On the 12 Steps of Recovery

About 2 months ago I posted about my first experience attending a Sexaholics Anonymous meeting. Since then I have gone through quite a process that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until I sit down and look back at that first meeting and how long ago it seems. Right now my thoughts are so scrambled and disorganized but I am going to pound out some bullet points of things that I have experienced, thoughts that I have had, and even some emotional reactions that have been present.

  • To date I have been to 6 meetings. After the first two, I started going to Whole Foods afterward for coffee and conversation. This has quickly become one of the highlights of my week.
  • Since my first time I have invited 3 friends. 2 have come. 1 is coming regularly.
  • I have met with someone who has told me that they are willing to sponsor me twice. We are going to continue to meet on Wednesdays at 10am. Asking someone to “sponsor” you (especially when you don’t even know what that means) is really, really hard. At the end of a meeting I forced myself to say “can you sponsor me?” This came after a string of meaningless small talk like “how do sponsorships work” but in the end it was those 4 words that have made all the difference.  For me, the main benefit of having a sponsor is that it has eliminated the sense of paralysis that comes along with facing an overwhelming task. A sponsor can say “do this and talk to me next week about it.”
  • One of the tasks that I did in the last week and a half was to write out my “sexual history” (by “sexual history” I mean anything at all in my life that had to do with anything sexual. Many of these things seem inconsequential and can be as simple as playing doctor when you are 4 to being told about the birds and the bees). This was a project that I was supposed to do before my 10am meeting on Wednesday with my sponsor. It turns out that I was so petrified of this process that I did not start it until 9:50 am, ten minutes before we were to meet. All I could do before the meeting was to open up a new word document. I did not type one word.
  • Thus far, I have typed up two pages of events that all occurred before high school.  It started off as 5 things and then I remember 5 more in between 3 things in between the first and second event. Today, I remembered 2 more. Now as I look at the list I see it as probably 25% completed.
  • A few interesting things about the list:
    • I have no sexual abuse (that I know of) or molestation or anything like that in my past. I considered my past to be perfectly “normal”, and still do.
    • My parents have only come up twice (so far) in my list. The reason I bring this up is to say that my opinions as to what sex is was probably formed by everything else on the list.
    • I’m not quite sure what is to become of this list but I have heard stories of people reading this to certain people around them and right now that scares the crap out of me.
  • One of the most interesting things about this process is that I have been making all sorts of connections with how deep of an impact the 12 steps actually go. The nature of Sexaholics Anonymous, actually, has very little to do with sex.
  • The sexual aspects of “acting out”, as it’s referred, are merely forms of “medicating” from the deeper issue. In other words, The sex is just a symptom and falls in the same category of people who use TV, radio, alcohol, drugs, video games, books, relationships, eating, shopping, etc. to help distract themselves from having to deal with themselves and God.
  • One example of a deeper issue for me is my inability to know how to deal with my own emotions
    • This is evident in how I have no idea how to constructively deal with disappointment, rejection, or anger when it comes to my relationship with Kami. It is the onset of these emotions that causes me to turn my thoughts towards sexual deviance as a way to distract myself from the root problem.
    • When I think of one of the main things that pushes me over the edge with my kids, it is when they are completely emotionally out of control. It can be a temper tantrum or pure joy but my first instinct is to try and stabilize them. I’m starting to realize that this is a result of my own emotional immaturity and the impact of me not “growing up” is going to have a direct impact on who they are.
  • Today, I had breakfast with a guy that I wanted to meet with. Before we talked, I knew one thing about him. That his adult son had cried in his arms. I told him today that I don’t know what is behind that but whatever it is, I need to figure it out because as of now I have no plans to cry in my dad’s arms or to have my son cry in mine. He shared with me his story and passed on some insight. Among other things he pointed out:
    • “Sexaholism never comes out of a vacuum.” In other words, the more you understand your past, the more you have the ability to understand your present. The obvious goal for this is to change your future.
    • “Men give love to get sex, women give sex to get love.” While this is obviously a broad generalization it displays a very important point. If this is a pattern in your relationship, abstaining from sex for a period can help you in gaining a truer understanding what sex is, and is not, and will also give you a much more solid understanding of what love is.
    • “Because I couldn’t be human I couldn’t allow those around me to be human.” We are notorious for trying to isolate our issues stating that they are a personal thing that does not impact other people. In reality, the actions we carry out are a result and an indicator of our underlying issues and if we do not deal with them they will impact ourselves and every person that we come into contact with (and even those we don’t). Often times we are so blind to this impact that we think just because it is not flat out destroying the relationships around me it is not significant.
    • When we are controlled by our addiction we have “unrealistic expectations of God, ourselves, and others.” – Taken from the SA book
    • The whole purpose of the 12 steps is to “grow in the image and likeness of God.” – Taken from the AA book.
    • He also told me that recovery is much less of a sprint than a marathon. He told me how his 7th year in the program there were so many things that he learned that he did not even know existed. This made sense to me on a cognitive level but he used an example that really brought it home for me.  “There’s things in business that you don’t understand until your 7th year”. I thought I understood business 7 years ago….and I did…..kind of. Now though, I look back and think “I knew nothing!” It’s pretty crazy to think that this same hope may be present with personal growth and healing.
  • Today I spoke my first words in the meeting. That was pretty weird. I was in the “hotseat” position which meant that the first 15 minutes of the 60 minute meeting was me talking about whatever I wanted to. I shared a brief overview of my story for the last 2 months and why I was there. At the end I closed by saying, “my name’s Ben and I’m a sexaholic.” To which everyone replied, “THANKS BEN.” I guess I’m in this thing now.
  • I don’t know what lies ahead but I’m really, REALLY excited!

