Lust & Temptation
How I Overcame My Obsession with Lust
Pages 158 - 168, Sexaholics Anonymous
How did I do it? I didn't. a woman in AA told me after she spoke in a meeting, quoting Chapter 5 in Alcoholics Anonymous, that "God could and would, if He were sought." And that's how I did it. By letting God do it. Because I couldn't. But God could and would -- and did. But I had to go to meetings to learn things like that. "Meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings ..." that's what they told me. "Just keep bringing the body." "Work the Steps, work the Steps, work the Steps, work the Steps, work the Steps." Going to meetings and working the Steps; that's how I did it. That's how I learned to let "the grace of God enter to expel the obsession." Here's what worked for me.
1. Stop practicing the compulsion. I stopped acting out sexually in any and all forms, including sex with myself and non-marital relationships. There could be no relief from the obsession of lust while still practicing the acts of lust.
2. Stop feeding the obsession. This meant eliminating from what was under my control all printed and visual materials and other symbols of my tyranny. I had to stop feeding my lust by looking around, in my use of television, movies, and music; and by using and listening to the language of lust.
I had to stop living only and always inside my own head. That's one of the great fringe benefits of going to a lot of meetings. Most of us sexaholics really live on the inside of our heads; we're seldom in the real world.
3. Participate in the fellowship of the program. I don't know of anyone who can stay sober and free of the obsession of lust without such fellowship. I couldn't. Fellowship is where the action is, where Connection is, where feeling part of is.
At first, all I could do was attend meetings. Then I followed the suggestion of getting involved in the mechanics of meetings: setting up, cleaning up, holding jobs such as literature chairman, treasurer, or secretary. Getting involved made me feel I could be part of, instead of apart from -- my old nemesis. Later, I would be able to go out for coffee, start meeting with others one-on-one, and begin the painful, but necessary process of growing up by coming out.
4. Admit powerlessness. At the very beginning, all I could do when the compulsion struck was cry out, "I'm powerless; please help me!" Sometimes a hundred times a day. Powerlessness was the most beautiful word in the world to me then as I was coming to experience the First Step at depth. It still is. Later I would discover that I was really powerless over me.
The more I had fought lust before, the more it fought back; all my willpower seemed to empower lust rather than hold it in check. Reading Step One in the Twelve and Twelve helped me see that my powerlessness was the "firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built" (p. 21). I finally stopped trying to stop. Only by admitting lust's power over me to others in the fellowship could I receive the power over my lust.
5. Surrender. Without surrender, mere admission of powerlessness fails to connect us with our Higher Power. At first for me it was surrender to the group where I began attending meetings. This was simply going to the meetings and being as honest, open-minded, and willing as I could. This was how I came to experience the Second Step and have hope that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. This was what prepared the way for the Third Step surrender later on, when it would be to God as I understood Him.
As far as my lust was concerned, I knew exactly what surrender meant and what I had to do. Every time I was tempted from within or without I would say, "I surrender the right to lust after this person; please take it away." And like it says, "God could and would ..." and did. I may have had some discomfort or fear and may have had to repeat the surrender over and over again, but it worked. It felt scary at first, but I was staying sober, and it was slowly getting easier, one temptation at a time.
6. Bring the inside out. As I began to see that I would apparently never be cured of the possibility of lusting, I had to bring other Steps to bear on me. Steps Four and five opened the door to being able to look at myself critically. This was probably the most important change of attitude in my early recovery.
But with lust, I had to keep taking mini-inventories, as suggested in the fifth and Tenth Steps. Whenever I felt some experience, image, memory, or thought was controlling me, as was often the case, i would bring it to the light, talking it out with another program person. Get the air and sunlight on it. Lust hates the light and flees from it; it loves the dark secret recesses of my being. And once i let it lodge there, its' like a fungus and starts flourishing -- the athlete's foot of my soul. But as soon as I bring it to the light exposing it to another recovery sexaholic, the power it has over me is broken. Light kills lust. I did this with specific experiences, not generalities. Sometimes it meant imposing on a person's time, but it cleaned me out and kept me sober. Every time I talked it out in surrender, the power of that memory or experience was broken. Another new and powerful breakthrough.
