Don’t Think, Act!

“You cannot think your way into right actions, you have to act your way into right thinking”  – Hazeldon

When I was acting out I tried thinking my way out of the addiction. “Today I’m not going to look a porn online, I swear I’m not going on that chat site ever again, I’m not going to contact that person anymore”, etc. etc. etc.

My thinking didn’t translate into action because I was too weak. I didn’t have a game plan or instructions on how to behave correctly, all I knew was that I wanted my next high. No amount of promising could overcome the warped rationalization and justification of addictive thinking in my head. The only solution was Action!

At the suggestion of my therapist, I attended an SAA Meeting and found that the members had a game plan, they had an instruction manual, The 12 Steps. I heard it was a simple program but that it was hard work. “If you want what we have and are willing to go to ANY length to get it, then you are ready to take certain steps”. I didn’t know if I was ready, all I knew was that I was in agonizing pain and anything was better than what I had tried. This will require dedication and action, was what my Sponsor told me.

Dedication and Action. Progress not Perfection. Fake it till you make it. Act as if. Behave as if. I was hearing this at meetings all the time and had no clue what they meant. One day I asked, AS IF WHAT?!  The answer came back: As if you’re sober, as if you always tell the truth, as if you have integrity and honor, as if you are living without addiction, as if you have the life you always wanted.

So I started behaving AS IF. I took my sponsor’s suggestions and began working the steps, using the tools and attending as many meetings as I could. Slowly, behaving as-if, became reality. Being honest and truthful was easier to do, being honorable and integrous came more naturally, life was more serene and peaceful. Yet, as I progressed in my program, I began to recognize the danger signs especially when attending meetings and seeing friends picking up white chips after months of sobriety. “What happened?”, I would ask. “I got complacent, I thought I didn’t need to work as hard”, “I stopped going to meetings” or “I stopped calling my sponsor”, they answered.    Cunning-Baffling-Powerful

They started ‘thinking’ again. Telling themselves it’s ok to rest, relax, take it easy…. I’ve had those thoughts myself. I don’t want to justify or rationalize anymore, that’s my addict whispering in my head and he almost got me killed. ACTION is what this program demands if I want to be sober and healthy! Action is what has led me to right thinking.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”  ―    C.G. Jung

 

Forgiveness

“In the place where repentant sinners stand, even the completely righteous cannot stand.”   – The Talmud, Berachot 34b

I was captivated by the profoundness of that quote. We know what a difficult journey our lives have been, but when we do recover, G-d, or our Higher Power, forgives us.

Why then shouldn’t we forgive ourselves?

When I first entered SAA, my shame and guilt was so overwhelming I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. The weight of the past was heavy on my heart, I had hurt and damaged the people I loved the most, including myself. I had gone against everything I believed in, morally and ethically, as I was taught as a child. My acting out had reached dangerous levels and the urges, compulsions and memories were eating away at me.

The Promises say that “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it”, but I was full of regret and couldn’t bring myself to face my past. All I wanted to do was to shut the door on it, after all, what would regurgitating my past achieve? Why go there, I’m in recovery now and there’s nothing I can do about the past.

Then, at one SAA meeting I decided to share about the agony I was going through. I had been beating myself up so bad I hadn’t slept for days and I was losing weight because I wasn’t eating either. Not until a fellow SAA member came up to me after the meeting did I have a breakthrough. He said “you have to forgive yourself; a life lived without forgiveness is a life of pain.” Everything I was hearing at the meetings about living in the present suddenly made sense; I was still living in the past!

It was a G-D SHOT. By acknowledging that I am not perfect and that the wounds inside me needed healing, I was able to see that who I had become (a sex addict) wasn’t who I truly am. The baggage of my past needed to be confronted and dealt with, and forgiveness was the key. I needed a Sponsor and I needed to start my Step work to face that baggage in a structured, healthy manner. I also had to deal with real feelings of anger and betrayal for all I had done. This was going to be a long process of change and making amends but I had to forgive myself if I was going to move forward. So I did just that, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I forgive you”. I cried and reached out to my brothers and sisters in program. They comforted me and reassured me that my life would get better.

It has gotten better. The Promises have come true by working the Steps and forgiving myself and today I have found who I truly am, a person of honor, integrity and trustworthiness.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Anonymous

Fear

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” - Japanese Proverb

During addiction my biggest fear was getting caught. Secrecy and lying was paramount to keeping my addict alive so I could get to my next high. The stresses and fears of my double life were brought to the surface and manifested themselves in many ways: health issues, nightmares, escapist behaviours such as procrastination, indecision or the tendency to leap into or out of situations without a plan just to get the whole thing over with.

After hitting bottom and coming into recovery, I soon began facing all the fears I had suppressed and medicated through acting out. My Addict’s survival skills  were now becoming core survival fears.

What if I continue to hurt myself or the people I love?

How will I live with myself if I make the wrong choices and relapse?

Where do I get the skills to deal with the confusion and seemingly overwhelming process of recovery?

Will I make it through today?

These and other questions could have paralyzed me and kept me lingering in a stagnant situation or painful condition. I learned that change is scary, but necessary. If I wanted to be healthy I had to embrace the transformation from addictive, compulsive, obsessive behavior to a manner of living filled with honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. But how?

The biggest fear I had to face was myself. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t come to terms with who I had become. I couldn’t accept the damage I had done to others and myself. I couldn’t forgive myself. I was afraid of pain and feared the unknown. I feared change.

The answer was SAA of course. Under the guidance of my Sponsor I have slowly faced my fears one day or one moment at a time. Sometimes with some hand-holding and often with tears but always with gentleness and compassion. That’s how the 12 Steps work.

Fear is still present in my life, but as I develop my self-esteem and put more trust in my Higher Power it becomes more apparent that I truly have nothing to fear. I’m only limited by my willingness to change.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Promises Promises

“The physics of building – or rebuilding – trust is simple: Trust grows as we generate data that demonstrates trustworthiness. Trust will never exceed the cumulative data to date.”
- Joseph Grenny

How often have we made a promise to ourselves saying, “this is the last time! I’m never going to do this again”, only to be acting out the very next day?

After years of telling myself not to to on Internet Porn sites my disease had progressed to the depths of despair and my life was completely unmanageable. I was acting out during all hour of the day, including working hours, and all hours of the night. I neglected my job and almost lost my business, I neglected my wife and kids and almost lost them, and I neglected myself and almost lost my life.
Every time I descended into a darker place in my addiction, I made another promise I couldn’t keep. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful.

After getting caught, I found SAA and started the process of rebuilding. Integrity could only be attained by my actions. Apologies and promises were empty, hollow words. ONLY by working the program could I show that there was substance to my words. Slowly I made progress.
The key was rigorous honesty, using as many tools and putting as many boundaries in place as necessary to stay sober. It was hard, emotional and sometimes painful work.

To put it simply, ACTIONS speak louder than words.

Because of SAA, the support of its members and my Higher Power, today I am a person of integrity and I am trustworthy once again.

Keep Coming Back