12 Step

Journey Through the Twelve Steps: Step Twelve

title_how_to_work_step_twelve_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  My specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out my introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Twelve:  Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives.

Through the work you’ve done in recovering from addiction, it has become clear that addiction is an intimacy disorder.  When you are cut off relationally from others, inauthentic with yourself and the people around you, and living a double life, you are unable to be intimate with anyone.  In sex and love addiction, disordered intimacy is obvious as you seek addictive behaviors that provide relief from loneliness.  Building relationships with others working the 12 Step program and seeking to help them helps create a network of positive, healthy relationships to carry you through your recovery. 

As you meet individuals in the beginning of their recovery, you’ll be reminded of your desperation in the early days.  By helping them, you’re “paying it forward” from how you’ve been helped.  Passing along this work to others is inspiring and encouraging.  As an addict who has completed the steps, you are uniquely positioned to help others.  You’ve experienced what they’ve been through, and you can communicate that they are not alone.

You’ll also be ready to take the insights you’ve gained from your recovery journey and apply them to all areas of your life, including career and family.  Bringing authenticity and openness to all areas of your life allows you integrate your life in a way that is vastly different from your previous double life. 

How to Work Step Twelve

Reflect on how you’ve changed since Step One.

How have you become humble as a result of your 12 Step work?  Have you learned to admit your faults and failings?  What insights have you had about your character weaknesses, and how have they changed the way you live?  In what ways have you become more forgiving and less resentful, or more apologetic and quick to ask for forgiveness?  How have your relationships changed as a result of the 12 Step work you’ve been doing?

Reflect on some of the work you completed in early steps, looking through old journals or remembering stories you’ve told at meetings.  Look for evidence of change in your character.  Be grateful for how different you are today than when you started. 

Volunteer at a meeting.

You’ve likely seen other group members take roles to help out, whether that involves bringing coffee or snacks, setting up or tearing down chairs, or even leading a meeting.  12 Step groups are intentionally designed without a leader, which means there are many tasks that require volunteers.  Ask the trusted servant at your meeting how you might be able to volunteer to help in the upcoming months.  Often committing to be a regular attendee of the meetings helps to serve the community by creating consistency for newcomers.

Tell your story.

What do you remember from your first Twelve Step meeting?  My guess is it has something to do with the stories of others.  If you haven’t already shared your first step with your 12 Step group, consider doing so as a service to other group members.  This will allow others to relate to your story.  You can also share your story in a one-on-one setting with a new member of the group or sponsee.

Write a list of gifts you have to offer.

Through your recovery process, you may have become aware of talents or abilities that were masked by your addictive behaviors.  Your sponsor or other trusted individuals may also be aware of positive traits you have to offer.  Ask your sponsor or support people to tell you some gifts they think you bring to the recovery community.  Write these affirmations down and review them often.  Seek to fill roles within the community that allow these gifts to be used for the good of others.

Sponsor a new member of your group.

At this point, you have the opportunity to turn around and share the insights you’ve learned with a new sponsee.  Your insights can help someone else who is struggling with the same questions or doubts in their own journey.  But not only will you be helping them: you’ll find that your relationship with your sponsee will often help your own recovery as well. 

A few cautions before you start: consider the cost of sponsoring another addict prior to taking on this role.  Talk to your sponsor and ask if they’ll serve as a mentor for you with your first few sponsees.  It is recommended that you have at least one full year of sobriety under your belt before you sponsor someone, as sponsoring challenges your sobriety in new and unexpected ways.  When choosing a sponsee, limit yourself to one person at first, and make sure to choose someone who doesn’t remind you of former acting out partners or trigger addictive thoughts in you.

Attend a retreat or conference.

Changing up the structure of the standard group meeting and receiving inspiration and motivation from time away can help you re-focus on your recovery and learn new tools to help yourself or your sponsees.  You may also find yourself motivated to speak or offer your story at a conference.  Look for listings of yearly events (like those for SAA or SLAA) and invite a friend from your recovery program to attend with you.

Be conscious of when recovery begins to feel “boring.”

Boredom in your recovery can be a trigger to fall back into the temporary thrill of acting out.  When you notice feeling bored or apathetic in your recovery work, explore what’s leading to the boredom.  Identify dissatisfaction in your life or avoidance of a thorny issue that’s uncomfortable to think about.  Talk with your sponsor about next steps you might take to address these areas.

Another great way to combat boredom is walking through the steps again, perhaps trying out a new sponsor who may have some additional insight.  If you’re struggling with more than one addiction, it is helpful to go through the Twelve Steps with the other addiction and see what new insights you can gain.

Carry your new authenticity into all areas of your life, including sexuality.

Is there a major life change that you’ve been putting off, like in your career?  Is it difficult to apply your insights from recovery into more mundane, daily tasks?  Consider how you might use what you’ve learned in recovery to influence the areas of your life that seem unrelated.  You’ll be surprised to find how applicable these skills are in new contexts.

During this time, you might consider what non-addictive sexuality looks like.  Resources like a couples counselor or an individual counselor trained in treating addiction can help you in this process.  In particular for sex and love addicts, re-integrating healthy sexuality involves a slower journey, learning to embody your masculinity or femininity without necessarily expressing it through sex.  Resources like A Couple’s Guide to Intimacy* or Erotic Intelligence* can be helpful tools to explore this area. 

The End of the Road?

At this point in your Twelve Step journey, you’ve walked through incredibly difficult steps that have proven to be ultimately rewarding.  But moving through the Twelve Steps is meant to be an ongoing process.  You have not “arrived” when you reach Step Twelve.  Instead, you are called to start back at Step One and examine new areas of your life and well-being that you may not have been aware of when you first began your journey.  Continually working through these steps can lead to significant life change.  You will gain new perspective as you explore your story in new ways.

Pause for a moment now and recognize moments of happiness and joy you have in your life as a result of recovery.  As you acknowledge and express gratitude for these gains, you’ll be motivated to continue.  Make a list of all the accomplishments you’ve made while working through the Twelve Steps, and plan a celebration with your sponsor or trusted individuals to celebrate all the hard work you’ve done to get here!

pinterest_how_to_work_step_twelve_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you hoping to work the Twelve Steps?  Have you completed each of the steps and are looking for where to go next?  Are you continuing struggling with addiction despite your work in your 12 Step group?  At Restored Hope, I believe you can experience freedom from addiction, and my role is to give you the tools you need to make that journey.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 today or email me to schedule your first appointment today.

*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

Step Eleven: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_eleven_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  My specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out my introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Eleven: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. 

Step Eleven builds on the Tenth Step work of taking a daily inventory of your life, as it integrates your relationship with God into that inventory.  The spiritual growth you’ve experienced through the 12 steps has helped you come to depend on God as your source of life, rather than turning to your addiction to feel satisfied.

This step differs from previous spiritual steps by shifting your relationship with God beyond just intense dependence on Him in establishing sobriety into acknowledging God as the guiding force in all areas of your life.  It requires a deepening of your faith and relationship with God in a way that extends beyond empty religious actions.  You will need to find spiritual practices that work to help you build regular conscious contact with God.

How to Work Step Eleven

Create a sacred space.

Where have you had your best experiences with God?  Maybe it’s while you’re out on a walk in the woods, or when you’re wrapped up in a blanket sipping a cup of tea or coffee.  Is there a place in your home where you feel most connected to God?  Is your church a haven to you?  Designate a place that represents closeness in your relationship with God and visit it often.

Sacred space can be created in any physical location.  You might imagine a place in your mind where you feel peace or calm.  You can make a space sacred by lighting a candle, turning on soothing music, or practicing a breathing or meditation exercise.  Whatever you do, seek to set aside the stress of your daily life and enter into a space where you can experience God. 

Another way to cultivate this space involves creating sacred objects associated with a milestone in your recovery or spiritual journey.  For many, the surrender chip they received at their first 12 Step meeting serves this purpose.  If you’ve gone through a particular trial and experienced the closeness of God, choose an object that reminds you of that experience.

Keep a prayer journal.

You may have picked up journaling as a habit during your recovery work.  Use this new practice to engage spiritually.  Write down prayers that you have and review them regularly to see the ways in which God has answered them. 

Be curious about the ways in which God may be answering your prayers in a way you wouldn’t expect.  As an example, you may have hit rock bottom in your addiction, which led to a way out.  God could be using difficulties in your life circumstances to grow you closer in relationship to Him or others.

Connect with God in the morning.

What is the first thing that comes to mind in the mornings for you?  Is it the stress of the day ahead, the dream you had the night before, or wishing you could just drift back off to sleep?  Starting your day in dependence on God can set the course for how the rest of the day will go.

Ask God to be with you during the day.  Pray through the events of the day and any challenges you anticipate coming up in the next several hours.  Use a few minutes to read Scripture using apps like First 5 or Read Scripture.

Pray throughout your day.

Paul exhorts in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing.  This might seem impractical if you’re splitting focus between work, family, or other tasks.  But you can use this simple Scripture to remind you to talk to God throughout your day as if he were a friend sitting beside you.  The Serenity Prayer can be a helpful, short prayer to memorize and repeat to yourself throughout your day to remind you to focus on God. 

End your day with God using nightly examen.

In discussing Step Ten, examen of consciousness was introduced as a way of reviewing your past day to identify where God was present or where you felt distant from him.  This helps to identify where God was at work in the daily, mundane experiences of your life, reminding you that God doesn’t just work through monumental events.

Taking the examen a step further involves asking God to point out areas where we’ve made mistakes, need to apologize, or could love others more fully.  Allow God to guide these reflections and reveal to you the areas where you can be focusing your attention in the days to follow.

Practice meditation.

Meditation is a popular topic right now, and there are several different ways to meditate.  Scripture meditation involves reflecting on a passage of scripture and allowing God to speak to you through it.  Reading meditations, as mentioned in the Step Ten, involve engaging with recovery literature to help remind you why you’re in recovery. 

Another form of meditation involves setting aside distractions like TV or phones and allowing yourself to connect to your breath in the present moment.  There are several different guided meditations and apps you can use to help in this process. Know that this will be difficult at first, especially if you are prone to anxiety.  The more you practice, the easier it will become. 

Meet regularly with a spiritual mentor or director.

While walking through the earlier steps, you may have identified a spiritual guide, such as a pastor, church member, or spiritual director, to help you through the Twelve Step process.  Now you have an opportunity to ask that individual to help you in your journey to transform all areas of your life.  You can ask that guide to hold you accountable to the changes you want to implement.

Sometimes it can be hard to see God at work in your own life, but others around you may be able to shed more light on His role.  Your spiritual mentor can observe your life and offer you reflections and encouragements, as well as pointing out blocks that are getting in the way of connecting with God.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_eleven_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you facing sex and love addiction and feeling hopeless to quit?  Do you believe in God, but feel too ashamed to bring your addiction to Him?  Are you having a hard time connecting spiritually in your recovery?  At Restored Hope, I take a Christian-integrated approach to recovery from sex and love addiction, and I’d love to help you walk through your own journey of change.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to set up your first appointment.

Step Ten: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_ten_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  My specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out my introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Ten: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step Ten is all about living out your recovery day-by-day.  In fact, this step is often referred to as making your life a “living amends.”  In recovery, it is not enough just to walk through the steps once, complete them, and then say you are done.  Step Ten is about living each day differently as a result of the work you’ve done, making a conscious commitment to change, honesty, and authenticity.

Personally, this requires you to pursue self-care and healthier ways of coping.  You will be more conscious of your character flaws and the path you’ve slid into before that’s led to your addiction.  Step Ten also involves being conscious of when you are wrong and admitting it, both to yourself and others.  This requires humility and self-awareness.  In your relationships where you’ve caused harm, including with significant others, this involves the slow process of rebuilding trust. 

Step Ten requires balance, integrating all of your life into your conscious awareness so you can eliminate chaos.  A common phrase in addiction recovery is that addiction thrives in chaos: the less chaotic and more mindful your life becomes, the easier it will be to work your recovery.

 In Patrick Carnes’ book Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps*, he talks about the difference between partial, convenient recovery and inconvenient, or full, recovery.  Full recovery involves knowing that recovery is a constant process that continues past completion of the 12 Steps.  It involves acknowledging that you are a human in process, imperfect and flawed but seeking to grow.

How to Work Step Ten

Keep consistent commitment to your recovery activities.

Maintain connection to your 12 Step group and your sponsor as you continue to take evaluation of your flaws.  It might involve asking others, like your sponsor or 12 Step group members, to speak up when they see areas where you might be wrong.  However, this will only work if you are willing to accept it.

Not only do you need to acknowledge these flaws to yourself, but you also must continue to be open and authentic about feelings and motivations, rather than holding them under a façade of having it all together. This is a huge trust-building skill in relationships, and can be a key factor in maintaining sobriety.

Remain in the present as you hold tension between the past and the future.

We’ve talked about the Stocksdale paradox before, which encourages you to face the challenge of your addiction both by knowing how bad it was while also having a clear vision and hope for the future.  However, focusing too much on the past or the future prevents you from enjoying the present moment and creating awareness of your daily life.

This step involves remaining present to what’s happening in the moment, rather than detaching through using addictive behaviors, fantasy, or delusional thinking.  It requires staying connected to your adult self rather than responding out of childhood wounds.

Create a personal care index.

Patrick Carnes created an exercise in Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps* that I find incredibly helpful in thinking of taking a daily personal inventory.  He calls it the Personal Craziness Index, but I prefer Staci Sprout’s re-envisioning of it as a Personal Care Index.  This exercise involves exploring 12 different areas of your life for indicators that you’re not working your best recovery and/or what needs to be taking place for your life to have balance.  Signs might be as simple as not making your bed in the morning or forgetting to eat. 

This is a simple and powerful way to take a daily inventory and observe your risk factors for slipping back into addiction.  Take some time to work through the different areas that indicate you are succeeding or struggling in daily life and use the tracking system to monitor how these are affecting your daily life and recovery.

Do a daily examen or quiet time.

For many Christians, a daily quiet time of Scripture reading and reflection is a regular part of spiritual practice.  But whether you come from a faith background or not, having a regular time to meditate daily can be a helpful practice to integrate into your recovery.  There are several books of devotionals or meditations that can be helpful for recovery, such as:

Another great practice to adopt is a daily examen of consciousness.  Essentially, an examen of consciousness is an intentional time set up at the end of each day to review the previous day, what went well and what didn’t, acknowledge where you felt the presence or absence of God, and seek change for the next day. This can involve prayer and confession as well.

Observe your intense emotional reactions and examine them.

As you’ve been walking through your recovery, you’ve likely become more aware of your emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant.  Now that you’ve removed the addiction that previously allowed you to feel numb, your emotional capacity will increase.  You’ll have strong emotional reactions that are unexpected or confusing, simply because they are unfamiliar and you aren’t sure about their origins.  Take time with your sponsor, a therapist, or a trusted friend to talk through strong emotional reactions and what triggers from your past or childhood wounds they might involve.

Learn new ways to communicate apologies or hurt.

The last part of this step involves promptly admitting hurts or wrongs we’ve committed.  Apologizing can feel like speaking a foreign language when your addiction has taught you to use lies or cover-ups to hide behaviors, rather than bringing them out into the open.  Approach daily apologies or amends like you would learning a new language: test them out, expect to feel awkward at first, and be open to adapting the apologies once you’ve tried out a few methods.  Talk with people in your life who have worked through this step, or practice with your therapist or sponsor.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_ten_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you seeking to embody living amends on a daily basis, but struggling with the effort it takes to remain vulnerable and honest?  Are you unsure of what you should be tracking or monitoring your daily inventory?  Are you struggling to know how to apologize or take ownership of mistakes?  At Restored Hope, I’m here to help you succeed on your walk through recovery from sex and love addiction.   Connect with me today via email or at 734.656.8191 to meet with me at my Novi or Ann Arbor offices and talk through how I can help.

*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

Step Nine: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_nine_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  My specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out my introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step Nine is a logical follow-up to Step Eight, where you are asked to list individuals who you have harmed through your addiction and character flaws.  In order to carry out Step Nine, you need the foundation of all eight of the preceding steps.  Step Nine involves bringing others in to the process in a way that they haven’t been involved before, and thus can be particularly shame-inducing.  You will need your support individuals, God, your 12 Step group, and the recovery you’ve completed so far to help guide you through this process.

Step Nine involves acknowledging that your actions have consequences.  Apologies are not the only necessary step to reconciliation: you must also follow those up with actions.  The goal of this step is to foster empathy and restitution, rather than to check a box or move on.

Be mindful of your motives in completing Step Nine.  Often addicts simply want to get their painful feelings off their chest and don’t regard the emotions or responses of others.  If you’re motivated by a desire to vent, relieve your own guilt, or reconnect with someone who has intentionally removed themselves from your life, talk with your sponsor and reconsider.  If you’re rushing into amends, ask yourself if you’re acting out of selfishness or self-serving motives.

How to Work Step Nine

Separate your list of direct and indirect amends.

Identify those individuals with whom it is appropriate to make direct amends with the help of your sponsor.  You may feel a burning desire to make direct amends to someone, but acknowledge when it would actually cause more harm than good to do so.

Pray and ask God to help you experience willingness to move toward amends.

As you work this step, it will feel daunting to tackle making amends with all the individuals on your list.  Pray and ask God for help and support through this process and seek to focus on just one person at a time rather than trying to take on the whole list.

Practice self-care.

This step can be incredibly taxing on the shame-based identity that’s driven your addiction.  Combat the power of that shame by prioritizing self-care and support.  Create a self-care plan for before, during, and after completing amends, and have your sponsor or a support individual from your 12 Step group hold you accountable to that self-care. 

For Direct Amends

Intentionally select who you share amends with first.

Choose who you will break the ice with in making amends first by asking your sponsor who might be the best option for you.  It may be helpful to make amends with the person who you feel the most distress about sharing first, in order to get it out of the way.  Alternatively, it might be worthwhile to make amends with an individual with whom you feel more comfortable first in order to build up your confidence. 

Write a letter outlining the harm you’ve done.

Use the list of specifics you created in Step Eight to draft a letter outlining the harm that you’ve done.  Remember, the purpose of the amends is to take responsibility for your actions rather than to explain or to offer excuses, so focus on “I statements” and limit the details that may come across as defensive.  Limiting details also helps limit the potential for harm.   

Identify ways in your letter in which you can make direct amends in the form of financial restitution, commitments to family obligations or housework, or other forms of restitution.  Ask those with whom you are making amends what they think you could do to make things right.

Practice reading aloud the letter with your support people.

Read the letter several times through with your sponsor, accountability partner, trusted mentor, or therapy group.  This will allow you to become more comfortable with sharing, allow the flow of the letter to feel natural, and receive feedback from others.

Prepare for negative or unexpected responses.

While reading the letter to your support people, anticipate and discuss possible negative responses you might receive from the one you’ve harmed.  Keep in mind that the amends are not causing the pain in the harmed individual: the addiction has already caused the pain.  Remember that the responses of others are not your responsibility and they are able to choose whether they want to reconcile the relationship, but you can only offer your own part in making the amends.

Set up a face-to-face appointment with the harmed individual.

If you are still in contact with the harmed individual, connect with them to set up an appointment time to discuss your amends.  If you or they need to have support individuals involved in the amends process (ie. a sponsor, therapist, pastor, or friend), then make allowances as needed.  Talk with your sponsor about the best way to reach out to individuals with whom you are not in contact.

Indirect Amends

Brainstorm ways you can provide indirect amends.

Perhaps your list of those you’ve harmed includes someone who is deceased.  Or maybe you used pornography or objectified anonymous others sexually.  It could be that re-opening a connection with a former acting out partner would cause more harm than good. 

Talk with your sponsor or 12 Step group about ways to make amends indirectly.  For example, you may be able to offer an anonymous donation or volunteer your time to an organization that fights sex trafficking.  Former acting-out partners can receive a letter of amends rather than a face-to-face meeting.  Writing a letter to a deceased individual may still offer those indirect amends. 

Schedule in your plan to make those amends.

Once you’ve decided the best way to make indirect amends, commit it to your schedule.  For example, if you’ve decided you’ll complete 20 hours of volunteering, sit down and schedule 1 hour a week into your time.  Research organizations to find one that is the best fit for your donation and plan a date to make the donation. 

Use commitment to recovery as “living amends.”

As mentioned earlier, making amends isn’t just about apologizing.  It’s also about a change in action that indicates a commitment to recovery and change.  Even if you can’t make a direct amends, you can live out the change in your life that would offer reparation for the damage caused to those individuals.  You can continue staying sober, changing your behavior toward others, and improving your current relationships.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_nine_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you intimidated by the thought of making amends?  Do you feel pressure to apologize, but aren’t sure your motives are in the right place?  Do you feel stuck on this step?  At Restored Hope, I know how hard it can be to take that step toward amends.  I offer counseling that integrates the 12 Step approach into my work with sex and love addiction.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment at my Novi or Ann Arbor office locations.

Step Eight: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_eight_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  My specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out my introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

The “making amends” steps are a pivotal point for many individuals in their 12 Step recovery journey.  This is the point at which your relationships with others outside of the 12 Step group are invited into the process.  Those around you are given the gift of apologies and offers for reconciliation, while you are presented with the gift of humility, honesty, and the potential for restored relationship.

You might say to yourself, “This is too hard.  I really wish I didn’t have to do this.”  Once you’ve come clean with your sponsor and yourself about the ways in which you’ve caused harm, you might think that you’re finished with the process.  But it becomes crucial to connect with others you have harmed to offer amends.  As a recovering addict, you must be prepared to go to any lengths to be released from your addiction.  Ask God in these moments of self-doubt for strength to handle any consequences that may come your way as a result of making amends.

Direct amends involve having a conversation with an individual whom you have harmed.  However, in some cases, to directly make amends to someone is not the best option: either it would cause more harm to them, they may be deceased, or you may not be able to contact them.  In this case, it may be helpful to think of ways you can make indirect amends, such as volunteering or giving financially to organizations that support individuals similar to those you have harmed.

Why is this step so important?

Making amends takes you out of the victim role, which is an easy default in distorted thinking of the addiction.  It propels you into taking responsibility for the harm you’ve done to others.  It doesn’t allow you to hide behind the mask of saying it was anyone else’s fault but your own.  By doing whatever is necessary to right the wrongs you’ve done, you become free from the guilt you have carried for years in your addictive behaviors.

How to Work Step Eight

Focus just on Step Eight and not Step Nine.

It can be paralyzing to think of taking the action of making amends at first, but allow yourself to use Step Eight to simply explore the idea of making amends.  In this process, you’ll experience empathy for those you have wronged, which then leads more naturally to making amends.  If you struggle to separate Step Eight from the upcoming Step Nine where you will be carrying out these amends, ask God to give you the willingness and strength to try.  Have grace with yourself and know that you can always return to this step throughout your 12 Step journey.

Write a list of those you have harmed.

Using your Step Four inventory, identify those individuals who have been directly or indirectly affected by both your acting out behaviors and your character flaws.  Make this list as complete as possible, going back all the way to childhood.  This might include family members, spouses, children, friends, acting out partners, or even individuals you don’t know personally.

Pay special attention to individuals who you may not have actively or intentionally harmed, but who have been hurt by your abandonment, withdrawal, or rejection.  Include even those who you feel have done more harm to you than you have done to them.  It isn’t the time to seek vengeance for wrongs against you: it is time to take responsibility for yourself.

You may even include yourself as an individual you have harmed on your list.  This offers the opportunity for self-compassion, and it helps you pay attention to ways you have damaged yourself and your sense of self-worth through your behaviors.

Identify those to whom making direct amends may cause more harm than benefit.

One common individual that the distorted thinking of the addict tends to gravitate toward when first considering making amends is to former affair partners.  Yes, they have been harmed by your actions, but it is clear that involving them in the amends process could re-start a relationship and ultimately create more destruction in its wake.  On the list of those you have harmed, mark those who you think might experience greater harm if you attempted to make amends with them.  Talk with your sponsor about whether direct or indirect amends would be recommended in those cases.

Get feedback from your sponsor.

Talk with your sponsor, therapist, or other trusted individuals who know your story.  Be open to hearing who they might suggest including on your list.  Often others in the 12 Step program have their own experiences of amends from which to draw upon.  They will also point out blind spots you are avoiding because they feel too uncomfortable or vulnerable to admit.  Similarly, they may also suggest you take certain names off your list if you are feeling guilt over something for which you are not responsible.

Write specifics about the harm done.

For each individual on your list, write down specifics about the harm you have done to them and its results.  Include what you think or feel about that harm now.  As you flesh out these details, you’ll gain a greater sense of perspective and empathy, as well as create a resource for the process of making amends in Step Nine.  The more detail you include, the more you will demonstrate engagement in the process.  This helps the person who was harmed feel known and understood.

Examine what you hope to accomplish by making amends.

Examining your motives is important.  If you are only making amends to check a box off the 12 Step process or impress others, then you need to re-evaluate your motivations with the help of your sponsor.  For example, you might be making amends as a way to manipulate the other person into apologizing for their own harmful behavior.  However, you must realize that the only person you can control is yourself.  It’s also important to acknowledge your desired outcome so you can come to terms with the fact that you may not receive it.  Understand that even with the worst outcome possible, you have done your part in making amends, and that is what counts more than their response.  As Paul says in Romans, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV; emphasis mine)

Make a list of possible action steps you can take.

Whether you are making direct or indirect amends, a powerful part of the process involves taking action to embody the new commitment you’ve made to a healthier life.  Addicts are often full of empty promises that don’t come to fruition.  Unless you follow through on your words of apology with corresponding action to solidify the truth of the change, you will not be able to move toward reconciled relationship.  Think of ways you may make financial amends or relational amends.  Consider if there are any legal consequences you have been avoiding from your actions.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_eight_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you intimidated by the list of the individuals you have harmed?  Do you feel like even the suggestion of talking to any of those people leads you to withdraw in fear?  Are you preparing to make amends, but feeling anxious about the outcome?  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling to help you experience freedom from your addictive behaviors with the end goal of creating restored and redeemed relationships.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment.

Step Six: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_six_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  Our specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out our introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Six: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Admitting your flaws and character defects to yourself in Step Four and to another person in Step Five seem like a daunting enough task.  But it’s not enough to end with just acknowledging these flaws.  The next step involves the willingness to change those areas.

Hope comes when you realize that you are not alone on your path to change.  Acknowledging God as the source of change in your life can take the pressure off you to be perfect.  Philippians 2:13 says that God will give us both the power and the willingness to do what pleases Him, and so you can invite him in to this process of change and see Him transform your heart.

What is Step Six? 

According to the Green Book of Sex Addicts Anonymous*, character defects are “undesirable traits, attitudes, and beliefs that make our lives unmanageable, cause pain to others, and block our spiritual growth.”  Often these traits were adopted from childhood experiences of survival.  As adults, you have the option to choose healthier ways of coping and relating.

There is a pivot point in Step Six toward rebuilding your life.  Beyond reflecting on past flaws and defects, this step propels you into changing the future.  Changing your character defects can feel risky because they have often served as the scapegoat or excuse for why you feel unloved or rejected.  Without your excuse, you will have to risk pain without a protective shield.  But making that change leads to movement toward trust and authenticity, which are the foundations of true intimacy.

How To Work Step Six

Revisit your fearless moral inventory from Steps Four and Five.

Identify the attitudes, behaviors, traits, and approaches to life that you recognized in your fearless moral inventory.  Pay extra attention to places where you have felt stuck or are being held back by these traits.  Write a list of the distorted beliefs you have about sex or your drug of choice that keep you in your addict mentality rather than in a rational mindset.

Identify where you learned the different character defects.

As mentioned earlier, the ways in which you cope with painful emotions or experiences in your life are shaped by coping strategies picked up in the past, whether healthy or unhealthy.  Acknowledging where you learned these patterns does not exonerate you from blame, but instead acknowledges its origins and gives grace to the part of you that did whatever it took to survive.

