-on in recovery.
Recovery provides us an opportunity to change our behaviors.
Daily affirmations are a way of retraining "old thoughts" of low self-esteem.
Anonymity and Confidentiality:
Guard other's safety by not repeating what is heard in a meeting or other confidential
setting; value yourself and others by practicing "principles before personalities."
By using first names only, we guarantee that everyone will feel safe to share,
and we place everyone on an equal footing. Living respectfully of others
is an important thread in the fabric of recovery.
Balancing your life is important. To help build balance in your life and
relationships, each day remember to develop personal relationships with people
other than your partner. Engage in pleasure, education, rest, creativity,
spiritual involvement, and play. Becoming compulsive about recovery does
not make you sober and healthy; it merely substitutes another compulsion.
Recovery with You: Keep reminders, cues, instructions, or anything
else that will help in your purse or wallet. Those things might include
phone numbers of recovery friends, photographs of loved ones, your recovery plan,
Conferences, conventions, retreats, and workshops:
Conferences, conventions, retreats, and workshops provide opportunities to spend
more time focused on recovery and in the company of other members of the fellowship.
While the home websites often provide information about these activities, not all
local groups/intergroups make use of these pages; so local meeting announcements
are a wonderful resource (if available). Pages to check include: http://saa-recovery.org/NewsAndEvents/ , http://www.sca-recovery.org/conference.htm, and http://www.slaafws.org/events.
breathing: If you feel a panic attack coming on, try taking slow
deep breaths until sanity begins to return. Try other healing physical activities
like soaking in a hot bath, looking in a mirror and saying "I love you"
or other affirmations, or repeating the Serenity Prayer.
Work to eliminate denial, half-truths, white lies, fibs, partial truths and overt
dishonesty with ourselves and others.
is the best medicine" is true. Never take yourself too seriously.
Enjoy a healthy comedy movie or TV show when you feel down.
Writing provides a way to become honest with ourselves and our Higher Power.
By writing in journals, gratitude lists, letters and emails we can measure our
progress, values, motives, and Twelve Step work. Record your thoughts, feelings,
and insights. This can be an enormous help in developing and repairing your
relationship with yourself. This also serves to show later how short-term
our feelings can be.
Literature: Sexual recovery
is a portable program: we can make use of AA, NA, COSA, Co-SLAA, S-Anon, OA, or
any relevant recovery books and literature, plus our own books and pamphlets.
Read some recovery literature everyday. Daily reading helps keep your focus on
recovery. If you get one good new idea from a whole book, it was worth it. Become
more knowledgeable about you addiction by any reading relevant books and visiting
informational websites. It can tide you over till you're able to make contact
with another member. It also deepens your knowledge of the program, and no matter
how often you read it, there's always something surprising to learn. The
SCAnner, the bi-annual magazine of SCA, is available by subscription from their
website. The Journal, http://www.slaafws.org/thejournal the bi-monthly magazine of S.L.A.A., is available
from the SLAA-FWS website. The
Outer Circle, the bi-monthly magazine of SAA, is available from their website
by subscription (and past issues are archived there).
the moment: "One Day At a Time" as we often say.
The thought of making a pledge to never act out sexually again can be discouraging
and overwhelming. It's important not to worry about the past or project
the future, just stay in the moment. If necessary, take it one hour or even
one minute at a time. If you become overwhelmed by tasks to be accomplished,
make yourself a list of things to do. Keep them small and simple.
Tasks that can be accomplished in five minutes or less can be as rewarding as
major long-term tasks, especially in that moment of confusion and bewilderment.
Be mindful when your attention is not in the moment. When your mind dwells
in the future or the past, you can do nothing. Remember, the only time you
can ever do anything is right now.
(whether in real life or online) are where we share our experience, strength and
hope with each other to better understand our common problem and work together
towards the solution. Even if you feel you'll die if you don't act out or
your mind doesn't want you to get better, you need to "bring the body"
to a meeting. Even when something is "more important" or more
exciting or more fun, get to a meeting. Very subtly your value system will
get healed. We failed to do it alone, but we can do it together. You
can listen to others tell of what it was like, what happened to them and what
it is like now. You listen for the similarities and discard the differences.
In these meetings you learn valuable information about your disease and how the
12-step program works. Members give and receive support, work the steps,
and share experience, strength and hope in a safe environment. At first,
attend as many meetings as you can. If possible, attend meetings daily for
the first 90 days and practice abstinence to the best of your ability. The
slogan "90 meetings in 90 days" is a sure-fire way to learn the true
meaning of "First Things First." Making a meeting every day no
matter what is a foolproof way to discipline deep habits of "giving in"
and self-indulgence — habits so deep they seem our true selves rather than
the voice of our illness.
Open-mindedness: Be vigilant
to listen for similarities and not differences. We share common feelings,
no matter what our acting-out behavior involved. Be very mindful to not
separate yourself from recovery or the fellowship. We all feel "terminally
unique" sometimes, but with time we learn that we are part of a larger unity
that overcomes miracles.
People, Places and Things:
Choose to avoid all triggering situations, or make them safe if you can't avoid
them. You don't have to go to business meetings at nude bars. You
can tell the others that going to such places interferes with your spiritual growth.
If you can't avoid some triggers such as working on a computer, make it safe for
yourself. Install blocking software (so that you don't know the password),
keep your door open, turn the screen toward the door, put the computer at home
in a public area, never go online when you are alone. You can figure out
the details. Avoiding triggers is respecting your own boundaries.
Activity: Spend time doing fun activities, and get involved in
sports, exercise, and other physical activities. This is useful for all
addicts and particularly important for those who became sedentary with their addictions.
No matter what the activity (even cleaning) releases natural endorphins in the
brain which help us feel healthy.
Prayer and Meditation:
Prayer and meditation are a means of establishing a conscious contact with a Power
greater than ourselves, for spiritual healing. Regular spiritual practices
help us connect with our Higher Power, which strengthens our recovery. It is important to explore whatever beliefs you have in a power greater than yourself.
This may be God as you know God through your religious beliefs or values.
Your Higher Power may be nature, the energy of the universe, your 12 Step group,
or any other thing that is greater than you are. There are no religious
requirements or beliefs necessary for recovery. Some people have either
lost their spirituality before coming to recovery and some have never had any
spiritual beliefs. In recovery you may experience a new or reawakened spiritual
feeling. Some of these awakened feelings may challenge your religious upbringing.
Be open-minded. Pray for help from your Higher Power — as you understand
it or don't understand it. Particularly effective is the Serenity Prayer:
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage
to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." In
emergency situations, some of us use it as a mantra, saying it over and over till
the crisis passes.
Prioritize: Make recovery your
number one priority. All of your hopes and plans, your very survival depends
on your recovery. It may not make sense at the beginning but your order
of priority should be: #1 Sobriety; #2 Physical and Mental Health; #3 Family Relationships; #4 Financial
Professional Help: Your
addiction may have been a subconscious way of self-medicating yourself for wounds
you carry from your earlier life. It is important to work with a professional
who understands sexual addiction or is willing to learn. This is another
way to keep yourself on the path of recovery. Remember that recovery is
much more than abstinence from sexually addictive behaviors. You may want
to seek out group therapy, individual therapy, or both. If possible, including
your spouse or partner in therapy, both individually and as a couple, can be a
great benefit to the recovery of both and to your relationship. We also
suffer from cognitive distortions (core beliefs): it is erroneous to think: "I
am basically a bad, unworthy person;" "No one would ever love me as
I am;" "My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on others;"
"Sex is my most important need." These core beliefs provide the
structure for many particular errors in thinking. Cognitive errors distort
the experience of the sexual addict to conform to the shameful core beliefs.
The particular errors also screen out any new, potentially corrective information.
For example, the sexual addict who fundamentally believes that "no one will
love me the way I really am" will set up relationships so that there is ample
evidence of rejection of the true self and support for the false, public self.
A professional therapist can help us better understand cognitive distortions and
retrain our core beliefs.
Recovery Partners: Being
accountable to someone is an important anchor for sobriety. Make an agreement
with someone to check in — daily if at all possible. That person should
have a list of questions — very specific questions — to ask you and
that you have agreed to answer honestly. Your partner may be a member of
your group, a friend in recovery, your therapist, or a good friend. A recovery
partner must be someone you trust and with whom you feel safe. Shaming by
an accountability partner is not acceptable. It is not recommended that
you ask your life partner to be your recovery partner. This tool can be
a valuable addition to your sponsor.
A recovery plan is a pre-determined way of expressing our sexuality consistent
with our values, so that even when confused, we have a written guideline to help
us. In defining our own sobriety, we make a list of all of our acting out
behaviors. Making this list is very specific and is followed by a solemn
commitment to yourself not to engage in those behaviors. We choose, one
day and one situation at a time, not to engage in those behaviors. Set your
bottom lines; discuss your bottom lines; know your bottom lines; observe your
bottom lines. Read over your sexual recovery plan frequently. Remembering
our goals helps us lose the craving to go back to the anguish and confusion we
are beginning to ease out of. Most recovery plans include personal boundaries
in addition to bottom lines from which we completely abstain. Boundaries
are the "slippery" slopes that can became blurred or even non-existent
when we were in our sexual addiction. Part of recovery is identifying appropriate
boundaries or limits with respect to people, places and activities. For
example, we might choose to set a boundary regarding keeping company with people
who continue in their addictions. This is self-protective and healthy.
When we were in our addiction there was nothing we would not do and nothing we
felt we could not or should not do. Now, in recovery, we must set boundaries
to keep ourselves healthy and safe. There is no right or wrong way to write
a recovery plan for yourself. Some members benefit by seeing an existing
plan in use.
Dating is a way of changing the instant gratification habit and getting to know
more about ourselves and another person, before committing to any sexual decisions.
We let go of self-serving power and prestige as driving motives.
Simple reminders can often be a powerful way to stay sober. For instance,
posting small signs or post-its with affirmations or healthy reminders near your
computer, your bathroom mirror, your car's interior, or wherever you want to be
"reminded" can be a gentle nudge to staying on the path of recovery.
Formula: The “S.A.F.E.” Formula is an easy way to define
addiction. If the following elements are present, then the person's sexual
problems could be called an addiction: “Secret; Abusive; Feelings; Empty.”
Secret — It is a secret. Anything that cannot pass public scrutiny
will create the shame of a double life. Abusive — It is abusive to
self or others. Anything that is exploitive or harmful to others or degrades
oneself will activate the addictive system. Feelings — It is used
to avoid or is a source of painful feelings. If sexuality is used to alter
moods or results in painful mood shifts it is clearly part of the addictive process.
Empty — It is empty of a caring committed relationship. Fundamental
to the whole concept of addiction and recovery is the healthy dimension of human
relationships. The addict runs a great risk by being sexual outside a committed
Service: Service is helping ourselves
by helping others. Service includes participating in activities that support
your Twelve Step group as a whole, including leading meetings, sponsoring, reaching
out to newcomers, telling your story, serving as any trusted servant position,
writing an article for the Journal http://www.slaafws.org/thejournal, or volunteering in other ways. You may
also serve by helping your neighbors, volunteering in your church, and so on.
The benefit of service is not limited to serving in the recovery community.
The benefit is in connecting with others through their needs rather than your
Sharing: Being honest and vulnerable in front
of fellow recovering addicts is frightening but worth it. Many of us believe
we recover in direct proportion to our willingness to share. Some recovering
addicts commit to talking during the discussion time in each meeting.
Slogans are simple statements that can be used in crisis situations, so that we
have some basic guidelines. These include: One Day At a Time; Live and Let
Live; Easy Does It; Progress, Not Perfection; First Things First; Keep It Simple;
Let Go and Let God; HOW (How our program works: Honesty, Open-mindedness, Willingness);
HALT (Not allowing ourselves to become too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired), Meeting-makers
Make It, But For the Grace of God, and many more.
Socializing is a way of breaking down our isolation and getting to know other
people in a nonsexual context — at fellowship after meetings, in supportive
organizations and groups, and in the community at large. Spend time with
people. Isolation is a part of your disease. Find ways to be in contact
with people. Meetings are good, but the company of others is good too.
The only limit is that those people must support your sobriety even if they don't
know you are an addict. You can also "socialize" by posting to
forum message boards and recovery groups like:
the SCA website.
Sponsorship: Sponsorship is two
people with the same problem helping each other to work the program. It
can provide a framework for a recovery plan and for doing the 12-Steps, and bring
emotional support at difficult times. As part of the surrender process,
we admit our weaknesses and we ask others for help. A sponsor is a recovering
addict with more sobriety and program experience than you. Your sponsor
should be someone with whom you can communicate. Find a sponsor immediately,
even if they are only temporary. You can always change sponsors later if
the relationship does not work out.
Start a Meeting:
While there are online meetings, some suggest that they have no local meetings
to attend. SLAA Fellowship Wide Services provides help in creating new groups.
Tradition 3 states, "The only requirement for S.L.A.A. membership is the
desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. Any two or
more persons gathered together for mutual aid in recovering from sex and love
addiction may call themselves an S.L.A.A. group, provided that as a group they
have no other affiliation." No matter how new you feel that you are
in recovery, you are most welcome to create a group, and this tool works toward
"Meetings," "Service," "Sharing," Support Network,"
"Replace Behaviors with Healthy Ones," "Socializing" and more.
It is worth the effort.
Support Network: Meeting
with other people to discuss your journey helps you to know you are not alone
and allows you to get another perspective on your struggles. Cultivate communication
with other recovering people between meetings, either by phone, the Internet,
or in person; ask for support when needed. These relationships are best
cultivated in non-crisis times. Some recovering people commit to talk with
Surrender: "Surrender to Win"
is a slogan. Webster first defines surrender as: to yield to the power,
control, or possession (of another upon compulsion or demand); to give up completely
or agree to forgo especially in favor of another. So often newcomers "fight"
for their recovery/sobriety by "white-knuckling" the symptoms of this
dis-ease of addiction. Once we learn to surrender to the process of recovery,
through the use of all of these tools, we begin to see how it can be easier to
gain victory. If I was up for a boxing match with <insert any major boxer's
name here>, I would certainly loose if I really got into the ring. For
my own health, it is far better for me to surrender before the match, than to
take a beating.
Take the First Step: Repeat the
words "We admitted we were powerless over our sex and love addiction —
that our lives had become unmanageable," until the meaning begins to sink
in. If we really accept that we have no power over our compulsion, we will
be able to turn it over — to our Higher Power, to our sponsor, to the program.
The telephone is your lifeline between meetings. Get phone numbers from
other members in your program. Get used to calling someone daily.
It is an important way to break out of the isolation that is so strongly a part
of the disease. You may be shy and hesitant at first but by training yourself
to call someone, it will be easy to place that call when that moment of crisis
arises. And it will! Don't tell yourself people don't want to be bothered;
phone calls are one of the ways we all stay sober. SLAA is a selfish program,
and everything we do in it — including getting phone calls — is for
our own sobriety. Try calling somebody with a lot of sobriety. In
times of danger it's more important than ever to "stick with the winners."
It Through: "Interrupt the acting out" by developing
and memorizing a set of strategies to help you to avoid acting out (back to a
well-written recovery plan). Postpone the slip, reminding yourself you can
have it later but you'll talk to someone first. Our feelings are real, but
often very short-lived. Ask yourself, "will you really get what you
want if you go through with this?" Don't dwell on how exciting it's
going to be, but remind yourself of the misery that inevitably has to follow.
Steps: Working the steps is the foundation of recovery; they are
a set of spiritual practices for personal growth and recovery. Meetings
may keep you sober for some time, but the Twelve Steps are vital for a stable
and happy recovery. The Steps are the means by which you move from the
problem of addiction to the solution of recovery. You learn about the
Steps by reading the literature, by attending Step-study meetings, and by
working with a knowledgeable sponsor. Read the Twelve Steps and work them.
Join a step study; discuss a step at your Twelve Step meetings, with your
sponsor, therapist, recovery partner and others who are supportive of your
recovery. But work the Steps! A (non-conference approved) AA step study guide, Steps by the Big Book - Free SbBB Workbook for the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can be found at http://www.stepsbybigbook.net/index.php
Become willing. Open your mind to the possibility of giving up the slip,
rather than giving in to it. It will feel that there's no way you can break
the power of your own will. There is. But it can only be done by taking
a positive action. Willingness is action. Remember: There is hope;
there is a future.