Step one says “We admitted that we were powerless over (fill in the blank: compulsive sex or masturbation, intrigue, lust, pornography, serial romances, sexual anorexia…) and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
This disease is even more insidious than alcoholism or drug addiction. You can’t just stop being a sexual being (which would be the aim of anorexia). And there isn’t just one universal behavior to cut off, like drinking alcohol, in order to be sober. Sex addiction and its partner diseases manifest differently in different people, or at different times. It’s like the AA Big Book says: this disease is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” And the first step toward recovery tells me that I must admit that I am powerless.
How do I know I’m powerless? A good place to start is by taking the 40 questions for self-diagnosis. Another good resource is the Characteristics of sex and love addiction. But what about just looking at my life today?
When I think about not acting in/out for an extended period of time, how do I feel? Anxious? Threatened? Afraid? Angry? Desperate? Lonely? Vulnerable? Defenseless? Powerless?
Is my obsession effecting other areas of my life? Does it influence how I dress, carry myself, talk, or interact with others? Do men affect me and my behavior differently than women do? Do I make decisions about my schedule or activities based on when/howI can get my next “fix?”
Has my obsession taken a toll on my relationships, self-care, health, work, finances?
Do I feel like I’m living a double or secret life? Am I filled with shame? Do I feel like if people really knew me, they’d hate me?
When I hit my own personal bottom, I had gotten to the point where I could not stop my bottom line behaviors. I knew that it was hurting every area of my life, especially my marriage. I knew that there was no way it would turn out well. I knew that if I continued, there would be major consequences. In fact, I feared that if I continued on the path I was on, I would probably completely self-destruct.
I wanted to stop. I couldn’t. The compulsion was so strong- the lure of the temporary high so compelling, I was completely overcome. It wasn’t “fun” anymore. But it felt necessary. I was powerless.
For me, the path “from shame to grace” began with a month in a rehabilitation center specifically geared toward those struggling with this disease. It was devastating to walk through those doors- to leave behind my husband, my young children, my work, my church. I was immersed in shame. But there, I experienced the miracle of grace and the beginning of hope. And I started out on the path of recovery.
It wouldn’t have worked, though, if I didn’t finally admit my powerlessness. You really can’t do any true recovery work without doing that. And not just once- I need to admit my powerlessness on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day. I am powerless over other people. I am powerless over life’s situations. I am powerless over this disease.
But there is One who is all-powerful, and that One loves me dearly. The first step seems to leave you hanging off of a cliff, being asked to let go. But the second and third steps provide you with a soft, cradling landing into the hands of a loving God.
I’ll talk about that on other days. Today, I pray that you will have the courage to honestly examine your life and allow yourself to finally admit your own powerlessness. I know it’s scary. But you can be sure that healing is on the way, once you stop fighting. It’s like quicksand: the more you struggle, the deeper you sink. But once you go limp and let go of the idea that you can fight your way out, you begin to float to the top, where someone is waiting with a life-preserver. Let go, and prepare to reach out for help. It is on the way.