[From Essay, October 2020]

Why would a man, 80 years old with 36 years of sexual sobriety, still be utilizing the same tools he used when he first came to the program?

The answer is simple. I have a chronic, progressive and fatal disease that is also very patient.  

It would be much easier if we could rest on our laurels. My experience in our program has shown me that others resting on their laurels did not work for them. We not only learn from our own experiences but also from the experiences of others. I have learned that each day I wake up with this incurable disease and each day I need to take my medication as if I am a newcomer.  As I’ve been told  – once a cucumber becomes a pickle, it can never go back to being a cucumber again. 

I am so grateful that when I came into the program 36 and a half years ago I accepted the disease model. I accepted that I was not bad getting good but sick getting well. I have watched people time and again cling to their old ideas of shame based “badness” rather than accepting that they have an illness. The results, I watched from them, was not very encouraging.   

So here I am 36 years later taking my daily medication, and finding that the medication continues to keep me free of lust and free from acting out. 

What do I do today that I have done since I entered the program?

  1. I hit my knees when I wake up in the morning and do the third step  prayer. 
  2. Each morning I get up and do a 2 way contract with my Higher Power.  I say: “God, today I will stay sexually sober, help me stay sexually sober today.
  1. I do 20 items I am grateful for today. ( a few years ago I raised it to 30 items)
  2. I read a page a day of recovery-related material.
  3. I talk to many people each day from the program. 
  4. I have a sponsor to whom I surrender to his answer when I ask him a question.
  5. I try to go to a meeting a day of 12 step programs. 
  6. I hit my knees at night and do the 3rd step Prayer prior to going to sleep.
  7. If I am not asleep in a few minutes, I get out of bed and read from 12 step material or meditate.  ( The bed is good for sleep, but is my enemy if I’m not sleeping.) 
  8. I sponsor many men.
  9. I continually utilize the steps. 

Now in my senior years I have not graduated from these daily activities.  I take them even more seriously, knowing my disease is waiting patiently for me.  How do I know the disease is active and well even in my senior years?  It shows up in my dreams.  It also shows up in my still noticing triggers but thankfully not having to take second looks.  

I have noticed many married people in recovery try to convince their wives and themselves that they are cured. I do just the opposite.  My danger is not thinking I am still ill, but thinking I might be cured. People, in my opinion, who think they are safe are those who are in danger. They forget they merely have a daily reprieve. I also need to remind my wife I am still sick. What else justifies placing my program before her?

In summary I need my medication as much today as I did 36 years ago.  Is this a negative life sentence? It is not.  By taking my daily medication, I have found a joyous life.  I am no longer always restless, irritable and discontented. The paradox continues. By putting my program first, I have been able to keep all the things I would have lost from my disease. My marital life is wonderful. My family life with my children has improved immensely and last but not least my spiritual life has not only gotten deeper but has widened. 

The program is not part of my life. The program is my breath. It is my life.  

As my sponsor would say – It only gets better!

Harvey A., formally from Tennessee, now Florida, USA