Were your character defects something you picked up from your parents?  Were they something you used to survive a painful childhood?  Were you hurt in a way that sent a message such as, “you have to protect yourself,” or “don’t be responsible for anything, you’ll screw it up”?  Is there a history of depression, anxiety, addiction, or mental illness in your family?  Do you see the patterns of these family members reflected in your life?

Acknowledge what purpose these flaws of character served in your life.

You wouldn’t act or think in these ways if they didn’t feel good or serve you in some way.  Maybe your forgetfulness allowed you not take responsibility for mistakes.  Maybe you never had to be on time because your loved ones expected you to flake.  Maybe your lack of commitment in jobs or relationships protected you from responsibility.  Or maybe you didn’t have to make your inner world known and risk rejection because you isolated yourself or avoided relationships.

These coping strategies have served a purpose to protect you from painful emotions, hurt, or fear.  Ask yourself: what are you afraid will happen once these are gone?  Do you fear being rejected?  Unloved?  Abandoned?  Enmeshed with another person?  If you acknowledge the ways you are self-sabotaging in your areas of growth, you no longer will be able to use your character defects as excuses or justifications.  You will need to face the pain connected to these fears.

Acknowledge the areas in which you will feel deprived and not want to release these character defects.

You’ve been working on maintaining your sobriety from quite some time.  And if that weren’t enough, this step asks you to remove other coping mechanisms through giving up your character flaws.  This can be a scary process.  Practicing humility and dependence on God and your support system are crucial at this point.  You need them to move from just understanding these flaws into making a change in your behaviors and attitudes.

List each character defect with the corresponding positive quality that can replace it.

Often the coping strategies we’ve used to survive that have turned into flaws in our adulthood are two sided: they have both a light side and a dark side.  Identify the “light” side of each of your character flaws: see your defects and become aware of how you can use them for good or replace them with more adaptive behaviors or qualities you want to embody.  This could be moving from mistrust to trust, or allowing yourself to be human rather than trying to be superhuman.  Begin to seek opportunities to live out these positive characteristics.

Invite God into the process.

As this step expresses in its phrasing, God is a crucial part of this process.  Invite God through prayer to illuminate the areas where you feel resistant to letting go.  Ask God if He will stay with you despite knowing all your flaws.  Scripture reminds us that God saved us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), so He likely knows them already and still chose relationship with you.  If you don’t feel fully willing to let go of these flaws in character, pray and ask God to change your heart.

Invite your sponsor or trusted guide in.

Share this process with your sponsor.  Ask your trusted guide or your friends in recovery if they know of other areas of weakness or character difficulties to which you are still clinging.  They may have faced similar character issues in their personal journeys and have ideas on how to resolve them.  Ask for help and support through this process.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_six_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you crippled when you look at all your areas of weakness and character flaws?  Do you struggle to see the good in yourself when you’re faced with the hurt your actions have caused?  It is a painful and difficult process to examine yourself and make changes.  At Restored Hope, I believe it’s crucial to walk alongside you in these difficult areas and help you to create lasting change.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule a counseling appointment.

 

 

 

*This is an Amazon affiliate link.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local  associates policy.

Step Five: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_five_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  Our specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out our introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Five: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

You’ve now done the grueling work of self-assessment involved in Step Four.  While Step Four can feel like a battle to work through your character defects, the Fifth Step may be even more challenging.  It involves bringing another person into your story, allowing them to hear the full extent of your wrongs, and being open to receiving their acceptance of you.

In this process, you’ll face your denial by admitting to yourself the extent of your wrongs.  You’ll also be acknowledging God in this step, who knows the full extent of your wrongdoing, beyond what you are aware of yourself at this time.  Rest in the truth that God, knowing all your wrongdoing ahead of time, chose to love you, accept you, and offer you forgiveness despite all of it (Romans 5:8).

Why is the Fifth Step important?

Addiction is driven by shame and isolation.  For women struggling with sex and love addiction, these two categories are intermixed: shame about struggling with what is a “man’s issue” leads women to withdraw from others who may be able to relate to them.  They then feel lonely and hopeless, drawing them back into the false intimacy of the addiction.  Having someone who knows your story gives you a break from the loneliness you’ve experienced in your addiction.

When you share your fearless moral inventory, you’re able to receive community and acceptance in a way you’ve likely never experienced.  Words of encouragement from the listener can change the negative internal monologue you have with yourself and provide new vocabulary to be kind to yourself.  Confessing these wrongs helps you to leave behind the double life of addiction and come out of hiding, releasing the burden of your secrets.  It establishes trust with God, yourself, and others.

It is essential to review your Fourth Step with complete honesty in the presence of another person to experience healing.  Whatever we are holding back can become a stronghold that drives us back into the addictive behavior.  It is important to express every detail, even if it is difficult to do so.

How to Work The Fifth Step

Bring your fearless moral inventory to God.

In order to successfully complete the Fifth Step, you must rely on God as your strength.  This task is too daunting to complete on your own, which is why the Second and Third steps precede it.  We need to be fully honest with ourselves and God to see that he loves us and accepts us, meaning we are lovable and worthy of care.  This offers an extra layer of support in case our trusted individual with whom we share our moral inventory does not respond how we expect or need.  Humans are imperfect, but God is perfect and will be able to provide all the compassion and support you need.

Remind yourself of the truth that God was with you and loved you even when you were in the darkest and deepest moments of your addiction.  If he was with you in those desolate places, he will certainly be with you as you step out in sharing them with someone else.

Release any denial or self-deception that may still linger.

After completing your fearless moral inventory, sit with a journal and record any reactions, emotions, or experiences you’ve had as a result.  Imagine sitting across from your trusted individual to share your inventory and write down the sensations, thoughts, or feelings you might have in that situation.  Pay special attention to any areas of defensiveness or fear that may be plaguing your mind.  Notice if there are any parts of your story that you are planning to leave unsaid or ignore in the course of the discussion.

Remember that, in order to see the full effects of completing the Fifth Step, it is essential to share the full extent of your knowledge about your character defects.  As you notice areas where you get stuck, explore if you are struggling with self-deception or denial.  Rid yourself of excuses you make to hide or avoid acknowledging the painful parts of your inventory.

Acknowledge (and receive!) the good as well as the bad.

In the course of completing your moral inventory, you were asked to write not only the character defects and wrongs you’ve committed, but also the positive aspects of who you are.  This can be the most difficult part of the process for some, as it directly contrasts messages of shame.  But it is necessary both for you to acknowledge and claim these positive characteristics within yourself and to hear your trusted individual share words of kindness and encouragement.  It can also be helpful to engage with Scriptural truths that remind you of your identity in Christ and the positive aspects of who you are because of God.

Set up 2-3 scheduled sessions with your trusted individual to share your inventory.

Select a person who you can trust to hear your moral inventory and provide encouragement and confidentiality.  This can be a sponsor, a trusted friend, a spiritual mentor, or a therapist.  It is generally discouraged to have this individual be a family member, spouse, or individual who has been directly affected by your behaviors – having a neutral audience can help you to feel more comfortable with being completely honest and prevents further harm.  Make sure this person can identify your deepest feelings related to your inventory and reflect them back to you.

Honestly share your fearless moral inventory with your trusted individual.

