In my primary recovery program, we have a list of 12 Signs of Recovery. I am always drawn to the third sign which reads…
“We surrender, one day at a time, our whole life strategy of, and our obsession with the pursuit of romantic and sexual intrigue and emotional dependency.”*
My struggle with sex, love and pornography addiction was at a base level, a life strategy that never delivered on its promises. I truly believed that by drinking in the images on my computer, searching for the “right” person to be intimate with, and becoming emotionally involved with people who were emotionally unavailable, I would find the right formula to be happy. It was my life strategy and everything I did was designed to accommodate this. My addiction became a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. Regretfully the promised goal of happiness and validation was a mirage. Addiction promises paradise but delivers pain.
Recovery has taught me that a new strategy of living is required to experience the serenity for which I was desperately looking. My new strategy involves a rigorous commitment to reality. I can no longer build my life around or upon an escape from reality. My recovery life/mental health is re-established when I am committed to reality at all costs.
One way I do this is to frequently ask myself, what is my current reality? I find the answer is most easily uncovered as I inventory my feelings. After almost seven years of recovery, I still rely on a written list of feelings to help me identify the ones I am experiencing. Writing down my feelings of anger, shame, fear, loneliness, and others which are less toxic point me in the direction of reality. I am able to breathe, examine these feelings, sit with them and move through them…not avoid them, not numb them, not sit in them as a victim…move through them.
When was the last time you inventoried your feelings? Grateful people in recovery are honest about their feelings, their character defects and as my friend says, “lean into the sharp edges of what makes them uncomfortable.” Only by embracing our pain can we truly make a commitment to reality at all costs. That strategy is the antithesis of the illusion my addiction promises. But it is one that delivers on its promise of being restored to wholeness and sanity.
This way of living reminds me of the words of the Apostle Paul that call me to embrace my “humanness” as a pathway to strength.
“My grace is enough; it ’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”**
When I return to my old way of living I deny the reality of grace at work in my life. It is the purest way to distance myself from the reality that is God. Denying God ’s grace is not a good strategy for living. Setting aside my ego, my pride, my plans, my self-promotion, my self-propulsion, my, my, my is the path to recovery.
Just for today, I can get behind that strategy.
Maybe you can too.
* S.L.A.A. Signs of Recovery © 1990 The Augustine Fellowship, S.L.A.A., Fellowship-Wide Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
** 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson