How’s That Working?

Typically, most sex addicts come to SAA after having tried several times – and using numerous methods – to stop.  We’ve tried.  And failed.  Nothing we tried in the past could keep us sober.  Not consequences or sorrow or promises or therapy or counseling or church or accountability or even honesty.  And the list goes on.

All seemed like good ideas at the time.  But, at some point – probably not until life crashed around us – we had to face an important question:  “How’s that working?”

The answer?  Not.  Not at all.  Or maybe not for long.

We all had to face and admit that what we were trying just wasn’t working.  (Sounds suspiciously like Step One.)  And therefore, in desperation, we came to SAA.

But this question is not just important to ask BEFORE I enter SAA; it’s equally important to ask AFTER I enter this fellowship.  Whatever I’m trying to do to recover from sex addiction – working the steps with a sponsor, using some tools of recovery, attending meetings, outer circle behavior, watching my diet, whatever  – I should periodically ask myself:  “How’s that working?”

If I find myself acting out less often (but still acting out)… or if I find that my character defects are still front-and-center… or if my sobriety is mostly based on white-knuckling… or if I look back and find that I’m not really any different than when I arrived here… my answer to that question should probably be, “Not working very well, actually.”  And I should reconsider my plan.

On the other hand, if I’m changed… if some measure of sanity has returned… if my sobriety is due to the problem having been removed to some degree… then my answer should be, “Working well.”

And I should be thankful.

And I should continue working it – one day at a time.

What Does Surrender Look Like?

The second part of Step Eleven brings focus on knowing God’s will for our lives, and we are admonished to pray for the power to carry it out.  Implicit in that statement is the idea of giving over my imperfect will and receiving in its place God’s perfect will for my life.  Often in discussions of this concept, we hear the word surrender.  Although able to give a dictionary definition, I have personally struggled with the practicality of how to surrender.  Although convinced of the necessity of surrender, I continually ask, “What does surrender really look like in the life of a sex addict?”

During a recent discussion in my home group, the lights came on!  Surrender is not a religious term, nor a social concept; it is a military term, and its implications from the military setting held the key to my finally understanding its practical application in my life.

The defeated lays down all of his arms – in fact, all of his possessions – and gives them over to the victor.  The victor then decides what, if anything will be given back to the defeated.  The defeated cannot decide to keep his sword or his gun or, for that matter, even his uniform.  In surrender he gives over everything and is totally at the mercy of the victor.

Should not our surrender to God’s will be similar?  If I am truly defeated by my addiction, as acknowledged in Step One, and I truly believe that God can and will restore me to sanity, if I subject my will to His, as in Step Two and Three, should I not be willing to surrender absolutely everything to the One who promises victory and freedom?

Am I really surrendering my will if I hold on to a stash of pornography?  Can I claim surrender if I keep contact information for persons with whom I have acted out in the past?  Is it surrender if I hold back secrets of dalliances or Internet forays from God or my sponsor when doing my Fifth Step?  Have I really surrendered, if I pick back up my weapons again?

No!  Surrender requires that I hand over everything – my old way of thinking, my old way of acting!  I must be willing to give up everything connected to my addiction and place myself at the mercy of God.

My experience has been that in His mercy God has given back to me much more than I could ever expect or imagine.  Who could imagine victory and freedom from surrender?

Jim L, Birmingham


The Outer Circle, ISO of SAA, May-Jun 2009, p. 19.