Getting Ready: Journey Through the Twelve Steps

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This year, we’ll be starting 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 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.

Today’s post will be your getting-started guide, full of ideas for what you need to begin this journey.  Next week we’ll start the process of delving into the First Step.

When a recently self-named addict shows up at their first Twelve Step meeting, they likely bring a sense of hopelessness to their recovery.  They might say things like, “How can anything get better?  I’ve hit rock bottom.  I can’t stop obsessing – it’s like a magnet pulling me back in.”

Other times, the addict might come in with all sorts of denial still at play.  This might look like statements of, “Was it really that bad?  I don’t think I have a problem.  Addict?  I don’t think so.  If I were satisfied in my sex life at home, I wouldn’t have to look elsewhere.”

Being willing to acknowledge an addiction means we have to admit that whatever we struggle with has become our God.  You can see the red flags in the constant obsession over getting our next “fix,” and the irritation that comes when we’re denied it. Addiction shows itself when no matter how hard we try, we can’t eliminate the behavior or substance from our lives.

Do any of these experiences sound familiar to you?  Do you tend to be more hopeless, or struggle more with denial?

We’ve talked about the impact of the Stocksdale paradox on finding a vision for our lives and recovery.  We have to understand how bad our problem is and how much it has affected our life while simultaneously maintaining hope for the future.  Walking through the Twelve Steps requires and challenges you to maintain this while pursuing freedom from addictive behavior.

For most addicts, you much choose to engage in this process.  It can be a difficult choice to make.  It can often feel easier to stay on the path of self-medication and ensuing self-destruction.  But making the choice to come to your own rescue and fight for health and freedom are choices you will not regret.

What do I need before I get started working the steps?

First and most importantly, join a Twelve Step group specific to your addictive behavior to access support from other group members and find a sponsor.  Receiving help is a huge part of admitting powerlessness over your addictive behavior.  Working the Twelve Steps is a grueling and difficult process, and stepping in with a trusted support network at your back will help you to handle the stress of it.  Do continue to get support from pre-existing relationships, but alongside that, look for a specific Twelve Step group for the issue you’re facing.  Work with people who understand how your addiction feels and how to engage the steps in this particular area.

A therapist can be a crucial part of this process, especially as you dive into your family history and history of abuse.  Realizing these painful memories and delving back into your past can be hard, and having the support of a trained professional can help.

Involvement in community and choosing total honesty might be the hardest part of working the Steps for you.  If you’re struggled with addictive behaviors, it likely connects to memories of abuse or wounds from people you cared about.  This makes it difficult to trust new people.  Sex and love addiction, as an intimacy disorder, often also carries with it a fear of true intimacy, which is needed to adequately receive support. 

Ask yourself this question: what is holding me back from working through these Twelve Steps?

Is it fear of what could come as a result?  Resistance to giving up the behavior or substance that you’ve used to self-medicate all these years?  Avoidance of having to be honest and feeling the ensuing guilt? Disdain for the process and assurance that you could just stop if you tried harder?  Hopelessness that you’ll ever get out of addictive patterns?

Pay attention to any pushback you might feel.  Know that you can feel uncertain and still choose to try the process.  You don’t have to be 100% in at first to benefit from a group or meeting with a sponsor.  Take one small step today to begin to move into healing.

Book Recommendations

As a unapologetic book nerd, my first place to go when I’m wanting to learn about a new topic is books.  As we’ll be exploring these Twelve Steps together in the upcoming months, I wanted to point out some resources that have been helpful for me in learning about addiction as well as getting specific help for the Twelve Steps. (These are affiliate links with Amazon, but I would recommend these books even without the affiliate connection.)

No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction by Marnie Ferree

Gentle Path Through the 12 Steps by Patrick Carnes

The Green Book of Sex Addicts Anonymous

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous: The Basic Text

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

Grab a notebook and pen, one of these texts, and save a link to this blog to get monthly updates on how to engage with each of these steps.  Look for the next one coming your way next week!

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Have you felt hopeless about those sexual behaviors that you just can’t seem to stop, no matter how hard you try?  Are you constantly telling yourself it’s not a big deal, just to be faced with another pregnancy scare or getting caught in your lies?  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling sessions focused on achieving healing and freedom from compulsive behaviors of sex and love addiction.  Give me a call at my Ann Arbor therapy office at 734.656.8191 or fill out or form to schedule a free phone consultation