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 achieved around 1 year of sobriety and recovery before once again giving in to 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 to 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, and 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 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 backward whether we notice it 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.

6 thoughts on “Coasting…And Its Consequences

  1. David…Thank you for this gift on Christmas Day. I know in my recovery I have clearly had times of coasting along. Fortunately for me, it has not lead to a relapse. It however lead me to a new respect that I have for my addiction. My addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful and I respect that conversation very much. Today I make it a point to work the principles of the steps in my daily life. Being human it’s progress each and ever day. I can say that my commitment does not waiver. I’m clear that my disease wants me dead. That I don’t take lightly. I’ve watched it as it set me up with my Angel of Death some seven years ago. That was a very scary moment in my life and one that I keep in my mind to remind me of how close I came to dying.

    Over the years, as I have watched others relapse, I have taken their experience and used it as if it was my own. This has been an enormous help in my gaining the respect I have for my addiction. I know if I “coast” in my recovery it will allow my addiction an opportunity to seep into my head causing me to loose sight of my spiritual connection. That is something I am not willing to give up today. It’s what keeps me healthy, focused and alert to fight my disease at every turn. Great topic. I am so grateful for my recovery, the friends it has afforded more and the peace and serenity I live in today. Thank you Papa.

  2. A great scene from movie “Forrest Gump” came to mind as I reflected on this idea of coasting where Forrest decides to take stroll (Sarcasm inserted) across several states, and upon crossing a ,bridge a swarm of reporters asked him “So why are you doing this, why are you running?” ….. In his quiet and gentle voice he replies “I just felt like running”. In recovery, the response “I just felt like coasting” may get you some clean time, but not for too long. The truth of our addictive compulsive behaviors will question us as to why are we in recovery and what is our purpose.

    As I enter into my Step 5 adventure, I have had the privilege of reflecting on my Step 4 inventory, which has graciously exposed some areas of coasting. At times it had kept me sober, while other times it challenged me to dig deeper in my program, learn how to stay present in my day to day working of a recovery program and reflect back on as a gray area after a slip-up.

    I once heard a saying about someone who was cutting a tree down with an axe. That if you ever want to cut the tree down with more effectiveness, you spend more time sharpening the tool, than just chopping away at the tree. Why? Because if the tools are dull, you have to work harder to cut it down. Recovery is the same way. When we work our steps we sharpen the tools! Therefore, phone calls, meetings, step work, reading and sponsorships become more effective and sharper as we chop away at the addictive compulsive behaviors and defeat the giant of addiction through the grace and love God empowers us in and with.

    As we say in SAA….. Thanks for letting me share….

  3. Thanks for the topic. I defenately can relate. One thing that came to mind was balance and habits. I am such a creature of habit. A couple things I have always done since coming into SAA is prayer in the morning and reading or writinging in the morning. Almost everthing else has not been automatic. The first year or so I went to therapy once a week, and I went to the Monday, Wed., Sat meetings every week. Along with doing 1 AA meeting or more. Because of living so far away it has been alot of work trying to find a good balance since moving. I tried going to SLAA because it’s so close to my house. I joined a great AA group that meets twice a week. Got a great AA sponser. But I still feel like something is lacking. It kind of like feels like I have been slacking. And to be honest sometimes I have been. Someone told me once balance is like trying to drive in the middle of the road, sometimes we get alttle to far to on side and we have to adjust the wheel. And it is always going to be something i have to watch.

  4. Thanks for the post David. I now know what to call what I’ve been/am doing – “coasting”. Yes…that is exactly where I’m at. And after reading your post I’m scared. I hope scared enough though. I go to a great SAA group Wednesdays and Fridays and yes, I’ve been using that to prop myself up. And its been working so far – but I know – that by itself will not sustain me forever. I’ve got to re-visit the steps every single day. I struggle as well with taking the “fearless moral inventory”. Yes…my addiction is a demon that wants to destroy me and when I “coast” I’m losing. Thanks for the wake up call!

  5. This topic always hits a nerve.
    Coasting is probably the single biggest issue for me in my sobriety.
    I’ve seen many friends in SAA relapse after long periods of sobriety. The reason? “I took my sobriety for granted!” That scares me.
    Thinking I am no longer required to work on my program as hard as I used to always gets me into trouble. Whether it’s old behaviors that bubble to the surface like using rationalizations or thinking I’m entitled by justifying situations, are the danger signs that I need to double my efforts. Not staying on top of what I need to do can get my brain into thinking about what I want to do.
    I never want to go back to my old life of acting out, I know this addiction will kill me.
    The work of staying vigilant about my sobriety must go on. In the early days it was exhausting to constantly feel like I was white-knuckling it. As soon as I started using the tools of SAA and turning things over to my Higher Power, I was able to focus on the work of sobriety.
    My Sponsor guides me and gently reminds me that if I’m feeling good I need to double my efforts. What better time to push my recovery to the next level of growth and maturity?!!
    Being sober and staying sober is a daily choice for me. If I choose to relax I’m in danger of relapse, it’s that simple.

    Today I choose to work hard on my recovery and not have a choice about staying sober.

  6. “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

    When I got sober in AA, I made such a huge deal out of this line. I used to say, “Smack dab in the middle of the page thats smack dab in the middle of the book, is the most important line of the program…” I just knew that everyday I had to approach my battle with alcoholism and drug abuse with a strong sense of desperation and urgency, as if my life depended on it…each and every day…

    I do not know why, but I have struggled to apply this same mentality to my SAA program. Just because I know longer troll the internet for hours at a time on a daily basis, or look for sexual conquests to use and discard, does not mean that I am cured of sex addiction. I still objectify the opposite sex, I still sexualize situations and I still indulge in thoughts that will lead me back to active addiction.

    Today’s daily repreive is nothing more than that…a gift from my higher power to help me stay sane today. It does not assure tomorrow’s reprieve. Typing this post might help with tomorrow’s repreive, though…on second thought, this post probably just helps with tonight’s reprieve…

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