Coasting…And Its Consequences

“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcoholism (sexual addiction) is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism (sexual addiction). What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”    AA Big Book, pg. 85

This is my third time in sexual addiction recovery. The first two times I came into the rooms I worked the steps and acheived around 1 year of sobriety and recovery before once again giving into the insanity of using sex, in some form or another, to medicate feelings of fear, resentment and abandonment. At the time I was confused and befuddled as to how I could’ve ended up “going back out” when I had made such a good start. Looking back now, it’s not hard at all for me to see what brought on both of my relapses…it’s what my sponsor likes to call “COASTING”. Coasting in recovery is when one stops working the Steps and, instead, uses the tools of the program (meetings, phone calls, etc.)  to keep themselves sober. For me, this happened at two very common places in the Steps..step 4 and step 9. Upon arriving at these two steps I paused rather than courageously moving forward and doing the work assigned in them. I was terrified of taking a “…fearless and moral inventory” of myself, and I was even more terrified at the idea of facing those I had harmed in the past and taking responsibility for my actions. The problem with coasting is it’s a subtle lie from a cunning, baffling and powerful addiction. At some point in my program I was willing to believe that I could take a rest from working the steps and not lose ground or relapse. I had all kinds of wonderful rationalizations for this belief…”I’ve worked very hard, I deserve a good rest from all this recovery work”; “It’s no problem, I’ll just attend a few more meetings and make more phone calls over the next few weeks”; or, my favorite, “I feel so much better, I’m definitely strong enough to handle a break from the work”. I can attest from my own bitter experience that the relapse the AA Big Book assures us will occur is more terrible, more debilitating, more heartbreaking than anything we can imagine. Boundaries I never thought I’d cross, acting out behaviors I never thought I would participate in quickly took hold, crushing my spirit spirit and stealing anything and everything good about my life. It is said that working the program of recovery is like walking up a down escalator…you have to keep a certain pace just to stay where you are and have to exert some effort to actually move forward. When we coast the escalator actually propels us backwards whether we notice or not. Soon we find ourselves in trouble and wonder what happened. Usually it’s that we fell victim to the belief that we can ever rest on our laurels and be safe…i.e., coasting.

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