7. Trust. As I was able more and more to live above my lust, learning to trust more and more in God's power to expel the obsession, I soon learned to begin each day with a prayer of putting myself and my lust in god's hands, just for that day. This meant that I was learning to live without lust and really wanted to be free of it.
Now I begin each day with the Third Step prayer (from Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 63), changing the wording to suit my own case. It usually goes something like this:
Please keep me sober from my lust today, because I can't ... I offer you my will and life today to do and build with as you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self today that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties today, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of your great power, love, and way of life. give me what I need today. Thy will, not mine, be done today.
8. Use the literature of the program. The 12 &12 and Alcoholics Anonymous were my first guides in working the Steps. Again and again I found what I needed in those original documents that launched the Twelve Step program. Many of us now find that working the principles outlined in our SA literature adds another dimension and is very helpful. Using it in the solitude and privacy of our own quiet times, we gain insights about ourselves and our recovery in a way uniquely suited to who and where we are.
9. Go to work on the other defects. I discovered to my utter amazement that lust was not my root problem at all; it was just another symptom of my underlying spiritual illness -- diseased attitudes. Lust was just one more manifestation of this huge negative force within me that had to but out any way it could. As soon as lust started to go, resentment started taking its place. Then fear. Then a judging spirit. It was like trying to stop a leak in a dam. While you're trying to plug up one hole, it springs a leak somewhere else, because there's this huge body of water behind the dam, and its pressure is going to make it break out at the weakest spot.
This huge body of water, it turns out, is the destructive negative side of me. And the degree to which I can connect into the positive Power (God) is the degree to which I disconnect from the negative in all its forms. Thank God, today I have a choice.
The fringe benefit of having to work on my defects to rid myself of the obsession of lust is finally being able to plug into life. But I can't be free of any obsession while I'm drunk on another. I can't be free of lust while drunk on resentment. And so on ...
I went to Step Study meetings to learn how others were actually getting victory over their defects. I was told that one of the best ways to nip a resentful thought in the pub is to pray for the person I resented. Ask for them what you want for yourself, they suggested. It worked! My first employer in sobriety was the object of scores of such prayers daily. They didn't seem to do him much good (who knows?), but hey kept me from falling into the snake pit of resentment.
10. Learn to give instead of take. This technique worked on lust too. Whenever I'd catch a likely image in the corner of my eye, instead of obeying the impulse to look and drink, I'd keep looking straight ahead while praying for that person. It might be a simple, "God bless her and give her what she needs." Or, depending on the intensity of the lust stimulus, it might be more fervent: "God bless her and make her a blessing: Thy will be done in her life."
I began doing the same for models in ads that had a similar power over me. Whenever I do this kind of thing, I feel good; I get something back that is clean and strong and free and good. I somehow become a channel for releasing good into me instead of opening up a conduit of lust for evil to come in. The measure I drink of that image is the measure I am enslaved by it; the measure I give out to another is the measure I am released from its power. Plus, it's so much easier to give than try that old self-mortification kind of willpower.
Try it sometime; You cannot lust after the one you're praying for in such a manner. Here's an experience related to by a woman member:
"I remember early in sobriety seeing a very suggestive video in the department store. I got drawn into it, and before I knew what hit me, that image took me over! So I started praying for that singer, over and over. And it worked! I have tried this many times since, and it always works for me."
This action may also serve to make indirect amends to all the anonymous objects of my lust and sex acts -- those many strangers I have helped confirm in their destructive way of life. It seems to be a law of the universe: The measure I give is the measure I get back.