Outline for this individual each aspect of your inventory of character weaknesses.  When discussing actions, describe what you did, when you did it, and what you were thinking or feeling when doing it. Include information not only about acting out behaviors, but about other areas of your life where these weaknesses have affected you.  Stating these items out loud can help you to break through denial.

Expect fears of rejection to come up in you.  You’ve likely never been this vulnerable with anyone in your life.  It makes sense that this would feel terrifying.  Remind yourself that the person with whom you’re sharing will feel honored by your choice to be genuine with them.

Be open to hearing about your trusted individual’s personal journey and similar actions or feelings they may have experienced.  It helps you to feel a little less alone in your recovery journey.  It also creates support as you feel that your experience is more normal than you initially thought. 

Continue to come back to this step in the future.

Remember that you will continue to discover new aspects of your character, both positive and negative, throughout your lifetime.  Accept the fact that you will continually need to come back to this inventory and have additional conversations with your trusted individuals in the years of recovery to come.  Do not feel the pressure to have 100% of your character defects figured out at this point: offer what you are able, and trust that the rest will come out in the process.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_five_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Do you feel consumed by shame in your sex and love addiction and aren’t sure of way out?  Do you feel isolated and alone, withdrawing from your friendships because they can’t understand what you’re going through?  Are you longing to get the burden of keeping a secret off of your chest?  At Restored Hope, I specialize in working with female sex and love addicts and partners of addicts to experience freedom and hope in their recovery journeys.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me to schedule your first counseling appointment at my Ann Arbor or Novi locations.

Step Four: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_four_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  Our specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out our introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

In Step Four, it’s easy to hit another roadblock in recovery work.  This is the biggest overhaul of your present-day life since Step One, requiring a significant amount of work and humility to fully engage the question: what are my areas of deepest moral weakness?  What are my character defects that I’ve been trying for years to keep secret from everyone, including myself?

While this inventory is certainly a difficult component of your recovery, it is incredibly important on the road to facing reality.  You must break through any last vestiges of denial, hold up the mirror to yourself and get to know who you really are, flaws and all.  Step Four looks not only at the external behaviors listed in Step One, but also at the internal thoughts, emotions, motivations, and beliefs that drive the addictive behavior.

This is an intense and painful process as you grieve the pain of the life you’ve lived.  Be sure to have support from your sponsor and 12 Step group during this step.  By looking at the truth of who you are, you can then begin to open the door for grace, forgiveness and acceptance.  Rather than continuing the pattern of self-hatred and shame that drives you back into addiction and self-destruction, you must accept the grace and forgiveness that God is already offering you.  You need to uncover the truth from beneath the blanket of lies you’ve cast over it.

What is a searching and fearless moral inventory?

The Green Book of Sex Addicts Anonymous* defines it as “a systematic examination of all the beliefs, feelings, attitudes, and actions that have shaped our lives from our earliest years.”  This process allows you to re-evaluate areas of your life to see how you’ve been basing your decisions on distorted beliefs, intense negative emotions, and past traumatic experiences.

It also calls you to pay attention to aspects of your character that have harmed yourself or others.  These character defects are common to every human, but this step gives you the opportunity to take an honest look at them and begin to change.

How do I work this step?

Create an appointment date and time with your sponsor to share your inventory.

Before you get started, connect with your sponsor or another trusted individual with whom you will share the information once you’ve completed this step.  This appointment will help create accountability to complete the step and provide a place for discussing the intense emotions that come up as you write.  Your sponsor can also ask you thought-provoking questions that will help you if you get stuck.

Write it out.

Just as if you were writing out an inventory of products in a store, it is most effective to have a written document of your moral inventory.  Schedule time set aside to write it.  It is often best to complete the Fourth Step in several sittings, rather than trying to get it all out at once.  Tackling the entire step in one sitting will be overwhelming.  Also, coming back to review your inventory after a break may help you notice patterns or behaviors that you didn’t see before.

Focus on categories of emotion or behavior.

In The Gentle Path Through the 12 Steps*, Patrick Carnes delineates several areas of focus for a moral inventory.  Take some time to look both at the good side and the bad side of each of the following areas:

  • Personal responsibility – Where did I choose not to take responsibility for what I should have?
  • Anger – How did my anger drive my behaviors?
  • Fear – Where in my life have I been motivated out of fear?
  • Self-sabotage vs. taking risks – Where did I set myself up for failure?  Where was I too afraid to take a risk?
  • Shame vs. pride – What are the moments where I felt the most shame?  What moments do I feel proud of?
  • Losses and grief – What are the major losses I’ve faced over my lifetime?  What have I learned from those losses?
  • Unworthiness and self hatred vs. self-affirmations – What are the words I use to beat myself up?  What are the positive words I tell myself?
  • Dishonesty toward self or others – Where have I lied outright or failed to express the whole truth?  Where have I started believing the lies?

Complete a sexual history.

Within sexual addiction, your behaviors developed out of an awareness of your own sexuality and interactions around sex.  Taking a sexual history can help you to understand why you chose these certain paths of acting out.  Also, traumatic experiences of abuse or harm can transform into our abuse or harm of others through addictive behaviors.  Take stock of where you may have harmed others in the course of your addiction.

Connect with painful emotions.

Emotions are more likely to come to the surface in this step as you begin to dig deeper into your story.  Feelings like fear, anger, sadness, joy, envy, loneliness, and shame will be present.  As you connect with these emotions, pay attention to how you’ve responded to them in the past.  Have they triggered addictive behaviors?  Have they ruled your life and controlled your decisions?

Seek to understand your motivations.

Due to the distorted thought patterns associated with addiction, it can be easy to miss how often you behave in a way to feed your addiction without knowing it.  Even altruistic or positive behaviors that have a motivation toward feeding your addiction can be destructive.  Take a close look at how you exploited people, situations, behaviors, or environments to satisfy your addictive needs, even if you weren’t aware of that motivation at the time.

Pay attention to the resentment, victim mentality, and entitlement in your addictive behaviors.

Resentment is a significant emotion that fuels addictive behaviors.  Resentment relates to feeling victimized, which leads to entitlement to act out in your addiction to make up for the perceived wrong.  Write honestly in your inventory about how you blame people, institutions, your environment, or other factors for your addictive behaviors.  Then address each item and see where you played a role in each of those areas of resentment.  Often you can find some behavior or response within yourself that may contribute to the pain you’ve experienced.

Honor the bad and the good in your moral inventory.

Many of the ways in which you’ve learned to cope with life have served you in some way or another – you wouldn’t do them if they didn’t work.  Therefore, they have a flip side that is positive.  For example, maybe you learned to read the emotions of your mother to avoid verbal abuse, which has led to avoidance of conflict with your spouse when you see anger arising in them.  However, this past wound has likely also led you to become more intuitive and aware of the emotions of others throughout your life, which is a gift.

When you honor the good alongside the bad, this creates space for self-compassion, understanding, and forgiveness.  Take time to practice gratitude for the good in your life rather than the addiction’s tendency to only see the bad.

Pay attention to new intuitions you’ve had since beginning recovery.