As I stand on the verge of the first step, I plan on this being a long process. Sorry for the chaotic list of long bullet points but I don’t know of another way to write these things at this point. Many of these thoughts are really chaotic and disorganized in my head. I plan on keeping my thoughts updated whenever I have anything significant happen. I post here for the following reasons:

20% – Introspective processing

20% – So those that care can know what the heck is going on in my life

60% – With the hopes that what I am learning and going though can help others who may need growth and healing of their own

Please feel free to pass on this post to anyone whom you think it would be helpful and I would love to get any feeback on any of the above points or anything else.


19 thoughts

  1. Dude—thanks for sharing this and being willing to share what you’re learning and how you’re growing and being challenged in this process. I have total respect for you man. Thanks again.

  2. Man, I continue to be amazed at the aggressive, holistic and serious way this process deals with sin. Thanks Ben for giving us a window into your experience. We have so much to learn….

  3. stephanie, i’m interested as to what aspects you value in counseling that you do not see as present in this type of experience. keep in mind, i have not been to counseling since 3rd grade, when i was caught shoplifting, so i don’t really know what “good” counseling looks like.

    eden2zion, yeah, i had no idea what this process entailed and even now have no idea. it’s interesting being neck deep into all of these discipleship questions and making the comparisons. in the book “simple church” thom rainer concludes that the number way to assess if discipleship is effective is if the goals are simple and the methods or steps clear. i think that is one of the reasons why this has been around for so long. you constantly hear about people doing their “step work.” unlike the modular discipleship that we are involved in, there’s no moving onto the next step until you’ve come to some completion on the previous one.

  4. I agree with Stephanie in regards to the fact that having an avenue for a person to deepen in their understanding of themselves is incredibly valuable; and that fact is reiterated by the impact Ben has experienced thus far.

    I graduated with a degree in mental health counseling, and at that point in the field, neither group of individual counseling championed the other in effectiveness.

  5. Ben – I really appreciate this openness. I’ve just been sitting here with a guest at our house who is sharing his story of brokenness. There is something so powerful about putting down the barriers and lies and admitting we are a broken people. There is something powerful in a community that can share openly because they are not afraid of condemnation. The whole process drives us to realize we need a savior and only Jesus can justify us.

  6. Hey Ben, we haven’t talked in quite a while but I just wanted you to know that I do care and I’m praying for you and Kami. Love you guys.

