A great reminder that recovery from sex and pornography addiction is possible!
This past Saturday morning, I went to one of the several meetings of Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) that I attend each week. Usually, about twenty guys show up. Several of them are LDS. Near the beginning of the hour, the meeting leader asked if anyone was observing a sobriety anniversary. Often, someone will says he’s got thirty, sixty or ninety days of sobriety. Slightly less often, someone will have six months, a year or eighteen months.
After handing out the chips (the same colored-coded coins they use in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)), the leader asked if there were any other anniversaries. One of the men raised his hand and said, “Yeah, today marks twelve years of sobriety for me.” Everyone erupted into cheers. It was a great reminder to all of us that recovery from sex and pornography addiction is both possible and wonderful.
When asked how he did it, he went down a long list of the things he does everyday or at least several times a week. He reads recovery literature from both SA and AA. He attends several SA meetings each week. He has a sponsor with whom he communicates frequently. He sponsors lots of other guys in their quest for recovery. He works on correcting his character defects. He avoids the negative emotions that breed anger and resentment. In short, he does everything that the 12 Step programs require–and it works!
I don’t know any LDS men in recovery who have achieved twelve years of sobriety. I’m sure they’re out there; I just haven’t met them yet. As a group, we’re still pretty new to the SA program and there aren’t a whole lot of us. Too many Latter-day Saints remain bound and determined to beat their “little problem” in isolation through prayer, scripture reading and willpower. That will never work.
Addiction is a manifestation of spiritual, mental and emotional pain. The addict hurts inside himself and has learned to numb the pain through acting out with his “drug of choice.” Prayer, scripture reading and willpower do not, by themselves, address and repair the character defects that are at the root of addictive behavior. If they did, there would be no addicts in the Church. If Latter-day Saints know how to do anything, it’s pray, read scriptures and exert willpower. Addicts need somethings more than that.
By themselves, however, prayer, scripture study and willpower do provide the one thing that addiction craves: isolation. Secrecy and isolation are the gasoline that fuel the addiction engine. If an addict has nothing but isolation, he will never overcome his addiction. This is why the meetings are so important. They snuff out the isolation. They provide a safe place for addicts to talk about what’s going on inside them. The acts of talking to others about addiction and in turn listening to them have the miraculous effect of dissipating the compulsive power of addiction. This is a huge component of successful recovery.
I have experienced this. Most weeks, I attend at least three SA meetings. I go to the early morning ones. It’s a great way to start the day–and it keeps my evenings open for family time. Every once in a while, my schedule (or my lack of planning) makes it so I only get in one or two meetings in a week. I notice the difference. I find myself drifting into the edges of isolation and fantasy. Taking that second look out on the street becomes just a bit more enticing. The television and the internet seem to call out to me quietly in the back of my mind. I need those meetings. Attending SA meetings is in addition to prayer, scripture reading and temple attendance. It is not a replacement for them. Similarly, for an addict, prayer, scripture reading and temple attendance are not a replacement for attendance at SA meetings.
If you get a chance, track down a Latter-day Saint who is an alcoholic in recovery. Ask him why he still goes to AA meetings when he can go to the temple instead. He’ll tell you that they serve different functions in his recovery. The temple provides general spiritual fortification, while the AA meetings provide fellowship with other recovering addicts. The same goes for LDS sexaholics and pornography addicts. The fellowship of other recovering addicts is necessary to continued sobriety and lasting recovery.
I am glad I made it to that Saturday morning meeting and got to hear my friend talk about what it’s like to have twelve years of sobriety. I have nowhere near that amount of time, but someday, I will. Someday, I’ll sit at the table in an SA meeting, smile quietly and announce twelve years of sobriety. Other men (many of the LDS) will clap and cheer and inside themselves, they’ll say, “See what’s possible? Someday, that’s going to be me!” Just like what I told myself last Saturday.