As you begin to hear others’ stories and absorb the literature of your 12 Step program, you’ve likely come across some concepts or stories that have struck a chord in you.  You may begin to become uncomfortable about behaviors or habits you’ve had your entire life.  What are you beginning to name as unhealthy or problematic in your behaviors?  What have you heard in others’ stories that has led you to believe that your thoughts and behaviors might be hindering you instead of helping you?  What has your sponsor cautioned you against doing?

Connect your story with unmet needs from childhood.

Often you adopt a certain style of living or addiction because it feeds something within you that wasn’t met in your childhood or where you received harm or trauma.  As you reflect on your moral inventory, connect with the child within to see what needs were being met by the addictive behaviors that weren’t met when you were younger.  This may be a good process to walk through with a professional counselor trained in trauma treatment, as these memories likely contain pain and shame.  It can be helpful here to identify your go-to fantasy or ideal partner and identify what needs or desires are being met by that fantasy.

Remember that you can (and will need to) return to this inventory to alter or add more to it.

Your inventory is not a complete document the first time you finish it.  As you continue to work your recovery, you will continue to discover more about yourself that you will need to edit and change later.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to figure everything out on the first try.  Continue to return to this document regularly throughout the course of your recovery work and be willing to alter it as needed.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_four_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you hesitant to hold a mirror up to your character and internal motivations because you’re afraid of what you’ll find?  Are you overwhelmed by the past traumas you’ve experienced?  Do you fear what changes you’ll have to make once you start taking a moral inventory?  At Restored Hope, I desire to offer a supportive presence and help in your journey of healing and recovery.  I offer counseling services at my Ann Arbor and Novi offices that focus on kindness and gentleness towards the parts of your story where you experienced pain and trauma, as well as encouragement toward moving toward a healthy, fulfilled life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to hear more.

 

*This is an Amazon affiliate link.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local  associates policy.

Step Three: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_three_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  Our specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out our introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

In working through the steps, you’ve come to understand and accept the powerlessness and unmanageability inherent to your addictive behavior, and you’ve realized that relying on your Higher Power (referred to as God) is the foundation of your hope for experiencing healing.

Step Three builds on the work we did in Step Two.  It is subtly different, however, moving from affirming God’s trustworthiness into acting upon that belief.  Steps Two and Three go hand in hand, as you need to have a foundational belief of God’s goodness fostered through spiritual practices in order to choose to submit to God’s will and receive His care.

If you have a background where God has been depicted as a shaming, punishing overseer, it can feel incredibly difficult to submit your life to Him.  If this is part of your story, seek to connect with those aspects of God that contrast with the hurt you’ve experienced.  Affirm those aspects of God as you work this step.

Here are a few things Step Three does not mean.  Turning control over to God doesn’t mean seeing God as a taskmaster who will make you feel guilty and force you to do things you don’t want.  You have free choice, and you can choose to invite God in to help you make choices that are best for you and are in alignment with His love and care.  It doesn’t mean that you have to have a perfect understanding of God.

What does it mean to make this decision?

It means we actively seek out living in a way that honors the desires we have for our lives (our will) through our daily actions, thoughts, and words (our lives), submitting in trust to the wisdom of God.  As Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  Step Three involves learning to care for and nurture yourself in the ways that God longs to offer.  It’s an every day choice to continually decide to turn control over to God.

Working Step Three

Ask for help.

Your ability to trust others reflects on your ability to trust God.  You’ve likely already surpassed the first hurdle of trust by involving a sponsor or other 12 Step group members into your recovery.  You may also involve a spiritual guide in this process.  This could be your sponsor, or it could also be a spiritual director or church leader.  Continue the daily spiritual habits you began in Step Two under the guidance of this spiritual leader.

List faulty beliefs you had about your need to remain independent or do it all on your own.

Your beliefs about your addictive behaviors or about your definition of sobriety have likely been questioned in recovery.  You may have heard others sharing about their deluded thought patterns, and you were shocked to find that you had similar thoughts.  Maybe you thought, “I just need to try harder and then I’ll stay sober,” or “I don’t need any help.”  Name these distorted thoughts and surrender them to God to release their control over your life.

Act “as if.”

Often those faulty beliefs that echoed throughout your mind when you were acting out led you to respond to your addictive behaviors with strategies that didn’t work: minimizing and denial of how bad the addiction was, or “white-knuckling” and forcing yourself not to act out.  Likely these patterns have not worked to end the addiction, but you find yourself returning to them because you don’t know what else to do.

Loosen your grip on these failed strategies.  Instead, act “as if” you believed God was in control of your recovery.  Ask yourself: what would your life look like if you trusted God and believed that it wasn’t all on your shoulders to overcome your addictive behavior?  What would change?  What wouldn’t you be afraid to do anymore?  What would look significantly different than it does right now?  Take steps to begin living that way.

Choose to grieve.

As you try to achieve sobriety on your own, you often experience loss.  You may have lost time, money, relationships, mental health, physical health, or any number of other losses.  Letting go of the addiction itself is another loss: it is as if you are giving up an old friend that helped you to cope or escape from painful life experiences.  While trusting God does involve experiencing greater peace and freedom, that doesn’t mean that your journey will automatically become pain-free – in fact, the opposite is often true.

Write a list of the areas where you’ve experienced loss.  Read it to your sponsor or your spiritual guide.  Talk about what it means to have suffered and experienced pain in your addiction, and what it will feel like to give it up. See your suffering and difficulty in light of your new knowledge that God is experiencing that suffering alongside you.

Engage in greater self-care.

You may view God as punishing, or you may have been deprived of adequate nurture by authority figures in your childhood.  It is important for you to take steps to receive the nurture that God longs to give you.  Prioritize time for self-care activities.  Take on a childlike posture and engage in more time for play.   Seek to have a beginner’s mind in all areas, humbly learning and growing.  Take a walk in nature and pray.  Take quality care of your body and physical health.

Write a prayer in a letter to God expressing what it means to turn your will and life over to Him.

What does it mean to you personally to turn your will over to God?  Your life over to God?  Even if you aren’t ready to turn over 100% of control to God, sit down and write out a letter to Him expressing your desire to do so.  Tell Him the roadblocks that are holding you back from fully committing to surrender all of your will and life.  Read this letter to your spiritual guide or sponsor to receive encouragement and support.

Engage in a regular practice of prayer.

Pray daily in the morning right when you wake up for God to help you achieve another 24 hours of sobriety.  Pray in the evening each day expressing gratitude to God for His assistance to get through the last 24 hours.  Invite God in to decisions in your life through prayer and asking for His guidance.  Pray the Serenity Prayer, which encompasses the learnings from Steps One Through Three: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Seek insight from God and others.

You’ve been in a place of growth through your involvement in 12 Step, learning more about your addictive behaviors and admitting your pride by breaking through denial.  Insights occur throughout the course of recovery, and you become more open to them as you continue to create distance from the addictive behaviors.  The energy you used to spend on your addiction is now free to express itself as emotions and memories.  Through this process, keep a journal or dream log and spend time sharing the insights gained from those interactions with your spiritual guide or with God. 

Accept that surrender is not a one-time thing.