11. Get an SA Sponsor. I needed someone who could see me better than I could, even though he might have had some problems of his own. (Everyone I used as a sponsor had imperfections big enough to turn me away if I wanted such an excuse.) It was my reaching out and taking direction that worked. I made regular contact and followed directions. It helped make me teachable and saved me a lot of grief and lost time.
12. Make friends in the program. My sexaholism had forced me away from true intimacy. I had become a loner and a love cripple. To recover, I had to begin coming out of isolation and connect with people. But I didn't know how. At first, I was forced to make phone calls to stay sober. then as I shared with others in my distress and they shared their trials with me, a common bond developed. Partners in sobriety -- what a boon! It helped change that lonely grey inner world of the separated self into the bright sunlight of glad times shared together. Victory over lust was not the grim experience I had feared. I was getting connected to life and began to feel impulses of joy. I was beginning to have what my lust had really been looking for. I can't have the inner freedom from the need to lust without this real connection.
13. Carry the message of your recovery. At first, I began by guardedly talking about my sexual obsession and desire for recovery to those who gave hints of similar problems. I didn't know this was part of working the Twelfth Step; I was doing it because i wanted to. Then I started sharing the truth of my experience in other meetings I was going to. Very few ever responded, but the point is, it was helping me.
14. Practice taking the actions of love. Negative sobriety -- simply not doing it -- fizzles out after a while. That's all I had for many months, and that's why one day, with no particular problems and having just told my old high school friend I was a recovered sex drunk, I proceeded to "go back out there." I didn't know what hit me. I didn't slip; I fell!
The crucial thing about my recovery is that unless I find what my lust is really looking for, I'm not going to make it. Stopping the negatives without connecting to the positive is no good. For the sexaholic like me it's all or nothing. "Half measures availed us nothing," Alcholics Anonymous says on page 59. And so it is with me.
Program people taught me that right thinking never produced right actions, but if I took the right actions, the right thinking and feelings followed. I discovered in sexual sobriety that I was not inclined to touch my wife except when it was sensual, erotic, or sexual thing. I never touch her simply as a person, a spiritual touch, if you will. But I learned that if I took the action of touching her as a person, the feeling of wanting to followed. I'll never forget the first time in sobriety when, after that awful separation and chaos, one day I was able to glance into her yees and reach out and touch her arm and say "Thank you." How the power of love flowed through that connection! After I took the action. It brought tears to my eyes.
Another time, my wife had fixed supper, but my negative emotions had taken control again and I was on my way out the door -- to nowhwere. I managed to stop long enough to call my sponsor; who gruffly reminded me that it was Suncay and he was busy (none of my sponsors pretended to be saints). In ten seconds he saw through the "problem" (self obsession) and said, "Sit down and eat your supper she had prepared for me. And that awful feeling of having to run passsed. I took the action, and the feeling followed.
The greatest opportunity for practiciing love is not in meetings but in my own household. And that's the very palce it's hardest to do. It's actually easier for me to pray for prostitutes and other SA memebers than take the actions of love toward my wife and children. But I have to do it or I can't break through into life. And I want to live!
Another action of love that seems to produce remarkable results is praying for my wife; again, asking for her the very best that I want for myself. This goes along with the above items on practicing giving instead of taking. since I had shut myself up to my spouse as the only sexual expression, I discovered, in taking my own inventory, that my dependency on her was unhealthy. As a result, I abstained sexually over a consderable period of time, with her consent, so I could deal with my dependency.
Afterward, I concluded that I was willing to go without sex completely as long as my dependency was still invected with any aspect of "buying and selling." "Wife or no wife, we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God." (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 98)
Thus, every time I had a negative feeling about my wife, I prayed for her. I didn't feel like doing it, but I did. It works. But I have to be willing to give up the resentment and forgive. That's where Steps Six and Seven come.
15. Recognize and feed your hunger for God.
16. Cast it out.
17. Take refuge in God.
18. Look lust in the eye.
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Reprinted from Sexaholics Anonymous, pages 158-168