Being Steadfast in Recovery Leads to Constant Renewal
Marc N (NY)
For me, this step is about the spiritual principle of perseverance. It is one level for me to understand recovery as a mental exercise, but quite another to make a commitment to live it. This takes the form of keeping a positive attitude, relating to myself and others from the heart, and by showing gratitude. I have heard in the rooms many times that recovery is about the process that we undergo as we take the steps, not about a final destination where we end up once we're finished. I believe that a large part of my work in recovery is to acknowledge where I am, and to accept and love myself right now, with "warts and all". With Higher Power as my partner, I find strength in gentleness. I will never be cured from sex addiction, but I can live happily in remission. Moreover, the Tenth Step promises that I can know myself as completely as I want, one day at a time. My experience is that progress comes incrementally, and adds up fast if I make it a routine. We all know that addiction is progressive, a one way street of insatiable desire. The good news is that recovery is also progressive. The more I utilize the power tools SCA offers me, the more I feel grounded and connected to others.
I find it very helpful to have a general idea of my character defects when working this step. Because I am prone to self-criticism, I often refer to my defects as "defenses", which for me is much more compassionate. This helps me to embrace my defects, and increasingly saves me from acting them out in a destructive way. The way I understand it, my character defects are actually defences for my true, loving self, which is buried underneath. Because this inner part of me feels very hurt and vulnerable, I am often inclined to protect it by making harsh judgements of others or just blatantly pushing them away. Some of my defences which pop up again and again are: controlling others (selfishness, dishonesty) feelings of worthlessness (fear) and grandiosity (fear in the opposite direction). Although I learned these in order to protect that sensitive place within, I now realize that they don't serve me and I am willing to replace them with healthy behaviors as they surface. I find it helpful to have an attitude built upon the assumptions that 1) there are no bad people, just bad actions (beginning with myself and my actions), 2) I am infinitely teachable, and 3) with the Higher Power's help, I am capable of great love. If I spill something on the floor, I mop it up right away. The Tenth Step suggests the same thing.
My inventory is constantly aided by the slogan "keep the focus on yourself". It is so fascinating and easy to spot shortcomings in others, but I can not recall a time it helped me in my recovery. While acting out with anonymous sex, I was unconcerned with the other person except for how they could satisfy my immediate desires. Although I would sometimes project elaborate fantasies onto a partner, when I got honest I had to admit that I had little regard for much else other than his body. By taking the 12 Steps, I now know that I am worthy to be seen and appreciated as a whole person, and consequently, I have changed in this respect toward others. Respecting everyone in this way has tremendously helped my self esteem. It was amazingly freeing to realize that it is not relevant to my recovery what anyone else does. I can only change my attitudes, thoughts and actions, not theirs. The Serenity Prayer profoundly helps me to contemplate this bigger picture, and it is extremely helpful in little ways too.
When I first started recovery I could wander off the spiritual path for days and it seemed normal. Now the path is much more defined for me and as soon as I step off the path I generally know it right away because me feelings tell me so. It has been a tremendous gift to have access to my feelings. I heard someone share that in recovery we recover our feelings and subsequently the ability to feel them and let them go. This dialogue with myself and my HP encourages me to take more and responsibility for my actions, as opposed to being locked in a cycle of defensive reactions. Fellowship and sponsorship are important because they offer me the opportunity to distinguish normal, healthy thoughts form addict-thinking. Progress happens when I admit to myself and then humbly to another, when I have transgressed. Sometimes I owe an apology to a friend, coworker, etc. Or, sometimes talking about my behavior helps me distinguish whether it was wrong or not. It's like during a meeting when the Truth becomes apparent because we are communally reaching for it. I love the definition of responsibility as the "ability to respond" versus react.
I learned in a step meeting that the 12 promises and 12 rewards directly correspond with each step and tradition. The Tenth Promise: that fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us, has been hugely inspirational. I have had two significant love relationships during recovery (as opposed to hundreds of superficial encounters before) from which I have gained a perspective on my self-impose obstacles. I am currently part of a monogamous relationship with a healthy and appropriate man, and bit by bit I have been able to identify blocks to intimacy. In some cases, miraculously, I have been given the grace to surmount them. I say miraculously because I remember that, as little as a year ago, I thought I could never give up the security and isolation of pornography, and before that it was the destructive short-term "affairs". I realize that the motives people have are much more benevolent than the ones I ascribe to them, and many are actually prepared to love me. And regarding economic security, well, I found and entire 12 Step program for that!
The Tenth : a clear pattern of life instead of a purposeless existence, is becoming more and more true for me. It's the difference between struggling to survive and having the freedom to make choices which enrich my life. Life is effortless, but there is a flow to it now and I certainly feel more flexible and light in my responses to it.