The Third Step is not a one-and-done kind of situation.  Yes, the initial step to surrender is often the most significant.  But surrender to God is a process that will continue throughout your recovery journey in the rest of the steps.  You’ll recognize moments when you try to take back control in some area or another, or you resist the surrender God is calling you to.  Use those moments not to shame yourself, but as an opportunity to return and surrender to God.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_three_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Are you afraid to turn over control to anyone other than yourself?  Do you struggle to surrender to a God who seems distant, cold, or judging?  Have you continually tried to overcome your addictive behaviors with little to no success?  I understand how difficult it can be to recover from addictive behaviors, and I know there is hope and freedom that can be found.  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling services to those of you who are trapped in sex and love addiction and desperate for a way out.  Call me at 734.656.8191 or email me to schedule an appointment at my Novi or Ann Arbor therapy offices.  

Step Two: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

title_how_to_work_step_two_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

This year, we have a monthly series discussing ways to engage and work each of the Twelve Steps.  Stemming from the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the Twelve Steps have made their way into the treatment of many addictive behaviors.  Our specific focus will be on sex and love addiction, particularly in Christian women.  If you’re interested in finding an in-person, online, or phone meeting for sex and love addiction, check out Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.  Before you read this post, check out our introduction to the Twelve Steps to learn about support and resources.

Step Two: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 

Admitting our powerlessness over our addictive behaviors is incredibly important on the road to healing.  But this admission is not a magic fix.  The question soon follows: who, or what, will help us overcome?

You’ve likely had the thought that you could stop your addictive behavior if you just tried harder.  There are a multitude of different strategies we use to try to stop.  This overconfidence and self-reliance ultimately backfire, and it becomes easier than ever to become entrenched in the addictive behavior once more.

A common reminder to addicts from AA is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Achieving sanity involves accepting your need for help and seeking a new path to healing.  Observe the strategies of the others in your 12 Step group – how have they learned to overcome?  You’ll find a solid foundation in a Higher Power that can free them from the weight of this addictive behavior.  For our purposes, we’ll refer to this Higher Power as God.

What if I don’t believe in God?  Or what if I don’t trust Him?

Step Two can be fraught with unease or uncertainty based on your experiences with faith.  You may have had strict religious parents who taught you about a punishing God.  You may have minimal experience with spirituality, but assume it’s not for you based on depictions in media or news.  You may have attended a church and received wounds or pain from church leadership or other Christians, and felt alienated from God as a result.

Add to this the stigma of sexual addiction, and you might find yourself experiencing intense shame in churches.  Maybe religion has been a way for you to beat yourself up for the addiction or make up for the wrongs you’ve done in your addictive behavior.

When this is the case, my encouragement to you is to be open to trying out faith.  As we know from the Stocksdale paradox, finding meaning and purpose for a future without addiction will be the biggest motivator to get you through the pain of withdrawal.  Meaning and purpose are often found in spirituality or relationship with God.  Your openness to explore and curiosity about what spirituality or relationship with God might look like for you are steps toward this mission and purpose for the future.

Working Step Two

Examine your relationship with trust.

Trust isn’t easy, especially if you’ve had your trust betrayed in the past.  I’ve experienced this before when I believed that I had to do everything on my own if I wanted it to be done right.  Another common way you might experience distrust involves hiding information or deceiving those around us.  Deception is a significant part of addiction because it can feel incredibly vulnerable to trust someone with our deepest, darkest secrets.

When you’re asked to trust someone else, what does it feel like?  Do you have difficulty trusting others?  What happens when you need help – do you ask for it, or do you try to make it on your own?  Were you able to trust your parents or caregivers growing up?  Exploring this relationship with trust has direct implications for your relationship with God.  Often if we struggle to trust others or ask for help, we see ourselves responding the same way with God.

Explore the image you have of God.

What comes to mind when you think of God?  Before I was a Christian, I always imagined a mix between Santa and Zeus – a big man with a thick white beard and white robes sitting on a cloud and looking down on the world.  A.W. Tozer, a noted theologian, says in his book The Knowledge of the Holy* that what comes to mind when we think of God is the most important thing about us. 

How did you imagine God as a child?  What did your family members think or teach about God?  How did that image change or stay the same when you grew into an adult?  What views does your spouse or friends have about God?  Draw a picture of what you imagined God to be like in the past and present.

Identify the roadblocks.

This exploration may lead to a clear idea of what’s standing in the way of trusting God.  Whether it’s based on past failures of trust with loved ones or wrapped up in an image of a distant, accusatory figure, we can see the impacts of early beliefs about God on our present-day spiritual life.

Be patient with yourself as you seek to break down those roadblocks.  Especially if you’ve had destructive views of God in the past, it likely won’t be an easy task to begin to trust Him.  At first, it may be that the only connection you can have with God comes from observing others in the group who have relationship with Him.  Let this be enough for now and seek to be open to experiencing a similar relationship with God as you work this step.

Begin a daily spiritual practice.

Imagine that you’re searching for a dress or suit to buy for an upcoming formal event.  You might look online at a few options, doing some research into styles, colors, and fabrics you like.  When it comes to choosing a size, you might compare the suggested measurements to your own in order to guess how it might fit.  But even if you do the greatest depth of research possible, you won’t truly know how the dress or suit fits until you’re able to try it on.

Similarly, we can approach understanding faith like an intellectual exercise: we read the Bible, debate with others, and try to reason our way into understanding God.  But we can never truly understand the experience of being a Christian until we “try on” the practices of the faith.

Begin attending a church service or Mass.  Seek a daily prayer and meditation time where you read the Bible and journal or pray what’s on your mind.  Practice communion.  Connect with Christian believers through a Bible study or home church.  Get a feel for what the spiritual life could look like for you.

Write a prayer affirming your trust.

When you’ve completed these exercises, you’ll become aware of some areas where it is easy to trust God, and other areas where it is significantly more difficult.  As you begin to think God’s trustworthiness, I encourage you to write a prayer to God both naming the insecurities that you may feel about trusting Him, while also affirming your choice to trust him.  There are several Psalms that provide great examples of this pattern: Psalm 22 and Psalm 31 are a few favorites.

Identify affirmations of truth about your trust in God.

You may notice how often we as humans are directed by our thoughts and emotions, even if those thoughts are distorted or skewed by addicted thought patterns.  Once you’ve made the commitment to seek trusting God, your thoughts can derail this commitment if you aren’t conscious of their impact.

Take time to select a few Bible verses or other affirmations that help remind you that you are able to trust God.  I particularly like Philippians 2:13, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”  Also good are Isaiah 26:4 “Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock” and Jeremiah 17:7, ““But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”  Memorizing one of these short Scripture verses can help you to remind yourself of truth when it feels difficult to trust.

pinterest_how_to_work_step_two_journey_through_the_twelve_steps_restored_hope_counseling_therapy_ann_arbor_novi_michigan_christian_sex_love_addiction.png

Do you have a hard time surrendering to a God that feels shaming and vengeful?  Are you struggling to trust others such that you can’t even imagine trusting God?  Are you feeling hopeless about recovery when you think you have to do it on your own?  At Restored Hope, I understand the battle that comes with a desire for spiritual comfort, coupled with doubt that comes from the addiction itself.  I’d love to meet with you at my Novi or Ann Arbor therapy offices to talk through what holds you back from trusting God.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me to talk more and set up your first appointment.

 

 

*This is an Amazon affiliate link.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local  associates policy.