  7. Thanks for being so open and sharing on what is a very tough subject to talk about.

    When I was 12, my father went into rehab. I used to attend meetings with him quite often. The 12 step program is an amazing tool for sure. It’s something that all Christians should look at.

    Like you said, it’s not so much about what sin you’re committing. It’s about what the root cause of what you’re doing is.

    Anyway, I’m really happy that you’re getting so much out of it. There’s much more to come.

  8. Charles, That is so awesome. Thanks for the encouragement man. I haven’t really talked to anyone from the “real world” who has known anything or experienced the 12 steps. That’s crazy that you attended those things when you were 12. I’d like to hear the story sometime.
    Appreciate the feedback and encouragement!

  9. Ben, definitely. Btw I’m so proud of what you’re doing as far as beginning to wrestle with emotional things. I say I think you would benefit so greatly from counseling because you are (like you said) in fact starting that process, starting to grapple with your adversions and fears. 12 step things are really great and I am so glad they exist. They are also very different in pretty marked ways from counseling with a trained therapist. The 12 step thing is wonderful, and I think you can benefit even more substantially from full-on therapy. David did it recently and the change in him has been pretty huge. And speaking for myself I wouldn’t trade being in therapy for anything. It’s making me more conscientious of my idols, my parenting, my relationships, and like a dozen other things. It’s amazing and difficult at times but so incredibly rewarding and SO EXCITING! And I loved that you said in your post that you’re really excited too! Anyway, we should get coffee and talk more about this.

  10. PS – but it has to be “good” counseling. There is a lot of bad counseling out there. We can also talk about what good vs. bad counseling looks like if you want.

  11. dude, excited to here you are walking down this path. I was in a small group in college (lead by Eric Jones, you remember him?) and we did a mini 12-step program…be prepared to have a lot of emotional vomit on your shoes : )

  12. travis, yeah I remember “Jonsey.” He was the only black guy in Newport Beach. Yeah, I remember hearing about people at Mariners going through the 12 steps. I never knew what they were talking about. How long did it take you? I’m wondering did it bring up a lot of things with your past, parents, and especially your dad? I’d like to talk to you more about that.

  13. we went through this book:

    The Twelve Steps: A Spiritual Journey

    Our group met once a week for about 3-4 months (i think). I remember there being a lot of homework and confronting people and stuff. It was a great experience, lots of “going to dark places” in your past.

    I’m currently reading “The Way of the Wild Heart: A Map for the Masculine Journey” by John Eldredge.


    It’s surpassing my expectations…we should talk soon.

  14. Right on man. I applaud your openness also. IN my and my wife’s journey through recovery from my sex addiction, we have come to the place where we look at recovery as a three legged stool. One leg is counseling, second leg is reading all books on recovery from sex addiction and related books, and third is to be a member of a recovery group and we feel that a Christ centered recovery group is a must as He is the only higher power that can help. This brings us to the seat of the stool..which is God/Christ.
    Anyway, not preaching just sharing my experience. I’ve been in 12 step groups and not 12 step groups…and those I’ve met who are successful in recovery are those that have used professional Christian counselors who specialize in sexual addiction issues.
    I’m new at this blogging thing and hope to learn how to use it to pass on my experienc along my road to recovery and the walk along the healing path and to learn more from all of the people like you on the same journey. Blessings!

  15. Dude Ben way to be open and honest about your experience, especially in such a public forum.

    I’d second Stephanie’s encouragement to explore personal counseling. Emotions are not at all like business plans and bullet points, and us guys in particular have trouble identifying what the the heck is wrong with us. I’m always forgetting life isn’t only viewed from my intellectual paradigm, but also from my emotional one.

    Individual counseling was was a tremendous help to me in sorting out the emotional build-up inside of me. There was no cold-frosty beverage way in hell I’d be able to learn that about myself. Also, it was a much more positive experience when I went to a counselor as an adult. As a teenager, I didn’t really want to be there, but as an adult, once I finally realized I should do this, it was a really helpful in my anger/grieving process. Definitely not easy, but one of the best things I’ve ever done.

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