According to Tradition Three, I simply need to stop all my addictive thoughts and behavior in order to be part of this happy clan! However, as I grow in recovery, I feel it is more and more about emotional sobriety as well as sexual sobriety.
Time and again, I see sober members settling for sexual abstinence as the end-game. I see them drawn into all kinds of emotional maelstroms by defects of character that are still active: resentment, fear, selfishness, and dishonesty. The idea that I am fine, except for my sexual acting out, is deceiving: cunning, baffling, powerful! “Sober Is Not Well,” says the slogan. My defects of character were formed before my sexually addictive behaviors; the behaviors soothed the discomfort caused by defects; when I stop the acting out, those old defects come raging to the fore again, and need to be addressed.
“Those who do not recover are those who cannot or will not give themselves completely to this simple program of recovery” (AA 58). But recovery from what? From a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. In my understanding, the hopeless state of the body is the self-destructive behavior, but the hopeless state of the mind is not only the obsession, but all kinds of personal defects that form my beliefs, ideas, and attitudes.
The program asks me to be loving, caring, helpful, of maximum service, humble, honest, and unselfish! But how can I be all of these if I go about my days dragging resentments, fears, selfishness, and dishonesty after me? Recovery will slip between my fingers like water in the hand unless I work to overcome these defects. Just like stopping my destructive sexual behavior, I need to sort out my mentally destructive behavior!
Fortunately, the program gives me the tools to become a better person: through service, sponsoring, helping others, and continuous inventory-taking, I have become a better version of myself. For example, I found myself always resenting my wife. After doing some step work on my resentment, I came to see that I am codependent with her. I went to work on my codependency and my powerlessness over our relationship. I have accepted God’s will in my life and continuously cleaned house, surrendering codependency as it arises. Consequently, I am now living free of codependency with my wife, a day at a time. It is a miracle! I am also doing a lot of indirect, living amends to her and to my children. My love for them has grown and matured. I see my wife as a beautiful person, and see my children as a precious part of me. I feel more human, more normal than ever around them.
The miracles do not stop there. My work is a major source of resentment and fear where financial insecurity and selfishness drive all kinds of mood swings throughout a given day. I have faced many situations where I had to stop and pray for a sick person at work and ask God to help me to show them love, kindness, and understanding. And God has helped me. With consistent effort, working my program, I am developing greater serenity around people who would have driven me mad with rage. Actually, some people have commented on this uncharacteristic ability of mine, lately acquired, of remaining calm in contentious situations.
Learning how to be unselfish, loving and honest is an amazing growth journey. I have been searching for a long time for a way to live a moral way of life. This program of recovery shows me how by simply working steps 10 and 11 rigorously every day. These steps are built on the solid foundations of steps 1 to 3, and the deep cleansing effect of steps 4 to 9; and I am carrying the message to anyone who may need it by showing them how I’ve applied these principles in my personal life, which fulfills my obligations to the 12th Step! What joy!
And just as the steps do internal work on me, I have the traditions to help me to understand how to live and work with others. I have an improving connection with a loving God now, which helps me carry the message of recovery to everyone. I am able to better serve my SA home group by applying the steps and traditions at group conscience meetings. When discussions were heated, I have done my best to offer solutions based on the steps and traditions. Sometimes, my ideas were accepted; sometimes they were not. I simply surrendered to God my desire to be right, and let God show me the way. This has created humility in me, which helps me accept that I am not the center of the universe anymore. After all, the twelfth tradition is very clear in this regard: I need to live by principles, not by self-image!
Ameer M., Iraq